28 March 2012
Another secretive European police working group revealed as governments remain tight-lipped on other police networks and the activities of Mark Kennedy
Statewatch can reveal the existence of a previously unknown international police working group geared towards discussing and developing covert investigative techniques. At the same time parliamentary questions in Germany have seen further details of other police networks emerge - although many questions remain unanswered - in particular on the work and activities of former policy infiltrator Mark Kennedy.
Recent research by Statewatch has led to the discovery of an EU-funded project known as ISLE (International Specialist Law Enforcement), a project initiated with the aim of building "a network of [EU] Member State organisations that may develop coordination, cooperation and mutual understanding amongst law enforcement agencies using 'specialist techniques'." 
Project ISLE has its origins in a "pilot seminar consisting of twenty-six 'specialist technique' practitioners" held in London in 2006, and was created to increase cooperation and coordination amongst EU law enforcement authorities utilising "specialist techniques": "covert entry into premises or vehicles and the facilitation of covert searches of property, covert forensic capabilities and covertly installed technical devices." 
In 2010, as part of its programme "Prevention of and Fight against Crime", the EU awarded 115,614 for the project to the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). SOCA is one of three main "project partners", alongside Belgium's Commissariaat-Generaal Special Units (CGSU), and Germany's Bundeskriminalamt (BKA).
SOCA provides a project manager and administration, and as part of the steering group with the CGSU and BKA has a mandate to "create a larger Working Group" consisting of "full-time practitioners from organisations where their countries [sic] legislation supports 'specialist techniques'."
The "workgroup of practitioners" will:
- "Expand on existing
partnerships and create new ones, including developing Member
States, to promote and develop coordination, cooperation and
mutual understanding of 'specialist techniques'";
- "Broaden the range of 'specialist techniques' by sharing knowledge on capability, identifying common standards and jointly developing new technologies"; and
- "Implement an agreed control strategy with shared responsibility and engagement in achieving a long-term program of activity toward the development of 'specialist techniques'"
A document outlining the group's terms of reference states that:
"Participants and their organisations must be prepared to promote and encourage international, inter-agency cooperation in 'specialist techniques' and contribute to the establishment of a long-term program."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, secrecy is clearly the order of the day:
"Organisations with diplomatic/political responsibilities may find it difficult to participate openly during information exchanges and due consideration should be given to their role in the project."
Europol provides a secure database and communication channels in order to permit secure communication and information exchange between participants.
ISLE's official starting date as an EU-funded project was 9 November 2009, with one document stating that the project "will take no more than 36 months, including three months for the production and submission of the final report."
The group should currently be moving into the phase of producing this final report. The financing, participants, practices, and accountability of the group are currently the subject of further research.
One of many
Project ISLE is the latest addition to a growing list of publicly-known but highly secretive international police networks concerned with infiltration and surveillance. They include:
- The Cross-Border Surveillance
Working Group, made up of "mobile task forces on surveillance
techniques, drawn from 12 EU Member States and Europol";
- The Remote Forensic Software User Group, created "to promote the sale of German Trojan software abroad";
- The International Working Group on Undercover Policing (IWG), made up of "spy chiefs from European countries as well as from countries such as the US, Israel, New Zealand and Australia"; and
- The European Cooperation Group on Undercover Activities (ECG)
In May this year, the German MP for Die Linke, Andrej Hunko, received a lengthy response to a number of parliamentary questions that have now been translated into English. The answers to some of his questions reveal further details of these the composition and practices of these groups, although many of the government's responses cite "reasons of confidentiality" for refusing public access to information. 
The Cross-Border Surveillance Working Group (CSW) first met in 2005, and its meetings have included representatives from thirteen states (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the UK) and Europol, whose representative contributes "Europol's technical perspective."
The German government has refused to say on whose initiative the group first met and what "operative and tactical options" were raised by the German delegation at CSW meetings. It has also refused to disclose what contributions Europol has made to the group in the last five years. In nine of his thirteen questions about the CSW Hunko was told that for "reasons of confidentiality" the government could not make their answer publically available.
However, there is more transparency over meetings concerned with surveillance software used for telecommunications interception and the remote searching of individuals' computers - products that German police forces have in the past used to "surveil people's internet activity beyond what is allowed by the law." 
Details are provided in the German government's answers at ten different meetings held since 2008, with law enforcement agencies from a number of different states attending, including France, the Netherlands, Canada, the USA and Israel.
Their answers reveal that a meeting in October 2010 was devoted to discussion of the software package FinSpy, produced by the German company Gamma International. Assessment of the product by the BKA was "fundamentally positive" from a technical point of view and they "purchased a licence for the FinSpy software for a limited period of time for test purposes in early 2011."
Gamma has also offered its products to the authorities of countries such as Oman, Turkmenistan, Egypt, and Bahrain, and in 2012 received a Big Brother Award for its willingness to cooperate with "government agencies of countries where human rights are respected to a far lesser degree than here in Germany." 
