Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:06 am Post subject: Pitchford enquiry into spy cops hacking activists' lives
|The Fifteen Questions we work with
Posted on November 2, 2015
Undercover Research Group
Peter Salmon and Eveline Lubbers / Undercover Research Group,
2 November 2015
As we noted in a recent blogpost on how we work, we have a list of questions that we have developed from close study of the undercovers exposed so far. If someone comes to us with a suspicion about someone in their group, we put these questions to them, to see whether their suspicions are well founded. If many boxes are ticked, there are strong grounds for further investigation.
Here we set out the questions we work with, putting them context (thanks for people taking part in our meeting at the London Anarchist Bookfair for their input!). Some questions are specifically related to the undercover tradecraft. Others are things about what infiltrating officers get wrong, or what we’ve picked up from our own analyses.
Is their background missing?
Generally, the undercover has very little in the way of background story. They will often have a
‘legend’ – where they are from, why they left. Details will generally be quite sparse, and there is very little overlap between their previous world and their activist one. It is rare to meet friends (or see their photos) from their ‘previous’ life, even though they may be discussed or the suspect claims he goes to see them. Undercovers will also have a lack of presence in the public record, though this is not always obvious until one starts investigating them seriously.
Caveat: it is known that several undercovers did bring other people through – generally these are considered ‘background artistes’ used to help bolster an undercover’s story. For example, Lynn Watson introduced several boyfriends to activist friends. Generally these other people have only appeared once or twice, and at times have been noted for their unusual or provocative behaviour.
Is their politics missing, underdeveloped or stereotyped?
Related to the first question, in most cases undercovers have had very little to say in relation to the politics of the movement they are infiltrating. Although they are indeed interested in listening to others (though some eschewed any interest in the name of cynicism), they contribute little on that score and generally avoid or head-off such discussions. Where they demonstrate interest, it is often superficial and the books and background material they have are standard, popular stuff showing little depth or breathe.
Caveat: clearly this can be applied to a lot of campaigners, but in some groups it is a reason for standing out.
Has anyone ever met their family?
Some undercovers never talk about their family, while some talk about them a lot. However opportunities to meet them never quite come off – there are always excuses. Undercovers can produce photos and other material indicating the existence of supposed family members, and talk about having close relationships with them. Others have spun stories about abusive relationships (and used these stories to build trust), but inconsistently talk about how they are going to see them. Sometimes family crises, such as a seriously ill father, are used as an excuse to go away for extended periods of time.
Does their job take them away for periods at a time?
It appears that many undercovers have jobs that require them to be away for extended periods of time, up to several weeks at a time. These jobs would also supply them with money, vehicles and excuses to put receipts ‘through the books’. Depending on the nature of the job, most are reluctant to bring activists into contact with their employers. E.g., Lynn Watson was a care-worker, but when friends asked about working with her agency, she kept them at bay
Did their home look un-lived in?
A common theme is how un-homely or not lived-in their houses were, though – again – not in every case. There would be materials around that indicated ‘political activist’, but they are the exception rather than the norm, looking more staged than anything. There would also be a lack of personal touch and possessions. The most noted case of this was Lynn Watson’s house which had overdone Class War posters and little in the way of personal touch.
Did they have a vehicle?
Most undercovers had vehicles and showed willing to use them for the purposes of campaigning, including doing reconnaissances and actions. The vehicles would vary in type and model, and include vans. Sometimes the undercovers claimed the car came through their work.
Did they have above-average driving skills?
Something commented on a lot of undercovers is their above average driving skills, which is not unsurprising given Special Branch / police background.
Would you consider them someone who went out of their way to be helpful?
The charm, friendliness and general kindness of the undercovers is regularly noted upon. They come across as ready to go out of their way to help. In particular, they are happy to give lifts to and from campaigner’s homes.
Did they have ready access to money and were they generous with it?
They are often ready to help people out with money, such as wave petrol costs or buy rounds of food or drink. Sometimes they will claim that expenses are already covered it in some way – through their work for instance. They are not necessarily flash, but seem to have ready access to cash. They show willing to be generous, and will be quick to buy the rounds.
Did they focus relationships on key people?
It is not uncommon for them to – after getting involved in a group – to ‘make a beeline’ for key people and become very close to them personally and in campaigning. This often leads to them being been seen as ‘second in command’, etc.
Did they ever exhibit noticeable out-of-character behaviour?
A number of undercovers have been known to do something quite out of character that either disrupted an action and alerted police, or was distinctively away from the norm of the group. Examples are: inexplicable carelessness (Jim Boyling sabotaged a blockade during a Reclaim the Streets action by ‘ forgetting’ to keep window closed, so that the car was easy to remove by the police), or doing things beyond the group’s normal mode of behaviour (encouraging activities that put other members at risk, or take them into unplanned confrontations).
Related to this is spreading stories about more serious involvement in radical action elsewhere to give the impression they are ‘up for it’, though this would differ from how they normally present and actually behave in given situations.
12. Have you spotted oddities?
A number of things we have encountered in our research, that are worth noting if you encounter them:
Have documents in other names (sometimes can be explained away; not all are without good reason).
Organisational skills at odds with their persona.
Not having the skills they claim, especially where it is within their alleged job (Mark Jenner, for instance claimed to be a professional joiner but was unable to fit a kitchen). Related to this is not knowing enough about something they claim to be into, particularly a football team.
A focus on cleanliness and order that puts them at the far end of the activist spectrum, or at odds with it (e.g. Mark Kennedy getting his hair regularly styled in professional hairdressers).
Characteristics that indicate some formal training (the way they do their boots).
Reacting to surprise situations in ways that indicated some other training (At a noise outside Jenner dropping in the correct moves to react to a bomb explosion).
Owning a very expensive bit of equipment that is somewhat out of characteristic for them or their milieu (top of the range phone, watch).
Doing something that seems to be signalling to someone else.
Have there been weird things around court cases or – lack of – police interest?
Sometimes undercover officers have been dropped inexplicably from a legal case, or chose to have a different solicitor from everyone else. Or you may have experienced a noticeable lack of police interest during the period the undercover was part of your group, or people would not be arrested when it would be otherwise be expected It is now known that the undercovers’ handlers were turning a blind eye to illegal activities at occasions, and would go out of their way to keep the undercover from going to court.
Caveat: The opposite might be true too: there are several strong examples of undercovers turning up in court using their false names to give evidence for instance – leading to overturned convictions eventually.
Did he or she suddenly disappear and cut off all contact?
This question is a section in itself as the ‘exit strategy’ is one of the most important aspects of the tradecraft when investigating a suspicion. In every case, undercovers have served a term of four to five years, then left relatively abruptly. It is quite telling how time and again two strategies are used, sometimes in combination: a) they go abroad, or b) act out and demonstrate a kind of mental breakdown, including actual tears. More importantly, they disappear completely, totally cutting off from their activist social life.
In several cases, not attending funerals or coming to other events related to people they were once very close to, gave rise to suspicions.
Sometimes, the situation has been more complicated, because the undercover continued to tangle up their personal life and their professional undercover one, which is called ‘going native’. Mike Chitty, for instance, returned after supposedly having left for Canada to socialise with activist friends, while he continued his job in the protective service – a different section of Spacial Branch. Kennedy came back after he had left the police, and tried to use his activist contacts to set up shop as a corporate spy selling the information he gathered.
Can you help us kill these myths?
We are aware from conversations that some people believe or have believed undercovers had a code of conduct, that there were things they would not do. We flag them up here to put an end to these myths:
commit illegal activities;
have sexual relationships with people they were targeting;
deny they are police when asked directly (some would even joke about it).
We now know that all of these things have been done regularly by undercover officers.
If you find someone whose story ticks a number of these boxes, it does not necessarily mean you are dealing with an undercover officer. It merely means that your suspicions warrant further digging and investigating. These questions are a starting point, not an end in themselves to proof a case.
We strongly discourage people from spreading rumours based on suspicions alone, and recommend following up with research and proceeding with that as quickly as possible. Gossiping without confirmation can do much harm and destroy groups from within, regardless of the actual infiltration.
It is important to remember that while there might be commonalities among the way undercovers operate, there are as many differences, particularly around what they seek to achieve: some directly facilitate a group, while others seek to destroy it, for instance.
We also note that there are many good reasons for people to fall into the same categories without being an undercover, our framework is not fail-safe. For example, there are pretty valid reasons for not having contact with your family, or for people to disappear. Suffering from burn out is too common a reason for activists to withdraw, for instance (which should not happen in the first place – but that is another story. For support contact Counselling for Social Change).
Furthermore, not all undercover stories are exactly the same, there will be variations: so not fitting the pattern does not necessarily put someone in the clear either. Apart from that, other forms of infiltration (by security services or corporations, or through informers) will have very different patterns. If you have any questions or concerns or want to run unusual situations by us, do get in contact.
N.B. If you post these questions anywhere, please leave the caveats in place.
The nature of this work means all our experience and research is about historical undercovers, all prior to 2011 and all about those who have been extracted from their role. As this tradecraft is exposed, the police will have to change tactics to some degree.
Furthermore, the growing use of social media makes it more and more impossible to enter into a scene without any traces of a past, another part of one’s life and without family (though we know the police are actively looking into building ‘online legends’ to deal with this problem).
This article is here to help those who have been targeted in the past to identify individuals who should be investigated further, and should not be seen as the most up-to-date understanding of undercover police tradecraft.
Profiles of undercovers mentioned in this article can be found here. Some details taken from undercovers yet to be publicly exposed.
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.
|Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:07 pm Post subject:
|Bristle's Blog from the BunKRS
Culture, current affairs, babber chatter and local gossip from the Mild, Wild West Country
‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny”… except when it suits THEM
‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ = Neither TRUTH nor JUSTICE
This Thursday and Friday at the High Court in London the state’s strategy of infiltrating spy-cops into the lives of political activists goes on trial, after a fashion at least.
