The Bureau of Investigative Journalism article

Here is a recent art­icle I wrote for The Bur­eau of Invest­ig­at­ive Journ­al­ism, about our slide into a sur­veil­lance state.  

TBIJ sup­por­ted Wikileaks dur­ing the release of the Spy­Files. The issue is of such cru­cial import­ance for our demo­cracy, I was dis­ap­poin­ted that more of the main­stream media did not fol­low up on the stor­ies provided.

Here’s the text:

Ana­lysis: the slide into a sur­veil­lance state

Fifty years ago, Pres­id­ent Eis­en­hower warned of the ‘dis­astrous rise’ of the military-industrial com­plex. His fears proved all too accurate.

Now in the post-9/11 world, the threat goes even fur­ther: the military-industrial com­plex is evolving into the military-intelligence com­plex. It is a world, I fear, that is pro­pelling us into a dysto­pian sur­veil­lance nightmare.

I have seen this night­mare unfold from close quar­ters. In the mid-90s I was an intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK domestic secur­ity ser­vice. That is, until I resigned to help my former part­ner and col­league David Shayler blow the whistle on a cata­logue of incom­pet­ence, cover-ups and crimes com­mit­ted by spies. We naively hoped that this would lead to an inquiry, and a review of intel­li­gence work and account­ab­il­ity within the notori­ously secret­ive Brit­ish system.

The blun­ders and illegal oper­a­tions that we wit­nessed in our six years at MI5 took place at what is prob­ably the most eth­ical and account­able dec­ade in the Brit­ish spy­ing service’s 100-year history.

Even then, they were get­ting away with pretty much whatever they wanted.

Since the attacks of 9/11, I have watched with increas­ing dis­may as more powers, money and resources have been pumped into the inter­na­tional intel­li­gence com­munity to com­bat the neb­u­lous ‘war on ter­ror’. As a res­ult, civil liber­ties have been eroded in our own coun­tries, and count­less inno­cent people have been killed, maimed and dis­placed across the Middle East.

The Reg­u­la­tion of Invest­ig­at­ory Powers Act (RIPA), which was designed to allow our spy agen­cies to law­fully inter­cept our com­mu­nic­a­tions to counter ter­ror­ism and organ­ised crime, has been routinely used and abused by almost 800 pub­lic bod­ies. MI5 admit­ted to mak­ing 1,061 mis­takes or ‘admin­is­trat­ive errors’ this year alone in its applic­a­tion of RIPA, accord­ing to the Inter­cep­tion of Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sioner, Sir Paul Kennedy.

Intel­li­gence creep extends to the police, as we saw with the under­cover police scan­dal earlier this year, where the unac­count­able National Pub­lic Order Intel­li­gence Unit was dis­covered to be infilt­rat­ing harm­less and legit­im­ate protest groups for years on end.

It is a world, I fear, that is pro­pelling us into a dysto­pian sur­veil­lance nightmare.

Even bey­ond the under­cover cops, we have seen an explo­sion in cor­por­ate spy­ing. This involves mer­cen­ary spy com­pan­ies such as Xe (formerly Black­wa­ter), Kroll, Aegis and Dili­gence offer­ing not just secur­ity muscle in hot­spots around the world, but also bespoke oper­a­tions enabling big cor­por­a­tions to check out staff or to infilt­rate and invest­ig­ate protest groups that may embar­rass the companies.

The mer­cen­ary spy oper­ates without any over­sight what­so­ever, and can even be gran­ted immunity from pro­sec­u­tion, as Xe enjoyed when oper­at­ing in Iraq.

The last dec­ade has also been a boom time for com­pan­ies provid­ing high-tech sur­veil­lance cap­ab­il­it­ies. One aspect of this in the UK – the endemic CCTV cov­er­age – is notori­ous. Local coun­cils have inves­ted in mobile CCTV smart spy cars, while cam­eras that bark orders to you on the street have been tri­alled in Middlesbrough.

