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British police "Spotter Card" published

category international | crime and justice | other press author Monday October 26, 2009 00:13author by fitwatcher Report this post to the editors

Ever notice how the police on demonstrations seem to know your name and use it?

How they take pictures and video of specific individuals but not others?

This report from London might explain things. Of course, the gardaí don't use similar tactics and systems for catagorizing "trouble-makers" and people "who may instigate offences".

Oh no. That could never happen here.
London Metropolitan Police spotter card
London Metropolitan Police spotter card

This kind of highly confidential document – pictured above – is rarely seen by the public.

These so-called "spotter cards" are issued by police to identify individuals they consider to be potential troublemakers because they have appeared at a number of demonstrations.

The photographs are drawn from police intelligence files. This card was apparently dropped at a demonstration against Britain's largest arms fair in 2005.

H is Mark Thomas, the comedian and political activist. Asked why it was justifiable to put Thomas, who has no criminal record, on this card, the Metropolitan police replied: "We do not discuss intelligence we may hold in relation to individuals."

Thomas had been acquitted of criminal damage after attaching himself to a bus containing arms traders at a previous fair.

The Met said: "This is an appropriate tactic used by police to help them identify people at specific events … who may instigate offences or disorder."

The arms fair "is a biannual event that is specifically targeted by known protest groups, who in the past have stated their intention was to shut down or disrupt the event." As the cards are "strictly controlled", the officers who lost it were "dealt with".

Related Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/25/spotter-cards

Police surveillance of protest marchers, Dublin
Police surveillance of protest marchers, Dublin

author by iosafpublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 09:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The image was published in the small hours today. No sooner had it appeared online commentators (including myself) wondered had the Guardian any right to publish the images and then ask its readership "are you one of the people in these images how do you feel about it - or do you know the people?".

By early morning I for one had reported the publication of the September 2005 spotter cards without permission of those depicted to the UK Press Complaints commission.

By 5am Irish time the online article page of the Guardian had been changed. They've pulled their readers' comments - but a quick look at the user sections shows the comments are still stored - they havent' been deleted by the administrators of Guardian online. Indeed in the short period they were visible on the website they were being recommended by other readers.

They've now provided a different contact email for people who are in the photos to express their feelings.

The way the material has been presented in my opinion is a breach of articles 3 and 4 of the press code (privacy and harrassment) - it should also cause activists concern for their safety & it was for exactly these reasons that in the last ten years and certainly since the spotter cards were first newsworthy that it has become commonplace to hide people's features in protest photos.

If you feel the same way as I do - then go to the PCC http://www.pcc.org.uk/

author by whoispublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's a funny one- guilt by association is what is being complained about.

Let's hope that if people wish to take legal action about having their pictures used tin this way, then the action will be agaisnt the police, and not the news media who are merely reporting what the police are doing.

author by old handpublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On Monday the 12/10/09 a demo was held outside of the U.S. embassy, as it was been set up, a scruffy looking guy came out of the embassy took out his ID that showed he was in the Gardai, he then said he was going to be taking the names of all the people that would come to the demo. A video phone was produced and he was asked to repeat what he said, he then changed his ground and said he would be taking the names of the organizers only. The organizers had told the Gardai two weeks before hand of what they would be doing, they had been talking to a uniform Sergeant for half an hour or more before this guy came to inter fear. He went away from the camera asked an other man for his name and date of birth, he had on right to ask for any of them. In the end three, T.D.s the General Secretary of one of the biggest Trade Unions,and a member of the national executive of the I.C.T.U. plus many other full time trade union officials and members form S.I.P.T U. and other unions, were there. There were also many ordinary law abiding citizens there, all the time we were there, this guy and six others, who came later, were taking photos and writing down every thing that was on the banners, why? There was no need for them to be there, why were the security services of the state monitoring three T.D.s (including a FF TD) and what did it cost?

author by iosafpublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

& imagine how in that hypothetical future of 2012. you will have put loads of attention into wiping your facebook and so on so forth because you will have been finding it hard to get work.

Imagine how you will / would feel in October 2012 when the Irish Times announced that you were ID'ed as a troublemaker & asked its readers did they know who you were or invited you to ask how you felt about it.

now if you turn that around your head a little bit you won't need to reflect much on the nickname these photos and lists have handle with care . It is my opinion that they are just that.

