So the leaflet at the centre of the McDonalds libel trial was co-written by Bob Lambert, an undercover police officer who later apologised to the “law abiding members of London Greenpeace,” which he described as a peaceful campaigning group.
Likewise Mark Kennedy/Stone, who couldn’t fathom what threat the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station protesters he’d infiltrated posed. The judge trying one group of Ratcliffe protesters praised their public spiritedness. Doesn’t anyone else think it odd that the state spends millions of pounds infiltrating annoying, but mostly harmless, groups of hippies?
It makes no sense, until you stop to consider what happens to the surveillance data.
Simon Jenkins, in The Guardian, noted that Stone/Kennedy was working for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit whose chain of command lead to the Association of Chief Police Officers.
But ACPO isn’t a statutory body. It’s a private company and, according to Jenkins, it sold data to other private companies. It’s when you start to think about surveillance as a business that infiltrating peaceful, democratic green / leftist / anti-capitalist groups starts to make sense. There’s a market for surveillance data and demand drives supply.
Ask yourself this: who might buy data about far-right groups or militant ‘Islamists’ who represent a threat to public safety and the state? The answer, surely, is the state, and the state has tight budgets and a security apparatus of its own.
But who would buy information about greens, democratic leftists and assorted anti-capitalists? Big business has limited security apparatus of its own, deep pockets and, if protesters threaten the bottom line, the corporation’s motive-of-motives; money.
So the question is not ‘why spend so much infiltrating peaceful protest groups?’ but ‘just how far have our security priorities been distorted by the market for information?’ The more it becomes about money the less it becomes about national security and the more about protecting financial interests.
Now think about all this in the context of the Snowden revelations about PRISM and GCHQ.
Once we stood up for our liberties. Indeed millions donned uniforms and fought, were wounded or were killed in their defence. Now all it takes is one or two savage attacks on our streets and we’re prepared to throw away everything our forebears gave their lives for.
But we live in a different world where power is inexorably seeping away from our elected representatives who, however flawed they may be, are ultimately accountable to us. And power is flowing equally inexorably towards corporations – unaccountable, faceless and legally constituted to be amoral; uninterested in right and wrong only in serving their shareholders’ interests. PRISM benefits them.
What is at stake is not different ideas of right and wrong, right-wing morality versus left-wing morality, it’s whether we have a world in which morality plays any significant part at all.
Overwrought? Two weeks ago suggestions of an all-seeing, all-encompassing surveillance state across the Western democracies might have seemed equally so. But PRISM exists and so do real threats to the very fabric of society.
Our forebears were prepared to give their lives to stop this sort of thing. What are we prepared to give?