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Fighting dirty wars: spying for the arms trade

Eveline Lubbers | 17.04.2008 21:14 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | South Coast | World

Fighting dirty wars: spying for the arms trade

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

By Eveline Lubbers

By Eveline Lubbers

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is a well respected Quaker and Christian-based pacifist group, which believes in non-violent protest. In the mid 1990s the group was stepping up a campaign against the £500m sale of BAe jets to Indonesia . The campaigners protested that the aircraft would be used to crush resistance in East Timor , which was seeking independence. The Sunday Times revealed in September 2003 that British Aerospace used a private intelligence company to spy on CAAT, since that time. Evelyn Le Chêne, a woman with considerable intelligence connections, sent daily reports on activists’ whereabouts to Britain ’s largest arms dealer. The intelligence company was called Threat Response International.

This article is based on a detailed analysis of these secret reports. The files show how the Campaign Against the Arms Trade was subverted by infiltrators passing on information and manipulating the activists.

Evelyn Le Chêne was identified by the Sunday Times as a key player in a vast private intelligence- gathering network that gathered intelligence on the identities and confidential details of nearly 150,000 activists. This information was collated and marketed to British industrial companies. BAe was only one of her clients. It paid her for at least four years – from 1996 to 1999 – to spy on opponents of the arms trade. CAAT appears to have been her main target. Six to eight agents infiltrated the group over a period of time; there is reason to believe the spying went on until the date of the exposure in the Sunday Times in September 2003.

Previous research into the intelligence company had been conducted by Dutch grass-roots organisation buro Jansen & Janssen . I was involved in an investigation in 1998 that resulted in the exposure of an infiltrator. Adrian Franks had attracted attention when he tried to extend his connections with Dutch activist groups, such as the anti military research collective AMOK and the environmental network Aseed. The then 39-year-old Frenchman from Equihen Plage in Normandy used several surnames, and our investigation discovered he was the owner of a private intelligence company that collected information on activists. The name of this company was Risk & Crisis Analyses, whose parent company was registered in Rochester , UK .

This left us with a story, but also quite a few loose ends. It was established that Franks crossed the Channel regularly so buro Jansen & Janssen tried to interest British activist groups in the investigation. Although CAAT and Corporate Watch as well as other organisations (like Enaat) that Adrian claimed to be affiliated with had received warnings about Adrian from their Dutch counterparts, none of them followed up the leads. Our resources were tight. For the Dutch activists exposing Adrian was enough. The internet was in its infancy and there was no data on line relating to Risk & Crisis Analyses. Nor would it have been cheap to cross the Channel and carry on the investigation abroad. Not without the help, or the stimulus, of worried grass roots groups. If only we had known how close we were…

Five years later, in September 2003, David Connett of the Sunday Times found an account of the Jansen & Janssen investigation on the internet. He urgently needed confirmation that Adrian Franks, who also used the name Le Chêne, was related to Evelyn Le Chêne. Connett was investigating Threat Response International, a company which advised corporations on security threats. Evelyn Le Chêne was on the board. When she was first approached by British Aerospace to carry out surveillance work in the mid-1990s, she had been running a company named R&CA Publications from an office in an industrial estate in Rochester , UK . This was the same company that closed down and disappeared shortly after the Dutch exposure of one of its directors as a spy.

Adrian turned out to be Evelyn’s son, and was still working for her company, now called Threat Response International.

Because of my earlier involvement in the case the Sunday Times granted me access to the spy files. The files we examined – about 500 pages – basically consisted of printed reports to BAe, made by Evelyn Le Chêne, calling herself “Source P”.

This was a rare opportunity to investigate corporate spying and anti-activist infiltration from the inside. What follows in an analysis of the spy files, an assessment of the history and practices of both Adrian and Evelyn Le Chêne and some observations on what can be learned from this episode.

Daily reports

In late 1995, when John Major’s Conservative government was deciding whether to grant licences for the Hawk contract, the intelligence reports on CAAT’s activities were flowing into BAe’s offices at Farnborough, Hampshire on an almost daily basis.

