Archive for the ‘intelligence’ Tag
Major companies which set up and funded a secret blacklist to deny work to thousands of trade unionists will escape prosecution, it emerged today.
A judge fined a private investigator who operated the covert blacklist but said he was not the only person responsible but was financed by big “high street” companies. Major firms in the construction industry will be officially warned that they will be prosecuted if they set up a new blacklist.
Affected trade unionists said they were disappointed that companies which had wrecked workers’ lives had appeared to get away with it. They angrily confronted the private investigator, Ian Kerr, who hid his face as he was driven away.
Kerr, 66, was fined £5,000 at Knutsford crown court, Cheshire after admitting keeping a clandestine database of 3,000 workers for the past 15 years.
The court heard that more than 40 construction companies had given £600,000 in the past five years to Kerr’s agency to record personal and employment details of allegedly troublesome workers.
A private investigator who pleaded guilty today to running an unlawful blacklisting service on building workers has been snooping on trade unionists and political activists for more than 30 years, the Guardian can reveal.
Ian Kerr, of Stoke Heath, in the West Midlands, faces an unlimited fine or prison term after he admitted at Macclesfield magistrates court that he had illegally run a secret database of 3,200 workers, in breach of privacy laws, through an agency known as the Consulting Association.
Building workers at the hearing applauded after the chairman of the bench, Adrian Long, passed the case up to the crown court because his sentencing powers under the Data Protection Act were “woefully inadequate”.
The prosecution was brought by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, after it emerged that Kerr, 66, sold the data to businesses including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O’Rourke and Costain, some of the UK’s largest construction companies.
The government is to outlaw the use by companies of covert blacklists that have prevented trade unionists from getting work. Ministers have been forced to act after a watchdog exposed widespread blacklisting in the construction industry this year.
The move, due to be announced tomorrow by Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, follows pressure from trade unions and 100 Labour MPs.
It has been welcomed by Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, who said: “It is outrageous that unscrupulous employers have been victimising trade unionists through shady blacklisting practices that have no place in a democratic society.”
Blacklisting re-emerged as a political issue in March when the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, closed down a private investigator who had compiled an “extensive intelligence database” of 3,000 workers. Thomas accused 40 construction firms of buying personal data about workers they wanted to vet before employing them.
The firms were alleged to have paid the private investigator, Ian Kerr, to check his files for details of each worker’s trade union activities and conduct at work. The files were said to contain warnings about workers such as “ex-shop steward, definite problems, no go”, and “poor time-keeper, will cause trouble, strong trade union”.
The Richmond metropolitan area’s historically black colleges — Virginia Union University and Virginia State University — form a “radicalization node.”
Similarly, the presence of historically black Norfolk State University and Hampton University and evangelical Regent University increase the terrorist threat in Hampton Roads.
These assertions are among the findings of a report published last month by the Virginia Fusion Center, a 10-person unit of the Virginia State Police and the state Department of Emergency Management that was created to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence.
The report’s 200-plus pages paint the terrorism threat with such a broad brush that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, at the behest of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, is investigating.
“I find the depictions in the report misleading and believe it improperly implicates these fine academic institutions,” Kaine said in a statement Tuesday.
“Based on our review of the facts thus far, we see no evidence to suggest that the universities referred to in the assessment pose any particular risk to public safety. Absent specific evidence suggesting such a risk, it is improper to single out these institutions for special mention even with the caveats contained in the report.”
Radical Islamists, white supremacists, black separatists, environmental and animal-rights activists, hackers, and anti-abortion and anti-Scientology groups are among more than 50 organizations named as potential threats.
Undercover police are running a network of hundreds of informants inside protest organisations who secretly feed them intelligence in return for cash-in-hand payments, according to evidence handed to the Guardian.
In the material, the police claim to have infiltrated a number of environmental groups and say they are receiving information about leaders, tactics and detailed plans of future demonstrations.
The dramatic disclosures are revealed in almost three hours of secretly recorded discussions between covert officers, claiming to be from Strathclyde police, and Matilda Gifford, an activist from the protest group Plane Stupid. The officers attempted to recruit Gifford as a paid spy after she was released on bail after a protest at Aberdeen airport last month.
