Investigating the Investigators

Posted: July 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

On the 19th and 20th July 2018, I visited the Court of Session in Edinburgh. I was there in support of a Judicial Review, brought by Tilly Gifford and her legal team. It challenged the UK and Scottish governments for failing to investigate the role of undercover political police in Scotland. Spycops who had formed relationships with women activists whilst not revealing their real identity are known to have visited Scotland. The current UK Undercover Policing Inquiry, led by Sir John Mitting, excludes Scotland. The Scottish Government have so far refused to open their own investigation. Currently therefore, we do not know which individuals and groups were spied upon in Scotland, nor how many court cases may have led to miscarriages of justice because of the role played by spycops.

Alongside others, I have assisted the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) in attempts to expose the truth of these issues for the last few years. In 2014, I attended and wrote about the launch of COPS at a packed conference in the offices of trade union UNITE in London. You can read my article for The Point here: Let’s all get behind the COPS . In 2016, I wrote about the fight by campaigners in Scotland to win a Public Inquiry: see my article for the COPS website. I helped to organise and spoke at two COPS public meeting in Glasgow and in Dundee, in 2016, alongside Helen Steel, Donal O’Driscoll, and Tilly Gifford. I spoke then on Radio Scotland; there was a report of the Dundee meeting by Claire Warrender in the Courier; and good coverage of both meetings by Billy Briggs in The Ferret .

This year, like last year, has been a busy one for campaigners attempting to get a Public Inquiry started in Scotland, opposing refusals by both UK and Scottish Governments . I wrote two major articles for Bella Caledonia: one in Jan 2018The Scandal of Spycops in Scotland ; and the other in June 2018Organising against Spycops in Scotland, when I reported on the succesful Conference in Govan on 23rd June when 100 people formed the Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance. All of us wait with interest on the outcome of the Judicial Review, and we fully intend to keep campaigning whatever the result. As some of the press reported, we know about runarounds: see Buck being passed on undercover probe in Scotland .

Which brings me back to the start of these comments : I attended the Judicial Review on 19th and 20th July. Just over a week later, I noticed a couple of searches for me on my Linkedin page. Here’s a screenshot of what I saw:

IMG_20180728_110102

This isn’t the first time I’ve spotted these types of organisations searching for information about me. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve been investigating some aspect of police spying or a private intelligence agency; and if I click on their Linkedin profile, they click on me. Or, sometimes there’s no explanation, and people from big defence companies and private spooks regularly pop up and dissapear. I expect this. As well as campaigning on the Spycops issue, I’ve been investigating a network of private intelligence agencies since 2010; and for the last couple of years, I’ve looked into infiltration of the grassroots Scottish Independence movement by organised agent-provacateurs and wreckers. Although it was no surprise then to see individuals from the organisations above pop up, I thought: this is a good opportunity to look more closely at the above kind of snooping.

Note the dates on the LinkedIn screenshot. Someone from the College of Policing (which is in London) and someone from TorchlightGroup Ltd (which has it’s HQ in London) decided to view my LinkedIn Profile at some point between the 17th and the 24th July 2018. In the middle of those 8 days, on the 19th and 20th July, I was at the Judicial Review in Edinburgh, listening in the court room as QCs for campaigners and UK and Scottish Governments argued about the role of undercover police in Scotland. It seems a fair bet that my LinkedIn searchers were not interested in my role as a Welfare Rights Officer; but in my role as a Freelance Investigative Journalist and campaigner.

So, let’s begin a short investigation of those investigating me. Unfortunately, I dont know the names of the individuals who were doing the snooping; but the organisations they are employed by or directors of can be looked at.

Firstly, there is TorchlightGroup Ltd. It’s registered office is in Swindon; and it has it’s HQ in a very prestigious office building at 8 St James’ Square, in London. To give an idea of their location, there’s a business club at the same address which charges from £1000 to £4650 a year membership + VAT; or, if you just want to visit for lunch, a day membership costs £75.

Torchlights’ website states it is ‘a global counter threat company’. I didn’t know I was even a neighbourhood ‘threat’! What they actually do seems a bit vague, except it has to do with intelligence and security. In a section on ‘Defence & National Security’ they state: ‘We are a chosen partner of the UK Government.’ This seems confirmed by a government-sponsored Security & Policing Event which advertises their forthcoming appearance there:

Screenshot_2018-07-28 Torchlight Group - Security and Policing 2019(1)

Screenshot When Where 2019 Security Conference

Many of the directors and staff of Torchlight have military, police or intelligence backgrounds. One director was a Major in the Parachute Regiment; and another -Major General Jeremy Hywel Thomas (a director from 2012-2013) – was an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s who rose to the post of Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Intelligence Capability) in 2009. A founder and current director – Craig Lumley was a British Army officer from 1999 to 2006; and then worked for or directed a number of miltary-related companies. The only semi-clear connection they have to policing is in some anti-terrorist capacity. (But I’m definitely not a terrorist, so I’m still none the wiser why they are looking at me.)

There is a possibility that a member of Torchlight staff, with a Scottish background, was looking at my LinkedIn Profile beacuse of other investigations I have been involved in, which include chasing a lead about a possible police spy at the Timex strike.

Two other participants who will be at the Security & Policing Home Office Event 2019 are more obviously connected to Spycops: the Metropolitan Police and the College of Policing. This is a secretive event, as the website states: ‘Established over 30 years ago and having a global influence, this Home Office event is the corner-stone of the security calendar and is the only ‘closed’ event of its kind.’ It will therefore not be possible to see what the Met or College of Policing get up to at the event, but there is some publicly available information about their connections to Spycops. (Of course, the Met are Spycops Central!)

The College of Policing states on it’s website that it ‘was established in 2012 as the professional body for everyone who works for the police service in England and Wales. The purpose of the College is to provide those working in policing with the skills and knowledge necessary to prevent crime, protect the public, and secure public trust.’

It needs a bit more digging to find out that the College provides training to Spycops: ‘The College of Policing licenses all undercover training courses and accredits all who pass them.’ It also published an 80 page document: Undercover Policing Guidance in 2016, which The Guardian wrote about here . And – the College set up and ran the National Undercover Police Scrutiny Panel, as the website Powerbase outlined:

‘The National Undercover Scrutiny Panel (or Undercover Policing Oversight Board / Group) is an oversight group established in 2014 by the College of Policing as part of a set of changes to providing greater transparency and review of undercover policing’. Its name has fluctuated but is now generally referred to in the group’s minutes as the National Oversight Group.’

‘Though a few academics and civil society activists sit on the Panel, it is dominated by police with connections to undercover policing.’ (My emphasis.)

Solicitor Sophie Khan resigned from the panel in May 2015, blowing the whistle on the panel’s ineffectiveness:

‘Vested interests are being protected by the police-led Panel but what about the rights of those who will be subjected to undercover policing?’

The quote was from Sophie Khan’s Blog, quoted in an article by Eveline Lubbers, of The Undercover Research Group: The Undercover Policing Scrutiny Panel – a whitewash operation exposed…, 3 June, 2015

So, here at last may be the reason why these particular individuals were looking at my LinkedIn profile. It’s nothing particularly dramatic: it’s just the everyday habits of overpaid spooks worrying that they lose their power to spy on citizens whose only crime is to fight to change the world and expose injustice. Guess what, spooks? There are many, many more of us, than there are of you.

Harvey Duke

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