The accounts of meetings are pretty detailed. They describe people, their habits and their willingness to participate in CAAT. They report people not having much time to engage themselves in campaign activities and cite familiar reasons such as illness, study, family and work commitments:

”A. is recovering from influenza and is not participating at all for the moment. She is still interested in doing CAAT ‘things’… However, this year she has been crying off sick or as being too tired or that she has something else to do when she is asked to participate in meetings and liaisons.”

“B. is increasingly tied up with writing a research dissertation for a degree and since her hernia operation has not been very active. She has been seldom at home when contact has been attempted.” [9 June 1997]

Le Chêne initially sent her briefings on an encrypted fax to BAe security offices on the ground floor of Lancaster House at Farnborough airfield. Later BAe set up software on her office computer so the company could access reports directly from her database. A Sunday Times’ source claimed the firm paid her £120,000 a year .

Le Chêne recruited at least half a dozen agents to infiltrate CAAT’s headquarters at Finsbury Park , north London , and a number of regional offices. During the four year infiltration that these records cover Le Chêne submitted thousands of pages of reports to BAe, which kept the company fully briefed on CAAT’s meetings, demonstrations and political contacts.

Some of the information was gathered by spies attending CAAT meetings posing as activists. However, the files also show that Le Chêne’s agents gained access to CAAT’s IT system and databases. Le Chêne reports to BAe that diskettes full of information from within CAAT have been acquired. One agent downloaded the entire contents of a CAAT headquarters computer including a membership list, personal folders and details of private donations.

Another striking aspect of the files is the repeated offer by one of the infiltrators to install a new computer system at CAAT’s offices and members homes.

Bank accounts were accessed, and Evelyn Le Chêne traced back anonymous donations to the bank where they were made. “A legacy has come through for Treat [Trust for Research and Education on Arms] for £4,000. The legacy money was anonymously donated through Draper, Crellings, Solicitors, Weybridge. This has gone into the Treat account which now stands at £4,000”. [22 August 1997]

Desks were rifled, diaries were read and address books photocopied so information could be passed to BAe. CAAT members were often followed. One such target was Anna B., described in one report as a “good-looking” 25-year-old, who was a key activist and networker for CAAT and student groups. The Sunday Times heard a tape recording of a phone conversation between Le Chêne and a senior officer in BAe group security which reveals that they discussed having Anna B. followed. Reports on Anna B. give details of her addresses, housemates, hairstyles, the contents of her diary and her alleged habit of smoking marijuana in the corridor.

Lessons to be learned

Given the level of infiltration and surveillance of CAAT on behalf of BAe what are the likely consequences for the activities of the organisation? Below I will try to explain how the information was used to counter and undermine CAAT’s campaigning work.


The Sunday Times wrote that Le Chêne’s agents were instructed to take a particular interest in connections between anti-arms trade pressure groups and the House of Commons. Meetings and correspondence with MPs of all three parties was closely monitored and advance warnings of any parliamentary events were forwarded to BAe.

According to a Sunday Times source, the agents collected a series of letters, many private, which were supplied to BAe. They included correspondence discussing British policy on the sale of arms to Indonesia with a number of leading Labour politicians such as David Clark, then shadow defence secretary, Jeremy Hanley, then Foreign Office minister, and Jack Straw, then home secretary.

When CAAT and two other pressure groups hired solicitors Bindman and Partners to seek a judicial review of the granting of export licences for arms companies, BAe was alerted to the contents of a letter sent by the firm to the then trade minister, Ian Lang.

BAe’s security department filtered the information and passed it on to their in-house government relations teams so they could be one step ahead of the campaigners when lobbying in parliament.

Direct action

Information on demonstrations and actions planned by CAAT was also highly prized by BAe. Often the reports detailed plans for upcoming demonstrations by activists at BAe’s sites. At one point the files give precise information on how a small group planed an ‘incursion’ of a BAe plant. They intended to walk through the site, leaving behind some signs or traces of their action (varying from symbols of protest to the destruction of a Hawk). In one case, the files outline where the group was to assemble, the route of their walk, who was taking part, and what they would bring. A map with the planned route to take was attached to the report.

