(guardian.co.uk) John Catt, aged 86, has had his presence at peaceful protests systematically logged by secretive police unit over four years
An 86-year-old man has been granted permission to launch a lawsuit against police chiefs who have classified him as a “domestic extremist” and kept a detailed record of his political activities on a clandestine database.
John Catt, who has no criminal record, is bringing the high court action against a secretive police unit which systematically logged his presence at more than 55 peace and human rights protests over a four-year period.
Some of the entries record his habit of taking out his sketch pad and drawing the scene at demonstrations. Other entries contain notes on his appearance – such as “clean shaven” – and the slogans on his clothes.
His lawsuit will challenge the power of police to compile secret files on law-abiding protesters.
A victory for Catt, a pensioner who lives in Brighton, would be a further blow to the police unit, which has been criticised for using undercover officers to infiltrate protest groups.
The exposure of spies such as Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years working undercover in the environmental movement, has highlighted the way in which the National Public Order Intelligence Unit has been carrying out surveillance of protesters.
The unit has been compiling a huge, nationwide database of thousands of protesters for more than a decade, drawing on intelligence from undercover officers, uniformed surveillance teams, informants in protest groups and covert intercepts.
Police claim the unit only monitors so-called “domestic extremists”, whom they define as hardcore activists who commit crime to further their political aims.
Catt, a campaigner for many years, is one of the few activists confirmed to be on the database.
He says he is “committed to protesting through entirely peaceful means” and told the Guardian he was “shocked and terrified” after he saw the extent of the files held on him. He obtained them using the Data Protection Act.
In legal papers, he describes how the files record the political aims of the demonstrations he attended between 2005 and 2009, “highly personalised” information about his appearance and “hearsay evidence and police officers’ opinions”.
(Peace activists John and Linda Catt tell their own story of being monitored by police and placed on a secret database of ‘domestic extremists’ Link to Video)
At a protest against Guantánamo Bay organised by Sussex Action for Peace on 25 September 2005, police noted: “John CATT was seen wearing a Free Omar T-shirt, he was clean shaven … John CATT was very quiet and was holding a board with orange people on it.”
At another protest on 10 March 2006, police recorded: “John CATT arrived in his white Citroën Berlingo van. He removed several banners for the protesters to use and at the completion of the demo returned the same to the van. He was using his drawing pad to sketch a picture of the protest and the police presence.”
On another occasion he was logged as having “sat on a folding chair and appeared to be sketching” at a demonstration.
Police tracked his van after noticing it at demonstrations. He and his daughter Linda were stopped and searched one Sunday morning in London by police who were alerted by a roadside camera recognising the van’s number plate. The pair had been on their way to help a family member move house.
Catt, who is represented by the London law firm Fisher Meredith, has been given permission by a high court judge to take legal action against police chiefs, as he claims they have violated his human rights by keeping “excessive and irrelevant” secret files on him.
He wants all the entries concerning him to be permanently deleted.
Police chiefs say they are legally entitled to maintain files on Catt, who has been taking part in a campaign to close down a Brighton arms factory owned by an American firm, EDO MBM Technology. According to police, the Smash EDO group has organised a “campaign of illegality designed to pressurise EDO to cease its lawful business”, leading to “169 convictions including criminal damage and aggravated trespass, assault and harassment of staff”.
The “minor” surveillance of Catt is justified, they say, because his “voluntary association at the Smash EDO protests forms part of a far wider picture of information which it is necessary for the police to continue to monitor in order to plan to maintain the peace, minimise the risks of criminal offending and adequately to detect and prosecute offenders”.
