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Infiltration of Arms Trade Activist Groups

category international | anti-war / imperialism | news report author Wednesday October 08, 2003 20:26author by Ciaron - Dublin Catholic Worker Report this post to the editors

Infiltrated by BAe Intel 1995-99

This story of infiltration is just breaking in England, more should be revealed in the coming weeks. The reflections on the Liverpool Catholic Worker are initial and immediate, should be refined and expanded in the coming weeks.

Sunday Times 29/9/03 - THE cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Gravesend, a Thames-side town in north Kent, is lined with spacious bungalows. The elderly owner of number 27, Evelyn Le Chene, was not at home on Friday. The man who answered her door described her as "a woman of secrets".

Secrets, indeed: despite her age, Le Chene has been named as the mastermind of a vast private intelligence-gathering network that collated the identities and confidential details of nearly 150,000 left-wing activists and offered them at a price to British industrial companies.

Among her clients was the defence giant British Aerospace, now known as BAE Systems, according to a source intimate with the company's security operations.

BAE, which has close links to Whitehall, paid Le Chene for at least four years to spy on opponents of the arms trade, according to the source.

Insight has seen computer files and thousands of pages of reports from the widespread spying operation carried out for BAE. Bank accounts were accessed, computer files downloaded and private correspondence with members of parliament and ministers secretly copied and passed on.

When samples were shown last week to members of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), a key target, one of them collapsed with shock at the extent of the personal detail they contained.

BAE said yesterday it was unable to comment on the specific allegations but would never encourage anyone to do anything illegal.

Le Chene did not respond to requests for an interview about her activities. So who is she, and how did an elegant 67-year-old living in Kent get into such business? She is certainly no Melita Norwood, the elderly widow in nearby Bexleyheath, unmasked in 1999 as a former Soviet spy. On the contrary, Le Chene is a member of the exclusive Special Forces Club and has campaigned as a dedicated anti-communist. She was previously the director of an organisation called the West European Defence Association, which warned of Soviet infiltration during the cold war.

She is now on the board of Threat Response International, a company that advises corporations on security threats. Also on the board is Barrie Gane, who has been identified in the media as a former deputy head of MI6.

As a young woman, she married Pierre Le Chene, a former British agent in Nazi-occupied France who survived the Mauthausen concentration camp and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur and MBE. She wrote books about his life.

In the past she has not avoided publicity. In 1987, eight years after her husband's death, she attracted news headlines by confronting his former torturer, Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyons", who was on trial.

Nine years ago she wrote an acclaimed book about animal "heroes" of warfare, including a cat called Simon and a pigeon called Winkie. But it was at about this time that she was also developing her hidden life as a "woman of secrets".

She was first approached by the security office at BAE to carry out surveillance work in the mid-1990s, according to a source. At the time, she had been running a company innocuously named R&CA Publications from an office in an industrial estate in Rochester, Kent. Both the company and the office have since closed. Le Chene was chosen by BAE because she specialised in "human" intelligence. "She wasn't very good at tapping phones or doing dustbins, but she was very good at running agents," one source close to BAE said last week.

At the time CAAT, a respected Quaker and Christian-based pacifist group which believes in non-violent protest, was stepping up a campaign against the 500m sale of BAE jets to Indonesia. The campaigners protested that the aircraft would be used to crush resistance in East Timor, which was seeking independence.

Le Chene recruited at least half a dozen agents to infiltrate CAAT's headquarters at Finsbury Park, north London, and a number of regional offices.

She was to become an expert on the burgeoning pressure group sector. Documents seen by The Sunday Times indicate that she ran an agent in the World Development Movement, an anti-poverty charity which campaigns against the arms trade to third world countries, and targeted more hardline groups such as Earth First and Reclaim the Streets.

The close connections and mixed membership of such groups meant she acquired information on Friends of the Earth, the Greens, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and animal rights charities.

By late 1996, when John Major's Conservative government was deciding whether to grant licences for the Hawk contract, the intelligence reports on CAAT's activities started flowing into BAE's offices at Farnborough, Hampshire, almost every day.

Calling herself "Source P", Le Chene initially sent over her briefings on an encrypted fax to the BAE security offices on the ground floor of Lancaster House at the airfield.

Later BAE set up software on her office computer so that the company could access the reports directly from her database, according to a source, who said the firm paid her 120,000 a year.

Thousands of pages of reports were made by Le Chene to BAE. They poked fun at the protesters: one had "revolting habits", another was "seriously into saving the tortoise". But they enabled BAE to build a large file of activists' names, addresses and telephone numbers as well as always keeping fully briefed on their meetings, demonstrations and political contacts.