& The Guardian is not handling them with care. To the contrary they are doing the intelligence work of the police, no?

if you feel like me go to the UK Press Complaints Commission :- http://www.pcc.org.uk/
add the link of the original article and copy the image of the page of the Guardian and put it with your complaint.

author by tomeilepublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 15:36author email tomeile at hotmail dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It’s understandable that those who do not pose any sort of threat to the established order should see this Guardian expose of state surveillance mainly as a matter of a threat to their individual right to privacy . But on balance I think the paper was right to publish this picture if only as a warning and as a proof that such databases do exist. Iosaf thinks the Guardian might have been doing the police’s work for them .I don’t think that’s the case - the police really don’t like this sort of stuff getting out .

Old Hand was right to raise the matter of police surveillance of demonstators in this country. From my understanding of the events outside the US embassy that evening , the special branch asked a demonstrator to provide an address .The demonstrator knew the law and gave the address of his union office telling the garda that the law didn’t require him to provide his own home address.

author by tomeilepublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 15:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Imagine how you will / would feel in October 2012 when the Irish Times announced that you were ID'ed as a troublemaker & asked its readers did they know who you were or invited you to ask how you felt about it."

I'd probably feel pretty upset about the hypothetical IT exposure Iosaf postulates , but if it ever happens would say that I had seen it first on Indymedia three years previously.

author by iosafpublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 15:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In what constitutes the third revision of the text since it was published this morning - the contact details for those pictured has been changed again.

The first version lasted about two hours and offered direct comments.
the second version offered the contact email of the journalist who wrote it.
the latest version offers the simple catch-all "newsdesk" email.

I repeat if you feel as strongly about this as I do ( & I wouldn't have reproduced the photo here no more than I'd like to see regular imc heads photos issued in three years time less than a week after an anti-fascist demonstration ) contact the UK press complaints commission.

this might not be as chattering class a concern as the Gately Daily Mail piece. It might not have Stephen Fry mobilising his tweeter 800,000 fans.

but it is serious.

author by IamSampublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 16:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is Indymedia not absolutely littered with pictures of Gardai and Shell workers, etc? Are their personal details not posted here on a regular basis with plenty of personal insults and professional accusations? Were a number of young men not named as Nazis with their pictures uploaded recently? What evidence was there to support this action other than peoples personal opinions?

Guilt be association? Unlike the guilt by accusation that goes on here?

Kettle, pot......

author by tomeilepublication date Mon Oct 26, 2009 16:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Apologies , perhaps the Guardian could have should have contacted everybody concerned first. But I really don't see that any potential damage to future employees is as important as the state surveillance which the Guardian article highlights in the article.

author by Damienpublication date Tue Oct 27, 2009 16:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Police, Gardaí are public servants, in the public eye and should therefore be held accountable to and by the public. There is a difference between standing up against tyranny and facilitating it. I wonder have the cops a 'spotter card' with Limerick or London criminals? Do they heck.
As for IRMS? Hired muscle/thugs.

author by protesterpublication date Tue Oct 27, 2009 19:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

perhaps it's time S2S created their very own thuggy gardai / IRMS / MI5 spotter card!

author by iosafpublication date Thu Oct 29, 2009 18:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Then we really are in a mess. The last commentator "IamSam" has been trying since this subject raised on both its current threads to argue that there is something hypocritical in our concern & no wrong on the part of our system without checks or balances, accountability or transparency. which is unique in Europe. It ought make one wonder if all other European states have moved to address the problems of accountability and transparency, why are the Irish somehow not to worry about the matter.

But "IamSam" asks us to consider "proof". We have now repeated many times in many ways that engaging with political campaigns is a legitimate activity by citizens. We have also highlighted that databases are held on those who reasonably might not be considered to be engaged in subversive activity or party to criminal conspiracy. If as "IamSam" has written the intelligence gathered on members of organised criminal syndicates and groups in Limerick as any Irish city are built in the same way as the databases on anti-war protesters, environmentalist supporters (some of whom are held in international esteem), gender politics campaigners, animal rights activists & supporters of fringe republican groups, [so on through the list of our common concerns] then we are to presume that the instruments of state security and criminal intelligence are brought to bear. To wit, interception of communications, investigation of assets, examination of alibis, psychological profiling etc.,

I hope readers see how silly "IamSam" is being.

But just in case they do not, I would like to point an obvious flaw in the position being taken by "IamSam" and those others whose reaction to the news as reported in the UK or as understood and sparking debate in Ireland, has been somewhat of a kneejerk Garda versus protester nature.