In other cases Evelyn Le Chêne provided BAe with elaborate advice on how to deal with certain situations. In March 1996 CAAT set up a Rapid Response Network to organise a ‘die-in’ outside Parliament on the first Thursday after BAe announced the delivery of Hawk-fighters to Indonesia . Le Chêne’s advice was to carefully plan the timing of the announcement, counselling that the longer BAe delayed the announcement the more effective the CAAT protest would be. Le Chêne suggested that BAe announced the delivery to coincide with the Parliamentary recess. That way, the effect of the ‘die-in’ – lying dead in front of the Parliament – would be reduced to zero.

By infiltrating CAAT so thoroughly BAe were well placed to ‘respond’ to activists’ protest tactics.

Every occasion required a different tactic. Where it was activists’ strategy to have themselves arrested in order use the resulting court case to draw more attention to their cause, Le Chêne suggested that BAe pressure the police to make as few arrests as possible.

A similar pattern is evident in the BAe response to CAAT’s ‘snowball’ strategy, which planned that each direct action that resulted in arrests would lead to further and larger actions. The resulting court cases were to be used to argue that activists were committing a crime (criminal damage) in order to prevent a greater crime (genocide) and that they were therefore not guilty. This defence was successful for Chris Cole in his 1993 ‘BAe Ploughshares’ protest, and Evelyn Le Chêne was afraid that it would work for the four women activists awaiting trial for ‘disarming’ a Hawk fighter with hammers on 29 January 1996.

Le Chêne advised that the corporate response to these actions ought to be framed with reference to its effects on the longer-term protest.

When two protesters went to a BAe site seeking to be arrested, the police merely confiscated their wire cutters. They were reported to be annoyed, not least because they failed to generate publicity. “It is therefore difficult not to conclude that arresting activists does play into their hands and leads ultimately to larger protests in the future. On the other hand one does accept that to offer no counter would be unsustainable from a company point of view. Alternatives need to be discussed.” [8 March 1996] BAe also used Le Chêne’s insider knowledge to manage larger protests. Demonstrations outside more than 60 UK BAe sites were thwarted by tip-offs from infiltrators, a key tactic being the ambush of trespassers who were then served injunctions preventing them from returning.


CAAT’s work was opposed and stymied by BAe on other levels. When Evelyn Le Chêne heard that CAAT always received BAe press releases immediately after they were sent out through the BBC, her advice was to stop that procedure immediately: “Don’t send them or leave them to the last when it no longer matters.” [11 June 1997]

When CAAT campaigners requested a copy of the Defence Manufacturers Association (DMA) members list Evelyn Le Chêne was consulted by the Director General of DMA. She advised him not to cooperate. In her report to BAe she comments: “ My reply was that having such a comprehensive and up-to-date listing of all the defence support industries would cut down their own research time by 100% and likewise their expenditure for it by 200%. We are of the opinion that the recommendation was not heeded.” [14 May 1997]

According to the Sunday Times, the sophistication of BAe’s management of the activist threat was such that the names and addresses of activists were routinely run through the BAe computers to check if any were shareholders. In addition, the BAe switchboard was configured to flag up any calls from telephone numbers associated with the activists.


On several occasions Evelyn Le Chêne proposed feeding CAAT disinformation in order to cast them in a bad light. In February 1996 she referred to the climb-down Greenpeace made over the Brent Spar (when they mistakenly overstated the damage to the environment of dumping the oil platform into the ocean):

“On the question of sighting Hawks in the sky above Indonesia , we discussed an idea or two I had some weeks ago. You will recall that Greenpeace had an embarrassing climb-down recently because they cried wolf too often. It might be time now to have another think on the idea I had about discounting the Hawks in Indonesia story.” [20 February 1996]

By the end of January 1997, CAAT had joined the Clean Investment Campaign, which targeted organisations owning shares in military hardware production companies. CAAT prepared a public document with the help of – amongst others – Corporate Watch. Le Chêne commented: “Interestingly, they still appear not to have all their facts correct which could be a point worth encouraging” [27 January 1997]. The strategy appears to have been to encourage CAAT to make claims (in good faith) which could later be used to discredit the campaign. It would be interesting to know what became of these suggestions, and what other disinformation operations have been taken into effect. A fuller analysis of the Threat Response files may be able to shed more light on this matter.