Le Chene herself boasted a database of 148,000 "known names" of CND, trades unions, activists and environmentalists which she would sell for 2.25 each. She offered full biographies including national insurance numbers and criminal records where possible.

"Putting together profiles is not an overnight job," she notes in one report. "It takes time to get to know people, their nick-names, habits etc."

Even links with celebrities were passed on. References are made in reports to the actresses Helen Mirren and Prunella Scales and their opposition to certain arms companies and the "torture trade". One agent had obtained a letter addressed to Anita Roddick, owner of the Body Shop, from the Clean Investment Campaign, which promoted ethical investments.

The report notes: "This is a very important document. The request is for the Body Shop to have declarations in their shop windows against the arms trade. If this is granted by the shops, then the Clean Investment Campaign's first success will be notched up."

Often the reports detailed forthcoming plans for demonstrations by activists outside BAE's 60 UK sites. The information was used to ambush trespassers and then serve injunctions preventing them from returning.

Some of the information was gleaned simply by attending CAAT meetings. However, one agent downloaded the entire contents of a CAAT headquarters computer including a membership list, personal folders and details of private donations. Bank account details were also passed on, according to a source, and Agent P's reports to BAE discuss sending computer discs and tapes obtained from CAAT.

Names and addresses of activists were routinely run through the BAE computers to check if any were shareholders. The BAE switchboard was configured to flag up any calls from telephone numbers associated with the activists.

Desks were rifled, diaries were read and address books photocopied so that the information could then be transferred to BAE. CAAT members were often followed.

One such target was Jenneth Parker, described in one report as a "good-looking" 25-year-old, who was a key activist and networker for CAAT and student groups.

A tape recording of a phone conversation between Le Chene and a senior officer in BAE group security reveals that they discussed having Parker followed. Reports on Parker give details of her addresses, housemates, hairstyles, the contents of her diary and her alleged habit of smoking marijuana in the corridor.

During the intense surveillance the pressure groups began to suspect that they had been infiltrated. One report relays fears amongst CAAT activists that a meeting would be "full of BAE spies".

They were not far off the mark. According to a source, Le Chene infiltrated an agent known as "Brough" into a Humberside offshoot of CAAT called Hull Against Hawks.

The group was important within CAAT as it is on the doorstep of BAE's Brough plant where the Hawk bodies are manufactured.

BAE's security had a photograph of "Brough" and added to his credibility within CAAT by ensuring that he was manhandled during protests at BAE's annual meeting at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in 1997.

Le Chene invoiced BAE for the 280 a month rent for Brough's flat in Hull, and there is evidence that he was the secretary of the Hull group and used the name Alan Fossey.

He had become secretary of the Hull group shortly after moving to the town. He proved very useful, driving his fellow campaigners ~{!*~} a mixture of students and pacifists ~{!*~} to marches in his van and holding the group's meetings in his small flat in a new development by the marina.

His sound counsel was valued by other members of the group. When, at one meeting, a campaigner had suggested leaping over a fence to "occupy" an arms fair, Fossey had cut the subject dead by claiming he had heard the event was being guarded by paratroopers.

Quite how he knew, nobody asked. But then nobody knew the truth about who really paid the rent on his fully furnished flat, where they met, or who was really picking up the bill for the phone he used to arrange all the group's business.

Le Chene's agents were instructed to take particular interest in connections between anti-arms trade pressure groups and the House of Commons. Meetings and correspondence with MPs of all three parties was closely monitored and advance warning of any parliamentary events was always reported.

According to a source, the agents collected a series of letters, many private, which were sent through to BAE to read. They included correspondence to or from a number of leading Labour politicians such as David Clark, then shadow defence secretary, Ann Clywd, the MP, and Jack Straw, then home secretary.

When CAAT and two other pressure groups hired solicitors Bindman and Partners to seek a judicial review against the granting of export licences for arms companies, BAE was alerted to the contents of a letter sent by the firm to the then trade minister, Ian Lang.

A letter sent to CAAT in October 1996 by Jeremy Hanley, the Foreign Office minister, discussing British policy on the sale of arms to Indonesia, also found its way to BAE.

BAE's security department filtered the information and passed it on to their in-house government relations teams so that they could be one step ahead of the campaigners when lobbying in parliament.

Dick Evans, BAE's then chief executive, would also receive regular verbal briefings on the contents of Le Chene's reports from Mike McGinty, an ex-RAF officer who headed security.

The operation went on for at last four years until the end of the 1990s.

A BAE spokesman said last night: "The company cannot comment on anything that may relate to the physical security of our plant sites in the UK. The security of our people and places is paramount."

Asked about the alleged theft of computer files from CAAT, the spokesman added: "We would never encourage anyone to do anything illegal."