Drones are increas­ingly used for aer­ial sur­veil­lance – and the poten­tial for mil­it­ar­isa­tion of these tools is clear.

All this des­pite the fact that the head of the Met­ro­pol­itan Police depart­ment that is respons­ible for pro­cessing all this sur­veil­lance inform­a­tion stated pub­licly that CCTV evid­ence is use­less in help­ing to solve all but 3% of street rob­ber­ies in Lon­don. In fact, since CCTV has been rolled out nation­ally, viol­ent crime on the streets of Bri­tain has increased.

But, hey, who cares about facts when secur­ity is Big Busi­ness? Someone, some­where, is get­ting very rich by rolling out ever more Orwellian sur­veil­lance tech­no­logy. And while the tech­no­logy might not be used against the wider UK cit­izenry in a par­tic­u­larly malig­nant man­ner – yet – the same com­pan­ies are cer­tainly allow­ing their tech­no­lo­gies to find their way to the more viol­ent and repress­ive Middle East­ern states.

That would never hap­pen in Bri­tain – would it? We retain an optim­istic faith in the long-term benign inten­tions of our gov­ern­ment, while tut-tutting over Syr­ian police snatch squads pre-emptively arrest­ing sus­pec­ted dis­sid­ents. Yet this has already happened in the UK: before the royal wed­ding in April, pro­test­ers were pre-emptively arres­ted to ensure that they would not cause embar­rass­ment. The intent is the same in Syria and Bri­tain. Only the scale and bru­tal­ity dif­fers – at the moment.

When I worked for MI5 in the 1990s I was appalled how eas­ily tele­phone inter­cep­tion could be used illeg­ally, and how eas­ily the spies could hide their incom­pet­ence and crimes from the gov­ern­ment. In the last dec­ade it has become much worse, with senior spies and police officers repeatedly being caught out lying to the tooth­less Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee in Par­lia­ment. And this is only the offi­cial intel­li­gence sector.

How much worse is the endemic sur­veil­lance car­ried out by the cor­por­ate spy industry?

The bal­ance of power, bolstered by new tech­no­lo­gies, is shift­ing over­whelm­ingly in favour of the Big Brother state – well, almost. The WikiLeaks model is help­ing level the play­ing field, and whatever hap­pens to this trail­blaz­ing organ­isa­tion, the prin­ciples and tech­no­logy are out there and will be rep­lic­ated. This genie can­not be put back in the bottle. This – com­bined with the work of informed MPs, invest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ists and poten­tially the occa­sional whis­tleblower – gives me hope that we can halt this slide into a Stasi state.

Annie Machon is a former spy with MI5, the Brit­ish intel­li­gence agency work­ing to pro­tect the UK’s national secur­ity against threats such as ter­ror­ism and espi­on­age.
You can read Annie Machon’s blog ‘Using Our Intel­li­gence’ here.

Fascism 2012 — the ongoing merger of the corporate and the state

I’m gradu­ally com­ing to after a knock-out blow last Octo­ber — the unex­pec­ted death of my beloved and only brother, Rich.  Words can­not describe.

But look­ing for­ward to the delights that 2012 will no doubt offer: Julian Assange remains trapped in a legal spider’s web, but all credit to Wikileaks — it keeps on provid­ing the goods.  

The recent pub­lic­a­tion of the Spy­Files should have been a massive wake-up call, as it it high­lighted the increas­ing use and abuse of mer­cen­ary spy tech — all without any effect­ive over­sight, as I recently wrote in my art­icle for the Bur­eau of Invest­ig­at­ive Journ­al­ism

Need­less to say, the issue of massive com­mer­cial sur­veil­lance cap­ab­il­it­ies usu­ally remains con­fined to a niche media mar­ket, although the Daily Mail did rouse itself to report that shop­pers were being tracked via mobile phones as they con­sumed their way around malls.  Well, I sup­pose it’s a start.

