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<nettime> Zoe Williams on the London Police's infiltration methods (Guar
Patrice Riemens on Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:15:19 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Zoe Williams on the London Police's infiltration methods (Guardian)

Okay, it's a bit stating of the obvious, since Fouche, Napoleon's police
minister considered all potential, if not actual, enemies of the state
already. But it's fairly well written and the message cannot be (re)stated
often enough.
(If I was Cato, I would add 'Blame Blair')


Original to (for background & links):

These Stasi-style outrages show just how low Britain?s spies will stoop

Revelations of never-ending surveillance suggest that police and MI5
consider radical views criminal in themselves

By Zoe Williams
The Guardian, Monday 27 October 2014

?Did he report every contraction back to the police? What use was that for
information purposes? That is a moment so intimate, and I shared it with a
ghost.? The first compensation award, of £425,000, has been made to
Jacqui, one of the women impregnated in the mid-90s by a police officer
pretending to be an activist. She said last year that it felt as though
she had been raped by the state: there was discussion at the time about
whether or not those two things could ever be comparable, non-consensual
sex and consensual sex under false pretences.

The language doesn?t exist to describe this crime, and that consigns us to
imperfect analogies: it is an invasion beyond privacy and beyond sex, into
a person?s destiny, holding them hostage forever to the love of a child
conceived as the byproduct of state reconnoitre. Nothing is too low for an
authority that would stoop to this ? it could bore into your subconscious,
alter your DNA. Its only boundary is the limit of technology.

The impact on Bob Lambert, the police officer, cannot be ignored. His life
has been completely denatured by this duplicity. Surveillance, like
torture, brutalises the agent as much as it violates the victim. Floating
on the surface of these very profound questions is one practical one: did
Lambert report every contraction back to the police? Well, no, that bit?s
rhetorical ? but at some point, it must have been obvious that this woman
was not a threat to the state. One day, using average human judgment, of a
woman he knew inside out, Lambert must have known that Jacqui was not a
terrorist but rather a person of radical views. The thing we will never
know is how long after that penny had dropped he continued to spy on her.
One year? Three? Five?

When, for that matter, did MI5 realise that Eric Hobsbawm had no intention
of defecting to Russia, and was simply agitating for radical left
possibilities within UK politics? When did it realise that Christopher
Hill was not intending to restart the English civil war, with a mind to
recreating a Leveller revolution three centuries later? These two men were
academics and communists, and last week it emerged that they were trailed
by security services for more than three decades. The extent of this
surveillance is still considered too incendiary to be released fully into
the public domain, with sections still redacted. The reason, I suspect, is
that if we had the full records, it would be plain that no sensible person
could have considered either man a threat to the realm, after the initial
pass of their activities. Let?s say it would have taken five years to nail
this down. That leaves decades of spying unexplained, and inexplicable.

One plausible explanation is that, to the police and the security
services, to have radical views at all is to be de facto an enemy of the
state. Reasonable grounds to suspect a crime are rendered unnecessary when
the entire mindset is considered criminal. It?s sweet of them but
unnecessary to be so protective of the centre ground, which is
self-policing when it comes to the expression of any interest beyond
?what?s best for me??

The monstering of Russell Brand has, in recent days, helpfully provided a
complete compendium of criteria one must fulfil before one is allowed to
challenge the status quo. So, in order to care about poverty, you have to
be poor. Unfortunately, I can?t tell you what the thresholds are, because
the person who is poor enough to be allowed to care, and is still accepted
into the public discourse, doesn?t exist. If you critique the existing
order but don?t stick within quite a narrow set of possible alternatives,
you are anti-intellectual ? the pro-intellectual thing to do, of course,
is to leave serious discussion to the intellectuals. If you point out that
capitalism leaves a lot of people unable to support themselves, however
hard they try, and you have ever taken drugs, you are a drug-addled
maniac. And if you question the verities of neoclassical economics, and
yet are not a neoclassical economist, you might as well have pooh-poohed
gravity. To think the left wing needs intricate surveillance, lest it grow
and contaminate the host, is really to underestimate the health of the
conservative immune system.

The alternative explanation for these Stasi-style outrages (which may be
rare, or may only be rarely discovered) is that once you start spying on
somebody, it is incredibly difficult to stop. It doesn?t really have
anything to do with politics ? you could be trailing a communist agitator
or an environmentalist, a potential jihadist or a suspected white
supremacist. Once you?ve started, the piece of evidence that
comprehensively proves innocence doesn?t exist. All that exists is
absence, the lack of definitive proof of guilt. One more push might be all
it takes.

Just one more project ... one more pregnancy ... one more quick decade. It
is imperative to look at the ?snooper?s charter?, or draft communications
bill, in this light: politicians fall over themselves to frame it in terms
of balance between privacy and security. All normal people agree on this,
they say: people like privacy well enough, but are prepared to sacrifice a
bit of it (or a bit of somebody else?s) for peace of mind. But the
assurance we need, more than balance, is that an authority invading
someone?s privacy will be able to exercise restraint; and that is the bit
that proves such a challenge.

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