Bristle Chris / Undercover Research Group
30 April 2015
So just what did former spycop, SDS manager and later academic Bob Lambert get up to in the late 1990s?
Working on a series of articles about our old friend Dr Bob for the Undercover Research Group’s wiki project, it struck me that it’s just not clear what Lambert did between leaving SDS sometime after August 1998 and the establishment of the Muslim Contact Unit in January 2002.
Biographies – which no doubt he himself penned – indicate that Lambert remained with Metropolitan Police Special Branch since joining it in 1980 (see, for example, Bob Lambert, ‘Reflections on Counter-Terrorism Partnerships in Britain’ (Arches, 2007) – this biography notes that “Bob worked continuously as a Special Branch specialist counter-terrorist/counter-extremist intelligence officer from 1980” until the setting up of MCU at the beginning of 2002). Certainly, no evidence has so far come up to suggest he was involved in, for example, Territorial Policing, that he was transferred to other Special Branch-equivalent units such as the Anti-Terrorist Branch, or that he transferred to a police force other than the Metropolitan Police Service.
By implication, Lambert seems likely to have been working in a different unit or units within MPSB during this time period. The Arches biography mentioned above notes that from beginning in MPSB in 1980 until 2006 or 2007, Lambert had dealt “with all forms of violent political threats to the UK, from Irish republican to the many strands of International terrorism.” Whilst his work on international terrorism at E Squad has already been noted, an involvement in Irish republican matters would suggest time served in B Squad (though it is by no means clear whether that would have occurred at this point of his career or in Lambert’s pre-SDS years).
One further suggestion of what his activities between SDS and MCU were is Lambert’s colourful description of watching the September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center:
As the first twin tower shrunk to the ground, anti-military and anti-globalisation campaigners abandoned a picket of an international arms fair in London’s docklands. Inside New Scotland Yard’s public order control room attention switched from screens with departing protesters to the televised attack on the World Trade Center. No one could quite comprehend the enormity of what was happening in New York and Washington.*
Whilst the passage is written opaquely, it implies that Lambert was himself “inside New Scotland Yard’s public order control room”, surveilling the September 2001 Disarm DSEi protest against a biennial arms fair. Activist groups participating included Campaign Against Arms Trade, the WOMBLES, Earth First!, Reclaim The Streets and others. If Lambert was in the control room watching over the demonstrations, then it would further imply that he may have been working in C Squad, the MPSB body interested in what would now be termed ‘domestic extremism’, or S Squad, the parent unit of SDS which specialised in surveillance and intelligence gathering.
(As an aside, at least two undercover police officers were involved on the ground at the 2001 DSEi protests: ‘Jason Bishop’, believed to be working for Lambert’s old unit SDS, and ‘Rod Richardson’, thought to be one of the first infiltrators to be deployed by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). According to Rob Branbury, an activist targeted by Bishop, the undercover officer called him that day when news of 9/11 broke to sound him out, “as if he wanted to know what people thought about the attack to the Twin Towers.”)
But anyway, what about Dr Bob?
So come on, hivemind – let’s fill in those missing years 1998-2001!
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* Lambert’s claim that “campaigners abandoned a picket” of DSEi in this way is simply not true. American 11 hit 1 WTC at 0846, New York time – around a quarter to two in the afternoon in London. United 175 hit 2 WTC at 0903. 2 WTC collapsed at 0958, and 1 WTC a half-hour later at 1028. Many protesters at DSEi were aware of all this – the news having been broadcast around the site on a soundsystem – and some watched a live feed of the second airplane crashing into the World Trade Center on a screen in a media organisation’s outside broadcast van.
Whilst many reporters swiftly left the site, the anti-arms fair actions continued at the West Gate until at least half past four (more than an hour after the second tower collapsed), when a large group moved off en masse. A smaller group, with a large ‘POLICE AGAINST THE ARMS TRADE’ banner, remained at West Gate until at least 6pm. See, for example, IMC-UK, ‘Fiesta for Life in the Docklands 2001’, Indymedia UK, 11 September 2001; or Andy Robertson, ‘DSEI Arms Fair. September 11 2001’, Squall, September 2001 (accessed via Archive.org).