Essentially a bunch of women who were treated like patsies by undercover cops and their bosses – tricked into intimate relationships, used as living, breathing camouflage, exploited as a means of infiltrating political groups more convincingly – will argue that the Metropolitan Police should drop the ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ (NCND) approach which it has so far used to avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of its decades-long domestic spying operation.
The concept of NCND has been wheeled out from time to time, but those of a more sceptical bent, cynical even, would note how it has only been since the legal case brought against the police that it has been wheeled out as some kind of inviolable principle underpinning the very fabric of democracy and protecting those brave, selfless souls who volunteer to become well-paid, under-supervised flatfooted spooks of the state…
So if you are around London either today or tomorrow, get thee down to the Royal Courts of Justice(!) on The Strand from 9am and show how you stand in solidarity with these women and all those others targeted by undercover cops.
For more info on how the case goes, check Police Spies Out of Lives on Twitter.
Seven Magnificent Reasons why NCND is bs!
1: Some former undercover spy-cops have outed themselves
Well, it’s rather difficult to keep this whole NCND charade going when the very people it’s supposedly there to protect are exposing themselves, isn’t it?
Peter Francis: In March 2010, then using the pseudonym ‘Officer A’, former Special Branch officer Francis candidly talked to The Observer about his infiltration of left-wing and anti-fascist groups on behalf of the SDS from September 1993 until September 1997. He also noted the interest that his superiors had in infiltrating ‘black justice groups’, particularly in the wake of criticisms of the Met’s handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.
PC Mark Kennedy AKA ‘Mark Stone’ - NPOIU spy
PC Mark Kennedy AKA ‘Mark Stone’ – NPOIU spy
Mark Kennedy: A Metropolitan Police officer who worked undercover within the environmental movement for the NPOIU between 2003 and 2009, before leaving the Met and continuing the same for private spying company Global Open for a further ten months, Kennedy admitted his role as a cop to activists who confronted him in October 2010. He then repeated his admissions to another activist in November 2010.
These admissions were then the basis for the collapse of the second Ratcliffe-on-Soar trial, and subsequent quashing of convictions from the first – admissions supported by the Crown Prosecution Service, Nottinghamshire Constabulary, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and others in their various reports on the debacle.
Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the hagiographic documentary about him that Max Clifford brokered…
DI Bob Lambert AKA ‘Bob Robinson’ - undercover cop & SDS spymaster
DI Bob Lambert AKA ‘Bob Robinson’ – undercover cop & SDS spymaster
Bob Lambert: Since his exposure in October 2011 by members of the London Greenpeace group on which he spied in the 1980s, the former Metropolitan Police Special Branch spy-cop and then spymaster Lambert has repeatedly acknowledged that he was an SDS infiltrator, notably in the brief statement he himself put out.
In his filmed interview with Channel 4 News in July 2013, Lambert again accepted that he had been an undercover officer, and that Francis had been too.
PC Jim Boyling AKA ‘Grumpy Jim Sutton’ - moved from SDS to Muslim Contact Unit with boss Lambert
PC Jim Boyling AKA ‘Grumpy Jim Sutton’ – moved from SDS to Muslim Contact Unit with boss Lambert
Jim Boyling: Mentored by Francis and commanded by Lambert – with whom he later helped set up the ‘Muslim Contact Unit’ within Special Branch – Boyling infiltrated Reclaim The Streets as ‘Jim Sutton’ on behalf of SDS from 1995 until 2000.
In 1999 he began going out with a female activist. He ended their relationship suddenly and disappeared from the environmental movement in late 2000 when his SDS deployment came to an end. But in November 2001 she tracked him down and they restarted their relationship.
Soon he admitted to her that he had been an undercover police officer, got her pregnant, isolated her from her environmentalist friends. In time he also persuaded her to change her name by deed poll to reduce the chance of his police bosses discovering that he was sleeping with a former target, told her personal information about activists who had been spied upon, and revealed the identities of several other undercover officers, including John Dines and Bob Lambert, the latter of whom even visited their home.
They had two children together and married in 2005, before the relationship disintegrated. By 2009 they had divorced.
2: The police have already confirmed some infiltrators were officers
…And even if the spy-cops aren’t outing themselves, their bosses are quietly confirming as much off the record!
Mark Kennedy: Whilst in the early stages of the scandal the Met maintained a ‘no comment’ response to questions about Kennedy or the NPOIU, soon there was such a deluge of further embarrassing details that police chiefs were forced to acknowledge him as a cop in under a fortnight.
‘Lynn Watson’ - the NPOIU infiltrator whom Kennedy betrayed
‘Lynn Watson’ – the NPOIU infiltrator whom Kennedy betrayed
‘Lynn Watson’: Exposed by The Guardian in January 2011, ‘Watson’ was initially known only as ‘Officer A’ (the newspaper’s editors presumably having forgotten that less than a year previously its sister title had assigned that pseudonym to Peter Francis) thanks to a deal with “senior officers” and “senior intelligence sources” who in the face of overwhelming evidence (including being grassed up by Kennedy) admitted she was NPOIU, but asked for a head-start before publishing her work name or her photograph so that she could be relocated from a subsequent undercover operation.
Almost immediately her full work name, unpixelated photograph and undercover biography became known through activist news media.
Police sources further confirmed to The Times that she was a serving police officer who had worked undercover for NPOIU, offering additional information on her deployments.
‘Marco Jacobs’ - NPOIU's disruptive cuckoo in Cardiff's anarchist movement
‘Marco Jacobs’ – NPOIU’s disruptive cuckoo in Cardiff’s anarchist movement
‘Marco Jacobs’: At the same time as ‘Watson’ was confirmed as a serving officer working in NPOIU, so was ‘Jacobs’ – or ‘Officer B’ – who infiltrated groups in Brighton and Cardiff.
Jim Boyling: Earlier this year during legal proceedings to have the conviction quashed of an environmental protester who was tried alongside Boyling in 1997, prosecutors agreed that John Jordan had been wrongfully convicted. However, they refused to say why they considered it a miscarriage of justice, even though it was patently obvious it was because Boyling had been an infiltrator using a fake identity, preferring instead to strike an NCND pose – all whilst the Met itself confirmed that Boyling had been a police officer.
3: Senior police officers have spoken with impunity about undercover units and their personnel
In fact, some of the biggest cops think that the rules don’t apply to them, and will run their gums pretty much anywhere…
Chief Constable Ben Gunn - the former Special Branch supremo who nurtured SDS, laid ground for NETCU, and led ACPO into turf war with MI5?
Chief Constable Ben Gunn – the former Special Branch supremo who nurtured SDS, prepared the ground for NETCU, and led ACPO into turf war with MI5?
Ben Gunn: A career Special Branch officer since 1963, Gunn spent two years running SO12 before moving to leadership roles at Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 1991, becoming Chief Constable in 1994, a rank he held until retirement in March 2002. It was Gunn – an officer intimately familiar with SDS, its officers and operations, and who in later years chaired the ACPO Security Committee – who facilitated the participation of ex-SDS infiltrators and Special Branch case officers in Peter Taylor’s 2002 documentary television series True Spies.
Chief Constable Denis O'Connor - the Chief Inspector of Constabulary whose fairweather application of NCND identified numerous undercover officers
Chief Constable Denis O’Connor – the Chief Inspector of Constabulary whose fairweather application of NCND identified numerous undercover officers
Denis O’Connor: In his capacity as Chief Inspector of Constabulary, O’Connor (a Chief Police Officer since around 1990) openly acknowledged Mark Kennedy as having been an undercover police officer in media appearances and interviews.
O’Connor’s HMIC review of ‘national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest’ (that’s version three of the report: an initial, insipid draft by Bernard Hogan-Howe was rewritten by O’Connor himself, before that second version then had to be pulped and rush-written a third time as the story that Jim Boyling had given evidence under oath whilst using his fake identity broke the night before the report was due to be released) – explicitly references the arbitrary exercise of NCND:
It is normal practice for the police to neither confirm nor deny the true identity of undercover officers. This is to protect both the officers themselves, and the effectiveness of the tactic. However, the case of Mark Kennedy is one of exceptional circumstances, including his own public revelations, the media interest in him, and the fact that the Court of Appeal named him on 19 July 2011. Because of this, HMIC has chosen on this occasion to use his real name.
Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe - veteran of the Hillsborough police and author of the original HMIC whitewash on undercover policing
Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe – veteran of the Hillsborough police and author of the original HMIC whitewash on undercover policing
Bernard Hogan-Howe: After leaving HMIC, where he authored the never publicly released original report on spy-cop units (as noted above),Hogan-Howe was made Metropolitan Police Commissioner – and in that capacity he too has made numerous public statements in which he accepts that various people were undercover officers, either directly or by implication.
Facing questions from the Metropolitan Police Authority in October 2011 in relation to allegations that Jim Boyling perjured himself whilst undercover, the Commissioner by implication confirmed that he had been a Metropolitan Police officer at that time: “I am just a little careful about answering the point about whether he is still working for us and what he is doing. He is in the misconduct process, which is a publicly reported fact, so he must be still working for us.”
Following the allegations made by Peter Francis that SDS officers had been invited to contribute to a ‘smear campaign’ against the Lawrence family in the lead up to the Macpherson Inquiry, in June 2013 Hogan-Howe again failed to invoke NCND, instead stating: “I am personally shocked by the allegations that an undercover officer was told to find evidence that might smear the Lawrence family… If these allegations are true, it’s a disgrace, and the Metropolitan Police Service will apologise.”
Chief Constable Mick Creedon - bangs on about NCND but names report after a confirmed former undercover officer!
Chief Constable Mick Creedon – bangs on about NCND but names report after a confirmed former undercover officer!
Mick Creedon: The serving Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary, Creedon – currently in charge of the cops-investigating-cops Operation Herne – has freely acknowledged that some suspected spies (such as Francis and Lambert) were police infiltrators… Whilst also invoking NCND in the first report, but then devoting the entire second report to ‘Allegations of Peter Francis’!
