“How many more women may have been affected by these abuses? How many more children may have been fathered by these undercover officers? It is clear the police are not going to come clean. The only way there can be real justice is if the Inquiry releases the cover names and opens the files so that these women can come forward themselves.” Kate Wilson
For four decades, top-secret political police units have been operating in Britain, spying on all forms of protest and political dissent. Thousands of people have had their lives infiltrated and their privacy and human rights violated. Now, the secret is out, and we should all have open and uncensored access to the information they held on us. But six years of shocking revelations and court battles show that that is never going to happen unless we join together to put up a fight.
We are demanding that the Inquiry releases the cover names of the officers that infiltrated social justice groups, and Pitchford releases the files held on the women, so they can understand the truth of what happened to them.
In 1991 the Wall had already fallen in Berlin, but the Stasi, the East German Secret Police continued to operate. Protesters were on hunger strike asking to see their Stasi files, but the interim government was still debating what should be done with the massive secret police apparatus. Maybe they were planning to cover it all up and keep going. Maybe they wanted to hold a public inquiry… But on 14th January the people of Berlin saw smoke rising from the massive complex of Stasi head offices, as the police frantically burned files in an attempt to destroy the evidence of decades of abuse. The next day citizens of Berlin stormed the Stasi complex to stop the destruction. On 1st January 1992 the Stasi Document Law came into effect in Germany and since then more than 7 million people have applied to see their files .
Meanwhile, in London:
“A team of undercover police officers had spent the evening drinking and chatting in a London apartment… They turned on the television to catch a news report from Germany. Tens of thousands of Germans were trawling through secret files compiled on them before the Berlin Wall came down. There was a wave of revulsion at the scale of surveillance perpetrated by the Stasi, the East German secret police… The TV report showed the distraught face of a woman in Berlin who had discovered that the man she had loved for years was a spy. There was silence in the lounge. Then one of the undercover police officers said what the others must have been thinking. ‘You do realise, this is going to happen to us one day,’ he said…” Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, Undercover: The true story of Britain’s Secret Police (2013)
In the end, it was not until 2010 that information began to come to light about the activities of Britain’s Secret Political Police. We now know that officers adopted the identities of dead children and lied their way into the heart of protest groups. They spied on anyone and everyone who was involved in political dissent or who posed a threat to the reputation of the police; they spied on the families of those people; they formed romantic relationships and lived with women for years, even proposing marriage or fathering children before disappearing; they provided intelligence in secret that led to hundreds of people being wrongfully convicted; and they worked with private companies to create illegal blacklists, ensuring political activists could not find work; And they kept thousands and thousands and thousands of files.
Each new revelation about the abuses committed by British secret political police units has caused great public outcry. But despite years of ongoing court battles and a public inquiry called by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, into the damage done by undercover policing, none of the people affected by these abuses has yet been given access to the truth.
Everything we know about these officers comes from activist researchers and whistleblowers, and the information we have covers less than 10% of the officers deployed. The Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) has been under way for over a year, but it looks more and more like it is going to be a whitewash. At best, it seems likely it will drag on for years and years, as the police obstruct the process with more and more petty applications for secrecy. Meanwhile the smoke is rising from the truckloads of files we know (from legal battles and the brave efforts of whistleblowers attempting to stop the cover-up) that the police have already destroyed.
The past six years have shown that the police will do anything to keep the truth about their operations from coming out. From 1968 to the present day, thousands of people in Britain and abroad had their lives infiltrated and their privacy violated by top-secret political police units. Now, the secret is out, yet many people still do not know that their human rights were violated or why. People have a right to know what was done to them. They must release the cover names of all the officers who were spying on political movements, release the names of all the groups that were spied on and we should all be given open and uncensored access to our files.