Infiltration and Agent Provocateurs
From 2007-09, John Towery, a criminal intelligence army analyst in the Force Protection Service fusion center at the Fort Lewis military base spied on anarchists and peace activists in Tacoma and Olympia, WA who were part of SDS and the Port Militarization Resistance, which protested international war shipments. Under the name ‘John Jacob’, Towery became close friends with the activists, surveilled them, and shared data with local, state, federal and military agencies. A public records request uncovered the surveillance operation of Towery against the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, IWW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anarchist bookshop, amongst others. The 9th circuit court of appeals has ruled in December 2012 that the subsequent lawsuit against Towery can proceed in the narrow terms of intentionally enabling arrest without probable cause in order to repress free speech, but apparently not on the Posse Comitatus law that bars the use of armed forces for law enforcement activities inside the US.
The Earth Island Journal published documents obtained through FOIA requests that show how the Bryan County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s department was spying on the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and other direct action groups against the proposed tar sands pipeline to run from Canada to Texas. Some activists were arrested earlier, the action camp infiltrated and a protest preempted. The targets are described as eco-activists; Native American resisters; Occupy members; Anarchists; and locals from the community. Documents also show how the corporation TransCanada who will build the pipeline works closely with the multi-government agency Fusion Center in Oklahoma advising on policy, changing laws, sharing intel, ensnaring activists, and generally protecting their own interests and facilitating the increase of their profits.
The agent provocateur “Anna” performed extensive FBI surveillance and entrapment of three other activists (see the Life During Wartime book review) used to convict Eric McDavid for 19 years and 7 months, the second longest sentence for recent environmental prisoners. During McDavid’s trial, his lawyer attempted to argue government misconduct because of “Anna’s” intimate relationship with him, however this was dismissed in light of the 1991 9th Circuit ruling in US v Simpson that the government can exploit intimate and sexual relations between the infiltrator and anyone under a surveillance investigation.
Back in January 2011, The Guardian newspaper journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans broke the huge story of how Mark Kennedy, a London Metropolitan Police officer, infiltrated numerous European left and direct action networks under the name “Mark Stone” and “Flash”. 22 countries including Germany used Kennedy as an agent provocateur in order to ensnare activists in illegal activities, gather information, maps networks, etc. (The website “Mark Kennedy: A chronology of his activities” gives more details and corrections to the initial news reports, although not on his Berlin spying.) Various British police and government agencies cut Kennedy loose, avoided responsibility, attempted to stop or curtail “reform” of undercover agents’ behavior, and denied their support of his spying, especially concerning how Kennedy had sexual relations with numerous women over the years in order to gather intel and ensnare them. 8 of those women have sued Scotland Yard for sexual misconduct by five agent provocateurs Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling, Mark Cassidy and Mark Kennedy. The reporters have in 2013 published a book on the wider use of infiltration and surveillance called Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police.
The Associated Press reporters Matt Abuzzo and Adam Goldmann, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for their series of investigations of the NYPD’s surveillance operations against Muslim Americans (in and outside NYC and the state), have published a new book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Spying Unit that gives much greater detail through meticulous research on these operations. NYPD’s Demographics Unit spent six years using a huge network of informants to surveil every aspect of life, actions which did not lead to a single arrest, criminal cases or thwarting of so-called ‘terrorism’ plots. (Ray Kelly, the NYPD Commissioner, has been floated to be nominated to run the Department of Homeland Security.) Various lawsuits brought against the NYPD by Muslim Americans affect by the spying are pending in court.
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In the year since the last issue of datacide came out there has been continued fallout from the scandal surrounding the activities of the National Socialist Underground terror group and the involvement of the state security forces in the extreme right. Well, at least until about May, which is when the court case against Beate Zschäpe finally started after a few weeks delay. One reason for the delay was that the 50 seats for the press had been allocated, and not a single Turkish newspaper was allowed to report from inside the courtroom. Needless to say, there is considerable interest in the case in Turkey, as most of the victims had Turkish roots. Finally, the seats were rearranged and the trial could start.
There are obvously many open questions: Where did the NSU come from, and how was it possible it was not detected for so many years despite the fact that the state security had paid agents very close to the perpetrators of the killing spree?