4: Parliament has taken evidence under oath from serving and former undercover officers
It takes a very special type of person to fold so quickly under a Keith Vaz interrogation. But dangit, these guys will give it a go!
The Home Affairs Select Committee has heard evidence from a number of police officers – both serving and former – in relation to undercover policing, and issued both an interim report in March 2013 and a follow-up in October of the same year.
Mark Kennedy: The former Metropolitan Police officer appeared in person before the committee in February 2013. He attested that he had undertaken undercover duties since 1998 and was accepted into the NPOIU in 2001, where he subsequently worked as an undercover officer infiltrating political groups in the UK and overseas.
DAC Patricia Gallan - the original Herne top cop whose investigation got nowhere
DAC Patricia Gallan – the original Herne top cop whose investigation got nowhere
Patricia Gallan: Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan ran the Met’s Operation Herne until February 2013, when it was transferred to the care of Derbyshire Constabulary. She appeared before the committee in February 2013 and made reference to a “policy” of NCND whilst discussing the topic in the abstract; yet she also explicitly referred both to Mark Kennedy and an SDS officer exposed in his wake (who can reasonably be deduced to be Boyling).
Mick Creedon: The Derbyshire Chief Constable, who took over the running of Operation Herne from DAC Gallan at the invitation of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in February 2013, gave evidence before the committee in July of that year. He acknowledged that Peter Francis was an officer in SDS, and neither here nor in his earlier letter to the committee, in which he noted the allegations made by Peter Francis in relation to the Lawrence family”, did he make reference to NCND.
5: Inquiries by a number of authorities have clearly identified undercover officers
Since January 2011, when Mark Kennedy was publicly exposed in the mainstream media as an undercover police infiltrator, there have been almost countless official investigations, inquiries, reviews and reports into every possible aspect of the undercover policing issue – though not all of them public. The ones so far in the public domain all identify at least some officers to some degree, though…
Sir Christopher Rose - apparently it's alright for him to name undercovers, so long as it's whilst he's bollocking lawyers
Sir Christopher Rose – apparently it’s alright for him to name undercovers, so long as it’s whilst he’s bollocking lawyers
Rose Report (CPS): In April 2009 114 people were arrested in relation to a planned protest at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power plant, based on intelligence supplied by undercover Metropolitan Police officer Mark Kennedy. 26 were charged, with twenty tried (and convicted) in December 2010, and a further six due to go on trial in January 2011.
Neither the police nor the Crown Prosecution Service disclosed to the defence that there had been a spy in their midst; but in October 2010 suspicious activists themselves had confronted Kennedy with indisputable evidence that he had been a policeman, and he confessed. With the cat out of the bag, the second trial collapsed before it began, with the convictions from the first trial subsequently quashed.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer then commissioned Sir Christopher Rose to inquire into the issue of disclosure. Rose’s report, published in December 2011, freely acknowledges that Kennedy was an undercover police officer working for NPOIU, and details not just Kennedy’s actions but those of his superior in NPOIU, the Nottinghamshire investigation team, and the CPS prosecutors.
Operation Soisson/Operation Herne (Met Police/Derbyshire Constabulary): The Metropolitan Police first began to investigate allegations about its SDS undercover unit in October 2011, when Operation Soisson was initiated with just four officers. Soisson then became Herne, with first Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and then Derbyshire Constabulary’s Chief Constable Mick Creedon taking nominal charge.
The first report of Operation Herne was published in July 2013, focusing on the use of ‘covert identities’ (most notably employing the identities of dead children) by undercover police. This report makes early mention of the “policy of ‘neither confirming nor denying’ the use of or identity of an undercover police officer”, which it describes as “a long established one used by UK policing”. Accordingly, this report does not refer to any undercover officer by their covert identity or real name. Only the identity of a dead child – Rod Richardson – suspected of having been appropriated by an NPOIU undercover spy is mentioned.
However, the report makes copious references to codenamed officers which make deduction simple. Creedon, for example, notes “allegations that a former SDS officer (N14) had a relationship with a woman whilst he had worked undercover and that he had gone on to father children with her,” in circumstances that make it plain to deduce that this is Jim Boyling.
There is also reference to “a video interview provided to the Guardian by the former SDS Officer N43”, who is clearly Peter Francis. Reminiscences by retired officer ‘N2’ about a situation in which he “found himself in a situation where he had penetrated an organisation and was then asked by the group to help trace a mole among them” suggests this may be Mike Ferguson, an early SDS spy previously outed in the True Spies documentary series. Similarly ‘N85’ would appear to be the former Commander of Special Branch, Roger Pearce – a career Branch man with extensive experience of covert policing and himself a former SDS undercover officer.
The second Herne report, which came out in March 2014, focused on the claims of ex-SDS officer Peter Francis. Yet despite even being called Report 2 – Allegations of Peter Francis, Creedon sticks to the NCND credo, this time even throwing in some case law and legislative references to try and plug some of the leaks.
Notwithstanding this, the report still refers to Francis’ boss Bob Lambert by name, as well as by implication as ‘N10’.
Mark Ellison QC - how come a case review by a brief and his assistant can uncover dodgy police activities that numerous well-staffed investigations by the Met, IPCC, CPS, HMIC and the rest couldn't?
Mark Ellison QC – how come a case review by a brief and his assistant can uncover dodgy police activities that numerous well-staffed investigations by the Met, IPCC, CPS, HMIC and the rest couldn’t?
Stephen Lawrence Independent Review (Mark Ellison QC): Appointed by Home Secretary Theresa May as a sop to the Lawrence family, who were calling for a full independent inquiry, the Ellison Review – released the same day in March 2014 as the second Herne report – was an unexpected bomb, forensically blowing apart many of the Met’s orthodoxies on not just its investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence but also on the behaviour of Special Branch and its undercover unit SDS.
The Review makes no claims about NCND, and instead simply assigns number codes to pretty much all undercover officers, with the exception of obvious ones such as Peter Francis and Bob Lambert.
HMIC Review: As noted above, the O’Connor/Hogan-Howe Review of national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest (snappy title) for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary was another report which potentously explained the importance of NCND, before then completely undermining it as a concept by naming Mark Kennedy throughout.
Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station (Operation Aeroscope) Disclosure Final Report (IPCC): Covering similar ground as the Rose Report but concentrating on the actions of police officers, the IPCC report names Kennedy as an undercover officer, but refers to his case officer David Hutcheson only as ‘NPOIU DI’, and their superior responsible for disclosure as ‘NPOIU DCI’.
6: Earlier tribunals have rejected the idea that the NCND convention can be rigidly and indefinitely deployed
Previous attempts by official bodies to apply a blanket NCND response to any inquiries relating to the use of spies or secret intelligence against those who were demonstrably not violent or threats to the state have been met with short shrift.
The job of adjudicating on appeals to the Information Tribunal – where a data controlling organisation has refused to release information under the Data Protection Act (1998) citing a section 28 ‘national security’ exemption – belongs to the National Security Appeals Panel. Already the NSAP has made a number of interesting decisions on this issue – and ones involving the ‘big boy’ spooks of the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), not just the more déclassé rubber heelers of Special Branch, or – worse! – the impertinent young bucks of the newer national ‘domestic extremism’ units.
Typically in these appeals the state has argued that by letting ‘innocent’ people know that no information is held on them, this enables a ‘guilty’ person to incrementally build up an accurate understanding of whether information is held on them.
Whilst – repeatedly – the Panel tends to point appellants towards the Investigatory Powers Tribunal as a means to pursue such issues, the clear implication is that the ‘incremental’ argument is not monolithic and must be weighed against other contributory factors.
Norman Baker MP - a dangerous terraist and government minister who weakened MI5's blanket NCND defence (just don't ask about Dr Kelly)
Norman Baker MP – a dangerous terraist and now government minister who weakened MI5’s blanket NCND defence (just don’t ask about Dr Kelly)
Norman Baker v. Home Secretary (2001): The Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes won a landmark judgement which removed the ability of the Security Service to use a blanket NCND policy.
It came after the Lewes MP received an anonymous tip-off that he had been under Special Branch surveillance in 1986-1989, that intelligence on him was held by the Animal Rights National Index (ARNI, a precursor to NPOIU and NETCU), and that this information was then passed onto MI5 in 1998 by a ‘source’ inside South Downs Earth First!
On hearing this claim he put in a DPA subject access request to MI5 asking to see what information it held on him, but this was stonewalled with an NCND response.
In its conclusion, the NSAP noted that:
the blanket exemption given by the Certificate in relation to section 7(1)(a) is wider than is necessary to protect national security…the blanket exemption relieves the Service of any obligation to give a considered answer to individual requests…
Phillip Hilton v. Foreign Secretary (2003): In this case a former GCHQ employee sought to find out whether his personal data had been shared with other public bodies or private companies, and to clarify whether the travel restrictions that were customarily part of his employment conditions then remained in force even though he had left the job more than a decade previously.
Following an NCND response from GCHQ, he appealed to NSAP; the Panel declined to rule on the principle of NCND, though noted that it found it “difficult to accept that the NCND reply can always be justified on this ground, because as a matter of commonsense it may be thought that there are some cases where a definite response would not enable any inference to be drawn in other cases.”
Nevertheless, the Panel dismissed the appeal and instead pointed to the secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal established under RIPA as the appropriate body to consider whether it was “an unjustified claim by GCHQ to give a NCND response or to withhold personal data on national security grounds”.
Tony Gosling v. Home Secretary (2003): Here a journalist requested from MI5 any information held on him by them, citing the Baker decision; the Service turned him down and gave an NCND response, citing s28. He then appealed to NSAP.
Whilst this appeal too was dismissed, the Panel indicated that the Service conceded ground:
Assuming that the general NCND policy is itself justified…the Service accepts that the policy is not absolute. …There may be other, as yet not specifically identified cases, where departure from NCND might be justifiable.
