smhwpf: (BuffyAnne)

It appears that my emails were illegally hacked by the Metropolitan Police, probably some time in the 2000s.

The Guardian ran an article on Tuesday about how the Met, in cooperation with Indian police, used Indian hackers to illegally access the email accounts of hundreds of activists, and were regularly reading their emails. This was revealed in information sent by a whistleblower to Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the House of Lords (Britain's unelected Upper House of Parliament). The information will be submitted to the ongoing Pitchford Undercover Police Enquiry, which resulted from revelations about police spies forming long-term relationships with women they were spying on. (Who were unaware of their true identities).

In particular, the information included a list of ten names with associated passwords. The article says that lawyers from Bindmans, a leading UK human rights law partnership, had contacted 6 of the people on the list, who had all provided passwords that matched exactly, or in one case almost exactly, the ones on the list.

I was one of the four who had not yet been contacted at the time the article was written. I got an email from a Bindmans lawyer on Tuesday, (which at first I took for spam - this was before I saw the Guardian article), informing me that I may have been the target of illegal hacking.

My main problem was, I have had a lot of email accounts and a lot of different passwords. It seems the list just had names and passwords, no details of the email accounts in question or the time they were hacked. But after some emails back and forward, he sent me a set of eleven dashes, corresponding to the length of the password he had for me, with two of them filled in. This fit one of the passwords I have used in the past (and will not be using again for anything!), so I sent him that one, and this was indeed the one he had on the list.

(Obviously it would not be nearly so strong evidence if he had just told me the password and I had confirmed it.)

The password in question is one I did not use before 2003. As I left the UK for Sweden in late 2007, and soon stopped being active in the UK activist scene (beyond the odd letter to MP or online petition, etc.), I would guess that the hacking can't have taken place too long after that. My best guess is that it related to my involvement with Campaign Against Arms Trade, in particular as a member of their Steering Committee from I think 2004-2007. We know, after all, that BAE was spying on our emails around that time. But there are other possibilities.

So our email correspondence will be going into the Pitchford inquiry. The Bindmans guy will be getting in touch at some stage to discuss next steps, whatever this might involve.

I can't say I am massively surprised. When you're involved in left-wing, environmentalist, trade union, or peace activism, etc. etc., you pretty much expect that the government may well be spying on you in some way, while wondering if you are just being paranoid or self-important.

You are not being paranoid or self-important. If you are involved to any significant extent in activities that fundamentally challenge the government, then the government probably are spying on you in some way, and not just the bulk meta-data collection by which they are passively spying on just about everyone.

The police are not, and never have been, neutral, apolitical upholders of the law and protectors of the public. They are, and always have been, first and foremost the protectors of the rich and powerful, and upholders of the established order. This should not be news to anyone who is paying attention. (I'm not saying that there are not plenty of police officers who are decent people who are seeking to serve the public, or that the police do not also provide an important public service. But as an institution, their raison d'être is fundamentally politically reactionary).

So I am not surprised, but I am certainly angry that the police were illegally reading my emails: potentially my personal correspondence with friends and family as well as my political activities, professional correspondence, Buffy fandom exchanges, and whatever else. (I am not completely sure which accounts they hacked; I can't remember which accounts I used this passwords for when. So I don't know for certain if my personal email was one of the ones hacked). The fact that this sort of behaviour by the police is normal (and that they have done much worse) does not make it acceptable or right.

I hope that Pitchford will succeed in digging out some of the truth of all this and that there will be some sort of consequences, although I can't say I'm optimistic that the state will stop spying activists who oppose them; a unit may be disbanded, and declared to have been a Very Bad Thing, and not at all in keeping with our values, and we do things differently now; but other ways will be found. It is the nature of the beast.

(For those who do correspond with me: I am confident that this password is one that I have not used for my main personal email account for at least, oh, 7 years or so. I am going to start shifting away from that account, however, which is not with the world's most secure provider).
smhwpf: (Owl)
Well, I have referred to it somewhat cryptically in previous posts, but it is now all in the public domain.

The Guardian reported today (page 2 in fact!) that Campaign Against Arms Trade is taking legal action against our former National Campaigns Co-ordnator, Martin Hogbin, for passing confidential information, alleging that he was a spy for BAE Systems. This followed revelations in the Sunday Times last year that BAE were paying a consultancy, La Chene, to infiltrate CAAT.

Read more... )
smhwpf: (Buffy fire)
On Saturday I received... well not legal proof, but sufficient evidence for practical purposes, to confirm that someone in an organisation in which I am involved, who I trusted and considered a friend, was in fact all along, over 7 years, a traitor who was spying for our greatest enemies, informing on all of us. More than that, I believe, he was deliberately exacerbating differences within the organisation, playing us, fucking with our heads. He certainly did with me. He still is with some people who still believe in him and refuse to believe he could possibly be a traitor.

