UK Police Routinely Spy On 9000 'Domestic Terrorists' Very Loosely Defined

from the self-sustaining-activity dept

In the wake of the news that spies at GCHQ -- the UK equivalent of the NSA -- have been tapping into every fiber optic cable that comes into and goes out of the country, downloading and storing phone calls and Internet traffic for up to 30 days, you might think the British authorities have enough information at their disposal, without needing to turn to other sources. But it seems not, according to the latest revelations in The Guardian:

A national police unit that uses undercover officers to spy on political groups is currently monitoring almost 9,000 people it has deemed "domestic extremists".

The National Domestic Extremism Unit is using surveillance techniques to monitor campaigners who are listed on the secret database, details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian after a freedom of information request.

A total of 8,931 individuals "have their own record" on a database kept by the unit, for which the Metropolitan police is the lead force. It currently uses surveillance techniques, including undercover police, paid informants and intercepts, against political campaigners from across the spectrum.

Senior officers familiar with the workings of the unit have indicated to the Guardian that many of the campaigners listed on the database have no criminal record.
Aside from the scale of this surveillance, one of the most disturbing aspects of this operation is the way it redefines campaigners as "domestic terrorists". This is not a new trope, but it's depressing to see it deployed on such a massive scale.

That has the corollary that the UK's authorities can conveniently claim that "terrorism" is a major threat, as evidenced by the thousands under observation -- omitting the fact that these have nothing to do with the headline-grabbing terrorism that is used to justify bringing in laws that makes such assaults on the privacy of ordinary citizens possible in the first place. In other words, it's a self-fuelling system of exaggeration leading to a disproportionate response which is then used to justify that response in the future.

But it gets worse. It turns out that the undercover police referred to above have adopted highly unethical techniques in order to infiltrate political groups, possibly breaking the law:

Dozens of police officers could be put on trial for stealing the identities of dead children, and sleeping with female activists they were spying on, according to the police chief leading an inquiry into Metropolitan police undercover work against protest groups.
Another troubling aspect of this undercover operation is that it was used as part of a smear campaign against the family of a victim of a racist attack, and against those who were trying to expose corruption in the police force itself:
Scotland Yard deployed undercover officers in political groups that sought to uncover corruption in the Metropolitan police and campaigned for justice for people who had died in custody, the Guardian can reveal.

At least three officers from the controversial Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) spied on London-based activist groups.
That is, the activities were purely to cover up the police force's own failings, rather than to tackle any kind of serious threat to the nation or public.

It's interesting that these undercover operations are finally being exposed now, alongside ones about pervasive online surveillance. It suggests that Edward Snowden's highly public act of whistleblowing is maybe creating an atmosphere where other whistleblowers feel they can finally come forward after hiding dark secrets for so many years. Let's hope they keep doing so until we know the full extent of these morally-questionable and probably illegal activities -- and that effective new frameworks can then be put in place to stop them happening again.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Aidian Holder, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 2:49am

    The most amazing thing...

    ...about this whole story is the inference that, in the UK, stealing the identity of a dead infant is still a viable way to build a fake ID. The U.S. eliminated that possibility here about 15 years ago, and it was surprising it took them that long.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 2:57am

    McLibel

    Really? I thought the most amazing thing was that an undercover cop was one of the authors of the anti-McDonald's pamphlet that led to the infamous McLibel trial. The cop's participation was apparently kept hidden from all parties to the lawsuit, including the judge.

     

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  3.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 4:17am

    I couldn't resist...

    But what does this say about the UK's power level?

    It's over 9000!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 4:31am

    Any moment now the Internet will interpret the UK as damage and route its fiber optic cables around it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 4:31am

    Re: I couldn't resist...

    Yeah, we win.

    Screw you USA our spies are more hard core!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 4:34am

    Britain is an odd place...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 5:19am

    Looks like an upper lip isn't the only thing the British are keeping stiff

    Dozens of police officers could be put on trial for stealing the identities of dead children, and sleeping with female activists they were spying on...

    I used to think that sleeping with the enemy was more of a metaphor than a method of police work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re: I couldn't resist...

    Hmmm... How many subscribers were there in Verizon again?

    Pardon me.

    IT'S OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    The definition of terrorist

    Would the definition include copyright infringement by any chance?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 6:23am

    Yes, we must keep a constant watch upon these people undressing in their bedrooms - they might putting things up their bum !

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2784654/Mum-CCTV-spied-on-bedroom.html

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 6:54am

    And in related news, Tuesday was George Orwell's birthday


    http://front404.com/george-orwells-birthday-party

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 7:21am

    if anyone 'spies on the police etc' they are arrested and thrown straight into prison. if any form of 'cyber attack' is done, you are arrested and thrown straight into prison. when things are the other way round, when there is no evidence of wrong doing, no criminal activity, no previous arrests, nothing, you can be spied on whenever they feel like it! Nazi Germany is being reincarnated globally. that being the case, why the hell was a war fought to stop it, during which millions lost their lives? might as well just stood there and took the fucking then, because all that has happened is the inevitable was delayed a while!!

     

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  13.  
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    Guardian, Jun 27th, 2013 @ 8:18am

    9000

    right so these 9000 they done anyhting lately...no really no? for how long do you call htem then a "sleeper cell"
    5 years 10 years 15 years life....
    what agiant waste of tax payers money

    for the cost of it people lose health care and benefits and die....
    and i bet more then they ever save via these so called plots they engineer at opportune moments.

    taliban are there friends after all now...
    so who is the enemy?

    WE THE PEOPLE ALWAYS WERE....

     

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  14.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Amazing

    > Dozens of police officers could be put on
    > trial for stealing the identities of dead
    > children, and sleeping with female activists
    > they were spying on

    So it's wrong to bang a hot Occupy girl to gain her trust?

    Huh. I gotta plead ignorance on that one...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    Re: Amazing

    So it's wrong to bang a hot Occupy girl to gain her trust?


    I would say so, yes. Not just wrong, but really, really skeevy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Amazing

    > > So it's wrong to bang a hot Occupy girl
    > > to gain her trust?

    > I would say so, yes. Not just wrong, but
    > really, really skeevy.

    That one kinda went right over your head, didn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 27th, 2013 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Amazing

    I shamefully admit that it did. And still does, I suppose, since after several re-readings, I'm still not seeing the joke. Ah well, I'll just have to concede on this one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 3:30pm

    This isn't "strange", you fucking idiot, it's damned near de rigueur among the major news outlets.

    You keep acting like these news publications have a sterling track record of accurately and effectively reporting the actual relevant issues confronting America, and that each new example of flagrant journalistic negligence and incompetence (and graft and corruption and coverups) are a surprising and unexpected development.

    What the fuck are you smoking and where can I get some?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    beltorak (profile), Jun 29th, 2013 @ 9:34pm

    ... sleeping with female activists they were spying on


    That's it, no more James Bond for you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2013 @ 11:42am

    ##A total of 8,931 individuals##comment removed outdated total.
    A total of 8,932 individuals

    Welcome Glyn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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