Peter Hitchens v. Home Secretary (2003): A journalist and former activist with the International Socialists in the early 1970s, Hitchens made a subject access request to the Security Service on the back of the Baker decision.
Whilst sympathetic to Hitchens’ argument that the passage of time should affect the degree to which NCND might be considered appropriate, the Panel also gave weight to the ‘incremental’ argument, noting that “If (the appellant) and a university contemporary both made requests under section 7(1)(a) for records which, if they exist, are more than thirty years old, a NCND reply in one case but not the other might suggest that more recent data are held in that case alone.”
The appeal was dismissed, for essentially the same reasons as in Gosling.
7: Police only invoked the NCND defence after legal action was brought against them
As noted by the women’s support group Police Spies Out Of Lives:
The women launched their legal action in December 2011, but it was not until June 2012 that the police first mentioned NCND in relation to the claim.
What a funny coincidence…
Yes – I think we have a winning ticket here!
Tony Thompson, ‘Undercover policeman reveals how he infiltrated UK’s violent activists’, The Observer, 14 March 2010 (accessed 1 May 2014).
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unknown author, ‘Undercover police: the unmasked officers’, Daily Telegraph, 10 January 2011 (accessed 4 June 2014).
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Transpontine, ‘Undercover in East Dulwich’, Transpontine, 19 January 2011 (accessed 4 June 2014).
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Paul Lewis, Rob Evans & Rowenna Davis, ‘Ex-wife of police spy tells how she fell in love and had children with him’, The Guardian, 19 January 2011 (accessed 4 June 2014).
Paul Lewis & Rob Evans, ‘Spying on protest groups has gone badly wrong, police chiefs say’, The Guardian, 19 January 2011 (accessed 5 June 2014).
Paul Lewis, Rob Evans & Martin Wainwright, ‘Second police officer to infiltrate environmental activists unmasked’, The Guardian, 12/01/11 (accessed 10 May 2014).
quiteliketheguardianactually, ‘Officer A’, Indymedia UK, 13/01/11 (accessed 10 May 2014).
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There are a lot of acronyms in this article, so here’s a handy guide to all them initials…
ACPO: Association of Chief Police Officers (private company acting as a forum for senior cops – with no statutory foundation and no democratic oversight – which at times has had authority over units including NPOIU, NDET and NETCU)
ACPO (TAM): ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters (ACPO ‘business area’ responsible for devising and driving counter-terrorism and anti-‘domestic extremism’ policy within UK policing, which operated NCDE and its subordinate units NPOIU, NDET and NETCU)
ARNI: Animal Rights National Index (precursor to NPOIU and NETCU whose remit was widened out to include environmentalists)
CIU: Confidential Intelligence Unit (sub-unit of NPOIU)
NCDE: National Coordinator Domestic Extremism (ACPO-controlled office commanding NPOIU, NDET and NETCU until they were all brought together as NDEU in 2010)
NDEDIU: National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (rebranded NDEU, under control of Metropolitan Police’s SO15)
NDET: National Domestic Extremism Team (investigatory ‘domestic extremism’ unit set up in 2005 to provide national strategic support to localised investigations, which later developed its own intelligence-gathering capability; merged into NDEU in 2010 and moved from ACPO to Met control in 2011)
NDEU: National Domestic Extremism Unit (merged unit formed in 2010 from NPOIU, NDET and NETCU and transferred to Met control in 2011)
NETCU: National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (preventative ‘domestic extremism’ unit set up under Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 2004, coming under the control of NCDE in ACPO until merged into NDEU in 2010 along with NPOIU and NDET , and then transferred to the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command in 2011)
NPOIU: National Public Order Intelligence Unit (intelligence-gathering ‘domestic extremism’ unit set up under Metropolitan Police Special Branch in 1999, moved to ACPO in 2006, and after merger with NETCU and NDET into NDEU transferred back to the Met in 2011 under Counter Terrorism Command/SO15 as a single unit, NDEU)
SDS: Special Demonstration Squad (originally Special Operations Squad, later Special Duties Section; political infiltration unit of Metropolitan Police Special Branch)
SO12: Metropolitan Police Special Branch (intelligence-gathering police unit most concerned with ‘subversion’, ‘domestic extremism’ and terrorism)
SO13: Anti Terrorism Branch (investigatory unit)
SO15: Counter Terrorism Command (formed through the union of SO12 and SO13 in 2006)
CPS: Crown Prosecution Service (responsible for bringing about prosecutions on behalf of the state)
DPA: Data Protection Act (1998) (enumerates the responsibilities of any organisation which holds or processes data on individuals)
FOIA: Freedom of Information Act (2000) (providing public access to information held by public authorities)
GCHQ: Government Communications Headquarters (the national signals intelligence agency of the UK)
NCND: Neither Confirm Nor Deny (the position surrounding the avowal or otherwise of undercover officers claimed as an official policy by the police)
NSAP: National Security Appeals Panel (hearing appeals made to the Information Tribunal where a data controller has invoked s28 ‘national security’ defence under the Data Protection Act 1998)
RIPA: Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) (legislative framework governing undercover policing and the use of informants)
Edited 12 June 2014 for minor typos & style points.
Edited 29 July 2014 for minor typo.
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5 June, 20149 Replies
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Christopher Buntifer on 6 June, 2014 at 1:27 pm
Interesting piece, exposing idiocy & hypocrisy of the NCND position that the police are taking regarding undercover infiltration.
However, there is 1 minor part I would take issue with;
I would be very sceptical of the claim that MI5 had a ‘source’ inside South Downs Earth First! (SDEF!) in 1998 that passed on info about Norman Baker. This is largely because the group was only active in Brighton in the early 1990s and by 1998 no longer existed in any meaningful way (eg they had long stopped having meetings or planning actions). Also, if I remember correctly, the original source of this story should be treated with extreme caution, as it was the Sunday Times which was well-known for running unfounded spoiler stories to discredit environmental groups (such as the anti-roads protests at Twyford Down & Solsbury Hill in the early 1990s).
Finally, there’s no evidence I’m aware of that Norman Baker had any involvement with SDEF! (why would a prospective Lib Dem MP be involved with an obscure splinter group of the radical environmental movement that was largely unheard of outside of Brighton?!), so if there was indeed an MI5 ‘source’, I fail to see what useful info on Norman Baker they could pass on that wasn’t already known about.
BristleKRS on 6 June, 2014 at 1:49 pm
Thank Christopher – and I agree about being sceptical about that SDEF! claim.
I referenced it as it intersects with the political milieu that the police units have been spying on, and because the Baker case, as the first of the NSAP hearings, is perhaps the most important of all of them, ‘setting the scene’ as it does.
Certainly I hope to return to the specific issue of ‘The Mechanic’(!), and analyse it more closely.
I hope that by making reference to it it doesn’t come across as an endorsement of it, any more than citing a LibDem MP, a Mail hack or a gingery Captain Haddock lookalike might 😉
WILD NOTTINGHAM on 25 June, 2014 at 12:58 pm
An excellent, well-researched and well-presented piece. Thanks!
Pingback: Why NCND must be rejected….
BristleKRS on 2 July, 2014 at 10:04 am
Anony on 24 December, 2014 at 3:39 pm
Indeed, a well researched article.
There is an article mentioning Bob Lambert & the MCU here (section:’The Police Infiltrators Conspiracy Theories’ & also in the comments section).
With police ‘infiltrators’ put into environmental activist groups in the 80’s, it would be naive to think that infiltration of Muslim activist groups did not occur in later years. One such ‘Islamic covert’ activist was Martin ‘Abdullah’ McDaid who worked at the Iqra bookshop in Leeds, frequented by some of the 7/7 alleged perpetrators.
Dirty tricks all round…..
Pingback: Leaked letter appears to undermine police bid for undercover secrecy - The Guardian - Moletter
BristleKRS on 18 March, 2016 at 2:13 pm
Article by Rob Evans originally posted to The Guardian‘s website:
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/undercover-with-paul-lewis-and-rob- evans/2016/mar/18/leaked-letter-appears-to-undermine-police-bid-for-un dercover-secrecy
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.
|Posted: Fri Dec 17, 2021 3:34 am Post subject:
Special Branch corruption and a plot to deceive the Prime Minister
Dec 15 #
A ROGUE Special Branch unit was quietly disbanded after falsifying reports about an MI5 informant on one of the UK’s most secret intelligence databases, The Upsetter can reveal.
The counter-terrorism unit, which worked with MI5 to neutralise threats to UK transport networks, became mired in corrupt and unethical practices around the “chaotic” recruitment and management of informants.
An informant handler in the unit admitted fabricating reports on the National Special Branch Intelligence System (NSBIS), which holds ‘SECRET’ information about domestic extremism and counter-terrorism.
He claimed bosses told him to manipulate the NSBIS database to dupe inspectors from the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC), a government watchdog ensuring all covert police work is lawful.
The fabricated reports concerned the unit’s prized informant, who was infiltrating radical Islamists that MI5 suspected of plotting terror attacks. The deception was so serious that the OSC felt the prime minister should be told.
Every UK police force has a Special Branch, which acts as MI5’s extra pair of eyes and ears on whatever they consider to be political extremism.
The Special Branch unit at the centre of this scandal was part of British Transport Police (BTP) based in London.
An internal inquiry lasting almost two years and with no independent oversight eventually led to the sacking in secret of BTP’s director of intelligence.
But he and others involved, including the original whistleblower, believe there has been a cover up to protect Special Branch from wider scrutiny of its malpractice.
This includes racial profiling by trawling secret databases for Muslim names to turn into informants.
These events took place against the backdrop of widespread concern in Special Branch over the setting up of the Undercover Policing Inquiry in 2014 following shocking revelations of widespread abuse of women by undercover officers.
Counter-terrorism units were on notice to retain all intelligence held on NSBIS. But almost immediately files were shredded or deleted.
BTP has not informed the public inquiry about the ease with which NSBIS could be manipulated.