With the growth of mer­cen­ary spy com­pan­ies in our minds, we should be even more con­cerned about the accel­er­ated shred­ding of our civil liber­ties, par­tic­u­larly in the US and UK.  Des­pite earlier prom­ises that he would veto any such legis­la­tion, Pres­id­ent Obama signed into law the invi­di­ous NDAA on 31st Decem­ber.  This means that the US mil­it­ary is now empowered to seize and indef­in­itely detain, with no recourse to tra­di­tional due pro­cess, not only poten­tially all non-Americans across the planet à la the Guantanamo/extraordinary rendi­tion model, but can now also do this to US cit­izens within their own country.

Guantanamo_BayDes­pite the pas­sion­ate inter­net debate, the issue has unsur­pris­ingly been largely ignored by most of the main­stream cor­por­ate media.  But the pre­dom­in­antly US-based inter­net com­ment­ary dis­plays a breath­tak­ing hypo­crisy: yes, the NDAA is a ter­rible law with awful implic­a­tions for Amer­ican cit­izens.  How­ever, people around the world have been liv­ing with just this fear for a dec­ade, with whole com­munit­ies afraid of being snatched and dis­ap­peared into black CIA tor­ture facil­it­ies.   Where was the US out­rage then?  The Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoeller poem remains as rel­ev­ant today as when it was writ­ten 70 years ago.

That said a couple of brave voices have spoken out: Naomi Wolf recently described how the US legis­lat­ors could iron­ic­ally find them­selves on the receiv­ing end of this law, if we go by all his­toric pre­ced­ents.  Paul Craig Roberts was on froth­ing good form too, inveigh­ing against the war crimes of the US mil­it­ary, the per­se­cu­tion of Wikileaks for expos­ing those very crimes, and the evolving total­it­ari­an­ism of our countries.

SOPAIn a digital mir­ror of the NDAA, the enter­tain­ment industry and their pet lob­by­ists are suc­cess­fully ram­ming through the invi­di­ous SOPA law.   As acclaimed digital rights act­iv­ist and author, Cory Doc­torow, described in his key­note at the recent CCC geek­fest in Ber­lin, these ostens­ibly com­mer­cial laws are in effect a stalk­ing horse for gov­ern­ments to seize con­trol of the inter­net.  As he wrote in the Guard­ian “you can’t make a sys­tem that pre­vents spy­ing by secret police and allows spy­ing by media giants”.  

With this in the back of our minds, the Wikileaks Spy­Files rev­el­a­tions about the increas­ing glob­al­isa­tion and com­mer­cial­isa­tion of cor­por­ate spy tech­no­logy are even more alarm­ing.  The gov­ern­ment spy agen­cies work with little effect­ive over­sight, but the mer­cen­ar­ies have a com­pletely free legal rein.  Intriguingly, it appears that unlike our own gov­ern­ments Afgh­anistan is alive to this prob­lem and is reportedly boot­ing out for­eign contractors. 

Yet the bal­ance of power in cer­tain west­ern coun­tries is slid­ing over­whelm­ingly towards police states -  or, indeed, fas­cism, if you take into con­sid­er­a­tion Benito Mussolini’s defin­i­tion: “the mer­ger of state and cor­por­ate power”.

Our line of defence is slender — organ­isa­tions like Wikileaks, one or two politi­cians of con­science, a few remain­ing real invest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ists and per­haps the odd whis­tleblower.  Bey­ond that, we must indi­vidu­ally get to grips with the threat, get informed, teched up, and pro­tect ourselves, as we can no longer rely on our gov­ern­ments to uphold our basic rights — you know, pri­vacy, free­dom of expres­sion, habeas cor­pus, and all those other delight­fully old-fashioned ideas.

If we do not act soon, we may no longer be able to act at all in the near future.…  So I wish every­one an informed, pro­duct­ive and act­ive 2012!