Gifford, 24, said she recorded the meetings in a bid to expose how police seek to disrupt the legitimate activities of climate change activists. She had two meetings with the officers, who said they were a detective constable and his assistant.
Audio and transcripts can be found here.
With little press coverage, let alone investigatory journalism, it was reported in February that a new police intelligence operation, the Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU), had been established in Britain. According to the only information that is available on the CIU, its remit is to spy on and organise surveillance of “domestic extremists”.
The CIU has been established by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), made up of the heads of all the regional police forces in the UK. Its existence only came to light through a February 8 article in the Mail on Sunday, entitled “Secret police to spy British ‘subversives’.”
The source of the article was an internal police job advertisement for the “Head of Confidential Intelligence Unit” obtained by the newspaper, which outlined some of the units wide ranging powers.
According to the advert, the CIU is a part of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and works closely with government departments, university authorities and private sector companies with a remit to “remove the threat of criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism”.
Civil servants considered including DNA or iris biometrics as well as digital photographs in the ID card scheme and the police wanted carrying the cards to be compulsory, just released documents reveal.
The Office of Government Commerce has finally bowed to legal pressure from trade mag Computer Weekly and released the two Gateway reviews into the national ID scheme. It has taken four years and numerous court hearings to get the two reviews, from 2003 and 2004, released.
The review noted: “The Police felt that the absence of any obligation to carry or produce identity cards would substantially remove the administrative savings and some of the other advantages that Identity Cards would offer.”
The 2003 review said: “Biometrics. Opinion seems divided on how effective or dependable biometrics will be. There is little past experience, in the UK or elsewhere, to go on.” There is no evidence of any technical consultation or other attempt to answer these questions.
Laing O’Rourke, a UK-based construction company, has a history of conflict with its workforce. In 2004, workers for the company in London took part in strike action which was met with support from a range of sources, including the anti-capitalist and direct-action movements. Industrial action has also occured at the company’s work on Heathrow Terminal Five.
It should not be surprising, then, to note that the company appears on the list of companies who made use of the “blacklist database” produced by “The Consulting Association” (a name truly gargantuan in its vagueness), which warned employers of workers who were active trade unionists, among other issues. Some of the comments on particular workers can be found here.
Police are targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years, an investigation by the Guardian can reveal.
Photographs, names and video footage of people attending protests are routinely obtained by surveillance units and stored on an “intelligence system”. The Metropolitan police, which has pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended.
Disclosures through the Freedom of Information Act, court testimony, an interview with a senior Met officer and police surveillance footage obtained by the Guardian have established that private information about activists gathered through surveillance is being stored without the knowledge of the people monitored.
Police surveillance teams are also targeting journalists who cover demonstrations, and are believed to have monitored members of the press during at least eight protests over the last year.
An Austin-based activist named Brandon Darby has revealed he worked as an FBI informant in the eighteen months leading up to the Republican National Convention. Darby has admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and wearing a transmitter embedded in his belt during the convention. He is expected to testify on behalf of the government later this month in the trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails.
Lisa Fithian, Austin Informant Working Group. She is a longtime organizer and activist based in Austin.
Carly Dickson, Member of the Austin People’s Legal Collective.
Joe England, Family friend of Brandon Darby
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a story out of Austin, Texas that’s shocked social justice activists nationwide. A prominent Austin-based activist named Brandon Darby has revealed he worked as an FBI informant in the eighteen months leading up to the Republican convention. Darby has admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and wearing a transmitter embedded in his belt during the convention. He is expected to testify on behalf of the government later this month in the trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails.
In a statement, a group of Austin-based activists called the Austin Informant Working Group condemned Darby. The group says, “[T]he emerging truth about Darby’s malicious involvement in our communities is heart-breaking and utterly ground-shattering to those of us who were closest to him.” The statement goes on to raise suspicions Darby may have gone beyond spying on the accused activists but in fact encouraged and provoked them into breaking the law.