Demo outside the Home Office (Photo: PSOOL)
Sir Ed Davey MP, the Liberal Democrat leader, has now taken the unusual step of writing to Sir John Mitting, chairman of the inquiry, which is still sitting.
In his email Davey warned that NSBIS “was capable of manipulation by serving officers [and] the creation dates of the files was not a reliable indicator of when the content of those files was actually written.”
The Lib Dem leader has also told Priti Patel that BTP “misled” ministers and wants the home secretary to launch an immediate independent investigation into the "cover up” surrounding an “insider cyber attack” on NSBIS.
The Undercover Research Group of academics and activists monitoring the public inquiry on behalf of the hundreds of victims of unlawful policing by Special Branch and other counter-terrorism units said:
“These new revelations throw more worrying doubt on the integrity of police material and the cover up of abuses. The Undercover Policing Inquiry needs to ask the police just how endemic the practise was otherwise it makes a mockery of the disclosure process to those affected by police abuses going back decades.”
BTP refused to answer questions about its internal probe. What follows is based on internal documents and interviews with former Special Branch detectives speaking out for the first time about this unique corruption scandal.
Terrorist attack on London transport network on 7 July 2005
WHEN fifty-two people were blown up in London on 7 July 2005, British Transport Police (BTP) had no capability to infiltrate suspected terrorists planning attacks on the UK rail networks and London Underground.
Eight years later, Phil Moran, a detective constable in Special Branch, helped set up the first dedicated source unit in BTP to recruit and run informants for counter-terrorism work.
Moran refreshed his skills as an informant handler. He took the MI5 three-week UKP4 course in how to recruit and work with a counter terrorism or domestic extremist Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS).
MI5 was picking up the bill for the new BTP unit. It’s other role was in directing the informants that Moran and his experienced co-handler, detective constable Jim Burgess, recruited.
Burgess had completed the Metropolitan police source development unit course which he described as “a bit more psychological and looking at how to target specific individuals.”
Operating from offices in Blundell Street, behind Pentonville Prison in north London, in early 2013 the pair began trawling BTP databases of those working on the transport network and anyone arrested by the force who might make a good informant.
On 30 May, the new unit’s first counter-terrorism CHIS was formally registered under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
Large Win’s CHIS authorisation form (Photo: Michael Gillard)
The Muslim man was a rail worker who’d provided Moran with information in the past, but only about crime. Now he was willing to infiltrate mosques and cafes frequented by people MI5 knew or suspected of being involved in radicalisation and terror plots here and abroad.
The recruit was also assessed by MI5’s G6 section that deals with counter-terrorism sources, who gave the green light, otherwise known as ‘concurrence’ in spook speak.
(Photo: Michael Gillard)
The codename for the new informant was ‘Large Win’ – which in many ways is how Moran, then aged 52, saw his Special Branch career ending.
Instead, within six months the informant-handler relationship had caused the detective’s professional and mental undoing and led to a conspiracy to deceive the surveillance watchdog and ultimately the prime minister.
As Large Win’s lead ‘handler’, Moran answered to Special Branch detective sergeant Dave West, the recently appointed ‘controller’ of informants at the new unit.
West was no fool. He had done thirty years at Kent police, seven of which involved a secondment to the National Crime Squad, before joining BTP Special Branch in 2007.
As controller, West approved all meetings with informants and managed the new unit’s expenses. These included a monthly £300 payment to Large Win from MI5 funds.
The spies had several “priority ops” against individuals. Large Win was authorised to “show verbal enthusiasm” for any extremist activity that these targets discussed in front of him.
All intelligence collected this way was documented by Moran on the National Special Branch Intelligence System (NSBIS) database and sent to MI5 through a secure email system.
But after four months, West suspected Large Win might be lying about his personal life, in particular a trip the informant had made over the summer of 2013 to Egypt, apparently alone.
Moran, however, was less concerned and refused to carry out extra checks on his informant, claiming West’s order to do so was either unnecessary or amounted to surveillance and therefore needed higher authority.
West bided his time until late September, when Moran returned from a “training weekend” to improve Large Win’s tradecraft. A shopping centre in Reading was often used to train informants how to spot if they are being followed to and from a meeting with their handlers. The process is known as ‘dry cleaning’.
Back in the office, West confronted Moran. A report commissioned from a senior analyst proved his suspicions were correct. Large Win had lied about his financial problems and the trip to Egypt with a woman he had secretly shacked up with.
Moran felt humiliated by West but also had to accept he hadn’t probed his informant enough.
But Moran also pointed West to the bigger picture. Large Win must be providing good intelligence to MI5 otherwise the spooks would have said something by now, he argued at the office meeting.
(Photo: Michael Gillard)
Nevertheless, issues around the informant’s financial problems were hard to ignore because it made Large Win and Special Branch vulnerable.
When the informant was recruited back in May 2013 it was accepted within Special Branch and MI5 that his primary motive was money not politics.
But the new checks suggested the informant could be making up intelligence for cash, which would undermine any terrorism prosecutions based on his reports.
Separately, West was also armed with concerns about Moran’s closeness to Large Win. Special Branch colleagues had reported back that during the recent training weekend a considerable time had been spent in pubs.
Large Win, it emerged, liked a drink - despite being on medication for anxiety - and had tried to chat up local women in the pub.
It also emerged that on his way home, the informant was potentially compromised when a fellow rail worker saw him sitting with his handlers.
Ignoring Moran’s pleas to keep it all within Special Branch, West alerted MI5 to the prospect that Large Win might have to be “discontinued”. The controller wrote:
“It is unknown if the intelligence [he] has supplied is truthful. At this stage we have been unable to corroborate his intelligence or his attendance at various venues. This is an area where early testing would be beneficial.”
MI5 responded immediately that Large Win’s intelligence was still of value and he should remain an informant, albeit with more oversight.
That job was the responsibility of detective superintendent Paul Shrubsole, BTP’s director of intelligence, who authorised all of Special Branch’s covert activity.
Det Supt Paul Shrubsole, BTP director of intelligence (Photo: Michael Gillard)
Shrubsole, then 45, was experienced, busy and generally liked. He backed West for doing the extra checks on Large Win. MI5, he recalled, wanted “a more stable regular payment [of £300] so [the informant] is not incentivised to make things up to gather additional funds.”
But what was he going to do about Moran? Shrubsole decided to remove him as Large Win’s main handler. He felt he had become “too close” but did not believe Moran had acted corruptly.
The director of intelligence also recognised that Moran was an asset to the new unit so he allowed him to continue trying to recruit and handle any new counter-terrorism informants. At this stage Large Win was the new unit’s only one.
However, the day-to-day management was left to West, whose relationship with a defenestrated Moran was breaking down beyond repair.
By the end of 2013, the atmosphere in the BTP Special Branch office was verging on open “civil war”.
Matters came to a head in November 2013 when Moran and Burgess alleged serious malpractice in how handlers were expected to recruit new counter-terrorism informants.
An instruction had come down from West and detective inspector Sam Blackburn, the head of Special Branch, to find up to five potential new informants every week. Until then the unit was putting up maybe three a month for MI5’s consideration, said Moran.
Documents show he and Burgess were concerned on several levels about the push for increasing “productivity” of the new source unit, which by then had been running for eleven months.
Firstly, the handlers felt Blackburn should not have been so involved in intelligence matters. It was a well-established practise across policing that detectives who carry out operations should not know the source of the intelligence that led to those operations. This system of ‘sterile corridors’ is designed to avoid the inadvertent or corrupt leaking of an informant’s identity.
But as a young and ambitious head of Special Branch, Blackburn wanted to known what was going on in the new source unit. After all, it’s success or failure would blow back on him.
West, who was older but a rank below Blackburn, should have only been reporting to Shrubsole. But in Blackburn he had found an ally to push a more intrusive management style.
“The results of the previous 11 months and the lack of sources showed this to be necessary,” Blackburn wrote in a memo at the time.
Chain of Command (Photo: Michael Gillard)
The chain of command was breaking down. But more significantly, documents show that the recruitment drive for more informants had led to the racial profiling of Muslims.
According to Moran, every week Special Branch analysts compiled a list of Muslim men and women who worked for Transport for London and other rail networks.
Those with Muslim names who had been arrested by BTP officers were also added to the list. Even innocent victims of crime on the rail network were placed on these lists if they had Muslim names, he told The Upsetter.
The weekly lists were referred to in the Special Branch office as “trawl sheets” and handlers were expected to work through each name to assess their suitability for an approach to become an informant.
To make the assessment, Moran says personal details were researched on NSBIS and other databases to see if the Muslim names had any link to persons of interest to MI5.
Even if no link could be found their names were still passed to the National Domestic Extremism Intelligence Unit or MI5 for “enhanced and detailed checks”, which Moran believed was “breaching human rights.”
Moran, who is married to a Muslim BTP officer, was uncomfortable with the instruction. Documents confirm he complained about West and Blackburn to the MI5 liaison officer at G6 Section.
MI5 sent a diplomatic reminder of the “benchmark” required of individuals they would consider as potential informants, said Moran, who felt he had the spooks’ support.
Moran also told the MI5 liaison officer that West was not passing on intelligence in a timely manner. He cited an example of a National Security Report (NSR) containing intelligence from Large Win about someone working on the rail network who was of interest to MI5.
Moran claimed the NSR had sat for days in West’s e-folder on the NSBIS database so he took the initiative and forwarded it on to MI5 himself. The spooks came back with an "urgent tasking” for Large Win to find out more, he claimed.
(Photo: Michael Gillard)
By now, it could not have escaped MI5’s attention that after almost one year the new Special Branch source unit it was funding was in disarray: A lying informant, a handler removed for being to close to him, complaints that intelligence was not being passed on in time and now allegations of racial profiling.
As for Moran, going outside Special Branch was unlikely to improve his relationship with West and Blackburn. He says they told him and Burgess to get on with processing the trawl lists.