 

 

The Rise of the Mercenary

Stephen Arm­strong pub­lished an inter­est­ing art­icle in today’s New States­man magazine. Based on his new book War plc: the Rise of the New Cor­por­ate Mer­cen­ary, it exam­ines the rise of the cor­por­ate secur­ity con­sult­ant. Or in basic Eng­lish – mercenaries.

I met Stephen when I was invited by James Whale to review the book on Press TV. I was impressed with his research and depth of know­ledge on this sub­ject. It was an unusu­ally har­mo­ni­ous talk show — rather than arguing, we all took a broadly sim­ilar approach to the issue of mer­cen­ar­ies, over­sight and accountability.

The increas­ing privat­isa­tion of intel­li­gence is an insi­di­ous devel­op­ment in the world of espi­on­age and war. For many dec­ades there have exis­ted on the fringes of the offi­cial intel­li­gence world a few private secur­ity com­pan­ies; think Kroll, Black­wa­ter, Aegis. These com­pan­ies are often the last refuge of .….. former intel­li­gence officers of the west­ern spook organisations.

These people, often frus­trated at the overly bur­eau­cratic nature of the gov­ern­mental spy organ­isa­tions, resign and are gently steered towards these cor­por­a­tions. That, or the relo­ca­tion officers get them nice juicy jobs at mer­chant banks, arms com­pan­ies or inter­na­tional quan­gos. It’s always use­ful to have reli­able chaps in use­ful places, after all.

In the last dec­ade, how­ever, we have seen an explo­sion in the num­ber of these com­pan­ies. One of my former col­leagues is a founder of Dili­gence, which is going from strength to strength. These kinds of com­pan­ies spe­cial­ise in cor­por­ate spy­ing, the neut­ral­isa­tion of oppos­i­tion and protest groups, and secur­ity. The lat­ter usu­ally boils down to provid­ing mil­it­ary muscle in hot spots like Iraq. While I can see the attrac­tion for sol­diers leav­ing crack regi­ments and won­der­ing what on earth they can do with their spe­cial­ised expert­ise, and who then decide that earn­ing £10,000 a week risk­ing their lives in Bagh­dad is a good bet, this has wor­ry­ing implic­a­tions for the rule of law.

Leav­ing aside the small mat­ter that, under inter­na­tional and domestic UK law, all wars of aggres­sion are illegal, our offi­cial Brit­ish mil­it­ary pres­ence in Afgh­anistan and Iraq is at least to a cer­tain degree account­able. The most egre­gious war crimes have res­ul­ted in court mar­tials. But the new mer­cen­ar­ies live in a legal no-man’s land, and in this ter­rit­ory any­thing goes. Or can at least be covered up.

This is the same prin­ciple that has guided these unof­fi­cial spook com­pan­ies over the years – plaus­ible deni­ab­il­ity. What little demo­cratic over­sight there is in the UK of the intel­li­gence com­munity still does give them lim­ited pause for thought: what if the media hears about it? What if an MP asks an awk­ward ques­tion? By using former col­leagues in the cor­por­ate intel­li­gence world, MI5, MI6 et al can out source the risk.

The over­sight and account­ab­il­ity for the offi­cial spooks and the army are bad enough. The privat­isa­tion of intel­li­gence and mil­it­ary might makes a fur­ther mock­ery of the feeble over­sight pro­vi­sions in place in this coun­try. This is a wor­ry­ing devel­op­ment in legal and demo­cratic terms; more import­antly, it has a dir­ect, daily impact on the rights of inno­cent men, women and chil­dren around the world. We need to ensure that the offi­cial and unof­fi­cial spooks and mil­it­ary are account­able under the law.

