■■ Aim The Undercover Research Project is creating an online one-stop resource on political policing and undercover surveillance. To enhance public understanding of the undercover policing scandal, we will profile the people and the units involved, illustrated with time lines and background stories. We will provide evidence of undermining of protest and dissent, to support others holding those responsible to account.
■■ How We will start with meticulously combing the existing evidence for new details and undertake further research into the history of the secret police units. It is crucial for the project to speak to more people; many have already agreed to be interviewed by us, and to share their archives and court documents, of course we will protect our sources. We will also seek to contact (former) undercover officers, and actively ask people who have information to share to get in touch.
■■ Questions The Undercover Research Project will investigate the undercover police – and associated corporate – infiltration of activist groups, examining the aims and objectives of the spying operations. Who was involved in spying on activists and what exactly were the undercover officers doing? What are the connections between these undercover operations and corporate interests? Why is the UK government spying on protesters and does this fit with specific corporate activities or interests? How did the police cooperate with energy companies in the case of climate campaigns, or with the pharmaceutical industry on animal right campaigns?
Addressing the context and backgrounds of the undercover operations, we want to expose the blurred boundaries between the state and the corporate world in the policing of protest.
■■ Group The Undercover Research Group comprises a small set of dedicated activist-investigators who individually and collectively have already been diligently researching the subject of state and corporate spying for a number of years. Many exposures in the mainstream media were initially based on the research of activists – several of them directly linked to our group, in due course supported by investigative reporters at The Guardian. Having worked on aspects of this topic individually for several years before joining forces, the core group is now committed to work extensively on this project for the coming two years. We cooperate with a larger group of around 20 people, drawn from a broad spectrum of politically progressive activism, such as CorporateWatch, Statewatch, Netpol in the UK, buro Jansen & Janssen in the Netherlands, and other activist researchers across Europe. This network of people contributes specific knowledge or skills, donating their time and expertise when they can.
■■ Background Since the exposure in 2010 of Mark Kennedy as a long-term police infiltrator in activist groups in the UK and abroad, more than a dozen similar cases have been uncovered, with still others to come. For over forty years, the British state secretly placed more than one hundred long-term undercover officers into scores of political groups in order to spy on them and subvert their work. In addition, a number of distasteful hidden police practices have been revealed, including stealing the identities of dead children, and tricking targets into intimate or even sexual relationships with agents – in some cases leading to the birth of children who were subsequently abandoned. Officers also testified in Court under their false names; withheld exculpatory evidence; and actively planned and participated in serious crimes. More than a dozen official inquiries have been announced, but most are internal and will remain confidential. All have been initiated, overseen or executed by the very forces of reaction in whose name the practices were carried out. It took more than three years of revelations about police misconduct and mounting public pressure before the Home Secretary announced an independent public inquiry in March 2014.
The exposure of undercover officers and their activities raises a range of questions, only some of which are being addressed in the past few years.
We will ask those questions and provide answers and evidence, to support others holding those responsible to account.