Agent provocateur

Adrian Franks/ Le Chêne made a habit of proposing more radical actions than other campaign members. He repeatedly tried to incite people towards using more violence than they intended (given the pacifist origins of the group they tend to eschew violence). This was one of the reasons why he was not trusted by various people in different activist groups back in 1998.

The account in the files of one occasion when Adrian irritated other activists with his proposals for a more radical approach, showed his disappointment about the fact that there was “no sign of any interest” for his suggestions. This “assessment” (marked “Addressee – eyes only”) revealed he was sent there with a purpose.

“As at time of writing this report there would appear to be NO sign of any action taking place at the Paris Air show against any company including your own… The issue of doing something was raised three times. To have pressed harder would have been impolitic from a security point of view.” [19 May 1997]

He knew he risked his cover by pushing the issue, but he kept trying. One can only guess the strategy behind this. It could have been a tactic to provoke police action at a picket line and thus disturb the peaceful character of the protest. However, Adrian’s proposals had a disturbing influence on the ‘spadework’ of CAAT: people got irritated and vital coalition building, with organisations like Amnesty International, was thwarted due to an alleged lack of agreement on basic issues such as the character of direct action. In that sense, Adrian was more than an infiltrator; we could call this the work of an agent provocateur.

True Spy

The most important informer working for Evelyn Le Chêne was Martin Hogbin, referred to as her ‘excellent source’. Hogbin was an active volunteer with CAAT from spring 1997 before joining the staff in November 2001. He resigned and left early October 2003, as soon as the initial internal investigation implicated him as a suspect of spying.

Neither Hogbin nor Le Chêne co-operated to the investigations carried out by CAAT Steering Committee and the Information Commissioner. .

The Information Commissioner confirmed that Martin Hogbin was forwarding information by email to a company with links to Le Chêne. Ironically, the Data Protection Act 1998 prevented the Information Commissioner from giving CAAT details of the company concerned.

Research by the CAAT Steering Committee comparing the spy files with events that Hogbin had taken part in, confirmed that he started his surveillance work soon after he became actively involved with CAAT as a volunteer in spring 1997. A report on a trip to Farnborough attributed to Hogbin was dated 19 June that year. It was dated one day after the event, and it was a long and detailed report.

Administering professional reports so soon in his activist career within CAAT implicates Hogbin was brought in as an infiltrator, as opposed to someone who was ‘turned’ c.q. persuaded to secretly pass on information. The Threat Response files cover the period between June 1995 and December 1997; no spy reports are available that document the period after that. But since it was proven that he continued to forward emails until the exposure in the Sunday Times in September 2003, it can be assumed that he also filed his reports detailing CAAT activities until that date. This leads to the tentative conclusion that Martin Hogbin was a spy from beginning to end.

The fact that he was one of the few paid staff campaigners meant that Hogbin had access to almost anything that past through the office. This could be reports, plans, correspondence and other paperwork, but also address books, contact files, computers, diskettes and banking details.

As national campaigns and events co-coordinator Martin Hogbin was involved in much if not all campaigning against arms trade. He was the main organiser of protests at BAe annual meetings. CAAT supporters bought token shares in BAE so that they could attend the annual meeting and publicly challenge directors on arms sales to repressive regimes. He was involved in organising protests against BAe plants and arms fairs, his work varying from mobilising to the practical preparations, such as taking part in ‘recces’ to explore the terrain of action or organising the transport of fellow activists to demonstrations.