Related Link: http://www.ploughsharesactions.org
author by Ciaron - Dublin Catholic Workerpublication date Wed Oct 08, 2003 20:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1)This story of infiltration is still breaking in England. The full extent of it has yet to be revealed.

The significance of it to the Catholic Worker and Plowshares movement is that the agent "Alan Fossey" was deployed to Liverpool to infiltrate the Liverpool Catholic Worker (1996-99).

The Liverpool Catholic Worker came into being on the momentum of the local organising around the trial of the "Seeds of Hope Ploughshares" trial and acquittal in July '96. We decided to keep the momentum going by founding a live-in community with East Timorese exiles and an extended live out community with local Scousers. We organised nonviolent resistance at BAe Warton on a 3 monthly basis from Sept. '96. Before this event a former policewoman was approached by local Special Branch and offered £200 to attend one meeting a month, with bonuses on information on organisers. She taped the second meeting with Special Branch and exposed their actions in "The Guardian". (Sept '96)

"Fossey" moved his operations from Hull to Liverpool - as by the end of '96 the Liverpool Catholic Worker became the most signicant base during this period for nvda against BAe. There was also a full scale infiltration and underming of lobbying attempst fomr London based groups at this time (see ST article below). Special Branch's agenda was to close us down and "Fossey" was to play a significant role in this through the years of '97 and '98.

On my return to Australia in '98 to participate in the Jabiluka Ploughshares, "Fossey" dovetailed into the agenda of a couple of resentful parishoners and some recently arrived opportunists to wipe out what had become a significant organising base against BAe and a rare experiment in radical Christian resistance praxis in England. Much of the destabilisation had to do with discrediting my character in my absence and marginalising the working class Scousers who had been the source of much of the hospitality and reisstance organinsing.

At the start of '99, a few weeks before the final eviction of the Liverpool CW, "Fossey" met me at Heathrow Airport (On my return from Australia) delivering a banning order form the priest/landlord.. I refused to open in it and he drove me to Liverpool. In the CW house at the time were the recently bailed "Bread Not Bombs" Ploughshares, a new crew of East Timorese exiles and a very different vibe to when I had departed. NV resistance had pretty much dried up and the lines were clearly drawn between the working class Scousers who had been effectively marginalised and the opportunists who had hoped to stage a coup and set up a comfort zone. The priest, the parishoner and "Fossey's" agenda was to close the place down.

They made their move a couple of weeks later as we accompanied the Swedish "Bread Not Bombs" Ploughshares to Preston for a day of reflection before their bail breaking at Barrow shipyards and return to jail awaiting trial. "Fossey" drove some of us to Preston and then returned to Liverpool to hook up with the crew facilitation the eviction of the Catholic Workers and East Timorese. On the Sunday, Fossey returned to Preston and on to Barrow with the Bread Not Bombs breaking their bail conditions and returning to jail. He maintained mobile phone contact with those back in Liverpool facilitating the eviction.

When we returned to Liverpool that afternoon, the locks were changed, the CW and East Timorese evicted, the bank account ransacked and the rest is (albeit an unwritten) history.

I hope to write more about this experience after more information is available and time for reflection. Try to draw some lessons from it.

That "Fossey" could over the course of two years infiltrate, operate, betray, and profit from an environment that contained East Timore (who on many occasions fed & watered hime) who had been tortured, witnessed massacres and lost many family shows the depth of evil we are encountering in this work.

*The activist history of Liverpool Catholic Worker is explored in "Remembering Forgetting - A Journey of Nonviolent Resistance ot the War on East Timor" by Ciaron O'Reilly, Otford Press, Australia, 2000
**The trial of the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares is a chapter in John Pilger's book "Hidden Agendas"

Related Link: http://www.ploughsharesactions.org
author by Phuq Heddpublication date Sat Oct 11, 2003 17:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Take it as a compliment Ciaron. They can't stop you legally so they have to resort to the methods of the police state: espionage, dishonesty and sabotage. If they get _really_ worried about you then they'll escalate their campaign of lies and intimidation and try and make your group look violent. That's what the Italian state did in the 70's (many of the bombs that went off were constructed by the police and their agents), that's what seems to have happened with the Angry Brigades in Britain, and that's what's been proved to happen with the assassination attempt on Earth First! activist Judy Barri (she won 4.5 million against the FBI in a court case which proved that she had been left crippled by them).

