Sunday, June 24, 2012

bob lambert: once a bomber, still a spy?

Mark Kennedy may be the only household name in the undercover police spy scandal but as more information emerges it seems that Bob Lambert was the most malevolent of them.

Lambert went undercover in the early 1980s, meaning it is likely he was trained and overseen by the people who founded the Special Demonstration Squad in 1968. From this, we can presume that he acted in accordance with their desired methods and purpose. He fathered a child with one of his targets yet was not withdrawn from operations, indicating that they had no problem with that.

He then had a second serious intimate relationship with someone who wasn't even an activist, just to make him appear a well rounded character. He had her house raided by his Special Branch colleagues to beef up his image and give him the excuse to disappear without raising suspicion about his real role.

Anyone who has been burgled knows of the trauma, the sense of violation that it brings. A police raid is far beyond that. Like burglars they are after some of your possessions, but they are also after you personally, your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, family and friendships. It is a massive piece of 'collateral intrusion' to visit upon anyone, let alone a non-activist.

By 1987 Lambert had infiltrated a cell of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) who were on a campaign of firebombing shops that sold fur. Their plan was to attack three branches of Debenham's in Luton, Romford and Harrow simultaneously. Last week Caroline Lucas MP told a debate in Parliament that Lambert planted the Harrow firebomb which detonated causing £340,000 of damage. 

The interesting thing is Lambert is having none of it and flatly says

I did not commit serious crime such as 'planting an incendiary device at the [Debenhams] Harrow store'

Really Bob?

The plan was hatched by a small secretive cell of which Lambert was one. He ensured two of the bombers were caught and must know who the third was. Either he planted that third bomb, or he knows who did but chose to let them go. Which do you think is more likely?

One of the others has spoken out and is in no doubt, saying that Lambert was the only other person who knew of the plan and that, perhaps in an attempt to reduce his damage, he had failed to place his second device.

Lambert's outright denial is just the latest in a string of implausible arse-covering he's issued since being unmasked. His credibility can be judged from his earlier claim that

the vast majority of Met special branch undercover officers never made the mistakes I made

Of the exposed officers, we know most did exactly what he did. Most of them acted as agents provocateurs, most had long term intimate relationships with targets - a quarter of them fathering children - most targeted campaigns that posed no risk to public safety, and at least two of them did so under the orders of Lambert himself after he became the superior officer running undercover operations.

One of them was Peter Black who says that, far from being aberrant (and yet somehow allowed to continue for years), Lambert's methods were hugely admired

He did what is hands down regarded as the best tour of duty ever

So why the denials? Unlike the other outed undercover officers, Lambert still has a respected career to protect. After more than 20 years involved in infiltration he suddenly set up the police's Muslim Contact Unit along with another ex-undercover, Jim Boyling. Why would the police's friendly bridge-building exercise need to be designed and run by two of the most experienced infiltrators, unless it too is a cover for spying and running a network of informants?

Several years later, Lambert left the police - collecting an MBE for his services - and forged a career as an academic along the same lines as his work with the Muslim Contact Unit. And 'forged' is the right word if it's cover for spy work.

Because Mark Kennedy was the first undercover cop outed and was then tacky enough to hire Max Clifford to pimp him to the media, he is the most prominent of them. Yet there is nothing we know that Kennedy did that wasn't also done by other officers, with the exception of his returning to his targets as a private spy after he left the police.

Bob Lambert, on the other hand, committed every outrage undercover police are known to have perpetrated and one or two, such as getting a non-activist's house raided, that were just for him. If, as appears plausible, his current academic career is a continuation of spying begun in the Muslim Contact Unit then he too has continued his infiltration after leaving the police, making him the worst of the worst. No wonder he wants to pretend none of it is true.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the puppet apologist for abusers

Let's just remind ourselves of the official position of the police regarding undercover officers having sexual relationships with the people they are spying on.

Jon Murphy of the Association of Chief Police Officers - the body in charge of the deployment of Mark Kennedy and others who infiltrated the environmental and anti-capitalist movements - is clear and unequivocal.

It is absolutely not authorised. It is never acceptable for an undercover officer to behave in that way...

It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do. It is morally wrong because people have been put there to do a particular task and people have got trust in them. It is never acceptable under any circumstances... for them to engage in sex with any subject they come into contact with.

Peculiar, then, that last week Home Office policing minister Nick Herbert contradicted this, saying that it can be authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

It's notable that Herbert, unlike Murphy, extensively hedged his position saying that it was only the case

in very limited circumstances... and consideration should always be given to seeking legal advice.

He then supplemented his speech with an odd notion.

Of course, there is another point that banning such actions would provide the group targeted the opportunity to find out whether there was an undercover officer specifically within their group.

The assumptions here are baffling. Do they imagine that all activists, no matter what their personal feelings, would allow themselves to be forced into sexual activity with people just to prove that they are not police?

The fact is that more than one of the undercover officers lived and worked among activists without having any sexual relationships, and without being suspected. At at least two of them would refer to a partner who lived far away and actually brought their supposed partner to meet the activists.

This successful tactic of supplying pretend partners means that not only did officers not need to enter into the relationships with activists, it points to something more. It strongly implies that superior officers chose on some occasions not to give pretend partners, that the officers who had relationships were, in effect, sanctioned and even encouraged from on high.

This would certainly tally with the testimony of another undercover officer, Liam Thomas, who says

The official Met line was 'don't do it', but unofficially it was condoned.

The real outrage of the undercover operations is not the sexual activity, it is the prolonged intimacy, profound emotional bonds and personal trust they fraudulently cultivated. One of the women currently suing the police had a nine year relationship, another lasted for six years. More than one had children with their police partners, men sent into their lives to ruin the womens' most important moral values, who became as close as anyone could get and then, with little or no warning and on someone else's orders, upped and left.

Whatever Nick Herbert and his novel interpretations of UK law say, that's a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees that no-one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment and that we all have the right to private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state.

It sounds like hyperbole to call what was done to these women the most complete invasion of someone's life that is possible but really, I defy anyone to say how it could have been more so.

Given that such relationships are known to have occurred since at least the early 1980s, and involving officers like Bob Lambert who had two significant intimate relationships and fathered a child with activists and then went on to run operations, it is ludicrous to suggest that senior officers were unaware of the possibility, and that the daily-contact cover officers were blind to how their charges lived.

As the womens' lawsuit progresses, the police must be terrified of the facts of this most invasive and indefensible of strategies coming out. They must be desperate to try to fob them off or invent a trapdoor to jump through and escape. And indeed, it's not just Nick Herbert who's been suddenly saying that sexual relations are, after all, professional and acceptable.

the Met had told the women's lawyers that "forming of personal and other relationships" is permitted under Ripa, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Britain's only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, highlighted the contradiction and points out that whatever the truth there are officers guilty of very serious acts.

either rogue undercover officers have been breaking the rules set by senior officers, or senior officers have misled the public by saying that such relationships are forbidden.

Perhaps it's not so simple as that. Perhaps it was, indeed, officially forbidden clearly last year (and therefore at the time that all those officers were deployed), yet was still used by this unsupervised runaway train spy department as a deliberate tactic.

Under the new threat of accountability the police will have been furiously thumbing their rulebooks and legislation to make something, anything, slant enough to sound like it might make their actions somehow permissable. To back up their case, the words would need to come not just from them but the more objective and authoritative mouth of, say, a sock-puppetted government minister.

Step forward, Nick Herbert, apologist for the sustained psychological, physical and sexual abuse of the citizens he represents.