Hogbin also was a key networker in the movement, both in the UK as on the European level. He usually represented CAAT at the on meetings of the European Network Against Arms Trade and coordinated the mobilising against EuroSatory in the UK . (Many ENAAT meetings in 1997 and 1998 were attended by Adrian and Martin, both working for Evelyn Le Chêne) . Martin also played an important role in mobilising against the DSEi Arms Fair, considered the hugest anti militaristic event in the UK

At the CAAT office Hogbin was a well respected colleague and a very much liked member of the small staff. People thought they knew him well, including his family and children. Martin, in his fifties, seemed like an open and honest person, devoted to the cause. He made no secret of his past career at the South African arms manufacturer Denel; his apparent change of views only added to his credibility.

The fact that he was trusted not only complicated the investigations against him. Hogbin continued to come to anti-arms trade events since he left CAAT. The fact that the Privacy Commissioner linked him to Evelyn Le Chêne, didn’t stop people from other campaigns, both anti-arms trade and environmental from working with Martin Hogbin. In July 2005 he was reportedly still working for the Disarm DSEi campaign.

Remaining questions

It is important that there is some understanding of the difficult and painful choices the CAAT Steering Committee has recently faced. Hopefully there will be a time for further research. The opportunity to investigate a case from both sides does not arise very often. There is a lot left to be learned as so many questions remain unanswered. CAAT has started procedures against one of the alleged spies, but what happened to the five (perhaps seven) others? Who else was identified? Did they play a minor role within the organisation, or have they left CAAT since? Does that make it less important to find out where they have gone? Or is it too difficult to trace them after all these years?

It would surely be worth making a formal damage assessment and issuing a report that other groups could benefit from. How did CAAT deal with the internal frictions the exposure caused? How much damage was done, or rather, how did they find the resilience to continue their work? These questions relate to security issues that many activist groups need to deal with. How can openness be balanced against sensible caution? Do activist groups facing powerful and well-resourced opponents need to screen every volunteer and newcomer, and if so, how? How can activists avoid paralysis and live with the fact that they may be under surveillance?

From what we have seen above, it is shocking to realise how much time, effort and resources British Aerospace invested in undermining CAAT. That so many people infiltrated this relatively small network suggests that BAe were very concerned by the potential consequences of CAAT’s activism.

CAAT’s campaigning work signified a threat to BAe’s reputation. In addition, a successful campaign could mean the loss of large orders. Dick Evans, BAe’s then chief executive, received regular verbal briefings on the contents of Le Chêne’s reports from Mike McGinty, an ex-Royal Air Force officer who headed security, the Sunday Times was told. This tells us something about the importance of the intelligence material for BAe.

Le Chêne also claimed to target other groups such as Earth First! and Reclaim the Streets. The close connections and mixed membership of such groups meant she acquired information on Friends of the Earth, the Green Party, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the World Development Movement and animal rights charities, to name just a few. So, how close was the surveillance of these groups? Le Chêne herself boasted a database of 148,900 “known names” of CND, trades unions, activists and environmentalists (and this was back in 1996!). The most relevant to BAe was a ‘hardcore grouping’ of about 200 on whom she developed full biographies and profiles including national insurance numbers and criminal records where possible. To what other parties did she offer this information? And who accepted?

Road Protests

CAAT was not the only group Treat Response spied upon. The road protests against the Newbury Bypass for instance, receive more than average attention in the surveillance reports. Important events are reported on in great detail, apparently to warn BAe against the danger of an involvement of the anti defence groups with the environmental movement.

In the late 1990s the Newbury bypass became the focus of anti-roads groups when thousands occupied woodland were earmarked for destruction. The 8_-mile bypass finally opened in 1998 after years of protests delayed completion. The total cost of the project was £74m, of which nearly a third, £24m, was spent on security. Group 4 carried out work on behalf of the Highways Agency as well as construction companies such as Costain and Tarmac. This helped police many of Britain ’s most controversial road-building projects.

