News Datacide 17, Pt. 3: Surveillance, Control and Repression

An unnamed person who previously worked for a secret UK Metropolitan police intelligence unit alleged in a letter sent to Green party official Jenny Jones that the police were regularly reading the emails of activists, including four from Greenpeace UK, and journalists, including two from The Guardian, as part of surveillance operations. The Met’s access to the email accounts was acquired by using hacked passwords obtained by hackers employed by Indian police.

After the Westminster and London Bridge terrorist attacks in London, Prime Minister Theresa May in June 2017 proposed new anti-terrorism measures: amending human rights laws; increasing the length of time police can hold suspects without charges; further restricting the freedom and movement of suspects through house arrest, curfew, forced relocation, and creating ‘exclusion zones’ of public spaces where the suspects are not allowed to go or enter; further reducing access to communications (phone, internet, etc.); increasing the ease and number of forcible deportations; and increasing prison sentences for terrorism-related offenses. The Investigatory Powers Act was enacted into law in December 2016, which requires web and phone companies to retain everyone’s web browsing histories and communication data records for phones and texts for up to two years, as well as forcing companies to bypass or alter encryption services like Whatsapp and Signal used by named and targeted ‘terrorism’ suspects. [Read more →]

News Datacide 15, pt.1: Endless War

Endless War
In April 2015, three mercenaries (Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard) of the American private military contractor previously known as Blackwater Security Consulting (now Academi) were sentenced each to 30 years and one mercenary (Nicholas Slatten) to life in prison for the Nisour Square massacre of September 16, 2007 in Baghdad. The jury in this federal criminal case found that the Blackwater contractors opened fire indiscriminately into the busy square, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and wounding 20 others, and were not provoked or in danger as the defendants had claimed. The investigation into the massacre and the subsequent trial were riddled with problems, while the fifth Blackwater mercenary (Jeremy Ridgeway) co-operated with the government and testified against others, and was sentenced to twelve months in prison. This is one of the few court cases in which American mercenaries were found criminally liable for manslaughter of civilians during the second Iraq war, despite widespread abuses, torture and murder.

The Pentagon continues in late December 2015 to stonewall a federal judge’s ruling to release to the public 2,100 photographs of detainee abuse and torture committed by US soldiers and contractors. On February 4, 2016, the Pentagon released only 198 photos which mostly show close-ups of bruises or small wounds on detainees’ bodies. The withheld photographs document torture at Abu Ghraib prison and 23 other locations including ‘black sites’, and are said to be even more sadistic than those made public in 2003. The Pentagon has ‘re-certified’ the rest of the photographs as ‘secret’ to prevent their release, and the government has filed a motion to have the judge’s order vacated. The Obama administration continues the Bush administration’s policies to keep evidence of abuse and torture ‘secret’ despite claiming to be ‘the most transparent administration ever’.

In December 2014, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a highly redacted executive summary (525 pages) of its full 6,700-page report on CIA abuse, torture and rendition programs. No one has been held legally or criminally liable for the abuse and torture detailed in the summary and the report, which included waterboarding; sleep depravation for long periods; forcing prisoners to stand on their broken legs/feet and/or in ‘stress positions’; non-stop interrogation for weeks; rape (including so-called forced ‘rectal feeding/hydration’); sexual abuse; death by hypothermia; the use of music/noise, light and darkness as torture; dragging on the floor naked, chained prisoners; stuffing naked prisoners into tiny boxes or coffins for days; threats of sexual abuse against relatives of the prisoners; conducting mock executions; ‘ice baths’, etc. [Read more →]

Political News (Datacide 13): Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs; Vision Tech; Endless War; Surveillance, Control and Repression

Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs
From 2007-09, John Towery, a criminal intelligence army analyst in the Force Protection Service fusion center at the Fort Lewis military base spied on anarchists and peace activists in Tacoma and Olympia, WA who were part of SDS and the Port Militarization Resistance, which protested international war shipments. Under the name ‘John Jacob’, Towery became close friends with the activists, surveilled them, and shared data with local, state, federal and military agencies. A public records request uncovered the surveillance operation of Towery against the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, IWW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anarchist bookshop, amongst others. The 9th circuit court of appeals has ruled in December 2012 that the subsequent lawsuit against Towery can proceed in the narrow terms of intentionally enabling arrest without probable cause in order to repress free speech, but apparently not on the Posse Comitatus law that bars the use of armed forces for law enforcement activities inside the US.

The Earth Island Journal published documents obtained through FOIA requests that show how the Bryan County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s department was spying on the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and other direct action groups against the proposed tar sands pipeline to run from Canada to Texas. Some activists were arrested earlier, the action camp infiltrated and a protest preempted. The targets are described as eco-activists; Native American resisters; Occupy members; Anarchists; and locals from the community. Documents also show how the corporation TransCanada who will build the pipeline works closely with the multi-government agency Fusion Center in Oklahoma advising on policy, changing laws, sharing intel, ensnaring activists, and generally protecting their own interests and facilitating the increase of their profits.

