Sunday, March 8, 2009

Police Target Political Activists

None of what is in the Guardian article comes as any surprise to me, the police in NZ are doing exactly the same thing through both overt and covert surveillance. While not surprising it does make me angry, it also seems completely stupid and unnecessary. I cant come up with any plausible reason why this level of surveillance could possibly be useful. The level of political crime in the UK and NZ is negligible so this surveillance is complete overkill if the justification is crime prevention. It seems instead that western governments view activist movements as a major threat worth investing huge amounts of resources into. While I only really know what is going on in NZ I disagree with the Guardian that there is more of a focus on monitoring the press than activists. Sure journalists get harassed by cops but what they experience is nothing like the intense personal harassment dealt out to known activists.

For a taste of what things are like for activists in Aotearoa this article is illuminating. For an activists perspective of this kind of surveillance Fit Watch is a great read and I really respect the people that run it.

Thanks to cryptogon for spotting it, link to the full article which has video and audio here

Guardian: Police Database on Thousands of Protesters

Police are targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years, an investigation by the Guardian can reveal.
Photographs, names and video ­footage of people attending protests are ­routinely obtained by surveillance units and stored on an "intelligence system".

The ­Metropolitan police, which has ­pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended.

Disclosures through the Freedom of Information Act, court testimony, an interview with a senior Met officer and police surveillance footage obtained by the Guardian have ­established that ­private information about activists ­gathered through surveillance is being stored without the knowledge of the people monitored.

Police surveillance teams are also ­targeting journalists who cover demonstrations, and are believed to have ­monitored members of the press during at least eight protests over the last year.

Videographer Jason Parkinson and photographer Jess Hurd describe to Paul Lewis how they have been followed by police while covering protests
The Guardian has found:

• Activists "seen on a regular basis" as well as those deemed on the "periphery" of demonstrations are included on the police databases, regardless of whether they have been convicted or arrested.

• Names, political associations and photographs of protesters from across the political spectrum – from campaigners against the third runway at Heathrow to anti-war activists – are catalogued.

• Police forces are exchanging information about pro­testers stored on their intelligence systems, enabling officers from different forces to search which political events an individual has attended.
Lawyers said tonight they expect the Guardian's investigation to form the basis of a legal challenge against the use of police surveillance tactics.

No comments: