Datacide 19

Surveillance, Control and Repression

In July 2023, French National Assembly lawmakers approved a sweeping “justice reform” bill that has numerous provisions including allowing the police to remotely tap into cameras, microphones, and location services of phones, computers, cars, and other internet/gps connected devices of individuals suspected of crimes punishable by at least five years in jail, or of terrorism offenses, or of being suspected in organized crime. 

The provision also allows police to re-motely activate devices to record sound and video without the individual’s knowledge or consent. The surveillance is required to be approved by a judge and can last six months. The provision excludes doctors, journalists, lawyers, judges, and elected politicians from surveillance.

In the morning of 27 June 2023, during a traffic stop in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, 17 year old Nahel Merzouk was shot and killed at point blank range by Florian Menesplier, a Paris Police Prefecture 

officer. In 2017, a French law was revised allowing police to shoot and kill drivers or passengers of cars who refuse to submit to traffic stops, attempt to flee, and/or put passerby in danger. Since then, the number of people French police have killed at traffic stops has dramatically 

increased: 22 people have been killed in 2022, and 6 in 2023. 

Protests, riots, uprisings, and looting against police violence, and racism and discrimination in society and the French state were seen throughout France (and overseas territories ruled by the state) from the day of 27 June to 4 July and continuing till 15 July. 

According to the French Justice Minister, as of 29 August, over 4,000 people have been arrested, 2,107 people were tried in court, 1,989 people were found guilty of the accused charges, and 1,789 people have received prison sentences. 

Reporters and newspapers covering the legal crackdown against protestors by the state showed that the French court system used so-called “fast-track” trials in which lawyers and the defendants had only 10-30 minutes to prepare their cases before the judges would make rulings and criminal sentencing. 

In April 2023, French National Assembly members passed a law (Article 7 of the Olympic Law) that allows for the use of algorithmic video surveillance and drone surveillance during the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Paris. The law also allows for the use of algorithmic mass surveillance at concerts and festivals to could involve “high security risk”. Although the law does not allow for the use of live facial recognition (LFR) software to identify individuals in real-time, it does flag “suspicious” individuals by analyzing bodies and behaviors as well as assessing items, events, and/or “unusual” crowd movements. Algorithmic mass video surveillance has already been used at numerous other sporting events, large concerts, public transportation sites, and other locations throughout many international cities. The Met Police’s most expansive use of algorithmic mass surveillance with live facial recognition happened during the coronation of King Charles as hundreds of thousands of people had their faces scanned by LFR and compared to police databases without their knowledge or consent.

Over several months in 2023, a total of 42 activists have been charged with “domestic terrorism” under Georgia state law. The activists were engaging in various activities to protest the planned construction of a $90 million police training facility created by the Atlanta Police Foundation and funded by major corporations in the Weelaunee Forest, which is part of public land of the City of Atlanta, and would displace multiple African American families living in the area. Most of people arrested have been charged with either property damage or misdemeanor trespass or some other minor offense with the additional “domestic terrorism” charge added. The Georgia “domestic terrorism” law was expanded in 2017 beyond criminalized acts intended to or reasonably likely to kill or injure at least 10 people to include certain property crimes committed with the intent to “alter, change, or coerce the policy of the government” by “intimidation or coercion.” 

If convicted of “domestic terrorism” by damaging property, activists could face 35 years in prison. State prosecutors are using the “domestic terrorism” charges to suppress political protests by activists working to Stop Cop City and Defend the Atlanta Forest. 

On January 18, 2023, activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Terán was shot 57 times and killed while he sat on the ground with his hands raised by Georgia State Patrol SWAT team which had raided the protest encampment. 

On 31 May 2023, three activists were arrested and later charged with charities fraud and money laundering for their involvement in the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which raises bail money for activists who have been jailed and to help pay for lawyers to represent protestors who will face trial for criminal charges. 

On 5 September 2023 the Georgia State Attorney unveiled a massive indictment of 61 activists associated with Defend the Atlanta Forest charged with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO. Some of those 61 people were also charged with money laundering, arson in the first degree, and/or “domestic terrorism” (or had previously been charged). The indictment alleges that Defend the Atlanta Forest is a “criminal enterprise” engaged in a “racketeering conspiracy” and targets the activists for their anarchist beliefs and tactics including collectivism, mutual aid, solidarity, and direct action, as well as what is described as “anti-law enforcement ideology” and “protection of the environment at all costs ideology”. This is the same RICO law that Georgia Fulton County District Attorney has used to indict Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants who are alleged to have sought to deny Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to then presidential candidate Joe Biden in their attempt to overturn the U.S. presidential election.

In November 2020 “anti-terrorism” police executed a series of planned raids through-out the UK targeting the anarchist 325 collective and the website as part of the internationally coordinated “Operation Adream”. 325 was also a print magazine with the first issue coming out in 2004 and the most recent issue #12 published in July 2020.

Toby Shone was arrested by anti-terrorism police in the Forest of Dean, where five other addresses were also raided. In his own words, Shone said that, 

“Operation Adream is an attack by the British State in conjunction with European partners against anarchist direct action groups, counter-information projects, prisoner solidarity initiatives and the new anarchist critique of the technological singularity and the fourth and fifth industrial revolution. Operation Adream is the first time that anti-terrorist legislation has been used against the anarchist movement in the UK.” 

Shone was originally charged with providing a service enabling others to access “terrorist” publications contrary to section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 as the suspected administrator of the 325 website; fundraising for “terrorist” purposes contrary to section 15 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which related to cryptocurrency wallets hosted on the website that funded anarchist groups and publications; and two counts of possession of information likely to be useful to a “terrorist” contrary to section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which related to two videos, one of which purported to show how to improvise an explosive shaped charge and the other purported to show how to burn down a mobile phone transmitter. Shone stated he was also “accused during the interrogations of membership of FAI/IRF, the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front, of writing five documents and carrying out several actions in the Bristol area, which were claimed by cells of the FAI as well as those of the Earth- and Animal Liberation Fronts.” He pleaded not guilty and was initially on bail from November 2020 to February 2021, but he was then re-arrested, and held against his will in HMP Wandsworth in London under “anti-terrorism” conditions including solitary confinement. On 29 March 2021, Dutch police raided the data center that held the sever, which they seized, and a number of anarchist groups that used as a platform were also targeted including Anarchist Black Cross Berlin, Montreal Counter-Info, Northshore Counter-Info, Act For Freedom Now! and 325. The raid was done in coordination with the UK anti-terrorism unit. 

On 6 October 2021, the first day of Shone’s trial, with no evidence at all in support of the “terrorism” charges to put before the court, the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to drop the charges and Shone was found not guilty on all “terrorism” counts. 

However, Shone was convicted for possession and supply of Class A and B narcotics (LSD, DMT, psilocybin, MDMA, and marijuana), all of which were seized from collective spaces during the 18 November 2020 police raids, and he was sentenced on 13 October 2021 to 3 years and 9 months in prison. Anarchist Black Cross Federation stated that, “The attack on is a landmark attempt by the state to silence dissent and radical critical thinking and can be seen as part of the general crackdown in the UK against protest, counter-information and alternative thinking and lifestyles as evidenced by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 (which resulted in the Kill the Bill protests), the Covert Human Intelligences Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021 which extends the powers of spycops and the reforms of the Judicial Reviews procedure.” Shone was held at HMP Bristol and then moved in March 2022 to HMP Parc, a privately run prison in Bridgend, South Wales, which imprisons people labeled as “Category B” High Risk, who are therefore not eligible for ROTL (Release of Temporary License, or home leave). A probation official told Shone that his categorisation was because of his anarchist beliefs. 

Prison officials exacted repressive and retaliatory measures against Shone including solitary confinement for over 15 months, the withholding of his mail and legal documents, refusal of exercise time, refusal of quality food, refusal and delay of medical treatments for medical problems, and more. Shone with his lawyers were also fighting against the police and prosecutors who sought to have the court approve a “Serious Crime Prevention Order” against him. The SCPO would if approved have come into effect after Shone was released from prison. Shone stated that, “The SCPO is a method to keep me under continuous five year investigation, and de facto house arrest. It is simply a method of repression, which is intended to intimidate me, my family and my friends. To criminalise and place under surveillance those I’m close to, and to try to force me to change the way I choose to live, and with whom. It is an attempt to force me to use cashless banking and payments. To control my use of phones, USBs and computers. Stop me using encryption and stop me from using any form of open source software such as Linux. And to stop me from using crypto currencies.” On May 6, 2022, the Bristol Crown Court rejected the SCPO on account of “No Necessity,” noting that the order was draconian even for “terrorist” offences (charges which were dropped and Shone was found not guilty).

Numerous solidarity events have taken place to support Shone including one on 26 August 2022 at Køpi in Berlin (see the flyer.) Shone was released from prison on December 28, 2022, but “without any legal basis whatsoever, the Counter-Terror Unit, MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) along with the Probation Service, have used experimental de-radicalization measures to place Shone in their highest risk categories and have drafted release conditions which are more extreme than that of SCPO.” published the most recent update on Shone’s situation: he will be held at a “‘semi-open’ detention structure to do the last two years of his sentence. The restrictions that will be imposed on him are particularly severe: no possibility of contact with the other prisoners, a night curfew from 9pm to 7am, during which he cannot leave the structure, free exit during the rest of the day, but with an obligation to return to report at 12 midday and 5pm. During his free time he is forbidden to attend political demonstrations and meetings, or to associate with those generically defined ‘left-wing extremists’. He will not be able to write on websites and will only be able to connect to the Internet at approved times and in a predetermined place. He will be able to have at most one mobile phone with a SIM card, which will be monitored. He will not be able to delete the history of his phone or computer. 

He will be forced to undergo psychological or psychiatric sessions, and he is absolutely forbidden to speak about his situation or to denounce those involved in it by name. Toby’s lawyers are preparing an appeal against these restrictions, which of course are not the norm in such cases, but they will be in force until the final outcome of the application.” In an interview published in April 2022, Shone stated that, “The implications of this case do not only concern anarchists, who have been under the microscope for some time, but anyone who is living in alternative way with their ideas or their actions, collective or not. Anyone who essentially wants to see actual social, political or environmental change will at some point put that into practice. And the state has prepared prisons for you.” Hopefully more information about Shone’s present conditions serving the remainder of this sentence will become available soon.  

In February 2019, Chelsea Manning received a subpoena to testify in front of a U.S. federal grand jury investigating Wikileaks and Julian Assange, but she refused to testify, was found to be in contempt of court by the judge, and sentenced to jail in Alexandria, VA. 

She was released on May 9, 2019 with the conclusion of that grand jury, but was served on May 16, 2019 with another subpoena for a new federal grand jury investigating Wikileaks and Assange. She refused again to testify, was held in jail again for contempt of court at the Alexandria Detention Center. The judge also fined Manning $500 for each day over 30 days and $1,000 for each day over 60 days in another punitive measure to attempt to force Manning to testify to the grand jury. She attempted to commit suicide on March 11, 2020. 

On March 12, 2020, the judge ordered her released from jail with the conclusion of the grand jury noting that holding her in jail “no longer served any coercive purpose”. The judge also ordered Manning to immediately pay the $256,000 in fines that were racked up. 

A crowdfunding campaign raised the money to pay off the court-imposed fines. In October 2022, Chelsea Manning published her memoir titled README.txt (released by Macmillan Publishers), and presently DJs at various parties in the U.S. 

Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond was close to being released from federal prison after serving almost all of his 10-year prison sentence for his role in 2012 hacking the surveillance company Stratfor, but in October 2019 Hammond was summoned to testify before a federal grand jury in Virginia investigating Wikileaks and Assange. Hammond refused to testify, was sentenced by the judge for contempt of court and held in jail at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia. (When Hammond and Chelsea Manning were held against their wills in the Alexandria jail, they were unable to engage with each other.) 

In March 2020, after the grand jury was closed, the judge ordered Hammond released from jail and forcibly returned to the federal prison system while the Covid global pandemic raged. The 6 months Hammond was held in jail did not count towards time served on his federal sentence, thus it punitively elongating the total time he was held behind bars since his arrest in 2012. Due to the Covid pandemic, the U.S. Marshals stopped transferring federal prisoners to federal prison so Hammond got transferred to small regional jails including Grady County jail in Oklahoma where he caught Covid, was later transferred to Tallahatchie County Correctional center in Mississippi, and then back to Tennessee’s Federal Correctional Institution Memphis. While waiting for Bureau of Prison officials to draw up his paperwork to be sent to a halfway house, he (like thousands of others) got Covid again just a week before his release. 

The podcast he did called “Twin Trouble” (recorded with his twin brother Jason Hammond) recounts in great detail the harrowing experience he and other prisoners were subjected to by the jail and prison systems during the Covid pandemic. On November 18, 2020, Hammond was released from FCI Memphis into a halfway house in Chicago, Illinois. 

Hammond’s federal conviction included three years of so-called “supervised release” where he is subjected to numerous forms of surveillance, drug tests, having his bank accounts monitored, bans on using encryption software, etc. After being out of prison and the halfway house, Hammond and others created the video game called “Smash MAGA” and most recently in August 2023 he gave a talk , with academic Gabriella Coleman titled “Hacks and leaks, then and now” at Chaos Communications Camp in Berlin.

Compiled by Nemeton

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