The agent provocateur “Anna” performed extensive FBI surveillance and entrapment of three other activists (see the Life During Wartime book review) used to convict Eric McDavid for 19 years and 7 months, the second longest sentence for recent environmental prisoners. During McDavid’s trial, his lawyer attempted to argue government misconduct because of “Anna’s” intimate relationship with him, however this was dismissed in light of the 1991 9th Circuit ruling in US v Simpson that the government can exploit intimate and sexual relations between the infiltrator and anyone under a surveillance investigation.

Back in January 2011, The Guardian newspaper journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans broke the huge story of how Mark Kennedy, a London Metropolitan Police officer, infiltrated numerous European left and direct action networks under the name “Mark Stone” and “Flash”. 22 countries including Germany used Kennedy as an agent provocateur in order to ensnare activists in illegal activities, gather information, maps networks, etc. (The website “Mark Kennedy: A chronology of his activities” gives more details and corrections to the initial news reports, although not on his Berlin spying.) Various British police and government agencies cut Kennedy loose, avoided responsibility, attempted to stop or curtail “reform” of undercover agents’ behavior, and denied their support of his spying, especially concerning how Kennedy had sexual relations with numerous women over the years in order to gather intel and ensnare them. 8 of those women have sued Scotland Yard for sexual misconduct by five agent provocateurs Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling, Mark Cassidy and Mark Kennedy. The reporters have in 2013 published a book on the wider use of infiltration and surveillance called Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police.

The Associated Press reporters Matt Abuzzo and Adam Goldmann, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for their series of investigations of the NYPD’s surveillance operations against Muslim Americans (in and outside NYC and the state), have published a new book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Spying Unit that gives much greater detail through meticulous research on these operations. NYPD’s Demographics Unit spent six years using a huge network of informants to surveil every aspect of life, actions which did not lead to a single arrest, criminal cases or thwarting of so-called ‘terrorism’ plots. (Ray Kelly, the NYPD Commissioner, has been floated to be nominated to run the Department of Homeland Security.) Various lawsuits brought against the NYPD by Muslim Americans affect by the spying are pending in court.
[Read more →]

NSU Update

In the year since the last issue of datacide came out there has been continued fallout from the scandal surrounding the activities of the National Socialist Underground terror group and the involvement of the state security forces in the extreme right. Well, at least until about May, which is when the court case against Beate Zschäpe finally started after a few weeks delay. One reason for the delay was that the 50 seats for the press had been allocated, and not a single Turkish newspaper was allowed to report from inside the courtroom. Needless to say, there is considerable interest in the case in Turkey, as most of the victims had Turkish roots. Finally, the seats were rearranged and the trial could start.

There are obvously many open questions: Where did the NSU come from, and how was it possible it was not detected for so many years despite the fact that the state security had paid agents very close to the perpetrators of the killing spree?
[Read more →]

Neo-Nazi Terror and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany

Despite the fact that at least 140 people (AIB 89) were killed by Neo-Nazis in Germany since re-unification in 1990, officially there was no such thing as Nazi terrorism in the Federal Republic. Indeed, if one looks at the book “Extremismus in Deutschland” (Extremism in Germany), published by the Ministry of the Interior in 2004, one could conclude that there is no such thing as violence from the extreme right, let alone murder and terrorism.
The yearly report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) for 2010 categorically states that “in Germany no right wing terrorist structures can be detected” (Verfassungsschutzbericht 2010, p.57). The report describes far right violence as “predominantly spontaneous”, and claims it occurs mainly between right and left wing “extremists”.

This view in mainstream politics and media forcibly changed on November 4, 2011, when the dead bodies of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos were found in a burning trailer in Eisenach, Thuringia. After a initially successful bank robbery by the suspects, police found their trailer and approached it, and then to avoid arrest, Böhnhardt apparently shot Mundlos, set the trailer on fire and then shot himself in the head. Meanwhile in Zwickau, the third of the terror trio, Beate Zschäpe (who had earlier taken part of the bank heist), was busy burning down their safehouse to destroy evidence. A few days later she gave herself up, and has since refused to make any statements.
The murder weapons used in a series of killings between 2000 and 2007 were found in the burned house along with other weapons.

The three right wing militants formed a cell called National Socialist Underground (NSU), and murdered nine men, who were small business owners (eight of Turkish and one of Greek origin), and one police woman in the course of those years. They were also responsible for a bombing in 2001 that severly wounded one woman, a nailbomb attack that wounded 22 people in Cologne in 2004, and for 14 bank robberies between 1999 and 2011.

The “Döner-killings” as they were called derogatorily in the press were heavily investigated by the police, but they did not follow any leads that suggested that the motives could have been racist and from a far right background. Instead the police assumed that the killers were from the migrant community, which often went along with the racist insinuation that the murdered men were somehow involved with criminal networks. This of course added insult to injury to the families and friends. Similarly in the case of the murdered policewoman, the suspicion was directed onto a “clan” of Roma that had parked near-by. The Bavarian police even opened a döner kebab shop in Nuremberg in the course of their “investigation”, while other police units went to consult two different fortune tellers who “contacted” victims and told the investigators completely bogus stories. So not only were the killings racist, the police operations to solve them were as well! [Read more →]