New Statesman Article, August 2008

The new spies

Stephen Arm­strong

When
the Cold War ended, it didn’t spell cur­tains for the secret agent.
Private espi­on­age is a boom­ing industry and envir­on­mental protest
groups are its prime tar­get

                  


 

As you hunker down for the last few days of the Camp for Cli­mate
Action, dis­cuss­ing how to force your way into King­s­north power sta­tion
in an attempt to pre­vent the con­struc­tion of a new coal facil­ity, cast
your eyes around your fel­low pro­test­ers. Do they look entirely bona
fide to you? And don’t look for the old-school spe­cial branch officers
– Kent Police are a tiny force. It’s the cor­por­ate spies hired by
private com­pan­ies you need to watch out for.

Accord­ing to the private espi­on­age industry itself, roughly one in four of your com­rades is on a multinational’s payroll.

Rus­sell Corn, man­aging dir­ector of Dili­gence, one of a grow­ing
num­ber of “cor­por­ate intel­li­gence agen­cies”, with offices high in the
Canary Wharf glass tower, says private spies make up 25 per cent of
every act­iv­ist camp. “If you stuck an inter­cept up near one of those
camps, you wouldn’t believe the amount of out­go­ing calls after every
meet­ing say­ing, ‘Tomor­row we’re going to cut the fence’,” he smiles.
“Eas­ily one in four of the people there are tak­ing the cor­por­ate
shilling.”

In April this year, for instance, the anti-aviation cam­paign net­work
Plane Stu­pid, one of the main organ­isers of the eco-camp built to
protest against the expan­sion of Heath­row Air­port, announced that one
of its act­iv­ists, Ken Tobias, was actu­ally called Toby Kend­all, was
work­ing for a cor­por­ate espi­on­age firm called C2i, and had been leak­ing
inform­a­tion about the group to pay­ing cli­ents and the media. He had
been hired by an as yet unknown private com­pany to provide inform­a­tion
and dis­rupt the group’s campaigning.

When Tobias first turned up at Plane Stupid’s meet­ings in July 2007,
he seemed a com­mit­ted former Oxford stu­dent ded­ic­ated to redu­cing
air­craft emis­sions. The group gradu­ally became sus­pi­cious because he
showed up early at meet­ings, con­stantly pushed for increas­ingly drama
tic dir­ect action and — the ulti­mate giveaway — dressed a little too
well for an eco­w­ar­rior. When they showed his pic­ture around Oxford they
found an old col­lege pal who iden­ti­fied him as Toby Kend­all. A quick
Google search revealed his Bebo page with a link to a cor­por­ate
net­work­ing site, where his job as an “ana­lyst” at C2i Inter­na­tional,
work­ing in “secur­ity and invest­ig­a­tions”, was pas­ted in full pub­lic
view.

Just a month earlier, a woman called Cara Schaf­fer had con­tac­ted the
Student/Farmworker Alli­ance, an ideal­istic bunch of Amer­ican col­lege
stu­dents who lobby fast-food com­pan­ies to help migrant work­ers in
Flor­ida who har­vest toma­toes. Like the cockle-pickers of More­cambe Bay,
many of these work­ers are smuggled into the US by gangs which then take
their pass­ports and force them to work without pay to clear often
fic­ti­tious debts to regain their papers.

Dig­ging up dirt

Again, Schaffer’s excess­ive eager­ness aroused sus­pi­cion, and again,
the inter­net revealed her true iden­tity. She owned Dip­lo­matic Tac­tical
Ser­vices, a private espi­on­age firm which had pre viously hired as a
sub­con­tractor one Guillermo Zara bozo, today facing murder charges in
Miami for his role in allegedly execut­ing four crew mem­bers of a
chartered fish­ing boat, an alleg­a­tion he denies. Schaf­fer turned out to
be work­ing for Bur­ger King — the home, per­haps appro­pri­ately, of the
Whopper.

The cute thing about these two bozos is that they got caught pretty
early on, but that was because they were young and had no back­ground in
espionage.