West wrote in a November 2013 memo:
“I felt resentment from both officers that I wanted more accountability than previously. Obstacles were put up when I was encouraging officers to use databases to identify potential recruitment opportunities. I became aware of hostility by DC Moran to my decision making.”
For his part, Moran was starting to feel “side-lined” for speaking out. His suspicions grew over Christmas when Burgess showed him a notebook in which Blackburn had apparently described Moran as “poisonous” and “disruptive”.
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Blackburn
The National Special Branch Intelligence System (NSBIS) is a database used since the early 2000s to manage all dealings with informants, undercover operations and MI5. Only those with DV (developed vetting) top clearance can access it via a personal log on.
Each force or counter-terrorism unit has a NSBIS database for inputting ‘SECRET” intelligence, some of which is harvested and stored on the national system NSBIS-N.
When it comes to informants there are two key figures who input intelligence on NSBIS: the ‘handlers’ do most of the writing and the ‘controller’ ensures the contact with the informant is done correctly and actioned in a timely manner.
The ‘authorising officer’ has no personal log on to NSBIS but must be satisfied everything is ‘proportionate and necessary’ under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
The NSBIS database at BTP Special Branch used template Word documents for different stages of dealing with an informant. There were forms for permission to meet, for any contact in person or by phone and for the intelligence provided, both in raw and sanitised versions.
Once filled in by the handler these various forms were then passed to the controller’s e-folder on NSBIS for consideration and, in the case of intelligence, forwarding on to MI5 for further direction.
(Photo: Michael Gillard)
Additionally, there were other more lengthy Word template documents such as the original authorisation for an informant and regular reviews and risk assessments of the informant’s activity. These documents were supposed to be printed off and ‘wet signed’ by the handler, controller and authoring officer upon completion.
The controller would keep the printed version in a secure desk file for each informant, which would be made available to the Office of Surveillance Commissioners during their annual inspection. The digital version remained in e-folders on the NSBIS database, which were regularly backed up.
The new Special Branch source unit was due its first annual inspection by the OSC in February 2014.
Everyone would have to pull together, but the unit was in chaos and divided into two camps: Those supporting Moran and Burgess (who had gone sick) versus those who supported West and Blackburn.
Shrubsole was by now aware of the breakdown. He had supported Moran’s complaint that Blackburn should not be involved with intelligence matters and made West aware of this, he told The Upsetter.
Shrubsole had also insisted on Moran and West trying to resolve their differences. But this had failed. Especially as Moran was now questioning West’s credentials, which the controller took as an attack on his integrity.
On 10 February 2014, an important date in this scandal, Moran was called to a crucial meeting with West and Shrubsole at BTP headquarters in Camden, north London.
The purpose was to ensure all documentation would satisfy the OSC’s inspection in two weeks.
Over the following three days a conspiracy was hatched to deceive the surveillance watchdog by exploiting a fundamental weakness with the NSBIS database.
This is Gonna Costa
Moran says he thought the 10 February 2014 meeting with Shrubsole and West was to finally talk through his complaints as well as to prepare for the OSC inspection.
He recalls walking into the office and seeing piles of printed documents waiting for his signature. West, he claims, ordered him to backdate over 35 daily contact sheets of his meetings with Large Win from September 2013.
Shrubsole, he claims, told him to access the NSBIS database and create and back date reviews and risk assessments for Large Win, which had not been done in August and November 2013.
When his bosses left the room, Moran started signing and dating the contact sheets knowing he was now engaged in a conspiracy to deceive the OSC. On the 10 and 12 February 2014 he logged on to the NSBIS database and admits fabricating two reviews and two risk assessments from scratch then saving them with backdated file names.
On 13 February, Moran called West’s deputy. He did not blow the whistle on what he had just done, but reported sick and did not return to work for the next five months.
Given Moran’s antipathy towards West and his willingness to go above him and outside BTP when he felt things weren’t right, his reaction was out of character. Why didn’t he simply refuse what was clearly a corrupt order and immediately raise the alarm?
Moran maintained he was too depressed, even to tell his wife, who was already a confidant. Months later he offered this explanation to investigators:
“I feel sick about what I did. It’s destroyed my desire to be a policeman. Seriously, I don’t say that lightly. That’s why, around this time, even prior to this, I was just talking to my wife and sitting there and saying I’m fed up with this. I’m not sure I want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be part of what’s going on in this department. I said, you know, I hate it and this was all part of the stress and pressure that I was under at the time, knowing everyone involved in this work should have the utmost integrity.
We were going down a road which was so far removed from what it should be … I shouldn’t have done it at the time, had I been mentally able to I should have just walked away.
The whole of this process has destroyed my police career. I’ve got no love of the job anymore. I’m quite embarrassed and almost ashamed to say I’ve been part of this Special Branch department.”
DC Phil Moran
On the evening of 17 February, after telling his doctor he couldn’t function and being formally signed off work, Moran did however email West one last time. For good measure, he copied in Burgess, Cameron Knox, the detective constable who’d replaced him as Large Win’s main handler, and Richard Lee, the deputy controller.
Moran wrote that his “stress and anxiety” meant he would miss the OSC inspection and pointed out he had been “unable to complete and sign the retrospective reviews for [Large Win] as there were inconsistencies with the information and risk assessments which has confused things for me.”
In one sense, the email was another missed opportunity to clearly express his outrage at the unlawful order to fabricate documents and deceive the watchdog. Moran said his oblique email was a signal to West and others. “It was like giving them another opportunity to sit there and say do not do this.”
But by his own account, none of the recipients contacted him to say - what the * is going on Phil? In fact, West responded to everyone the following morning as if it was all normal. He said he would check for any inconsistencies and wished Moran better.
The OSC inspection took place over four days ending on 28 February 2014. Moran told The Upsetter he looked into contacting the surveillance watchdog at the time only to discover he would have to go through BTP. He chose not to. Nor did he raise the alarm with anyone else.
In fact it was not until early April 2014 that he contacted a friend on BTP’s Counter Corruption Unit. And that was on the initiative of his Police Federation representative, who was looking after Moran’s welfare while he was on sick leave.
Moran met the anti-corruption detective at a Costa Coffee in Kent on 11 April, where he handed over a typed 10-page statement. It laid out in crushing detail the fall out with West and Blackburn over Large Win, the drive to recruit sources for MI5 and an alleged “cover up” over his complaint.
Moran was less detailed about the events a few months earlier in February but admitted fabricating the reviews and risk assessments to deceive the OSC inspectors. He ended the statement signalling his intention to resign and then this:
“I have lost faith in [BTP’s] ability to manage National Security Sources and feel it is not fit to do so.”
A further meeting with a more senior anti-corruption detective took place in the same Costa Coffee one month later on 14 May. Then, extraordinarily, nothing happened for another two months.
In that time it would have have been clear to BTP’s top brass that Moran’s explosive allegations about the director of intelligence, the head of Special Branch and the controller of a new dedicated source unit were not just embarrassing in front of MI5 and the OSC, but also highly significant given events that were unfolding in Parliament.
Anti-Vietnam war demo outside US Embassy, London 1968 (Photo: Essex68)
Protecting the US Embassy from the great unwashed during the 1968 demo against the Vietnam War spurred Special Branch into setting up a secret squad to infiltrate future political movements.
The Special Demonstration Squad deployed undercover cops - known internally as the Hairies - who embedded, sometimes literally, with men and women on the left looking to protect the environment, halt nuclear proliferation, stop the dirty war in Northern Ireland and other single issue campaigns.
By the 1980s, Special Branch had infiltrated a dazzling array of grassroots protest groups with undercover officers (UCs) who went on to form relationships, overwhelmingly with woman, and in some cases father children as part of their cover.
These UC deployments went on for years and the usual method of extraction was to feign mental breakdown and disappear overnight, sometimes back to their real wives and families.
Protest groups were aware they were open to infiltration, but proof was hard to find as these were not hardened revolutionaries with internal security departments willing to kneecap informers, but more often young men and women armed with lentils and hope.
All that changed with the unmasking in 2010 of UC Mark Kennedy by the environmental campaigners he had embedded with as 'Mark Stone’ for seven years.
By then Kennedy had slept with as many as ten female activists, including a two-year sexual relationship that was sanctioned by the UC’s bosses, but probably not his wife.
PC Mark Kennedy aka Mark Stone (Photo: PSOOL)
In 2011, the police launched an internal inquiry overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which was stuffed with ex-cops.
By then the Special Demonstration Squad had been replaced by other covert counter-terrorism units. Kennedy was part of one of them - the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. But in 2012 it merged with two other units until May 2013 when a new National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU) was formed.
One constant was that all these units had fed intelligence into the NSBIS database by the time Moran admitted fabricating informant reports in early February 2014.
A little over three weeks later, on 6 March 2014, then home secretary Theresa May announced a judge-led public inquiry into the spycops scandal. She did not trust the police or IPCC to investigate properly.
None of this would have happened without the determination of a group of affected women activists, Dr Eveline Lubbers and Dr Donal O’Driscoll, founders of the Undercover Research Group.
Writing in The Guardian, which has also played a key part, Kate Wilson, one of the victims, said:
“The wide questions for society here are massive, this is about institutional sexism, senior police officers sanctioning sexual abuse, and the systematic violation of political beliefs, and we still don’t have the whole truth.”
The scandal could not have escaped the attention of BTP’s Counter-Corruption Unit, who had received Moran’s allegations about the gaming of NSBIS and deceiving the OSC one month after the public inquiry was announced in Parliament.
And on 12 May, two days before anti-corruption detectives went to see Moran for a second time at the Costa Coffee, counter-terrorism units had been ordered to preserve all files that might be relevant to the public inquiry.
Nevertheless, NDEDIU whistleblowers came forward to say files were being shredded and destroyed, including one held on Jenny Jones, the former deputy mayor of the Greater London Authority and Green party representative.
It was in this murky atmosphere that BTP started a corruption probe codenamed Muscle into Moran’s far-reaching allegations.
