Cambridge Police Infiltrate Student Politics
The Cambridgeshire Police have been caught trying to recruit an activist to go undercover and spy on Cambridge student politics.
They’re not just monitoring your emails anymore– the government are trying to figure out your political beliefs. In a video released by the Guardian this afternoon, a member of Cambridge police was secretly filmed trying to recruit an informant to spy on student political societies.
The officer’s target, a political activist with ties to Cambridge University student politics groups, was persuaded to inform police about “student-union type stuff” in exchange for monetary compensation.
Describing the work that an informant might undertake, the police officer filmed in the covert video singled out UK Uncut, Unite Against Fascism and Cambridge Defend Education as examples of student political societies that would be of interest to police. The informant was also told that he would be expected to provide intelligence about events planned by student political societies, the names and details of leaders in the organisations, and the whereabouts of key figures affiliated with the groups. Facebook groups run by the student societies were noted as being particularly good sources for the informant to collect information about society members.
When contacted for comment by The Tab, Cambridge Constabulary repeated the statement they gave to the Guardian earlier today: “Officers use covert tactics to gather intelligence, in accordance with the law, to assist in the prevention and detection of criminal activity.”
A Cambridge University spokesperson declined to comment, saying that the matter was an issue for the police to answer to.
While the Cambridge branch of UK Uncut have yet to comment on the revelations, the organisation’s head office tweeted the following message this afternoon.
Lots of love and solidarity to Cambridge Uncut x http://t.co/jdZ3HEeZ9a …
— UK Uncut (@UKuncut) November 14, 2013
Speaking to The Tab, chairman of Cambridge University Conservatives’ Association David Cowan said: “The fact that this is happening is appalling, the police shouldn’t be keeping tabs on people like this.
“We live in a free country where we trust the government not to be interfering with people’s lives. It’s quite shocking.
“Monitoring any political society like this is is absolutely wrong. It seems that they’re monitoring a specific kind of politics, and they shouldn’t be trying to target people like that.”
Chair of Cambridge University’s Labour Club Phelim Brady added: “This news is deeply concerning. I can’t see any justification for police using paid informants to keep tabs on student political activity and the work of our student union; it’s wrong.
“Cambridgeshire police’s initial suggestion that this kind of monitoring is in the interests of national security simply isn’t credible.
“If the police actually have a genuine concern about a political group they should be upfront about it and not resort to creating a network of informants to fish for information.
“This is a worrying step which will undermine trust in the police, and I expect a response from our elected police and crime commissioner.”
UPDATE 17:00 14/11/2013: Cambridge Defend Education have released the following statement in response to the matter:
“Cambridge Defend Education is not surprised to find itself the subject of police surveillance […] It is telling that the police regard their activities as completely legitimate and legal, reflecting their crucial role in enforcing austerity policies through both violent and covert repression of those who oppose them.
This constitutes part of a wider attempt by the police, university management and the government to criminalise and suppress dissent within universities across the country […]
We refuse to be intimidated by these coercive and underhand tactics, and will continue to resist – in our universities and on the streets.”
UPDATE 19:00 14/11/2013: Cambridge University Student Union weigh in on the issue:
“We are alarmed by news of police surveillance on Cambridge student activists. CUSU believes that all individuals have the right to protest peacefully.
“CUSU has always constructively engaged with the police when planning or supporting protests and demonstrations. As such, CUSU finds it absurd that our members should be the focus of these investigations.
“Tactics such as these are not only intrusive, they also waste time targeting groups which are involved in making important and positive change in our society. We condemn the actions of the police in this matter and hope the Government will look critically at the use of surveillance measures by UK security forces.”