There's a lot of secret attempts by the state to harrass, murder, intimidate and mudsling against activists: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/lists_archive/sixties-l/4259.html

On a side-note -- I can't find much about the Judy Barri case on the web (it's weird, there was a huge court settlement, the FBI was implicated in bombing people and yet Google doesn't index the story. Here are related links I found by using search facilites _within_ left-wing journals:
http://www.zmag.org/content/Activism/barifbi.cfm
http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/JF95/hellraiser.html

Related Link: http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2003/10/1650550.php
author by yuppublication date Sun Oct 12, 2003 02:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Security firm spied on road protesters
Insight



GROUP 4, the security firm hired by the government to protect its controversial road-building projects, has become the latest public company to admit paying a private intelligence agency to spy on protest groups.
Last week The Sunday Times revealed that BAE Systems, Britain’s leading arms manufacturer, used the same agency — R&CA Publications — to monitor the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and other anti-arms groups.

The agency, run by Evelyn Le Chene, a 67-year-old grandmother from Gravesend with close links to the security services, employed undercover agents to infiltrate the pressure groups on behalf of BAE, then called British Aerospace.

They downloaded computer files, rifled through personal property and copied confidential correspondence and financial information before passing it — via Le Chene — to BAE.

In return Le Chene was paid £120,000 a year, though BAE insists it did not ask her to do anything illegal.

Now Group 4, whose clients range from the prison service to the royal family and the government — and boasts of its ability to guard its customers against espionage, sabotage and subversion — has also admitted paying for information obtained by the spy network.

The revelation is certain to infuriate anti-road campaign groups such as Reclaim the Streets. The fact that government money paid to Group 4 was being used to finance Le Chene’s covertly obtained information will fuel the controversy further.

The relationship between Group 4 and Le Chene appears to have been most active in the late 1990s when the Newbury bypass became the focus of anti-roads groups when thousands occupied woodland earmarked for destruction.

The 8½-mile bypass finally opened in 1998 after years of protests delayed completion. The total cost of the project was £74m, of which nearly a third, £24m, was spent on security.

Tape-recorded conversations involving Le Chene reveal that she regularly passed information from her network of agents to Group 4. She said she had agents posted permanently at Newbury and passed on highly confidential personal information about protesters to the company.

These included accommodation addresses, vehicle registration details, National Insurance numbers, unemployment benefit details and income support information.

Group 4, which carried out work on behalf of the Highways Agency as well as construction companies such as Costain and Tarmac, helped police many of Britain’s most controversial road-building projects.

Last week a Group 4 spokesman admitted buying information on protesters. “We’ve certainly been obtaining information about protests at our customers’ sites. It is the sort of information that would be obtained in the pub about activities that may effect our customers’ people or property,” he said. “We were getting information about where protesters would be and what times in advance. We would have paid for that information.”

There is no suggestion that Group 4 asked or encouraged Le Chene in any illegal activities.

Barry Gane, a former director of Group 4, is now a co-director with Le Chene in a risk consultancy company that provides threat assessments for corporations. Gane is also a former deputy director of MI6.

The documents show that Le Chene employed her son Adrian to spy on protest groups. Using the name Adrian Mayer or Adrian Franks, he claimed to lead a small protest group called EcoAction committed to fighting the oil and arms industries. He was exposed as he attempted to infiltrate a protest group based on the Continent.

Wil van der Schaus, who helped to expose him, said: “He has sought to convince corporate clients of the necessity of his services.”

The Highways Agency said the government had funded security operations around road-building sites but it was the responsibility of the contractors involved. “Clearly we worked closely with the police and the contractors to ensure that this was carried out in a lawful way,” a spokesman said.

Many environmental campaigners have long suspected they were the subject of spying operations.

The transport department working on orders from Treasury solicitors, spent more than £700,000 in the early 1990s employing a Southampton-based detective agency to help them identify protesters. Private detectives were seen filming people and noting down public conversations.

Despite this, campaigners believed this type of surveillance alone could not account for some of the information contained in the dossiers issued by the department to support legal injunctions against them.

Le Chene, a member of the exclusive Special Forces Club in London, claims to corporate clients that she has a database containing the names of more than 148,000 people who belong to left-leaning pressure groups such as CAAT, Reclaim the Streets and CND.

She sells the names for £2.25 each to large corporations. She also makes no secret of her close contacts with police Special Branch officers.

After Le Chene’s son was exposed for infiltrating European protest groups, several of them wrote to the corporations that he was allegedly working for.

These include British Aerospace and Rio Tinto Zinc, the mining giant. Their letter said: “The person we knew as Adrian Frank from the French environmental citizens group EcoAction has for at least 1½ years under the names Adrian Lechene and Adrian Mayer been actively contacting companies, particularly in the oil and arms industry.

“He has offered these companies information about the activities of environment and peace organisations in different European countries, asking significant amounts of money in return for his services.

“We consider these espionage practices and the fact that companies were willing to use the services offered by Mr Frank/Lechene/Mayer to be highly disturbing.”

Evelyn Le Chene did not respond to requests for an interview last week.

 
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