We have no reason to believe that the current system is supported by the rank & file membership of the Garda Siochana or the senior ranks of "Garda Management". Indeed building on a point I made in the first comment to my article on this subject (c/f http://www.indymedia.ie/article/94564#comment261359 ) It is a matter of public record that Garda inspectors and superintendents opposed Michael Mc Dowell's polices on general policing, community policing & other matters which fall under the sub rosa category.

As example I would suggest pondering the fall out of the "Love Ulster" Dublin riots, which were well reported on this site as in the general commercial media. In the immediate aftermath of the event Garda management found that it had to take the rap. I wrote before the riot and in its aftermath that politicians and one in particular were obviously to blame. Examining the events of that day, I could only find one reason to blame Garda management for the damage to public property (which was not particularly my concern) in the O'Connell Street area. That reason ought have been perfectly obvious : mutually antagonistic groups of the public were cordoned in an urban area where building material such as bricks and loose masonry were available on the street because of the concurrent building works on that street. Only a fool would have taken the decision to employ the characteristic British (Metropolitan police post RTS 2000 tactic) of containment at the point of Dublin city. Nonetheless that decision was made but one error might just have easily been the result of a deliberate tactic which if it was the case would imply a political strategy.

As I pointed out in my article and its comments - that is quite simply why we need accountability, oversight, transparency and the mechanisms which all other EU states have to examine such events.

In short, Mc Dowell blamed "garda management" or the superintendents and inspectors of the Garda Siochana. They were offered no opportunity to blame anyone. But subsequent publically available postures made by their representative association clearly showed a shift in their loyalty.

So - why does "IamSam" presume it's a simple case of "Plod versus Protester"?

author by iosafpublication date Thu Oct 29, 2009 20:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Even before we get all technical on civil rights (a boring subject for any Irish person) or indulge those who make these ridiculous comparisons with genuine criminal activity - let's just wonder how many concerned citizens see a protest and phone the Garda helpline.


that would be a waste of police time and resources. You could conceivably face criminal charges were you to ring up the confidential helpline & grass on a bunch of Shell to Sea protesters, a gaggle of anti-war protesters or a flock of pro-choice activists.

Why this subject attracts so many mendacious shallow minds as is their want bleating as much their trollish natures can in some way of diverting the issue to other matters, truly astounds me. But as usual it begins for these people with the simple oversight of not reading what others have said . no wonder then, that they appear to argue for keeping the unique Irish situation as it is.

author by Tpublication date Thu Oct 29, 2009 21:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mention was made above that the Garda probably have as good intelligence on criminals as they do on protestors who are expressing their legitimate right to protest and yet a comment was made that since they can't convict criminals with all this intelligence material, then the implicit deduction was made, well what would protestors have to worry about.

The point is that criminals are no threat to the state or status quo in any way. Indeed in all countries, organised crime long ago became integrated to certain parts of elements of it. At most, criminal activity to the state is at most an irritant. [The state of course serves the tiny elite of wealthy individuals at the top.] It makes no difference to them how many are robbed, injured or killed by criminals. The only thing they do is to make noise about it and use the process to tighten control over the population and of course dissent.

Over the past 4 or 5 years at any given time, there have been anything from 100 to 300 Garda stationed in a tiny village on the western tip of Mayo on behalf of Shell so that they can carry out the task granted to them of robbing the resources (i.e. gas) which belong to the Irish people. Yet in this same period, we have more intances than we can remember where in the case of Limerick, but it is not the only case, where criminal gangs have murdered some of their own and numerous innocent individuals and it got huge coverage in the press and lots of noise in the Dail. And people were rightly concerned about their own security living near these people or anyone have to unfortunately interact with them. We heard loads of talk about extra Garda and more Garda on the street etc. Similiar stories and calls for more Garda have been made for Dublin and elsewhere and endless pronouncements from polticians that they will increase numbers. But when one follows up these, one finds that perhaps one or maybe two extra Garda are assigned for just awhile in these areas and then it all blows away and yet in all this time as just this past summer (2009), at one point the state could find 300 Garda, 3 or 4 navy ships and at least 100 navy personnel, the Garda horses, numerous Garda boats, and of course the Garda Helicopter all deployed at the behest of Shell. As they say actions speaker loader than words and it shows where the state priorities are, or should we say the elite because that is whom the state largely functions for.

It should be clear to anyone who is taking note and following up on the details is that the state is always concerned about protestors because they are a political threat and a threat to the status quo (of robbing the rest of us blind) and criminal activities are largely irrelevant.

