Fitwatch reveals new evidence of police data gathering

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New disclosure obtained by Fitwatch from the Metropolitan Police, (and revealed in the Financial Times today), has further revealed the extent to which police gather data on political protesters. The documents – ‘Criminal Intelligence’ reports (CRIMINTs), compiled by FIT (Forward Intelligence Teams) – show the Met are compiling and retaining reports of individuals, despite them having done nothing unlawful.

The reports contain information about individuals attending and speaking at a demonstration against the BBC in January 2009. The protest had been called after the BBC decided not to broadcast an appeal for the victims of Israel’s offensive against Gaza.

Details of individuals who appear seem to have been picked out at random by police. One individual, who was stopped and searched (although nothing unlawful was found), told police he was a member of Stop the War, one of the groups who had organised the demo. His attendance at the protest, and political affiliations were then recorded on the CRIMINT, along with his personal details. Jeremy Corbyn MP, attending the demonstration as a speaker, was also named on the report. A Liberal Democrat speaker was referred to, but not named.

CRIMINT reports are entered onto a general purpose criminal database accessible to all Met Police officers and can be cross referenced and linked to other databases, including the Met’s Public Order Unit (CO11) image database at New Scotland Yard. Searchable by name, address, or by protest event, they create a sinister database that can be used to track the attendance of individuals at political meetings, rallies and demonstrations, allowing the police to build detailed Stasi-like files on political protesters.

The CRIMINT reports obtained by Fitwatch form only a small sample of those produced on the day, which was a peaceful and mostly uneventful demonstration. FIT teams were focussed on surveillance of young Asian males, as this was the ‘profile’ they said, of those who had committed violence on previous demonstrations. These people would also have been the subject of CRIMINT reports, which are available to a range of policing units including the ‘domestic extremism’ units run by ACPO, and counter-terrorism units.

There is a web of data and ‘intelligence’ stored across the UK’s police forces, agencies and ‘quasi-operational units’ such as NPOIU and NETCU. Increasingly this information is capable of being linked and cross referenced, enabling the police to build profiles of individuals and their activities, whether criminal or not. (see for example The Guardian’s recent exposé).

The depth and breadth of these profiles are unprecedented. The rapidly growing capability of databases and search systems allow a much greater collection and more detailed analysis than was ever possible before. The capacity of our modern day police to create ‘intelligence’ on political activists would put the Stasi to shame. It is a serious threat to political freedoms, and puts a huge amount of power in the hands of the police and their political masters.

The CRIMINT reports were obtained as disclosure during a criminal case against three Fitwatchers arrested for obstructing police cameras during a demonstration in London on 24th January 2009. The three have been convicted and have had an appeal against conviction dismissed. They now intend to take a further appeal case questioning the legality of FIT operations and data gathering activities.

9 thoughts on “Fitwatch reveals new evidence of police data gathering

  1. The three have been convicted and have had an appeal against conviction dismissed.

    Ah so the truth is out – Fitwatch fail yet again,

    Any chance of you getting a like yet?

  2. Police use of protest photos will face review
    By Michael Peel, James Boxell and Marc Vallée
    Published: June 30 2010 18:40 | Last updated: June 30 2010 18:40

    The use of police databases containing thousands of photographs of
    demonstrators is to be reviewed by ministers as part of a government
    vow to expand the right to non-violent protest.

    The Home Office told the Financial Times it would examine police use
    of photography during public order operations after criticism that
    forces held intelligence records on many people who have not been
    convicted of crimes.

    The review came as the Association of Chief Police Officers revamped
    guidelines for policing protests in after [Ian Tomlinson collapsed and
    later died at last year’s G20 summit][IANT] after being shoved to the ground
    in London by an officer.

    The Home Office said it would review police use of images, even though
    there was already protection in law for people whose data was recorded
    by forces. “We will look at the use of photography by the police
    during public order operations. This work will be supported by Acpo’s
    revision of public order policing guidance and training,” it said.

    Civil liberties campaigners said the photo databases showed how
    intelligence tactics were being used against protest groups such as
    climate activists, suggesting the police were treating potential
    “domestic extremists” in the same way as suspected terrorists.

    [Scotland Yard last year culled 40 per cent of the pictures in a
    2,500-item image bank][CULL] after the Court of Appeal forced it to delete
    pictures of Andrew Wood, an anti-arms trade campaigner, whom it
    photographed in the street as he left a corporate annual meeting.

