£9m scheme to log 'domestic extremists'

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Mon Oct 26 22:25:29 GMT 2009

Police breach Data Protection Act???

Police in £9m scheme to log 'domestic extremists'

Thousands of activists monitored on network of overlapping databases

are gathering the personal details of thousands 
of activists who attend political meetings and 
protests, and storing their data on a network of 
nationwide intelligence databases.

The hidden apparatus has been constructed to 
monitor "domestic extremists", the Guardian can 
reveal in the first of a three-day series into 
the policing of protests. Detailed information 
about the political activities of campaigners is 
being stored on a number of overlapping IT 
systems, even if they have not committed a crime.

Senior officers say domestic extremism, a term 
coined by police that has no legal basis, can 
include activists suspected of minor public order 
offences such as peaceful direct action and civil disobedience.

Three national police units responsible for 
combating domestic extremism are run by the 
"terrorism and allied matters" committee of the 
Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). In 
total, it receives £9m in public funding, from 
police forces and the Home Office, and employs a staff of 100.

An investigation by the Guardian can reveal:

• The main unit, the National Public Order 
Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), runs a central 
database which lists thousands of so-called 
domestic extremists. It filters intelligence 
supplied by police forces across England and 
Wales, which routinely deploy 
teams at protests, rallies and public meetings. 
The NPOIU contains detailed files on individual 
protesters who are searchable by name.

• Vehicles associated with protesters are being 
tracked via a nationwide system of automatic 
number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. One man, 
who has no criminal record, was stopped more than 
25 times in less than three years after a 
marker was placed against his car after he 
attended a small protest against duck and 
pheasant shooting. ANPR "interceptor teams" are 
being deployed on roads leading to protests to monitor attendance.

• Police surveillance units, known as Forward 
Intelligence Teams (FIT) and Evidence Gatherers, 
record footage and take photographs of 
campaigners as they enter and leave openly 
advertised public meetings. These images are 
entered on force-wide databases so that police 
can chronicle the campaigners' political 
activities. The information is added to the central NPOIU.

• Surveillance officers are provided with 
"spotter cards" used to identify the faces of 
target individuals who police believe are at risk 
of becoming involved in domestic extremism. 
Targets include high-profile activists regularly 
seen taking part in protests. One spotter card, 
produced by the Met to monitor campaigners 
against an arms fair, includes a mugshot of the comedian Mark Thomas.

• NPOIU works in tandem with two other 
little-known Acpo branches, the National 
Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu), 
which advises thousands of companies on how to 
manage political campaigns, and the National 
Domestic Extremism Team, which pools intelligence 
gathered by investigations into protesters across the country.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of 
constabulary, will next month release the 
findings of his national review of policing of 
protests. He has already signalled he anticipates 
wide scale change. His inspectors, who were asked 
to review tactics in the wake of the Metropolitan 
police's controversial handling of the G20 
protests, are considering a complete overhaul of 
the three Acpo units, which they have been told lack statutory accountability.

Acpo's national infrastructure for dealing with 
domestic extremism was set up with the backing of 
the Home Office in an attempt to combat animal 
rights activists who were committing serious 
crimes. Senior officers concede the criminal 
activity associated with these groups has 
receded, but the units dealing with domestic 
extremism have expanded their remit to 
incorporate campaign groups across the political 
spectrum, including anti-war and environmental 
groups that have only ever engaged in peaceful direct action.

All three units divide their work into four 
categories of domestic extremism: animal rights 
campaigns; far-right groups such as the English 
Defence League; "extreme leftwing" protest 
groups, including anti-war campaigners; and 
"environmental extremism" such as Climate Camp and Plane Stupid campaigns.

Anton Setchell, who is in overall command of 
Acpo's domestic extremism remit, said people who 
find themselves on the databases "should not 
worry at all". But he refused to disclose how 
many names were on the NPOIU's national database, 
claiming it was "not easy" to count. He estimated 
they had files on thousands of people. As well as 
photographs, he said FIT surveillance officers 
noted down what he claimed was harmless 
information about people's attendance at 
demonstrations and this information was fed into the national database.

He said he could understand that peaceful 
activists objected to being monitored at open 
meetings when they had done nothing wrong. "What 
I would say where the police are doing that there 
would need to be the proper justifications," he said.

+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://mailman.gn.apc.org/mailman/private/diggers350/attachments/20091026/4a1fb899/attachment.html>

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list