Monday, April 27, 2009

Surveillance Society : UK Police infiltrated protest groups to spy on activists, destaibilise campaigns

In what is not a particularly great surprise to many, it has been revealed that Police forces across the UK, including Scotland, have infiltrated protest groups to gather intelligence on members and their aims.

However rumours are now circulating those same Police forces may have used their insiders to destabilise protests, campaign groups, and discredit organisations in the media …

The Sunday Herald reports :

Revealed: a web of police bids to infiltrate protest groups

Anti-nuclear and other groups back up Plane Stupid claims
By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

A LONG-RUNNING and intricate web of covert police attempts to spy on peaceful activists and infiltrate legitimate protest movements in Scotland has been uncovered by the Sunday Herald.

Citizens protesting against nuclear bases on the Clyde have been offered cash for intelligence by Ministry of Defence (MoD) police, it has been claimed, while environmental activists report similar offers from Strathclyde Police.

They all back up the revelation made yesterday that Strathclyde Police offered to pay Tilly Gifford, an anti-airport protester with Plane Stupid, to inform on the movement. She recorded two police officers making the proposals.

The veteran anti-nuclear activist, Jane Tallents, from Helensburgh, told last night how she and five others arrested for blockading the Coulport nuclear arms depot on Loch Long were offered money by officers. They were all invited one by one for "cosy chats" with two female MoD police officers, she said.

They were taken from their police cells on September 7, 2005, she said, and asked if they would like to help by supplying information.

"They wanted to know who we were working with and asked if we could come to an arrangement," Tallents said. "It was pretty clear they were offering to give us money. I remember coming out and shouting to a friend that they were offering to pay us. We laughed about it."

Tallents said police spies were an occupational hazard for the anti-nuclear movement, and told how a woman later unmasked as an MoD policewoman had visited the Faslane peace camp. She said police spies used to be easy to spot by their shiny shoes, but even if they looked the part "they are still easy to spot because they can't talk from the heart".

Tallents' account of being offered money in 2005 was supported by another of those arrested at the time, Angie Zelter from north Norfolk.

A spokesman for the MoD police said last night: "We can neither confirm nor deny the specifics of the allegations, but the MoD police have a responsibility for the protection of MoD assets from terrorism and unlawful interference.

"This is a responsibility it takes very seriously and it uses all available legal powers to carry out these duties."

Other activists from Plane Stupid also spoke yesterday of being approached by Strathclyde Police. One, who declined to be named, said he met police officers at a garden centre in January, where he was asked about the group's activities and at the end of the conversation was given £20. "Then they asked me to sign a receipt using a false name," he said.

Another Plane Stupid protester, Kate Mackay, a 20-year-old student at Glasgow School of Art, said she had been left a hand-written letter on Strathclyde Police headed paper asking for a meeting. But when she tried to follow it up she couldn't trace the officer named.

Last night Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable, George Hamilton, defended the police action, saying: "Officers of Strathclyde Police will, from time to time, engage with members of the public and protest groups to gather intelligence which will enable them to discharge that duty effectively.

"This responsibility is discharged in a manner which safeguards the identities of individuals who are prepared to provide such intelligence and is audited and monitored in accordance with the relevant legislation," he added.

"Officers from Strathclyde Police have been in contact with a number of protesters involved with the Plane Stupid protests, including Aberdeen Airport. The purpose of this has been to ensure any future protest activity is carried out within the law."

Opposition politicians called for a full explanation from the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill. "What action will ministers take to prevent this kind of outrage in the future?" asked Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The justice secretary has discussed the matter with Strathclyde Police's assistant chief constable and is satisfied the force has acted proportionately and legitimately."

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