    The dispute over police intelligence gathering surfaced in a court
    case last month involving FitWatch, an anti-police surveillance group,
    when the evidence included a Scotland Yard “criminal intelligence”
    report on a demonstration in January 2009 against the conflict in
    Gaza. The document included details unrelated to suspected crime, such
    as an account of those who addressed the crowd at the event, including
    Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP.

    Fiyaz Mughal, interfaith and extremism adviser to Mr Clegg, confirmed
    he had spoken at the event and said he was surprised to find a
    reference to his participation included in a police report. He said:
    “This raises the question of whether we are seen as having suspect
    views, or as individuals that need to have an eye kept on them.”

    The police say they are governed by strict data protection laws when
    storing photographs and that forces regularly cull their databases.
    “The whole point of gathering intelligence is trying to build a
    picture of what happened at an event,” the spokeswoman said. “If you
    delete a particular photo then you could miss a whole piece of the

  3. An animal rights activist and great friend of the FIT was jailed for 10 years after being found guilty today of planting homemade petrol bombs at Oxford University.

    Mel Broughton, 49, put the devices under a portable cabin at Templeton College and on the roof of a cricket pavilion at Queen’s College.

    The pavilion device caused damage put at £14,000, but two other bombs failed to go off. Broughton, who spearheaded animal welfare group Speak, was protesting against the building of an animal testing laboratory at Oxford.

    Judge Patrick Eccles QC sentenced Broughton, of Northampton, to 10 years in jail after the jury found him guilty of conspiracy to commit arson following a four-week retrial at Oxford crown court. Broughton was originally convicted of the offences by a jury in February 2009, and successfully appealed against his conviction in February this year.

    The Court of Appeal then ordered a retrial. The two and a half years Broughton has already spent in custody will be deducted from his sentence.

  4. What has Mel’s case got to do with anything? It was yet another case of the state trying again and again and again to get the “right” result. Mel is one of the greatest animal rights activists in the country who was challenging one of the most powerful institutions in the land, they had to silence him. I do not accept that this verdict was right, no do I accept that he is guilty but hey ho we will just have to get on with things and accept that the police are as an institution very powerful, very corrupt, vindictive, violent and hateful towards anyone who challenges power. We have to accept that the police are our enemy and want to lock us up and hurt us, occassionally we may have a common aim with the police e.g protecting a community from flooding but the normal state of affairs is that if we are questioning effectively the right of a big institution to kill,to maim, torture and oppress whether the victim be a rat in HLS or a child in Gaza then we will face some shit from the police no matter what tactics we use. Mel’s case is an excellent example of this and a call to fight back.
    Effectively challenging the police when they behave badly is integral to all struggles against oppression.

  5. 36 members of the jury have now decided on ‘Mels” guilt – as to the relevance it’s an illustration of how these things go … Mel was an original member of SHAC until his dalliance meant he had to form his own group. He tried protest but his minority views swayed little public opinion and the Lab got built – frustrated at his failure he turned to more extreme measures – these focused police attention him and he was caught – tried 3 times and put in prison. So – keep it legal and you’ll stay out of jail but unless you can gain real public support you are likely to fail.

  6. Juries can and do send innocent people to prison and set guilty ones free. They can be comprised of anyone over 18 years of age. They can only convict or acquit on what they are shown in evidence. No I can’t think of a better way of conducting a trial and I think that the jury system is the best yet devised. Could do much better though. Let us stop pretending that the police and courts are infallible and have the best interests of the public at heart. This was political, the lab was built AFTER Mel was imprisoned in 2007, certainly long after the alleged offence. Not all jurors found Mel guilty one jury was hung.
    By the way Sean Kirtley kept “it legal” and spent 18 months in prison and despite being utterly exonerated will not recieve compensation so that theory is crap. Re public support well many do support the animal right movement but as with other causes which have challenged societal norms to the core such as the fight against sexism there is always a backlash, ridicule, oppression and violence from the state. In their day the Suffragettes were very unpopular in many quarters, they were still right though and now regarded as heroes. The main thing is to continue to fight for what is right, not accept what is easy. I will not lose any sleep over what some hack writes in the Daily Mail.

  7. Fiyaz Mughal has now written to the Met Comissioner demanding an explanation for his presence being recorded on the crimint database, and Nick Clegg is going to “look into the matter”, according to the article “Clegg aide on secret Yard database” in today’s Sunday Times. They quote Mughal as:

    “It seems that simply speaking at a lawful demonstration warrants a criminal intelligence report,” he wrote. “Such activity by the Met, in my opinion, is tantamount to an intrusion into the human and civil rights of citizens who are undertaking their legitimate right to demonstrate.”

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