activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: police spies out of lives

activist who discovered the father of her son was an undercover officer settles legal claim

Bob Lambert, an undercover officer, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a department store in 1987. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though he was already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She is one of at least 12 women who sued for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

Her case was the first to settle. According to yesterday’s Guardian article,

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous and is known by the name Jacqui, said the out-of-court settlement in which the Met would pay her £425,000 would not bring closure for her as the force had not admitted wrongdoing.

Police chiefs have maintained that the undercover officers were not permitted to have sexual relationships with the people on whom they were spying. Yet such relationships were routine, often lasting several years.

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animal rights activists to appeal their convictions due to the involvement of an undercover police officer

Two members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have decided to appeal their convictions for planting incendiary devices at department stores, because evidence suggests that former Special Demonstrations Squad officer Bob Lambert played a key role in the events that led to their convictions. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a third department store around the same time. According to today’s BBC article,

Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard were convicted of planting incendiary devices at Debenhams stores in Romford and Luton in 1987. An undercover police officer allegedly planted a third device at a branch in Harrow to help convict the men. The officer has denied this and said he would not have committed such a crime.

While posing as an animal rights activist in the 1980s, Lambert also co-wrote a leaflet critical of McDonald’s that led to the longest civil trial in English history. During the four decades that the secret Special Demonstrations Squad existed, police officers infiltrated hundreds of protest groups. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, Lambert apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

undercover police officer co-wrote leaflet that harmed reputation of mcdonald’s

In the mid-1980s, activists with London Greenpeace (unrelated to Greenpeace) began handing out a leaflet critical of McDonald’s. The corporation hired private investigators to infiltrate the group and sued five activists over the leaflet in 1990. Three of the activists apologized but two took the case to trial, which turned out to be the longest civil trial in English history. The judge ruled that the activists failed to prove all the allegations in the leaflet, but according to today’s Guardian article,

It was a hollow victory for the company; the long-running trial had exposed damaging stories about its business and the quality of the food it was selling to millions of customers around the world. The legal action, taking advantage of Britain’s much-criticised libel laws, was seen as a heavy handed and intimidating way of crushing criticism.

The story resurfaced today because a new book, to be published next week, will reveal the role of an undercover police officer in co-writing the leaflet at issue. The undercover officer, Bob Lambert, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until last year. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

On a related note, Greenpeace Canada promised yesterday that it wouldn’t be intimidated by a $7 million defamation lawsuit filed by Canada’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products. The lawsuit echoes previous lawsuits against activists, such as the McDonald’s lawsuit, TransCanada’s $5 million lawsuit, and EDF Energy’s £5 million lawsuit. One of the 21 environmental activists EDF sued writes that although Resolute thinks the lawsuit will silence Greenpeace, it won’t work.

undercover police cultivated intimate relationships with activists to spy on radical groups

Does the law allow state agents to develop sexual relationships with the people on whom they intend to gain intelligence? In the UK, six undercover officers cultivated relationships with several women while infiltrating environmental and social justice groups between the mid-1980s and 2010. The relationships ranged from 7 months to many years.

In December 2011, eight of the women brought legal claims against the Metropolitan Police. (A separate case involves a woman who had a child with an undercover officer she believed was a fellow animal rights activist.) According to a press release announcing the legal action,

Through their collective experiences the women have identified a pattern that covers more than two decades of police operations and is therefore indicative of systemic abuse of female political activists involved in a range of different groups. … After the women formed loving relationships with these men, they disappeared when their posting ended, leaving the women to cope with the trauma of not knowing whether or not the person they were in love with would return, not knowing if they should be worried or angry and trying to discover what was real and what was not.

The police sought to have the case heard in a secret court, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), in which complainants cannot see the state’s evidence, have no guaranteed right to an oral hearing, and cannot appeal. Yesterday the High Court in London granted the officers’ application for a secret hearing as to the claims under the Human Rights Act, but rejected their application as to the common law claims (e.g., deceit, negligence, and assault). While the common law claims will not be heard in secret, those claims will now be put on hold pending the verdict of the IPT on the claims under the Human Rights Act.

boston police department spied on several antiwar groups for years

Through an August 2011 lawsuit against the Boston Police Department (BPD), the National Lawyers Guild and American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents showing that officers conducted surveillance on antiwar groups between 2007 and 2010. Not that protesters named in the reports are surprised. According to today’s news release,

The documents reveal that officers assigned to the BPD’s regional domestic spying center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), file so-called “intelligence reports” mischaracterizing peaceful groups such as Veterans for Peace, United for Justice with Peace and CodePink as “extremists,” and peaceful protests as domestic “homeland security” threats and civil disturbances.

Congress created fusion centers such as the BRIC after September 11, 2001, to facilitate communication between the FBI, CIA, and other government agencies. Yet earlier this month, a two-year bipartisan investigation by a U.S. Senate subcommittee announced that instead of uncovering terrorist threats, officials recorded constitutionally protected activities. Senator Tom Coburn, the subcommittee’s ranking member who initiated the investigation, said fusion centers “have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties.”