Operation PaybackPress Release:Anonymous Attacks NZ Government Websites
Auckland, NZ – With the passage of The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill by the New Zealand Parliament, Anonymous has launched a major operation to chastise the government of New Zealand for this act of oppression .Operating under the flagship “Operation Payback”, Anonymous has targeted the domain of the New Zealand parliament for internet silence.On Saturday, April 30 at 23:59 UTC, the website was rendered inoperable by a successful denial of service effort.In a video address published minutes before the attack , Anonymous asserted: “Guilty until proven innocent – we shall never accept this, and nobody should.”Promising a continued large-scale effort, Anonymous is planning a sustained campaign which is likely to include activist action on the ground.Security services protecting the parliament website were “confident [the] website will stand up”, with “adequate firewalls in place” .However, like many organizations and individuals before them, they have committed the dire error of underestimating Anonymous. Unable to resist the anger of the masses, system administrators proceeded to cut their own website off from international traffic soon after the attack began.This effectively accomplished much of our work for us. This cowardly act also demonstrated a willingness on part of the New Zealand governement to isolate themselves from the international community in order to maintain control over their citizenry.Unwilling to confront their defeat, the security services promptly buried their head in the sand, denying that any attack ever took place. The extent of their humiliation became painfully obvious to everyone but them when an independent news source finally acknowledged an Anonymous victory .In addition to the protests against the NZ parliament; Anonymous also protested the website of NZ FACT (New Zealand Federation against Copyright Theft) an organization which actively encourages the persuing of “file sharers” and encourages punitive punishments.Service was denied to this website for over 10 hours and counting (at time of release).Operation Payback is a long-standing Anonymous action, members of which have taken it upon themselves to defend freedom of information on the internet.The operation was involved in the high-profile actions against Visa and Mastercard upon their withdrawal of support to Wikileaks.Operation Payback has successfully challenged and in some cases destroyed legal firms and online security companies.Sources:1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKoWvOIL41Y2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHKhbxr7Gxg3. Threat to bring down Parliament website taken seriously. NZ Hearald. Wednesday Apr 27, 2011. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=107218084. Parliament’s site Under Attack: Hackers Claim Responsibility. Scoop. May 3, 2011. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1105/S00029/parliaments-site-under-attack-hackers-claim-responsibility.htm
Letter to New Zealanders
To all New Zealanders,
As of April 14, 2011, a crime has been committed against you; the Copyright Amendment Bill, has enabled law enforcement to cut off the Internet access of any New Zealander accused of piracy and fine you up to $15,000, without solid evidence.
In addition, your government appears to feel that it is acceptable to control users’ Internet activity. With the help of larger corporations, the government will start logging IP addresses to initiate lawsuits. Any download, including those necessary to view media streams via Youtube or other social media sites, can be viewed as infringement of copyright laws – whether or not the download is legal – under the presumption of file transferring or sharing.
This law directly contradicts the ideals that Anonymous holds true, such as Internet freedom for all.
The ‘accused’ are additionally having their basic human rights violated by being presumed guilty until proven innocent. Furthermore, by suspending an account holder, rather than the access of those who are downloading, the account holder is deemed to be guilty of an offence they have not necessarily been proven to have committed.
Such actions are not those of a democracy but rather the characteristics of a lobbyist totalitarian state. Many of you have already begun to protest in order to shed light on this bill, which was hastily passed under the guise of a national emergency, with little public notice. You must join your fellow New Zealanders and show that you will stand against such outrageous behaviour, and deter other nations’ governments from following. New Zealand has long been seen as a world leader when it comes to equality and human rights; let’s not have this perception change now. Continue your protests with the knowledge that you are not alone – Anonymous and Internet users everywhere will stand in support of this movement.
Your civil liberties and privacy are under attack. Do not let those that you have voted into office silence you.
An info poster can be found here: http://goo.gl/kKj1F
Additional news sources are here:
General – http://www.facebook.com/NZBlackout
Auckland – https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=205011036200335
Christchurch – https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211282055556203
Dunedin – https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=215353565144593
Wellington – https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=149169298483262
“How can you make war on terrorism, if war itself is terrorism? … you respond to terrorism with terrorism, and you multiply the terrorism in the world.
And, of course, the terrorism that governments are capable of by going to war is on a far, far greater scale than the terrorism of al-Qaeda or this group or that group or another group. Governments are terrorists on an enormously large scale. The United States has been engaging in terrorism against Afghanistan, against Iraq, and now they’re threatening to extend their terrorism to other places in the Middle East.” – Howard Zinn
(anarchistnews.org) Early on the morning of May Day, Boston anarchists smashed the windows on three Upper Crust Pizzerias. This chain was targeted because the owners of the chain have been making millions of dollars while exploiting their immigrant employees. This high end pizza chain has been caught:
-Underpaying workers for overtime,
-Paying Department of Labor ordered compensation for the owed backpay and then deducting it from the workers weekly paychecks,
– Importing and housing immigrants only to illegally exploit them for cheap labor
This action was done on the morning of May Day to both stand in solidarity with Upper Crust workers as well as celebrate the international day of worker and immigrant rights and struggles, which are still going on today.
This struggle is a result of the inherent oppression within the capitalist system and will not end until this system is dismantled and replaced.
