Note for admins: yes this comes from mainstream newspaper, but it's not all available online.
The Independent / 1994-11-03
Jason Bennetto / Special Branch to target protesters
The police Special Branch is to spend more time monitoring public demonstrations and targeting animal rights activists, new guidelines revealed yesterday.
The shift in focus away from counter-espionage work comes the day before the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law, giving the police greater powers to prevent demonstrations, raves and anti-hunt protests.
A further sign of changing security priorities, brought on by the end of the Cold War and of IRA violence, came with the announcement that up to 500 jobs are to go over three years at the Government's GCHQ electronic intelligence gathering centre in Cheltenham.
Every police force in the country has a Special Branch unit. Of the approximately 2,000 officers in England, Scotland and Wales, more than 400 work at Scotland Yard.
The Home Office and Scottish Office stressed in the updated guidelines published yesterday that gathering and analysing information on terrorist threats remained top priority for Special Branch.
But the report which replaces the 1984 guidelines, put greater emphasis on Special Branch collecting intelligence about animal rights extremists and public disorder. It said the police 'need accurate assessments of the public order implications of events such as marches and demonstrations', and added that Special Branch officers are usually responsible 'for gathering intelligence on animal rights extremist activity, and seeking to prevent attacks on persons and property targeted by such extremists'.
Special Branch officers were used to monitor last month's Criminal Justice Bill rally in London, which was followed by running battles between protesters and the police.
The Branch is responsible for gathering intelligence about threats to national security, particularly terrorism and sabotage, providing armed protection for VIPs, gathering information about offences connected firearms and explosives and preventing the spread of information about nuclear and chemical weapons. It also carries out surveillance at ports and airports and makes inquiries about immigration and naturalisation.
Although the new guidelines were drawn up in July - before the IRA ceasefire - a security source said counter-terrorism would remain the main focus of the Special Branch work. Overall control of the gathering of intelligence against the IRA was passed to MI5 in 1992.
Subversion and foreign spies are regarded as a 'much reduced threat', the guidelines say.
The Independent / 1994-12-29
Jason Bennetto / Crackdown on green terrorists
Environmental 'terrorists' and green activists are to be targeted by Special Branch as part of a change in security priorities.
The crackdown reflects the police's belief that protests against road building and land clearance will continue to escalate. Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Howley, head of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, confirmed that this was a new police priority.
He said: 'There are a lot of people concerned about the environment ... We are primarily concerned about the extremists, those who for example put bombs under cars.' He added that two recent examples of environmental activism were protests over the M11 link road in east London and Twyford Down, in Hampshire.
The changing emphasis for the Special Branch, which is responsible for gathering intelligence about threats to national security, also reflects the end of IRA violence and the Cold War. They can now spend time on hitherto neglected areas.
Environmentalists argue that the vast majority of their actions are legal and peaceable and that the Branch is merely attempting to justify its existence.
Last month the publication of the Branch's new guidelines revealed that it was to spend more time monitoring public demonstrations and targeting animal rights activists.
The growing concern over 'eco-terrorists' follows the proliferation of environmental groups. There are now more than 140 local anti-roads groups. Nationally organisations such as the Environmental Liberation Front and Green Anarchist have been credited with using booby traps to disrupt work at several motorway sites. The Freedom Network, a rainbow alliance of environmental groups, has helped unite opposition against the Criminal Justice Bill.
Despite the IRA ceasefire, counter terrorism will remain the main focus of the Branch's work until peace is established.
The Independent / 1998-11-07
Jason Bennetto / Police unit to target green protesters
A national police unit is being set up to track green activists and public demonstrations amid fears that "eco-warriors" are becoming increasingly disruptive and violent.
The intelligence squad, which will use information from Special Branch officers and MI5, will compile profiles of protesters and organisations considered to be potentially troublesome.
Among the people to be targeted are campaigners against road building and live animal exports, protesters at industrial disputes, hunt saboteurs and far-right groups.
The unit will also draw up action plans that chief constables can introduce to head off potential disorder. The move follows growing concern among police chiefs that so called eco-warriors are becoming increasingly organised and creating an ever growing threat to public order.
Green and civil rights activists reacted with anger to the disclosure of the new outfit, which is to be called the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
They argued yesterday that civil liberties and the right to peacefully demonstrate were being undermined. There are also fears that people on legal protests could be listed as troublemakers.
The national unit, which is due to be operational by the end of the year, will be based at Scotland Yard. It is expected to be headed by Commander Barry Moss, head of Special Branch.
The new outfit will include three existing police teams. In south-west England an intelligence unit has been monitoring New Age travellers and people who occupy land illegally. While in northern England a small team has been logging details of hunt saboteurs. The Animal Rights National Index, which lists details of protesters, is already based at Scotland Yard.