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In late 2012 HSBC, a large international bank, executed an advertising campaign dubbed “In the future…”. These ads, appearing in business magazines and international airports, featured predictions about technology and economics, and pronouced, “a new world is emerging.” Several of the ads presented HSBC’s accord with ‘green’ technologies, such as one claim that, “In the future, we will all fly organic.” The accompanying image places mushroom gills within an airliner turbine, presenting biofuels as an emerging and profitable investment. Alignment of international banking with alternative energy was always going to require careful analysis, but other components of this ad campaign turn downright disturbing. An image of a fish with a barcode on it proclaims, “In the future, the food chain and the supply chain will merge.”i
Another states, “In the future, nature and technology will work as one,” while depicting a bee with camera lenses for eyes.ii [Read more →]
It is now twenty years since the British government first announced that it was bringing in new laws to prevent free parties and festivals. The legislation that ended up as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 prompted a mass movement of defiance with long lasting and sometimes unexpected consequences.
Many people would see the origins of the story in the Castlemorton free festival in May 1992. Thousands of people had headed into the English West Country in search of the planned Avon Free Festival. After a massive police initiative – Operation Nomad – they ended up at Castlemorton Common in the Malvern hills. The festival that kicked off there featured sound systems including Bedlam, Circus Warp, Spiral Tribe and DiY. It soon became too big for the police to stop as up to 40,000 people from all over the country gathered for a week long party – many of them attracted by sensationalist TV and newspaper coverage.
It was the biggest unlicensed gathering of this kind since the state had smashed the Stonehenge festival in the mid-1980s. What made Castlemorton different was not just the soundtrack but the crowd. The free festivals of the 1970s and early 1980s grew out of a post-hippy ‘freak’ counter culture, later reinvigorated with an infusion of anarcho-punks and ‘new age travelers’. The growing free party scene in the early 1990s included plenty of veterans from such scenes, but also attracted a much wider spectrum of ravers, clubbers and casuals. The traditional divide between marginal sub-cultures and mainstream youth scenes was breaking down as people from all kinds of social, cultural and style backgrounds converged to dance together in warehouses and fields. What’s more, the movement seemed to be expanding rapidly beyond anybody’s control.
Soon there were calls for new police powers. In a parliamentary debate in June 1992, the local Conservative MP, Michael Spicer, spoke of the festival as if it had been a military operation, describing it as ‘the invasion that took place at Castlemorton common in my constituency, on Friday 22 May… On that day, new age travellers, ravers and drugs racketeers arrived at a strength of two motorised army divisions, complete with several massed bands and, above all, a highly sophisticated command and signals system’. He went on, ‘The problem of mass gatherings must be dealt with before they take place… chief constables should be given discretionary powers to ban such gatherings altogether if they decide that they are a threat to public order’.
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Book review by Nemeton
Kristian Williams, Will Munger and Lara Messersmith-Glaving, eds. Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency. Oakland: AK Press, 2013.
The 439-page book Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency is a collection of articles organized thematically that elucidate the central argument that the doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) deployed by the US government and military in international arenas such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been concurrently executed in the US mainland by a myriad of local, state and federal policing organizations and security apparatuses against political dissidents and activists. Various articles focus on the theories and deployment of COIN strategies, as well as methods of resistance, from diverse perspectives of individuals, groups and networks in Occupy, ecological, anarchist and anti-globalization struggles, as well as activists against border control, gang injunctions and the prison industrial complex. This book is an important contribution to the wider discourses about the domestic security state and political organizing, and has clear, continuing relevance given the ongoing deployment of COIN, current and pending trials, and ongoing diverse political actions. The book was published prior to the exposure by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and others, based on leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden, of the NSA’s international and domestic spying regime on all electronic, internet and phone communications, as well as a plethora of other personal information. It would be very useful to have updates by the authors of these articles and activists about how they view COIN in relation to those revelations. There appears to be no mechanism, as of yet, for how activists or targets of COIN could discover if they were subject to NSA spying, and learn how that information could have been used against them, but certain articles in this book elucidate methods of FBI, police and COIN methods in spying, surveillance and infiltration. This book is the culmination of work started at the “Counter Counter-Insurgency Convergence” at Reed College in Portland, Oregon during 2011. The book articles are reworks of the conference presentations given by activists, researchers, academics, organizers and others. Two of the editors have gone on a networked book publicity tour around the US, including in Los Angeles, where I saw them give talks based on their articles. [Read more →]