Domestic extremists and secret police

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

19 March 2013

Ever vigilant to protect Britain’s national security, the country’s secret police have unearthed a hitherto somewhat neglected category of threat – the domestic extremist.

Take John Catt, for instance.

John is a clean-shaven 88-year-old British pensioner with no criminal record.

That’s it. Those are the facts.

On the basis of those facts, it must be obvious to any sane right-thinking person that John is a potential danger to the state.

That is why he has been included on a secret police database of domestic extremists.

Unsurprisingly, given his blameless life, John was unhappy at his inclusion on the database.

He asked the police to delete his name from it.

You must be joking, police told him. Your name will stay on the database. End of story.

But it was not the end of the story.

Last Thursday, 14 March, three senior British judges at Britain’s Appeal Court ordered Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to delete Carr’s name from the database of domestic extremists.

The judges ruled that Catt’s human rights had been violated.

For four years, police compiling the database had included items of suspect information about Catt, such as the fact that he was “clean-shaven” and “had slogans on his clothes”.

Even worse, he had also “drawn sketches” at political demonstrations.

To be fair to the police, they did try to argue their corner.

Catt is a peace activist. He has often attended demonstrations against a US-owned company near his home in Brighton that is involved in the arms trade. Sometimes, according to police claims reported in the press, these demonstrations had descended into disorder. Catt, therefore, was someone who associated with “those who had a propensity to violence and crime”. Hence, his name could legitimately be included on the database.

The Appeal Court, however, found that despite the fact that Catt had been attending such demonstrations for years, it had never been suggested that he indulged in criminal activity or encouraged others to do so.

According to a report in the London Guardian on 15 March 2013, the court said it appeared that police had been recording “the names of any persons they can identify, regardless of the particular nature of their participation”.

The newspaper said that after the judgement Catt made the following comment:

“I hope this judgement will bring an end to the abusive and intimidatory monitoring of peaceful protesters by police forces nationwide. Police surveillance of this kind only serves to undermine our democracy and deter lawful protest.”

Police are said to be considering an appeal against the ruling.


The logic behind secret police surveillance is simple.

All citizens are potential criminals. Therefore, surveillance of all citizens is justified: any one of them might become an actual criminal. 

Another police line of argument goes as follows: if people are innocent, they have nothing to fear from police monitoring. Police will only act against them if they are involved in crime. In which case the monitoring will have clearly been justified. 

The right of citizens to live their private lives without interference from the state seems to be beyond the ken of the police. 

The surveillance of Catt as a domestic extremist is just the tip of the iceberg of secret police monitoring of UK citizens opposed to the political status quo.

According the Guardian, he is one of thousands of law-abiding anti-establishment campaigners whose names are filed on the database of domestic extremists.

However, the database represents only one aspect of police surveillance.

For decades Britain’s secret police have infiltrated lawful protest groups and demonstrations. Spooks have been embedded for years in radical groups, reporting back to police HQ on the groups’ activities and sometimes allegedly inciting them to take illegal action. Some spooks have even formed sexual relationships with protesters in order to substantiate their bona fide commitment to the aims of the protest movements.

The War on Terror launched by US President George W. Bush after the terrorist attack on New York in September 2001 led to a massive expansion of secret police surveillance in the west. UK Prime Minister, Anthony Blair, Bush’s close ally, gave the go-ahead for a massive recruitment of secret police officers, particularly for MI5 (domestic counter-espionage) and MI6 (British espionage overseas) operations.

As far as one can gather – obviously no hard information about covert activities is made public – Britain is awash with secret agents spying not only on foreigners but also on law-abiding British citizens.

We have yet to hear a police chief anywhere speak up in favour of free speech or the right to protest.

In the western media we hear a lot about the Russian KGB, the East German Stasi, the Israeli Mossad, etc. About our own secret police there is generally a deafening silence. And, in any case, there is one golden rule that is never broken: covert western intelligence agents  – aka, secret police – are never ever referred to by the press as secret police.  It is other states – generally those regarded by our rulers as being hostile to the west – that have secret police. We ourselves have patriotic under-cover crime-busting sleuths. 

What, in any case, is an “extremist”?

This is the conventional syllogism:

“An extremist is someone whose opinions differ radically from mine.

My views are eminently reasonable and balanced.

Your views are irrational, unfounded and over the top.

You, therefore, are indisputably an extremist.”


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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