In April, the European
Parliament called for the introduction of strict rules on the
export of tools that could be used to block websites and monitor
communications, although no new legislation has yet been drafted.
The German government's answers also confirm that the International Working Group on Undercover Activities (IWG) was established in 1989, when the BKA joined. The German Customs Investigation Service (Zollkriminalamt) began participating in 2000. Once again, however, the government declined to answer the majority of questions publicly for "reasons of confidentiality."
The European Cooperation Group on Undercover Activities was also the subject of a number of questions from Hunko, and the German government has stated the group was established for:
"The promotion of international cooperation by law enforcement agencies at the European level with respect to the deployment of undercover investigators to combat organised crime."
It is unclear why the "covert deployment of the British police officer Mark Kennedy" was discussed at the group's meeting in 2011, considering its apparent concern with organised crime. Despite seven years undercover, there is no clear evidence that his work succeeded in preventing or exposing any specific incidents that would amount to serious or organised crime.
Kennedy was exposed as a police spy following the collapse of a prosecution against environmental activists in the UK in early 2011, sparking a public outcry and the subsequent outing of a number of other infiltrators in protest movements. 
Whilst deployed undercover, Kennedy visited "11 countries on more than 40 occasions," feeding back information to the UK's National Public Order Intelligence Unit (now the National Domestic Extremism Unit) and subsequently police intelligence units from other countries. 
Outside of the UK and Northern Ireland, he visited the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Spain, Denmark, the USA, Poland, France, Italy, and Iceland, and according to the ruling of the UK Court of Appeal in the case that finally led to him being exposed, "Kennedy was involved in activities which went much further than the authorisation he was given," and was "arguably, an agent provocateur." 
Oversight and accountability
Despite fairly detailed knowledge of some of Kennedy's movements and activities  national parliaments are still being denied information on his work, as noted by Andrej Hunko:
"The Icelandic police are stubbornly rejecting requests from the Minister of Justice to release full details of his activity into the public domain, claiming that disclosure would prejudice British security interests. Even though Members of the Iceland Parliament have a right to ask questions on police matters, they are not being given any information."
Invoking "British security interests" would seem to suggest that there is clearly still much more information on the deployment by British authorities of police infiltrators overseas to come to light.
A report published earlier this year by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on "national police units which provide intelligence on criminality associated with protest" was condemned by one police monitoring group, Fitwatch, as "a farce" that "fails to address any of the concerns addressed by activists." 
Those concerns include the matter of sexual relations between infiltrators and activists, an issue also raised by Hunko, who has called for the British government to:
"Disclose all information regarding the activity of Mark Kennedy in Germany and to inform all interested parties retrospectively of his activity. This is the only way in which key questions can be answered, such as whether he had sexual relations on false pretences with targets or contacts in Germany, as he did in the UK."
Numerous examples of infiltrators entering relationships with activists have come to light, and eight women are currently engaged in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police alleging that they "were deceived into having long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers." 
Yet despite one chief police officer stating that it would be "morally wrong" and "grossly unprofessional" for infiltrators to sleep with activists, the UK's policing minister, Nick Herbert, has endorsed the practice, saying that a ban: "would provide a ready-made test for the targeted criminal group to find out whether an undercover officer was deployed among them." 
Kennedy is now reported to be working for the Densus Group, "a US company that targets anti-capitalist demonstrators" run by Sam Rosenfeld, a "former British Army officer who toured Northern Ireland." Kennedy "provides 'risk and threat assessments' to companies that suspect they might fall victim to 'direct action'," according to London's Evening Standard  in an article seemingly based largely on reports originally posted on Indymedia UK. 
It remains unclear whether the full details of what happened during Kennedy's seven years of undercover work will ever come to light or be comprehensively addressed by the authorities. As admitted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary: "no single authorising officer appears to have been fully aware either of the complete intelligence picture in relation to Mark Kennedy or the NPOIU's activities overall," and "the full extent of his activity remains unknown." 
Information currently in the public domain makes up only a small piece of a global puzzle of police working groups and networks dealing with infiltration, intrusion and surveillance not just of criminal groups, but political activists.
That there is a pan-European effort to collect and collate information and intelligence on left-wing activists is clear from the existence of Europol's Analysis Working File Dolphin, which contains information on the No Borders network and "attacks against railway transports," taken by some to cover either protests against trains carrying nuclear waste, or the No TAV (Treno Alta Velocità) movement in Italy that opposes the construction of a high-speed railway line. 
The legal implications of the deployment of undercover officers and intrusive surveillance techniques are significant, as is their impact on individuals. According to Hunko, the internationalisation of police work means that "parliamentary oversight is the loser." He has called for secret international police networks to be "relentlessly exposed", stating that:
"Even in the national context it is difficult to detect illegal practices on the part of police forces and intelligence services. Securing judicial convictions for criminal offences is even harder. How much more, then, must the increasingly cross-border nature of police cooperation muddy these waters?" 
Note: This article was amended on 28 August 2012 to show the correct amount of money awarded by the EU to SOCA. This was originally published as being 70,000.
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