Assistant Commissioner Anthony Speed of the Metropolitan Police, who chairs the Association of Chief Police Officers' Public Order sub-committee, said: "Experience shows that the same people are involved in demonstrations - whether it's disruption of building works and motorways, runways, live animals for export, or people 'reclaiming' the streets.
"It tends to be the same people who support them and travel around the country. It's about keeping a database on them - identifying the main individuals."
He said that people repeatedly involved in clashes during industrial disputes, such as the miners' strike and the Wapping newspaper picketing, could also be targeted.
He also cited the 1995 protests at Shoreham, Dover and Brightlingsea against live animal export to the Continent, which at times result in violent clashes, as suitable areas for scrutiny. "Special Branch officers at ports where trouble is taking place could use the system to communicate information to chief constables elsewhere."
He added that the unit could also be used to draw up information about National Front members and extreme leftwing activists who are considered likely to become involved in violence. "All this information will be useful to chief constables - if you know certain groups are involved in an action you can anticipate greater disorder and violence and plan for it in advance," he said.
Chief constables also want to build up action plans for dealing with eco-incidents throughout the country. Mr Speed gave the example of the police having to remove demonstrators who climbed into trees during protests at road building in the South West. "The information about how the police dealt with that will be useful to other forces," he explained.
Special Branches in forces in England and Wales, which gather intelligence about threats to national security, will contribute information to the unit. MI5, the Security Service, will also contribute details of individuals they believe to be involved in terrorist activities or serious disorder.
John Callaghan, overseas liaison director for Compassion in World Farming, the pressure group responsible for organising many of the demonstrations at Brightlingsea in Essex and Shoreham in Sussex against the export of veal calves, condemned the extra monitoring of activists. "This is going to far. We are constantly being videoed by the police - I'm worried as a law abiding person that we are coming under this kind of scrutiny. Peaceful demonstration is part of a democratic society - it is part of our rights."
John Wadham, director of Liberty, the civil rights organisation, argued that the unit would inevitably spend much of its time monitoring peaceful protests. "The problem is, without a right of privacy and a right of protest, there will inadequate controls and regulations," he said.
Ecology and green pressure groups have multiplied in the past few years and have become an increasing headache to the police. In May the organisation Reclaim The Streets caused serious disruption at the G8 summit in Birmingham and at other times has brought parts of London and Brighton to a standstill.The cost of covering the demonstrations against animal exports on the South Coast was more than pounds 6m.
The Independent / 1999-03-19
Jason Bennetto / `Terrorist methods' of green activists `set terrorist snares'
Green campaigners and anti-road protesters were accused yesterday of constructing "battlefield bunkers" and acting in a "quasi terrorist mode", by a team of police inspectors.
Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary called for new laws to prevent so-called eco-warriors from setting dangerous booby traps for police when digging tunnels and building tree houses at protest sites.
A report by HMIC, published yesterday, said: "The announcement of any new construction project that is remotely controversial heralds a period of `defensive building', such as the construction of elaborate bunkers, trenches and tunnels, often containing highly dangerous bobby traps posing considerable danger to those involved.
"A number of recent protest sites have seen even more elaborate and complex `defences' being built. Guidance available on the Internet describes how to spike trees to cause injury to anyone trying to cut the tree, and, for example, how to mix glass and debris into concrete making any cutting a potentially dangerous operation.
"The result is a structure that resembles a battlefield bunker. Existing legal remedies to prevent this fortification process are limited. It is only a matter of time before someone - a protester, bailiff, security officer or police officer - is seriously injured," it adds.
HMIC suggests new legislation should be introduced "to prevent this fortification process which goes far beyond the bounds of reasonable protest". The Home Office is to consider whether such legislation is needed.
The report, "Keeping the Peace: Policing Disorder" goes on to claim: "There is evidence that some elements operate in cell-like structures in a quasi-terrorist mode to keep secret their movements and intentions."
The inspectors say the police must respond by gathering intelligence and distributing it nationally and locally.
As revealed in The Independent in November, a national police unit is being set up to track green activists and public demonstrations.
The intelligence squad, which will use information from a variety of sources including Special Branch officers and MI5, will compile profiles of protesters and organisations considered to be potentially troublesome. The unit will also draw up action plans that chief constables can introduce to head off disorder.
The National Public Order Intelligence Unit will be based at Scotland Yard. The new outfit will incorporate the Animal Rights National Index, which lists details of protesters. Yesterday's report notes: "It is planned that public order intelligence officers in each force area will have access to the unit via a secure network."
There has been growing concern among police chiefs at the number and level of sophistication of green protests. There are currently demonstrations at proposed building developments at Manchester airport, a private toll road around Birmingham, and Crystal Palace in south London.
Martin, a spokesman for the direct action group Earth First, said: "The call for new powers is a gross over-reaction. It's a total myth that people set up booby traps. Campaigners have to live in these places so are hardly going to install something that could be a danger."
Philip Lymbery, of Compassion in World Farming, said: "In a democracy people have a right to protest and express their opinion."