We carry with us the memories of our martyrs.
(AlJazeera) The Arab revolutions are not only shaking the structure of tyranny to the core – they are shattering many of the myths about the Arab region that have been accumulating for decades. Topping the list of dominant myths are those of Arab women as caged in, silenced, and invisible. Yet these are not the types of women that have emerged out of Tunisia, Egypt, or even ultra-conservative Yemen in the last few weeks and months.
Not only did women actively participate in the protest movements raging in those countries, they have assumed leadership roles as well. They organised demonstrations and pickets, mobilised fellow citizens, and eloquently expressed their demands and aspirations for democratic change.
Like Israa Abdel Fatteh, Nawara Nejm, and Tawakul Karman, the majority of the women are in their 20s and 30s. Yet there were also inspiring cases of senior activists as well: Saida Saadouni, a woman in her 70s from Tunisia, draped the national flag around her shoulders and partook in the Qasaba protests which succeeded in toppling M. Ghannouchi’s provisional government. Having protested for two weeks, she breathed a unique revolutionary spirit into the thousands who congregated around her to hear her fiery speeches. “I resisted French occupation. I resisted the dictatorships of Bourguiba and Ben Ali. I will not rest until our revolution meets its ends, for your sakes my sons and daughters, not for mine,” said Saadouni.
Whether on the virtual battlefields of the Internet or the physical protests in the streets, women have been proving themselves as real incubators of leadership. This is part of a wider phenomenon characteristic of these revolutions: The open politics of the street have bred and matured future leaders. They are grown organically in the field, rather than being imposed upon from above by political organisations, religious groups, or gender roles.
Another stereotype being dismantled in action is the association of the Islamic headscarf with passivity, submissiveness, and segregation. Among this new generation of prominent Arab women, the majority choose to wear the hijab. Urbanised and educated, they are no less confident or charismatic than their unveiled sisters. They are an expression of the complex interplay of Muslim culture, with processes of modernisation and globalisation being the hallmark of contemporary Arab society.
This new model of home grown women leaders, born out of revolutionary struggle, represents a challenge to two narratives, which, though different in detail, are similar in reference to the myth of Arab cultural singularity; they both dismiss Arab women as inert creatures devoid of will-power.
The first narrative – which is dominant in conservative Muslim circles – sentences women to a life of childbearing and rearing; women are to live in the narrow confines of their homes at the mercy of their husbands and male relatives. Their presence must revolve around notions of sexual purity and family honour; reductionist interpretations of religion are looked upon for justification.
The other view is espoused by Euro-American neo-liberals, who view Arab and Muslim women through the narrow prism of the Taliban model: Miserable objects of pity in need of benevolent intervention from intellectuals, politicians, or even the military. Arab women await deliverance from the dark cage of veiling to a promised garden of enlightenment.
Arab women are rebelling against both models: They are seizing the reigns of their own destinies by liberating themselves as they liberate their societies from dictatorship. The model of emancipation they are shaping with their own hands is one defined by their own needs, choices, and priorities – not anyone else’s.
Although there may be resistance to this process of emancipation, Tahrir Square and Qasaba are now part of the psyche and formative culture of Arab women. Indeed, they are finally given a voice to their long-silenced yearnings for liberation from authoritarianism – both political and patriarchal.
by Soumaya Ghannoushi
~ is a freelance writer specialising in the history of European Perceptions of Islam. Her work has appeared in a number of leading British papers including the Guardian and the Independent.
(guardian.co.uk) Neoconservatives, ‘terror journalists’ and Osama bin Laden himself all had their own reasons to create a simple story of looming apocalypse.
The horrific thing about Osama bin Laden was that he helped to kill thousands of innocent people throughout the world. But he was also in a strange way a godsend to the west. He simplified the world. When communism collapsed in 1989, the big story that had been hardwired into citizens of western countries – that of the global battle against a distant dark and evil force – came to an abrupt end. Understanding the world became much more complicated until, amid the confusion of a global economic crisis in 1998 and the hysterical spectacle of the Monica Lewinsky affair, Bin Laden emerged as the mastermind behind the bombings of embassies in east Africa.
President Clinton immediately seized on it. He fired off cruise missiles, they missed, and everyone accused Clinton of using Bin Laden to take the heat off himself. But if you look back at some of the pieces television reporters did that day in Washington, you can see something else too: the murky shape of an old story slowly re-emerging, like a wreck rising up from the sea.
