Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sitting in the Spycops Priority Area

Further to the last post about police authorisation documents for Mark Kennedy's deployment for the Drax coal train action in 2008, there is a page in that sheaf by Anton Setchell, who was then the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism (NCDE).

This was the person with oversight of three political policing units - Kennedy's National Public Order Intelligence Unit, the corporate advisory National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, and the National Domestic Extremism Team (if the tangle of units dizzies your brain, see this post).

That Setchell took the time to hand write a side of A4 just to be supportive of the renewal of Kennedy's deployment is significant. When they try to make out that Kennedy was some sort of rogue officer cut adrift, or lost in the murk of a shady unit nobody knew about, remember this detailed level of knowledge, oversight and approval from an Assistant Chief Constable.

I have today been briefed by [redacted] on this operation prior to it being forwarded to ACC Sampson [Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police John Sampson who gave authorisation for Kennedy’s deployment on the Drax coal train protest].

My role is not that of authorising officer, but as NCDE, to have the opportunity to comment on this deployment prior to the AO [authorising officer] reviewing the authority.

This operation has now had an SIO [senior investigating officer] appointed to help oversee it – [redacted]. The [redacted] aspect now has an investigative strategy developed which will seek to exploit evidential opportunities when they arise (amongst other things). 

[redacted] has reviewed this operation and some recommendations in his report (to be distributed soon) will be considered by [redacted], the SIO and the AO in due course.

This operation/deployment is focused on key areas of Domestic Extremism which I can say sit in the ‘priority area’ of DE for England and Wales and without this asset in place, our intelligence picture would be significantly reduced and I would seek to replace this asset very quickly to regain our understanding of the intentions of the DE groups that are listed.

I recommend that the authority continues.

Anton Setchell – National Co-ordinator DE

The authorisation for Kennedy's deployment on the Drax coal train action says it may lead to

involving Source [Kennedy] in actions connected to Climate Camp where the threat to the public is greater.

Yet the first official report into the spycops scandal was unequivocal about who Kennedy and his unit targeted. It said they

were not individuals engaging in peaceful protest, or even people who were found to be guilty of lesser public order offences. They were individuals intent on perpetrating acts of a serious and violent nature against citizens going about their everyday lives.

This is, by any measure, complete fucking horseshit.

Throw bricks or don't, it makes no odds as to whether your group is targeted as a threat by police. This could scarcely be more starkly illustrated by the Drax train action with its impeccable health and safety considerations, and Climate Camp which, try as they may, police couldn't get a riot out of, nonetheless finding themselves in the 'priority area' for the police's most intensive and intrusive infiltration. Meanwhile, a leaked email from Setchell's successor, Adrian Tudway, says that the English Defence League are not even considered extremists.

This is surprising not just because of the lack of threat to life and limb from Climate Camp, to some extent it's also what was represented politically. The primary target for 2007's Climate Camp had been Heathrow's proposed third runway, a plan that was scrapped in May 2010.

The Climate Camps at Drax and Kingsnorth were, like the Drax 29, trying to stop a new generation of new coal fired power stations. This is something that also became settled policy soon afterwards with the dropping of plans for a new station at Kingsnorth in October 2010, ending the age of new coal power in the UK.

In a peculiar twist, the announcement of the Kingsnorth plans being dropped came on 20 October 2010, the very day that Mark Kennedy was confronted and exposed. When that sort of thing is put in a film we think it's over contrived and wouldn't happen in real life.

In another, more predictable, turn of events Anton Setchell is now Head of Global Security for Laing O' Rourke, one of the construction firms involved in the illegal construction industry blacklist, which was illegally assisted by National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit when it was under Setchell's command.

Rather than the terrifying 'threat to the public' that Kennedy's managers depicted, with the abandoning of airport expansion and new coal facilities Climate Camp can now be seen, by results, as heralds of the new orthodoxy.

There was a lot more radical intent behind Climate Camp politically, of course. It was always explicitly anti-capitalist, a position that seemed wackier when it started in 2006 but, since the crash of 2008, is another position that's proven itself more level-headed than its opponents. Yet, as the police response to fracking protests shows, such groups still 'sit in the priority area'.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Not Just Activists

In June 2008 a group of 29 climate activists stopped a coal train bound for Britain's biggest source of carbon emissions, Drax power station. They were all convicted, but it was a miscarriage of justice as evidence had been withheld  from the defence - reports from one of the drivers, Mark Stone aka undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. The convictions were quashed last year.

Quite how many other wrongful convictions are being left to stand - hundreds? thousands? - is unknown. It's worth noting that Mark Ellison QC's report into it was projected to take a year and be published in March, yet we've still seen nothing, implying that it's turned out to be a larger task than aniticipated.

In the partially redacted papers that were disclosed in the overturning of the Drax 29's convictions we get an insight into the political secret police units' paranoia about political dissent and their cavalier attitude to citizens. with each authorisation they are forced to consider the 'collateral intrusion' into lives of those who aren't targeted, but in this instance it is blithely batted away.

On 24 April 2008 they write:

It is very rare for collateral intrusion to occur because [Kennedy’s name redacted] spends the majority of their time with likeminded people engaged in activism. [Kennedy’s name redacted] does have contact with ‘non activists’ (neighbours etc) which is unavoidable whilst appearing to live a ‘normal’ life but no product from these contacts is reported or retained.

[Kennedy’s name redacted] is an experienced UCO [undercover officer] well aware of their unique situation in the lives of members of the public and remains entirely focused on the objectives and subjects of the authority.

Kennedy's notebook describes dropping some of the Drax 29 on the protest and then glosses over 'a gathering' that he spends the next two days at. The word is 'gathering' common among grassroots activist groups that don't have hierarchical structure.

Friday 13th June 2008

I drove a van with a number of people in the back to a holding point for 0600 hours. A number of spotters were positioned along the train’s route to call in when a coal train was spotted.

At 0755 I drove to Gowdall level crossing. I pulled up and people got out the back of the van. I saw them walk up the track. I saw people in bright orange uniforms with a red flag walk along the track towards the Aire River rail bridge. I also saw a person using the telephone box linked to the signal box to warn the signal man that people were on the line at Gowdall and called C/O [probably ‘cover officer’ – Kennedy’s handler and link with the wider structure of the police].

I returned to Nottingham where I collected a number of marquees belonging to the ATC which were destined for a gathering in the Hope Valley. I travelled to the Hope Valley and co-ordinated the setting up of the marquees.

Sunday 15th June 2008

I co-ordinated the taking down of the marquees and returned them to the ATC in Nottingham store.

The 'gathering' was actually a wedding. Kennedy was the long standing friend of both partners, the following year he had a joint birthday party with one of them. There were many people there - children, partners, friends and relatives - who were not activists, and a number of them knew Kennedy well and had already formed significant friendships with him. He will forever be in the wedding pictures.

Did Kennedy tell his cover officer, with whom he was in contact numerous times a day, what was going on? Or are we expected to believe he made stuff up about it being a two day gathering of political discussion and planning? Essentially, was it approval or negligence by his managers?

He and his superiors were 'well aware of their unique situation in the lives of members of the public' and had no compunction about abusing it. There was no need for him to be at the wedding, apart from clocking up overtime. If this does not qualify as 'collateral intrusion' then nothing does.

As we already knew, you don't need to be an activist to have your life intruded upon by the political secret police.