The Sunday Times heard tape-recorded conversations involving Le Chêne reveal that she regularly passed information from her network of agents to Group 4. She said she had agents posted permanently at Newbury and passed on highly confidential personal information about protesters to the company. These included accommodation addresses, vehicle registration details, National Insurance numbers, unemployment benefit details and income support information.

The Spy Files reflect this work for Group 4. The detailed reports show that advanced warnings about the road protesters’ plans had been forwarded to the police and the private security forces involved. Much to her frustration, Le Chêne’s information was not used in the most adequate way – or rather: the way she thought was best:

“The policing level was low for the amount of people present and the security guard reaction was insufficient. In fairness to the latter, it has to be said that there were not enough of them to reasonably expect control of the situation with even half the protesters present. In addition the company concerned lacks a background of control to such groups and it showed. For protesters, this is an ideal double situation. On the police site it was evident that they tried to make up for the lack of numbers by the use of horses – environmentalists being animal lovers. But this showed as well and when the police, on the second occasion, charged the oncoming handslinked protesters, the horses naturally bumped them and this let to an increase in tension and the rest is history.”

The eviction of the protesters camp ended in an extremely violent confrontation with the police, now remembered as the Third Battle of Newbury (the first two took place in the 17th Century). Had the authorities listened to Le Chêne’s advise, it wouldn’t have come that far – or so it seemed:

“The numbers expected and what they would be doing and how they would do it, was known well in time and notified. It was apparently a decision on the part of the Highways Authority on how to deal with the situation that led to the low manning of police and security guards, although we are of opinion that where security guards were concerned, it was more a case of penny-scrimping by cash-strapped Costain.”

Le Chêne claimed she had at least two people infiltrated in the Newbury Bypass camp:

“According to two sources at Newbury on Saturday – neither of whom knows the other – the incident that led to the arsons was the police rush with horses. This would not explain, however, the police discovery of petrol-can-type Molotovs although this latter can be made up fast anyway.”

This last quote also reveals how easily Le Chêne assumed the discovered molotovs may just as well have been planted evidence.

Why a report to BAe would include such a detailed coverage of police dealing with anti road protests is not entirely clear. With anti-defence groups increasingly involved in the anti-road protest movement, Evelyn Le Chêne tried to promote herself and her knowledge of both movements. “Exactly who can be anyone’s guess who has a good knowledge of the background to both BAe’s problems and the anti-road protest movements.”

Group 4

An unnamed Group 4 spokesman admitted buying information on protesters. He told the Sunday Times: “We’ve certainly been obtaining information about protests at our customers’ sites. It is the sort of information that would be obtained in the pub about activities that may affect our customers; people or property”, he said. “We were getting information about where protesters would be and what times in advance. We would have paid for that information.”

On the board of Threat Response from the very beginning, was Barrie Gane, who also worked for Group 4, Britain ’s largest security firm whose clients range from the prison service to the royal family and the government, and advertises its ability to guard its customers against espionage, sabotage and subversion. . Barrie Gane is a former deputy head of MI6, tipped to succeed Sir Collin McColl. However, he decided to leave the Service on early retirement after a rationalisation in 1993, and open up his knowledge and network for privatised intelligence companies. Corporate Watch called Barrie Gane one of the most important former intelligence men now working for the private branch of the business. At the time The Times concluded the appointment of Mr. Gane signals an upgrading of its international operation. “Mr Gane can bring the company knowledge of international terrorism, commercial espionage and risk assessment.” [3]

Was Group 4 the only party involved in the Newbury Bypass buying information from Threat Response International? In her reports, Evelyn Le Chêne claimed the police was well informed about the numbers of activists and their plans, and that she had agents posted permanently in Newbury.

Many environmental campaigners long suspected they were the subject of spying operations.

The Highways Agency explained in the Sunday Times that the government had funded security operations around road-building sites but it was the responsibility of the contractors involved. “Clearly we worked closely with the police and the contractors to ensure that this was carried out in a lawful way,” a spokesman told the paper in 2003.