Bin Laden and his ideological mentor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, talked about “the near enemy” and the “far enemy”. But from 2001 onwards they became America’s “far enemy”. Neoconservative politicians, who had last tasted real power under President Reagan during the cold war, took the few known facts about Bin Laden and Zawahiri and fitted them to the template they knew so well: an evil enemy with sleeper cells and “tentacles” throughout the world, whose sole aim was the destruction of western civilisation. Al-Qaida became the new Soviet Union, and in the process Bin Laden became a demonic, terrifyingly powerful figure brooding in a cave while he controlled and directed the al-Qaida network throughout the world. In this way, a serious but manageable terrorist threat became grossly exaggerated.
Journalists, many of whom also yearned for the simplicity of the old days, grabbed at this: from the outset, the reporting of the Islamist terror threat was distorted to reflect this dominant simplified narrative. And Bin Laden grabbed at it too. As the journalists who actually met him report, he was brilliant at publicity. All three – the neoconservatives, the “terror journalists”, and Bin Laden himself – effectively worked together to create a dramatically simple story of looming apocalypse. It wasn’t in any way a conspiracy. Each of them had stumbled in their different ways on a simplified fantasy that fitted with their own needs.
The power of this simple story propelled history forward. It allowed the neocons – and their liberal interventionist allies – to set out to try to remake the world and spread democracy. It allowed revolutionary Islamism, which throughout the 1990s had been failing dramatically to get the Arab people to rise up and follow its vision, to regain its authority. And it helped to sell a lot of newspapers.
But because we, and our leaders, retreated into a Manichean fantasy, we understood the new complexities of the real world even less. Which meant that we completely ignored what was really going on in the Arab world.
As journalists and Predator drones searched for the different al-Qaida “brands” across the regions, and America propped up dictators who promised to fight the “terror network”, a whole new generation emerged in the Middle East who wanted to get rid of the dictators. The revolutions that this led to came as a complete shock to the west. We have no idea, really, who the revolutionaries are or what, if any, ideologies are driving them. But it is becoming abundantly clear that they have nothing to do with “al-Qaida”. Yet ironically they are achieving one of Bin Laden’s main goals – to get rid of the “near enemy”, dictators such as Hosni Mubarak.
One of the main functions of politicians – and journalists – is to simplify the world for us. But there comes a point when – however much they try – the bits of reality, the fragments of events, won’t fit into the old frame.
The death of Bin Laden may be that point for the simplified story ofgoodies versus baddies. It was a story born in the US and Britain at the end of the second world war – the “good war”. It then went deep into the western imagination during the cold war, was reawakened and has been held together over the last 10 years by the odd alliance of American and European politicians, journalists, “terror experts” and revolutionary Islamists all seeking to shore up their authority in a disillusioned age.
Barack Obama seems to be rejecting this story already. The Europeans still cling to it, though, with the return of “liberal interventionism” in Libya, but it is anxious and halfhearted.
But it is in Afghanistan that the story is really falling apart. We are beginning to realise that this simplification has led to completely unreal fantasies about who we are really fighting. Fantasies that only persist because they justify our presence there. For the fundamental problem with this simple story of good versus evil is that it does not permit a proper critical framework that allows you to properly judge not only those you are fighting, but also your allies.
America and the coalition invaded Afghanistan with the simple aim of destroying the terror camps and setting up a democracy that would allow the country to be ruled by good people. But in the ensuing decade they have been tricked, spun round and deceived by the complex web of vested interests there. And their inability to understand and deal with this has led to the rise of a state crippled by corruption in which it is impossible to know who the “good” people might be any longer.
Meanwhile President Harmid Karzai has immediately pointed out that Bin Laden’s killing proves that the real terrorist threat is in Pakistan – and the fight against terror in his country is a fantasy. But we also know that much of what Karzai says may also be the fantasies he uses to justify the growing power of the small elite around him. And so Afghanistan becomes a hall of mirrors – except the one thing everyone agreed on was that Bin Laden wasn’t there.
With Bin Laden’s death maybe the spell is broken. It does feel that we are at the end of a way of looking at the world that makes no real sense any longer. But the big question is where will the next story come from? And who will be the next baddie? The truth is that the stories are always constructed by those who have the power. Maybe the next big story won’t come from America. Or possibly the idea that America’s power is declining is actually the new simplistic fantasy of our age.
by Adam Curtis