Projecting protest onto the the High Cort where the Undercover Policing Inquiry sits (Photo: PSOOL)
On 28 July 2014, Moran returned to part time work after five months off sick. He was still unwell and told occupational health he intended to retire in November, which meant September because of holiday due.
For now, his main concern was that his complaint in April appeared to have gone nowhere. After the two Costa Coffee meetings in April and May he’d heard nothing from the anti-corruption squad.
So Moran popped in to see Matt Wratten, the detective chief superintendent with oversight of complaints at BTP, and had “a little bit of a meltdown” in his office.
Days later, on 5 August, Wratten bumped into detective superintendent Gareth Williams, the newly appointed head of the anti-corruption squad, and asked him for an update.
Incredibly, Williams knew nothing about Moran’s explosive allegations. He did, however, know Moran. They had been work mates for 20 years. In fact, Williams had gone to Moran’s wedding in 2008, they’d dined together as married couples and Moran told The Upsetter he’d even done some DIY at Williams’ home.
Williams took charge of Operation Muscle but did not consider this a conflict of interest. He simply and belatedly recorded in a log that Moran was “an individual I have known personally for 20 years.”
Det Supt Gareth Williams, now in charge of the county lines task force, with Priti Patel
The top brass also seemed unbothered even though, as one internal report put it, “this investigation will attract a lot of interest and be scrutinised in detail.”
On 20 August Williams visited his old mate to discuss the complaint. Moran told The Upsetter they had a “full conversation”.
Two days later Williams summarised the issues as ranging from “poor performance and flawed process to serious misconduct”. The new anti-corruption boss added: “It must be established exactly what the allegations are and what they might mean for BTP.”
Burgess had retired in March. He was interviewed by Operation Muscle detectives on 26 August and corroborated Moran’s claims about the fall out with West over Large Win and Blackburn’s involvement in source issues.
He also added a new claim that a Muslim informant recruited after Large Win was “paid money prior to recruitment”.
Three days later Moran was also interviewed on tape. He repeated his claims about West and Blackburn breaking the intelligence sterile corridor and the “trawl of the force systems” for potential Muslim informants to refer to MI5. He too alleged that payment was made to “induce” people to become informants.
Moran then went into detail about West’s order to backdate Large Win’s contact sheets and Shrubsole telling him to falsify the informant’s reviews and risk assessments on NSBIS.
This time, Moran firmly put the director of intelligence into the conspiracy to deceive the surveillance watchdog. He recalled Shrubsole saying at the crucial 10 February 2014 meeting: “Thank God we’re doing it this way because it won’t show.”
Moran also directly implicated himself:
“I knew I shouldn’t be doing this. I didn’t even know why I did it. I was totally confused and feeling sick about what was going on. I submitted them to [West’s] folder and I know that there was a lot of errors in the form because I just couldn’t get my head round what I was typing.”
At the end of the tape recording Moran mentioned that the anti-corruption squad had given him an assurance that by fabricating reports on NSBIS he was not “party to any criminality.”
Appraised of what Burgess and Moran were alleging, Williams discussed the case with the deputy chief constable David McCall. It was agreed that if proven the case would have “significant ramifications” for BTP.
In a later statement, Williams put it this way:
“The allegations are very serious as they refer to the falsification of Special Branch records pertaining to a national security covert human intelligence source. I became the Investigating Office in this case predominantly due to the serious nature of the allegations, but also the potential reputational damage to BTP should they be proven.”
Documents show BTP wanted to handle matters internally. But because the director of intelligence was a suspect it was felt the police watchdog needed to approve this.
In September, the IPCC’s Adrian Tapp, a former detective, agreed BTP could keep it all in house. In other words, Operation Muscle would be conducted entirely behind closed doors and without any independent oversight.
Ex-cop Adrian Tapp went to the IPCC
BTP’s anti-corruption squad recorded in a report that the IPCC had “clarified that the investigation should remain a local investigation and agreed that whilst the allegations are very serious that this was not an issue of corruption that should be managed by IPCC and/or referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.”
It was an extraordinary decision given the IPCC was at the same time overseeing the police investigation into the spycops scandal and assisting the public inquiry.
BTP did not alert the Office of Surveillance Commissioners until October, almost two months after Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, had presented his annual report to Prime Minister David Cameron and Parliament.
The report had concluded that BTP was “trying very hard to comply with the legislation.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
And when Clare Ringshaw-Dowle, chief surveillance inspector, finally learned from Operation Muscle detectives about Moran’s admissions, she said it was the “first time” the OSC had been “deceived and misled”.
Sir Christopher, she added, would consider bringing it “to the personal attention of the prime minister”.
Shrubsole and West were notified in late September 2014 that they were suspected of gross misconduct and subsequently suspended.
Shrubsole already had an inkling something was going down in July when an anti-corruption detective asked for copies of Large Win’s printed reviews and risk assessments.
During his first Operation Muscle interview, Shrubsole confirmed there has been a fall out between Moran and West after Large Win went “a little bit rogue”. But he denied ordering Moran to fabricate the informant’s reviews and risk assessments.
The director of intelligence had no log on for the NSBIS system and would pass his comments to West to input into any document. Shrubsole was emphatic the August and November 2013 reviews and risk assessments were done at the time they were dated, printed and signed.
Operation Muscle had an anomaly when it came to the case against Shrubsole. Special Branch witnesses, including Moran and Burgess, confirmed that he had insisted on quarterly reviews of Large Win and other quality controls.
Furthermore, after Moran and Burgess had complained in November 2013 about West not processing source documents on time, it was Shrubsole they said who introduced an extra layer of protection by ordering the new source unit to also record activity on another parallel secret database used by detectives, the ABM Pegasus IT system, so there was no ambiguity over who did what and when.
Burgess put it this way in his interview with Operation Muscle:
“Every single source gets put on [NSBIS], registered on there. It’s allocated a number and they’re usually just referred to by that number. The other handlers, if you are not handling that source, you’ll just be aware of a number. You have no involvement. In November, Mr Shrubsole made a decision that he also wanted contact sheets, meeting requests, basically everything apart from intelligence recorded on the Pegasus system. The good thing with Pegasus is it’s timed and dated and once you’ve submitted a document you can’t make any sort of changes to it.”
Paul Shrubsole (Photo: Michael Gillard)
West also denied the allegation of ordering the backdating of any documents. His defence preparations were assisted by Blackburn, whom Operation Muscle were treating as a “witness”. The racial profiling allegations didn’t even form part of the case against West.
In January 2015, the OSC and MI5 were separately briefed on progress. Operation Muscle recorded that the spooks had “no concerns about any previous operational activity or the continued activity” of Large Win or two new informants recruited by the BTP Special Branch dedicated source unit.
Shrubsole told The Upsetter it was “highly probable” that prosecutions were taking place based on the intelligence provided by these informants. The corruption probe into their source handling unit would clearly be of interest to defence lawyers, but everything was buried in secrecy so the chances of finding out were zero.
Documents also show that MI5 declined to review the BTP unit’s files and opted instead for an internal “review” - the results of which remain unknown because the spooks only talk to nominated national media journalists.
Thames House, MI5 HQ
BTP’s anti-corruption squad lacked the technical expertise to establish if Moran was telling the truth.
An early digital fumble by BTP staff and an engineer from Serco, the outsourcing company with the contract to install and maintain NSBIS, in effect trampled over the digital crime scene.
BTP turned to the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping (NACE), a part of the Foreign Office based in Milton Keynes. NACE sent Dave Edwards, a Cyber Countermeasures Officer, to mirror the NSBIS server and see if Moran’s version of events could be supported by a digital footprint. This exercise was codenamed Ruby Star.
Realising his future could turn on geek speak that no one in charge of Operation Muscle understood, Shrubsole got his own expert. Steve Shepherd MBE had worked at many spooky UK government outfits but retained a high-level clearance in the private sector.
Steven Shepherd MBE
Based on Shepherd’s report, which rubbished the NACE one, Shrubsole, with the backing of the Superintendents’ Association, went on the offensive in December 2015.
Privately, he believed he was “collateral damage” in the clash between Moran and West. Publicly, he accused Operation Muscle of lacking integrity and suggested that “DC Moran’s actions in February 2014 may have caused the deletion or obscuration of material document content or metadata.”
In other words, that Moran’s “mental disorder” could mean he maliciously created the reviews and risk assessments by cutting and pasting from the originals, which were then deleted to hide his tracks.
“It is significant that Moran waited nine weeks, the time it took for the NSBIS backup tapes to overwrite activity on 10 February 2014, before reporting his claims to the anti-corruption squad on 11 April,” Shrubsole told The Upsetter.
The suspended director of intelligence was emboldened to make these assertions because both computer experts had by now agreed there was no conclusive evidence to support Moran’s version of events.
The content of the documents Moran says he created in February 2014 existed previously on the NSBIS database but could no longer be found, the experts agreed.
Separately, Shepherd was surprised to discover that the BTP Special Branch NSBIS database had “no audit system”. Either that or it wasn’t activated at the time of these events. This made it harder for experts like him to detect tampering with files and data from a detective’s log on details.
The computer evidence, therefore, was not conclusive because of the way NSBIS and its back up system was managed at BTP.
It was possible to access one of the UK’s most secret intelligence systems, fabricate informant files and leave almost no digital footprint.
Whistle(blowing) in the Wind
Concerns about the relationship between Moran, the complainant, and Williams, the top cop in charge of Operation Muscle, led to a flurry of activity.
Williams made a statement for the first time detailing his "established relationship” with Moran and his wife, who was still serving at BTP.
“I have seen both in a social setting on numerous occasions but not on a frequent basis,” he said, claiming he hadn’t disclosed this when he took over the case because, “I didn’t believe it was relevant.”
Det Supt Gareth Williams
Williams had to disclose his work and personal mobile phones, which revealed undocumented texts and calls with Moran in the lead up to and during Operation Muscle. Some calls lasted between seven and thirteen minutes and occurred when Williams was taking a statement from his star witness.