The real mar­ket is in proper, old-school spies who are sud­denly
enter­ing the private sec­tor. For pro­fes­sional spooks, the 1990s were no
fun at all. The Cold War was over, defence spend­ing was down and a
detailed know­ledge of cold-drop tech­niques in cent­ral Ber­lin was
use­less to gov­ern­ments look­ing for Arabic speak­ers who knew the Quran.

From New York and Lon­don to Moscow and Beijing, any decent-sized
cor­por­a­tion can now hire former agents from the CIA, FBI, MI5, MI6 and
the KGB. The ex-spooks are selling their old skills and con­tacts to
mul­tina­tion­als, hedge funds and olig­archs, dig­ging up dirt on
com­pet­it­ors, uncov­er­ing the secrets of board­room rivals and expos­ing
invest­ment tar­gets. They are also keep­ing tabs on journ­al­ists,
pro­test­ers and even poten­tial employees.

MI5 and MI6 in par­tic­u­lar have always guided ex-employees into
secur­ity com­pan­ies,” explains Annie Machon, the former MI5 agent who
helped David Shayler blow the whistle on the secur­ity ser­vices back in
1997. “It’s always use­ful to them to have friends they can tap for info
or recruit for a job that requires plaus­ible deni­ab­il­ity. The big
change in recent years has been the huge growth in these com­pan­ies.
Where before it was a hand­ful of private detect­ive agen­cies, now there
are hun­dreds of mul­tina­tional secur­ity organ­isa­tions, which oper­ate
with less reg­u­la­tion than the spooks them­selves,” she says.

Corn’s com­pany Dili­gence, for instance, was set up in 2000 by Nick
Day, a former MI5 spy, and an ex-CIA agent, Mike Baker. Before long,
the duo had built up a roster of high-paying cli­ents includ­ing Enron,
oil and phar­ma­ceut­ical com­pan­ies, as well as law firms and hedge funds.
In 2001, a small invest­ment by the Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing com­pany Bar­bour
Grif­fith & Rogers pro­pelled their growth. How­ever, BGR and Baker
sold their stakes in 2005, shortly before a scan­dal shook Dili­gence.
KPMG, the global pro­fes­sional ser­vices firm, accused Dili­gence staff of
imper­son­at­ing Brit­ish spies to gain inform­a­tion on a cor­por­ate takeover
for a Rus­sian tele­coms cli­ent called Alfa Group. Dili­gence settled the
law­suit without admit­ting liability.

Since then, it has recruited the former Con­ser­vat­ive Party leader
Michael Howard as chair­man of its European oper­a­tions. And it is that
sort of respect­ab­il­ity and lob­by­ing power that big play­ers are after.
In 2007, the par­ent com­pany of the US private mil­it­ary firm Black­wa­ter,
which hit the head­lines for gun­ning down Iraqi civil­ians in Bagh­dad
last Septem­ber, entered this mar­ket through Total Intel­li­gence
Solu­tions (TIS), a new CIA-type private oper­a­tion, to provide
intel­li­gence ser­vices to com­mer­cial clients.

Dis­creet investigations

Blackwater’s vice-chairman, J Cofer Black, who runs TIS, spent three
dec­ades in the CIA and the state depart­ment, becom­ing dir­ector of the
Coun­terter­ror­ist Centre and co-ordinator for counter ter­ror­ism, a job
with ambas­sad­orial rank. He describes the new com­pany as bring­ing “the
intelligence-gathering meth­od­o­logy and ana­lyt­ical skills tra­di­tion­ally
honed by CIA oper­at­ives dir­ectly to the board­room. With a ser­vice like
this, CEOs and their secur­ity per­son­nel will be able to respond to
threats quickly and con­fid­ently — whether it’s determ­in­ing which city
is safest to open a new plant in or work­ing to keep employ­ees out of
harm’s way after a ter­ror­ist attack.”