The transport department working on orders from Treasury solicitors, spent more than £700,000 in the early 1990s employing the Southampton- based detective agency Bray’s to help them identify protesters. Private detectives were seen filming people and noting down public conversations. “Despite this, campaigners believed this type of surveillance alone could not account for some of the information contained in the dossiers issued by the department to support legal injunctions against them.”

In 2002, BBC Two reporter Peter Taylor made a series of documentaries called True Spies. In one of the issues he revealed how a hired spy stopped the Newbury protest. On TV, Sir Charles Pollard, then Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, explained why Newbury was a line in the sand. The protesters could not be allowed to win once the government had approved the building of the bypass the previous year. “The ones who were planning and tried to carry out seriously illegal acts are very subversive in a sense of subversive to democracy,” he says. On the BBC website summarising the documentary, Peter Taylor also wrote: “Special Branch resorted to their usual methods of gaining information on the opposition’s plans. They recruited informers and paid them anything from £25 to larger sums of money – even up to £1,000 a week.

Such sums may seem breathtaking but they’re a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of policing such a protest. A piece of vital intelligence might, for example, save tens of thousands ds. Despite this, stalemate still loomed and costs were rising, Thames Valley took the unprecedented step of recruiting an agent outside normal procedures. They’d heard of a particular individual who worked for a private security company with unique skills and a perfect pedigree to infiltrate the protesters. The police normally keep such private security companies at arm’s length as they’re in the business of making money from intelligence they gain.

Despite these reservations, Thames Valley decided to bite the bullet and hire the agent. The Chief Constable gave the go-ahead for a contract to be drawn up with the individual and the security company for which he worked, calculating that the value of his intelligence would far outweigh the cost of hiring him.

With the contract agreed, the agent’s main task was to get as close as possible to the leaders and in particular to let his handlers know of the best time to take the main tunnel that was holding up the contractors’ operations.”

Whether the company involved in this particular infiltration operation was indeed Threat Response International proved next to impossible to verify.

Peter Taylor went through his old notebooks, and came back with three other companies involved in the road protests: “Reliance Security plus Brays and Pinkertons both of whom apparently ran their own agents.” A Freedom of Information request about the possible involvement of Evelyn Le Cheyne with Thames Valley Police came back negative. Nor was it possible to “trace or locate any specific records or documents to answer the question whether or not Thames Valley Police hired an agent to infiltrate the protest groups during the building of the Newbury bypass”. The chief constable who confirmed contracting the private agent on BBC television in 2002, Charles Pollard now claims he can’t remember any details. He is however not surprised no paper trail can be found: “Of course at the time it was a very closely-guarded secret….so secret in fact that the company was only referred to within the few people who knew about it under a codeword!”

Whatever happened to the Newbury agent? “His cover was so good and his information so accurate, that Special Branch then directed him to infiltrate the animal rights movement”, BBC‘s Peter Taylor wrote. This correlates with the interests Adrian voiced at the time. But then again, Adrian was interested in everything that involved radical activism.


This case, The Threat Response Spy Files, reveals the need for a new cartography to map the shifting grounds of so-called corporate intelligence, as the boundaries between government surveillance and corporate intelligence have become blurred. Once a group is seen to pose a serious threat to powerful commercial or political interests it is at risk of special operations orchestrated by its opponents, whether or not such assessments are factually based.

In the past state intelligent programmes have tried to undermine successful campaigns or destabilize activist groups. Now private or privatised spy shops can access the same tools, sometimes with the support of state intelligence agencies. Though their goals may differ depending on their clients’ needs, corporate and state intelligence agencies often use the same methods of surveillance. Wider exposure, discussion and awareness of such tactics are necessary if public interest groups and campaigners are to protect themselves and the causes to which they are committed. The Threat Response Files offer us a rare and important opportunity to open up this debate.

Eveline Lubbers


Display the following 3 comments

  1. the name of the infiltrator — ADS
  2. Adrian Franks — DaanSaaf
  3. author answers — eveline lubbers


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