Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police by Paul Lewis, Rob Evans. Book by two journalists concentrating on the Special Demonstration Squad. There was a scandal when the SDS activities were revealed: the police were sued and a major court case fell apart.
The SDS was a small undercover unit in the Metropolitan Police, set up in 1968 to monitor "subversives", later termed "domestic extremists". They specialised in very long undercover roles in protest groups, usually for years at a time. To maintain an identity they were encouraged to form sexual relationships with activists, sometimes fathering children. So for a period of years they would live 5 or 6 days a week with their activist girlfriends, returning to their wives at the weekend. When the deployment was over they worked hard to maintain their cover: they would act paranoid then announce they were leaving the country to flee the police, send some postcards from abroad, then disappear.
The problems you would expect to happen, happened. The partners and children of the SDS officer were shocked and traumatized. Some officers "went native" and tried to abandon the police in favour of their new friends. Some seem to have encouraged, assisted and even led the subversives.
At the time the SDS was revealed, a major prosecution of climate change activists who tried to shut down a coal-fired power station failed since the SDS seem to have acted as agent provocateurs. While he offically denies it, it seems almost certain that Bob Lambert planted a firebomb for the Animal Liberation Front that caused extensive property damage. He also co-wrote the famous McLibel pamphlet. Fed up with the disorganisation of the movement, Mark Kennedy formed the "Activist Tat Collective" which stored and deployed the equipment for direct action to various protest groups.
At times, things got a bit "The Man Who Was Thursday". The McLibel group was infiltrated not just by the SDS, but also independently by two different private security firms hired by McDonalds. At some meetings, the various undercover agents outnumbered the actual protestors.
The SDS operated a surprisingly long time without being discovered: 1968 to 2008. They worked very hard to maintain cover. They mostly fed information to senior police staff and the government, rarely appearing as witnesses in prosecution. They went to great lengths to maintain cover even when a deployment ended. They used the names of dead children to set up false identities with elaborate parer trails. They also set up some kind of trips on the false identities they had on government databases, so they were alerted if activists started investigating them.
After the various scandals broke the SDS was officially disbanded, but the duties have been passed to other police units like the National Public Order Intelligence Unit..
Overall, a fascinating and revealing book. Worth a read if you're interested.
Been busy at work with the release. I really miss the good new days of continuous delivery: we release every few months which is a burden on everyone. Had to give some training without much preparation but it seemed to go OK.
Toddler is resistant to going to bed and grumpy and irritable in the morning, so that's another twice-daily struggle that's stressing me out.
Relieved to see Sadiq Khan winning the election after the disgusting Conservative campaign. After the last election was paranoid that the polls were wrong, but this time they got it right. Very relieved to see that after Zac Goldsmith wrote to everyone with Hindu names warning them not to vote for Khan as he's a Muslim, Khan's support seems to have gone up amongst Hindus too. If there's one thing the twenty-first century doesn't need its more religious and community tension. That on its own should have disqualified Goldsmith from being mayor of a huge multicultural city: he's willing to risk harming it in order to gain power over it.
Local. Police claim to have arrested super-prolific graffiti tagger LAGER.
Video. Another clean old jazz recording: Duke Ellington: Hot and Bothered.
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