Black also says TIS will oper­ate a “24/7 intel­li­gence fusion and
warn­ing centre” that will mon­itor civil unrest, ter­ror­ism, eco­nomic
sta­bil­ity, envir­on­mental and health con­cerns, and inform­a­tion
tech­no­logy secur­ity around the world.

The estab­lished firms already oper­at­ing in this area include Kroll,
Aegis, Garda, Con­trol Risks, GPW and Hakluyt & Co. More firms are
open­ing every day and there is little reg­u­la­tion of the sector.

Hakluyt & Co was foun­ded in 1995 by former Brit­ish MI6 officers,
with a repu­ta­tion for dis­creet and effect­ive invest­ig­a­tions. The
com­pany but­ler, a former gurkha, greets vis­it­ors to its Lon­don HQ, a
town house off Park Lane. In winter, meet­ings can be con­duc­ted beside
the fire. Com­puters are rarely in sight. Hakluyt’s advis­ory board has
become an exit cham­ber for cap­tains of industry and former gov­ern­ment
offi­cials. Mem­bers have included Sir Rod Edding­ton, a former BA CEO,
and Sir Chris­topher Gent, former chief exec­ut­ive of Vodafone.

It is hard to work well for an oil com­pany without know­ing who all
the key decision-makers in a gov­ern­ment are and hav­ing the right
con­tacts to reach them,” explains Stéphane Gérardin, who runs the
French private secur­ity com­pany Géos. “We have an intel­li­gence sec­tion
where we employ some invest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ists, people from the fin­ance
sec­tor, from equity banks and some from secur­ity backgrounds.

It is an import­ant part of image pro­tec­tion for our cli­ents as
well. We have our own track­ing and mon­it­or­ing centre, with ana­lysts
doing risk map­ping and pre­par­ing our cli­ents for every poten­tial
prob­lem. It could be about alert­ing them to local sens­it­iv­it­ies. Or, in
this glob­al­ised inter­net age, it can be a group of stu­dents in
Cam­bridge who have launched a protest web­site, who may be send­ing out a
petition.

So we need to be able to under­stand and pre­pare our own pro­pa­ganda
to counter such attacks. This is work we do to pro­tect our clients.”

Trus­ted friend

Like the state secur­ity ser­vices, which ended up run­ning Class War
in the 1990s after a hugely suc­cess­ful pen­et­ra­tion, these spies work to
become reli­able mem­bers of any protest move­ment. In April 2007, the
Cam­paign Against Arms Trade called in the police after court doc­u­ments
showed that the weapons man­u­fac­turer BAE Sys­tems had paid a private
agency to spy on the peace group.

BAE admit­ted that it had paid £2,500 a month to LigneDeux
Asso­ci­ates, whose agent Paul Mer­cer — accep­ted as a trus­ted mem­ber of
the cam­paign — passed inform­a­tion, includ­ing a leg­ally priv­ileged
doc­u­ment, to BAE’s dir­ector of secur­ity, Mike McGinty.

Unlike the secur­ity ser­vices, how­ever, these ser­vices don’t bother
with pen­et­rat­ing the far left or anti-fascist groups. Their cli­ents are
only inter­ested in the protest move­ments that threaten cor­por­a­tions.
And as that is the nature of much protest in these times, it is a wide
field, but with a par­tic­u­lar impact on envir­on­mental groups.

At any of this summer’s green protests the cor­por­ate spies will be
there, out-of-work MI5 agents tap­ping green act­iv­ists’ mobile phones to
sell the inform­a­tion on to inter­ested companies.

Rus­sell Corn knows of incid­ents where a spook at a meet­ing has
sug­ges­ted a high-street bank as a tar­get, then left the meet­ing to
phone the officers of said bank, telling them that he has pen­et­rated an
act­iv­ist camp plan­ning an attack and offer­ing to sell the details. Corn
has no time for such beha­viour, however.

The thing about a really good private spy,” he tells me, “is that you’ll never know he’s around and he’ll never get caught.

The fact you can’t see them … it means noth­ing at all.”