Recently a GPS tracking device was found under the car of an activist in Valencia. The activist was ‘Lily’, who is part of the group of women suing the Metropolitan Police; she was deceived into a two-year relationship with undercover police officer Mark Kennedy.
The progressive German daily newspaper die taz broke the story initially in Der Track des Lebens, followed up by Directa, a Catalan magazine. Jesús Rodríguez/Albert Martínez wrote two articles based on interviews with Lily, one on her fight against surveillance and another on the activities of Mark Kennedy in Spain and Cataluña (thanks to the author for permission to use the material).
In this article we provide the bits so far not covered in the English speaking press, in a translation approved by Lily herself.
‘Lily’ was stopped by the Spanish police twice recently, according to die taz, the first time at the border on returning from Paris early February and her car was taken away, out of her sight for over an hour to be “searched”. The second time was during the Circumvention Tech Festival – ‘Joining forces to fight censorship and surveillance’ – in Valencia, for an identity control. The device, with it’s own autonomous battery system, contained a Spanish SIM-card, and was taped just above the front wheel, and spotted because the wiring had become visible. Despite circulating pictures of the GPS device on line in an effort to identify it, the trackers origin has not yet been established. (For mor detail see this analysis of its components. Curiously, most is not state of the art stuff.) Lily has filed a complaint in the Spanish courts.
I came to the Circumvention Tech Festival to talk about the case and the connections between RIPA, digital rights and privacy issues. [RIPA: The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is the UK Act regulating the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and covering the interception of communications.]
It is difficult for me to talk about these issues in public, but I want people to know that these things are happening. It is my experience that, although we know that the state watches in general, we find it difficult to imagine what it actually means for our lives. Finding the GPS gave me a sense of vulnerability: you are being followed, you are being watched, there is a state apparatus that is against you. I wanted to hide, but they are much larger than me. They know where I live, where I have been, where I work. Although I would prefer to remain hidden, I cannot hide and I decided not to be silent. People have to know, which is why I am speaking here.
Kennedy’s presence in different countries of the European Union between 2003 and 2010 has been reconstructed, with witnesses and photographs at the PowerBase.info web portal [actually, a predecessor of the Undercover Research Group! See Kennedy’s soon to be updated undercover profile and the chronology of his activities], including his stay in Spain for a few months 2006. He came to Spain as part of an international tour talking about the campaign Saving Iceland, which was a series of talks about the construction of a dam in Iceland. He first went to a camp in Iceland and then made the tour of talks in 2006, visiting Catalonia, as well as Valencia, Madrid, Murcia and Barcelona.
In the Catalan capital, Barcelona, the infiltrator visited the Forat de la Vergonya (la Ribera) and Can Masdeu (Nou Barris), as has been documented in a photo album compiled by Kennedy back in the days to which we have access. He also made a snapshot of the neighbourhood Blokes Fantasma, (la Salud, Gracia). [El Forat is a neighbourhood struggle/guerilla garden; Los Blokes and CanMasDeu are squatted social centres.]
We don’t know the answer to that question yet. However, the presence of foreign police in Catalan territory should always have the permission of the Catalan government and the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, except in cases where there is a chase in a border point and previously the both countries have signed an agreement that authorizes it.
Was his presence in Catalonia supervised by the Mossos d’Esquadra [the police force of Catalonia] and the Spanish National Police?(…) Because he did not speak Spanish, I doubt Kennedy has been able to infiltrate much in Spain, but for his presence here he must have received the authorization of the Spanish authorities – For me it would be interesting to know who was paying him whilst we were visiting tourist sites around the city!
How did his unit communicated with him?
I think by phone. He explained to me that he worked freelance as a messenger delivering packages for a friend of his family who had a business in Bristol. He would say “he called me and I have to go to London tomorrow,” and disappear for a few days, and now we think that this man was his supervisor.
Have the other women also been under surveillance?
We know that prior to the court case several of these women were under surveillance while they were looking for information on their former partners. Some have been watched for many years. I may be the first of the women to have objective data that we are being followed since we started the court case, but we take it for granted. In any case, this GPS seems to have been placed by the Spanish police officers [when I was taken aside at the border entering Spain], and I do not know if there is a relationship with the court case against the infiltrators in London.
Do you have another theory?
I have been active for seventeen years in anti-globalization movements, environmental and social justice and I know that at times I was under permanent surveillance. I have known six police infiltrators and have lived with one of them. Since the Snowden revelations we know that we are all subject to constant surveillance, especially those of us who are active in social movements, so this is my fight: against surveillance, for the right to privacy and against the persecution of social movements. Last December I was at the Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg, Germany, to discuss the case. I also talked about the events that had just happened in Spain, where a judge had seven anarchists imprisoned, citing, among other arguments, “the production of publications and forms of communication,” and the fact that they used ” e-mails with extreme security measures” as the server RISE UP.
Yes. But beyond the specific case, the bottom line is that not letting the police and secret services have access to your private communications at all times is now being used as a reason to imprison people.
They collect data from everyone, but particularly social movements and they are attacking anyone who tries to fight for a better world. That is why they are following me. I do not know if the Spanish police are collaborating with European police forces, sharing information, or just whether the CNP [Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, Spanish police] just singled me out on their own.
Are there infiltrators here?
I am convinced that there are infiltrators in Barcelona. If not, why would the Spanish National Police take part in the European Cooperation Group on Undercover Activities? We don’t have many confirmed cases, however, in the UK, the courts collaborated with police for years to conceal the police’s illegal activities and immoral practices. Already more than 50 convictions have been quashed there after it was discovered undercover officers were involved, and that information was never provided to the defence of the accused at the time.
Occasionally they may make selective arrests of people they want to control, but they don’t do it often, precisely because it could put their undercover operations at risk of discovery.
Lily’s story is at the Police spies out of Lives site, she was interviewed in the File on Four documentary, and The Guardian has covered parts of her story.
“The Undercover Research Group comprises a small set of dedicated activist-investigators who individually and collectively have already been diligently researching the subject of state and corporate spying for a number of years….
Having worked on aspects of this topic individually for several years before joining forces, the core group is now committed to work extensively on this project for the coming two years. We cooperate with a larger group of around 20 people, drawn from a broad spectrum of politically progressive activism, such as CorporateWatch, Statewatch, Netpol in the UK, buro Jansen & Janssen in the Netherlands, and other activist researchers across Europe. This network of people contributes specific knowledge or skills, donating their time and expertise when they can.”