It's all beginning to sink in, but it's hard to grasp. The fact that he was someone completely different to the person I thought he was. That that person I knew, worked with, chatted with, drank with, didn't actually exist. A fictional character. It's wierd. One possibly good aspect is I don't feel any hatred towards him, because... who is there to hate? The person behind the mask, I don't actually know anything about. Well, I know he's a very clever, nasty, cynical, deceitful, manipulating arsewipe, yes, but that's just saying I know there is a person of those qualities who goes by the name (probably) and appearance of this fictional character I knew, but I don't know that person. If that makes any sense.

I'm certainly angry, though mostly just left cold. I think I'm most angry at what he's doing to people now, the people who are (or think they are) closest to him. One guy who is one of the best people we've got, but who seems convinced this is all a big mistake or even a conspiracy. He's still in contact with the traitor, he's been, so I get the impression, the person on whose shoulder the traitor has been crying about his infamous ill-use by the organisation. Getting him to fight his battles, stirring him up into a state, twisting him round his finger, perpetuating yet more division and strife. He (the traitor's victim) must be torn in two by all this. I don't know if I should speak to him, try to convince him. One friend in the organisation with whom I've been discussing things has advised me not to, that he won't be amenable to reason. But I don't know, it may be worth trying, and I don't see what harm it would do. It would reveal where I stand now, but I think he'll have more than an inkling of that by now.

Still trying to work out my feelings towards the traitor... I guess it still hasn't really sunk in, in that there's still this total mismatch between my memories of him (haven't seen him in a while), which are still in many ways warm ones, and what I actually now know. Still trying to process al those memories and reinterpret them in the light of who he actually is. I think I need to do this to be able to forgive, because I need to know who to forgive. It is too easy to forgive the fictional character, I forgave him many times when he let me down in various ways when we worked together, which I put down at the time to weakness, but now view in a more sinister light. He's easy to forgive. But I need to be able to forgive the real person, whoever that is, not the fiction.

Part of me not feeling all that forgiving. Finding it sort of reassuring that in the 9th Circle of Dante's Inferno, traitors are encased in ice for all eternity. (Dante in fact expounds a curious theory that when a person turns traitor, their soul is immediately taken down to hell and replaced by a demon. Hmm, not sure I go with that.) But when I read Psalm 109 , I found I couldn't actually wish all those things on him, so that's something.

Of course, the question could be asked, is he really a traitor? A traitor is someone who turns coat, changes sides, sells out his country/cause/friends, no? But he didn't do that. He never was on our side. But he did betray the trust of people who had become his friends, colleagues, employers. I think that counts.

Raises all sorts of questions about trust, whether you actually know people, etc. I think my default will remain to trust people and assume that they are who they say they are unless I have good reason not to. Perhaps I'll be a little bit more careful about whom I trust with what. In fact, who should I be allowing to access this post, have I been too trusting on the basis of too little knowledge of people? No, I haven't, but I'm thinking the fewer know about all this the better at this stage. *further restricts group* The more know, the more danger things inadvertantly get out. So maybe I should make it a private post. *switches entry to private* I've already talked about it with some people. I must resist the urge to display my feelings and traumas before an audience. Not the time or place for it. Or shall I make it available to just one or two? Well, yes, I've already talked about it with one of you, so may as well. *switches back to even more restricted group* Sort of makes all the cryptic language above rather superfluous. But please don't go spreading this. I shouldn't really be talking about it.

But back to the point I was on,you can't live always suspecting your friends of being someone else, you'd go mad. Anyway, outside the campaigning organisation context it's not really an issue. And within an organisation, how can you know? You can't have people followed or bugged. You can only check their background so much. We can't start behaving like MI5. Gah! I suppose you just have to be aware of the possibility, and be careful.

So you, XXX, how do I know you're not a spy, infiltrating Unite 4 Peace on behalf of BAE or MI5 or the MoD? You're nice and wonderful? So did the traitor appear. Well, in your case you were actually brought up in the peace movement, so you'd actually have had to have been bought at some point, rather than infiltrating from outside. In fact, you'd have had to decide to go along to them one day and say "Hey, I'm in this peace group, but I want to sell them out, what can you offer?". It all seems vanishingly unlikely. There's all sorts of other things I can think of, that make me think "surely a spy wouldn't do that!", but then how can I rule out the possibility that all this is designed to make people think just that?

I can't. It seems pretty bloody unlikely that anyone would go to such efforts, but I can't say it's impossible.

And you, YYY, I have an even harder task in proving you're not working for the enemy. (Not that you don't have the nice and wonderful things going for you also, just the imbibed peace movement with mother's milk thing.)

But don't worry, I still choose friendship and trust over paranoia. :-)

Then again, how do you know I'm not a spy? I'm not sure I can think of any really convincing arguments.

You see how this all shakes the head up, upends the worldview? But I don't think this will make me a suspicious, paranoid, swivel-eyed crazy, incapable of trust and forever looking over my shoulder.

Just a bit sadder and wiser maybe.

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