Moran has told the The Upsetter that Williams bumped into his wife on a train station and told her to tell him to concentrate his statement on Shrubsole and not get “side tracked by the Blackburn issue.”
Moran further claims that he asked Williams why his allegations against Blackburn were not being investigated. The anti-corruption boss tried to “deflect” the question, Moran recalls, and said Blackburn would be investigated after the discipline hearing of Shrubsole and West.
“I had a list of expectations of what was to be looked at,” Moran said. From Williams’ response he knew “it was going tits up”. He now believes a “clique” of possibly Masonic BTP officers were protecting the head of Special Branch and the force from further embarrassment.
Blackburn was never investigated by Operation Muscle. He was promoted to detective chief inspector and is still serving. He declined to comment. So did Williams, who is now in charge of BTP County Lines operations.
With just weeks to go before his and Shrubsole’s gross misconduct hearing in February 2016, West surprised everyone by retiring.
He wrote to the panel, having sacked his legal team, with what looked like an admission. On the issue of Large Win’s backdated contact sheets, West said over twenty had been signed retrospectively as part of a “housekeeping” exercise ahead of the OSC inspection.
He also offered a complex explanation of how he had prepared the informant’s reviews and risk assessments. He said any “mistakes” tidying up the documents on NSBIS was not intended to deceive the surveillance commissioner.
“Due to the financial cost of the investigation I have been forced to retire earlier than I had planned and very much against my will. I am totally innocent of this allegation,” he wrote.
Operation Muscle had for some time been coming to the view that West “may be the architect of the exercise.” Now he was gone.
When Moran learned only Shrubsole was in the dock he says he contacted the police watchdog to complain. But he recalls that the IPCC “clearly weren’t aware of all the allegations - otherwise why wasn’t Blackburn there?”
It was hardly surprising as the watchdog had left Operation Muscle to its own devices.
On 15 February 2016, two years since Moran fabricated reports on NSBIS, the discipline tribunal was held in secret over seven days.
As the computer evidence was inconclusive it came down to whose story the panel preferred - Moran or Shrubsole.
Moran was presented by BTP as a “whistleblower” of a conspiracy the OSC deemed so serious it thought the prime minister should be alerted.
BTP wholly invested in Moran’s version of events - that he had fabricated Large Win’s reviews and risk assessments on the instructions of West and Shrubsole and as a result the OSC had been deceived.
However, in front of the panel Moran voiced his displeasure at Operation Muscle covering up other aspects of his whistle-blowing. On the main allegation against Shrubsole his recollections were sometimes patchy and vague and at other times contradictory.
It emerged that Moran never mentioned the Shrubsole allegation to the counsellor he saw while off sick. Instead, he attributed his “mental and physical breakdown” to the issues he had with West and Blackburn.
Nevertheless, in the witness box Moran repeated that Shrubsole had ordered him to fabricate the August and November 2013 reviews and risk assessments for Large Win.
But that account was contradicted by Burgess, his now retired co-handler, and DC Cameron Knox, who was still serving as a Special Branch counter-terrorism CHIS handler.
Burgess told the panel he believed "with certainty” these reports were done at the time by him and Moran on NSBIS and then printed and signed by West and Shrubsole. He repeated that view when interviewed for this article.
Burgess said Shrubsole was “the wrong guy” in the dock. West and Blackburn should have been there. Shrubsole was “the fall guy”, he told The Upsetter.
On 26 February, the panel found on the balance of probabilities that Moran had been ordered to back date contact sheets by West, who had voluntarily given evidence but was described as “a dishonest witness”.
The panel also found that Shrubsole had ordered Moran to create false informant documents on NSBIS. The director of intelligence was sacked with immediate effect.
“It is apparent that by late 2013 the BTP Special Branch could best be described as dysfunctional,” the panel concluded.
Sources says that the counter-terrorim source unit was quietly disbanded and by 2019 its informants taken over by MI5’s G6 Section.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey
After Shrubsole lost an appeal, Sir Ed Davey, his MP, took up the case. He told The Upsetter:
“When I see cases where I feel justice hasn’t necessarily been done, where I feel questions remain unanswered it’s an MP’s job to push for answers. Overall [my constituent] is a reasonable, intelligent and plausible person and his concerns that the National Security computer can in some way be altered did also ring alarm bells.”
Davey first wrote to former security minister James Brokenshire and more recently to home secretary Priti Patel.
The Home Office says it has received “assurances the (NSBIS) system was not compromised” and that this was also the finding of an independent discipline panel. It wasn’t. The discipline case found NSBIS had been compromised and the OSC misled.
Davey told Patel that BTP “misled” her department and NSBIS was subject to an “insider cyber attack” by Moran. The Lib Dem leader called Operation Muscle a “cover up” and wants the home secretary to order an independent investigation.
“It’s the only way you will get this cleared up once and for all. It’s the only way to seed the justice, which has been my objective all along. And if she is not prepared to then she should explain why. I find that the Home Office can sometimes be very complacent and given how frequently government security had lapsed I would have thought they would have been rather more humble.”
BTP Deputy Chief Constable Adrian 'laughing’ Hanstock
Davey also raised these issues with BTP. Adrian Hanstock, who became deputy chief constable in 2014 when Operation Muscle started, told Davey it was “one of the most complex investigations undertaken” by BTP’s anti-corruption squad, which came under his command.
Undoubtedly, Operation Muscle was knotty, but it wasn’t independent and has ignored key allegations of gross misconduct, such as racial profiling, from its own star witness.
Furthermore, while Hanstock was assuring Davey of the integrity and competency of his anti-corruption squad, three of its detectives were under investigation for failing to properly investigate corruption by a civilian staff member working for BTP’s senior management team.
The senior civilian staff member was secretly sacked for gross misconduct this September for trying to fix job applications. The three anti-corruption officers were mildly disciplined with “management action”. BTP and the police watchdog refuse to answer questions or identify if those concerned were involved with Operation Muscle.
In his exchange with Davey, Hanstock also relies on the independence of the panel that sacked Shrubsole. However, that panel was held in secret and chaired by Commander Julian Bennett from the Met.
Bennett, who was involved in drug enforcement strategy, had a reputation for being a bit of a Judge Dread when deciding on the honesty and integrity of fellow officers. So it is deliciously ironic that last week it was announced he will face a gross misconduct hearing for refusing to take a drug test after a tip off that he enjoyed getting high on weed.
Commander ‘Cannabis’ Julian Bennett
Deputy chief constable Hanstock’s third defence of Operation Muscle relies on reassurances from the National Counter-Terrorism Policing Headquarters (NCTPHQ). This is the new umbrella organisation co-ordinating the police response to the spycops scandal and Undercover Policing Inquiry.
NSBIS, they told Davey, has been replaced by the “Apollo Project which introduced a nationally accredited and controlled National Security Network using an intelligence application called National Common Intelligence Application (NCIA).”
It is correct that since 2011 UK police forces have been migrating the intelligence held on NSBIS to the NCIA, a one-stop integrated and unified counter-terrorism database under the control of NCTPHQ and hosted by the Met.
It is also true that as part of the migration from NSBIS to NCIA there has been a “weeding” process of old intelligence files no longer deemed relevant and a destruction of files that would embarrass Special Branch and counter terrorism units in front of the Undercover Policing Inquiry.
In his correspondence with Davey, the BTP deputy commissioner did not mention that an inquiry found the Met has been shredding files since 2014.
Campaigning outside the High Court (Photo: PSOOL)
The Undercover Policing Inquiry is now in its seventh year. There’s been a concerted effort by the police establishment to prevent disclosure of documents and protect undercover officers and their bosses from detailed cross-examination.
Just nineteen days have been spent on hearing evidence from undercover officers. Eighteen days have been spent on legal arguments. The inquiry has so far cost the taxpayer £43m - largely in legal fees - and is unlikely to report for another five years.
Some justice has been already delivered following an important ruling this September that the rights of Kate Wilson, the environmental activist deceived into a two-year sexual relationship with Mark Kennedy, were wholly violated by the police.
Kate Wilson outside the High Court (Photo: Kevin Blowe, Netpol )
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal said:
“We are driven to the conclusion that either senior officers were quite extraordinarily naive, totally unquestioning or chose to turn a blind eye to conduct which was, certainly in the case of [Kennedy], useful to the operation."
Sir Ed Davey felt the Undercover Policing Inquiry chairman Sir John Mitting needed to be made aware of what happened at BTP Special Branch and also given the opportunity to reconsider the integrity of NSBIS documents so far provided by the police.
Sir John Mitting
In a letter to the chairman on 12 November 2021, Davey wrote:
“The data held on the NSBIS was capable of manipulation by serving officers. I have seen agreed expert evidence that the creation dates of the files held on the system was not a reliable indicator of when the content of those files was actually written.”
Moran denies he acted alone. Shrubsole maintains he is a fall guy for BTP. Both men believe there has been a cover up.
Paul Shrubsole [Photo: Michael Gillard]
A spokesperson for Police Spies Out of Lives, a campaign group run by affected activists, said:
“The latest revelation of deleted or altered police records is yet
another example of why people like us have no trust in the police. With
each of these discoveries it becomes more difficult to trust that the
police place any value on transparency or accountability. Despite
seemingly earnest protestations by senior officers, there is clearly no
willingness to learn from past ‘mistakes’. To us these ‘mistakes’ appear
This is especially concerning for those of us involved in the Undercover Policing Inquiry [into] large-scale abuses of the human rights of thousands of members of the public by undercover policing units over the past five decades. The Inquiry Chair has refused many applications for those spied on to become part of the Inquiry. He has withheld from public view the names of a large number of officers from the police units under investigation, for reasons of their personal safety and privacy, and believing in the integrity of the police's evidence as a means of 'getting to the truth'.
In this situation, where the police are under investigation, yet are tasked with guiding the Inquiry in the direction of the ‘relevant’ evidence, this story makes for disturbing reading.”
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."