Sunday, October 23, 2011

covering up the cover-up

The first of the raft of the state's self-investigations into the Mark Kennedy affair was due to report this week.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary had looked into the deployment of Kennedy and undercover officers. Advance notice had been given that it had found that Kennedy had been off-mission and was not properly supervised. It said that independent oversight by people outside the police would not be necessary. It was written by Bernard Hogan-Howe, who has just been appointed as head of the Metropolitan police.

So then, the police look into police misconduct and find that nobody outside the police need be involved in future. In other news, a gang of convicted child abusers say they don't need CRB checks when applying for jobs.

The HMIC report was dramatically pulled at the last minute after (yet more) revelations that Kennedy was by no means a rogue officer. In the late 1990s undercover cop Jim Boyling was prosecuted under his false identity and perjured himself in the process. As a supposed defendant, this officer was in meetings where activists met with their lawyers to discuss their case.

In the same case a police officer offered John Jordan, another of the defendants, helpful testimony if he'd become an informant. Jordan refused and, entirely coincidentally I'm sure, was the only one of the group to be convicted.

From Mark Kennedy's intelligence reports that were later disclosed to Ratcliffe defendants, we know he was recording things in minute detail, right down to people's biscuit preferences. The HMIC report's conclusion that he was going astray and that his superiors didn't know what this £5,000 a week asset was doing is just laughable.

Twenty of the Ratcliffe protesters were convicted and another six were going to court when the revelations forced the trial to collapse. It was not Kennedy himself who witheld the evidence which exonerated the Ratcliffe protesters. It was his superior officers and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Another of the Kennedy reports looks into these 'failings' by Nottinghamshire police and the suppression by the CPS of that evidence.

Sir Christopher Rose, who sat in the court of appeal until 2006, will head the independent inquiry set up by the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, who acknowledged "growing concerns" over the claims.

Rose, as Chief Surveillance Commissioner, has been responsible for scrutinising the surveillance activities of the police and other official bodies for five years.

So, as Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Rose had the ultimate sign-off over the deployment of undercover officers, including Kennedy. This isn't just the same body investigating itself, it's the same individual.

The various reports are an attempt to cover up the cover-up. They know exactly what the undercover officers did. Bernard Hogan-Howe's report could, I suppose, try to use the excuse that it didn't look into its subject at all before coming to a conclusion and making recommendations. Hardly tenable from the new chief of the country's largest force.

The police know full well that the other officers acted in the same way as Kennedy (and in some respects worse, what with being prosecuted under false identities and breaching lawyer/client confidentiality). Those deployments and the torrent of whitewash reports coming down the pipeline are not just institutional corruption. They're evidence of an institution that appears incapable of little other than corruption.

When denials and cover-ups fail, the powerful sacrifice those whose hands did the dirty work. Even in cases infinitely more serious and extreme than anything done by the UK's undercover police, the pattern of the powerful is identical.

The American military's use of torture at Abu Ghraib, a matter of policy practiced and refined at the Bagram base in Afghanistan before they brought it to Iraq, was depicted as an isolated incident of rogue personnel. No officers were jailed, only a handful of low ranking soldiers. A generation earlier, after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, a solitary Second Lieutenant was the only person convicted.

As their actions are dragged out into the daylight, those who devised and ran the UK's undercover political policing are letting Kennedy be dragged out too, cutting their ties to him so they can remain in the shadows.

Kennedy is the most recent of the seven officers so far exposed. His behaviour tallies exactly with his forerunners. What he did, and what was done with his intelligence and evidence, was clearly part of an ongoing strategy.

No activist I know was surprised by Ian Tomlinson's death; the police dished out such life-threatening attacks thousands of times that day, and thousands of times a day on dozens of other occasions. But nobody I know was surprised at the police lies and cover up that followed either. Even when you have it all on camera they still try to deny it. If Delroy Smellie can be acquitted, any cop can.

But given the huge implications of Jim Boyling's prosecution, and newly-exposed Bob Lambert seeming to have done the same thing, whilst a third ex-undercover officer says that it was 'part of their cover' to be prosecuted, the police had to bin the HMIC report a couple of hours before it was due to be published and move to a higher grade of fob-off.

In place of the HMIC report, the police have asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission to look into Boyling's actions.

This is the same IPCC who ruled that the police did nothing wrong when they killed Jean Charles de Menezes, the same IPCC who were happy to parrot the police lies about Ian Tomlinson being in a place with no CCTV, having no contact with police and dying of a heart attack. Their reports are merely second-level cover-up.

There can be no credibility in self-investigation or reports by puppet bodies, and no believable outcome that doesn't see senior officers and politicians not just named but convicted.

It is clear that there has been a large scale systematic project of political policing, given priority over any considerations for its legality, its cost or, most importantly, the impact on the citizens it deceives and abuses.

Who devised this? Was it ordered by politicians, or did the police make it up for themselves? Which politicians knew about it and gave it their continuing approval? Throughout wild outpourings of truth about undercover policing in the last year, members of the government past and present have stayed conspicuously silent.

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