We know from the recent and sad history of countries all over the world from South America, Central America, Africa and Asia is that when executions and persecution takes hold, it is always against those who doing political type activities like defending human rights, protecting the environment, protecting the poor, defending labour etc. In all these same countries criminals run rampant and through the right connection and payments bypass any obstacles of the state so long as they are far enough up the food chain.

In a country like Ireland or anywhere in Europe, it is standard practice to collect intelligence and generally snoop on people who are politically active in any way. As Tony Benn famously said of Britian -if two people get together to write a letter to their local council, MI5 will open a file on them. One could describe the state of things in the "West" as low temperature. That is the state will harass, arrest and imprison political activists from time to time, but should the political temperature get high enough, they will just simply shoot them just like Latin America in the 1980s.

As this country goes down the tubes in the next few years because everything will be cut to pay for the bailout via NAMA to the top wealthy layer of property developers, speculators and investors who largely caused the bubble and subequent burst and people's standard of living falls along with their health, then the political temperature will go up. Crime will increase too, but little or nothing will be done about it. In line with similiar situations already described above, in the past and even the present, political repression will also go up. It may even get as far as killing them. Indeed in some ways it already has, because during the summer 'Pat the Chief' who opposes Shell had his trawler boarded late at night by four masked men, who subsequently sunk his boat and left in their inflatable and left him to drown. Effectively it was attempted murder, but lucky enough failed. There were very clear motives involved and yet the Garda and state did absolutely nothing about it. (See https://www.indymedia.ie/article/92657 )

author by Tpublication date Thu Oct 29, 2009 22:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While we are on the same topic this interesting article from the WSWS website reports that:

A central feature of the assault on democratic rights in Britain, carried out by the Labour government in the name of the “war on terror,” is its effort to criminalise political activity.

A series of articles in the Observer and Guardian newspapers reveals that the state and its various spying agencies now define all political protest and campaigning as “domestic extremism.”

The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) was established under Prime Minister Tony Blair in March 1999. It now oversees the operations of the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu) and the National Domestic Extremism Team (Ndet).

The three secretive units actively spy on and compile a database of thousands of “domestic extremists.” They also co-ordinate their work with the Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU), whose existence only came to light in February of this year.

According to the Guardian’s research, these three police units are run by the “terrorism and allied matters” committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which receives “£9m in public funding, from police forces and the Home Office, and employs a staff of 100.” The Guardian adds that Anton Setchell “is national co-ordinator for domestic extremism.”

The newspaper comments that the 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 surveillance teams at protests, rallies and public meetings. The NPOIU contains detailed files on individual protesters who are searchable by name.”

So there you have it now that the West busted itself, we are well on the way down the road to Latin America 1980s style political repression. Indeed the militarization of police forces in the past 2 to 3 decades in most countries shows that the powers that be were always aware it would somehow come to this.

The full article can be found at related link below:

Related Link: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/oct2009/bspy-o29.shtml
author by Alcock and Brownpublication date Thu Oct 29, 2009 23:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's very likely that members of the Garda Síochána will exercise their democratic right to protest against pay cuts in the coming weeks. They may even march through central Dublin on November 6th.

I guess the thing to do would be for interested activists to shove cameras in their faces and put their pictures up on indymedia, no?


author by o as if - ( iosaf )publication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 13:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

GS = garda siochana phone operator.
CC = concerned citizen.

GS : Hello, Garda confidential hotline, my name is Sven how can I help you?
CC : (whispered tones & hushed voice) I'd like to report some (choose as applicable)

* feminists with condoms complaining about abortion
* shell to sea people complaining about theft of national assets and illegal construction work.
* people with binoculars spotting rendition flights and permenant presence of US military without publically acknowledged legal frameworks at a civilian airport
* crusty hippies unhappy with motorway arrangements through cu chullain's kitchen.
* a bunch of people in sunglasses and green geansaís carrying starry plough flags around parnell square.

GS : Thank you for your call concerned citizen, I assure you your duty to grass up those exercising their constitutional and human rights to assembly, speech & freedom of opinion will not affect your statutory rights. Can I have your full name, address, phone number & a member of spotter team will come by shortly to take a written statement.

CC : I feel much relieved Sven. gurb maith agatsa.

GS : I'm sorry I didn't quite catch that, did you say gur's ma is gutsy? perhaps you'd like me to patch you through to the emergency services. We might have a RAF helicopter on standby.

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