Undercover Research Group, 23 January 2017
Today we’ve put up our profile of undercover officer Simon Wellings, our 13th such profile of the spycops who targeted protest groups. Though not the most high-profile spycop, there are a number of things that make his story important nevertheless.
Wellings infiltrated anti-globalisation group Globalise Resistance from 2001 to 2004. He was part of the group’s steering committee and in a position to gain information on the activities of other groups as well. These included the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign Against Climate Change, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Disarm DSEi, as well as the Socialist Workers Party and trade unionists. With Globalise Resistance he travelled abroad a number of times, taking part in protests at international summits in New York, Seville and Evian.
Being found out
Wellings is notable for the method by which he was discovered – while being debriefed about his spying , he accidentally caused his phone to ring an activist friend. That friend was out, so a copy of the conversation he was having was captured on their answering machine.
This happened in January 2004, when his handlers had him looking at pictures of protestors taken by Forward Intelligence Teams – part of the Metropolitan Police’s Public Order Branch. As well as identifying people he knew, he commented on their personal lives. he accidentally caused his phone to ring a friend. That friend was out, so a copy of the conversation he was having was captured on their answering machine.
From the recording, it was clear the conversation had taken place in a police station and referred to people in Globalise Resistance . The recording was played to several people in the group, including Wellings himself, but it was not immediately obvious who it was. Welling was not found out yet. At the time, Wellings was gearing up for the protests around the G8 Summit in Scotland 2005, including travelling to meetings north of the border.
In August 2004, his colleague at Globalise Resistance Guy Taylor finally twigged who se voice he had heard at the recording, and the group confronted him at a meeting. Wellings became emotional and tried to deny it all, but since the group had lost their trust in him, he vanished from their lives. Wellings sent one last email, asking to be re-admitted to their group, talking about the importance of the preparations for the G8.
A decade later, with the Mark Kennedy exposure in full swing, the story was brought to Newsnight, who put Wellings photo up on their website, asking for him to get in touch. Only, it was the Metropolitan Police who responded, requesting they took the page down – proof enough that Wellings was one of theirs, and likely still a serving officer.
When the Inquiry confirmed last week that Wellings was an undercover it was in a series of other such confirmations – all exposed by activists targeted by them. As campaigners noted, the Inquiry is only telling us what we’ve already told them.
Why Wellings is important
There are several significant things than can be learned from his deployment.
Though Wellings was confirmed as a spycop by the Pitchford Inquiry, he is the first who is not a core participant.
The focus on the 2005 G8 Summit in Scotland
While it is well established that spycops infiltrated anarchist and environmental groups, Wellings deployment shows there was interest in other campaign groups mobilising for the event. Globalise Resistance would become part of the G8 Alternatives block, which included elected politicians to the Scottish Parliament.
Also, the email Wellings wrote on being exposed demonstrates that police had started planning their spying efforts well in advance – a year before the Summit itself took place. Had Welling’s tactic of representing Globalise Resistance at meetings in Scotland worked, he would have been right at the heart of facilitating the large counter-mobilisation among the traditional left-wing, and likely been in a position to spy on high-profile socialist politicians who were involved.
No intimate relationships
Simon Wellings, as far as is known, never engaged in a sexual relationship with those he targeted – suggesting that it was clearly possible for undercover officers to avoid having intimate affairs. Nevertheless, the recording is substantive proof that the intrusion into personal lives was not limited to targeting for relationships: it was part of the expectation that undercovers would gather personal information and pass it on. While we must never forget just how grossly abusive the deceiving of women for relationships was, we should also remember that the betrayal had many forms, causing all sorts of impact.
Child identity not stolen, but another method used
The identity used by Wellings was not stolen from a dead child as far as we have been able to ascertain. That particular tradecraft had apparently been abandoned by the time he was deployed. Instead, however, our research indicates that his cover-name may have been chosen to mirror real-existing individuals. Since this is not the first time we have encountered such a pattern, the question arises whether it was done on purpose, to make it more difficult to trace someone’s identity in case of suspicions.
For more detail on Simon Wellings as an undercover see the profile at PowerBase.