The unaccountable taxpayer subsidised private company, the Association of Chief Police Officers, has now published a "micro-site" about its complicated and even more unaccountable and secretive Domestic Extremism quangos.
The National Coordinator Domestic Extremism was established in 2004, with the aim of reducing, and where possible, removing the threat, criminality and public disorder associated with domestic extremism in the UK, and working with police forces to ensure the facilitation of peaceful, lawful protest.
What is domestic extremism?
Unlike terrorism, which is defined in the UK by the Terrorism Act 2000, there is no equivalent legal definition for domestic extremism. This is because the crimes committed by those considered a domestic extremist already exist in common law or statute.
Exactly the same is true of terrorists - murder is murder regardless of any "terrorism" offences.
The term is generally used to describe the activity of individuals or groups carrying out criminal acts of direct action to further their protest campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside the normal democratic process.
Domestic extremists are generally associated with a single-issue campaign, and for policing purposes, have been categorised into five themes:
* Animal rights
* Extreme right wing
* Extreme left wing
* Emerging trends
Who or what are "Emerging trends" domestic extremists ?
We are extremely worried that the Police seem to conflate every "single-issue campaign" which has public demonstrations or protests, with "domestic extremists"
The alphabet soup of acronyms and the secrecy which surrounds them, are mechanisms for deliberately confusing the public and for passing the blame when things go wrong.
NCDE is the national lead on domestic extremism, on behalf of ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM), for the UK.
NCDE is made up of three units who work collaboratively to coordinate the police response to domestic extremism:
Intelligence - NPOIU (National Public Order Intelligence Unit)
Investigation - NDET (National Domestic Extremism Team)
Prevention - NETCU (National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit)
Missing from this list is
WECTU - Welsh Extremism and Counter-Terrorism Unit
CIU -Confidential Intelligence Unit (part of NPOIU)
Are there any "Domestic Extremism" police intelligence and surveillance units in Scotland under the Association of Chief Scottish Police Officers (APCor is this all simply handled by the Strathclyde (Glasgow etc.) and / or Borders and Lothian (Edinburgh etc.) Police forces ?
Are there any "Domestic Extremism" police intelligence and surveillance units in Northern Ireland, or is everyone there treated as a potential terrorist ?
Note that none of these units is directly accountable to any individual Police Authority or even to an elected Government Minister.
Which groups have been identified as domestic extremist campaigns or threats?
The police will always have a duty to prevent crime and disorder, or where it does occur, to investigate the perpetrators. However, the police do not publicly announce the identity of individuals or groups they regard as a threat or an operational priority unless it is necessary and prudent to do so; a disclosure of that nature would be likely to compromise police operations and investigations.
The police and NCDE would always encourage campaign groups to liaise with the local police force wherever possible, to ensure public protest and associated campaign activities remain peaceful and lawful.
This is a stupid policy.
How are the public meant to know which groups are considered to be "domestic extremists" and therefore to shun them, not give them any support or money etc., if the list is kept secret ?
The Home Office even publishes a list of Proscribed Terrorist groups (although neither the Taliban nor any Chechen terrorist groups are listed).
Who is considered a domestic extremist?
Single issue protest campaigns are regularly facilitated by police and local authorities who each have a duty to uphold the rights of individuals and groups to protest in public.
However, in recent years, a small number of groups and individuals have pursued a determined course of criminal activity designed to disrupt the public peace and lawful business, and at worst, repeatedly victimise selected individuals.
This activity has ranged from blackmail and serious intimidation in the name of animal rights; bombing campaigns by violent and racist individuals associated with far right wing groups; violent disorder from left wing or anarchist individuals, to large scale criminal damage against scientific GM crops studies and mass aggravated trespass or unlawful obstruction of lawful businesses associated with the national infrastructure of our country, such as power stations and airports by those who's stated aim is to stop any business perceived to harm the environment.
How does NCDE deal with peaceful protest?
The National Domestic Extremism Unit is mainly concerned with those who choose to commit criminal offences in the name of protest.
The police take an interest in protest and also domestic extremism because each can impact on communities and can sometimes lead to disorder and crime. Whilst the police have a duty to facilitate lawful protest, they also have responsibilities to prevent crime and disorder and to reduce disruption to society. We will therefore have an interest in some individuals or groups that are involved with such events; if there is potential for crime or disorder we will always need good quality information and sometimes intelligence to help us to assess potential risks and threats; we will always try to balance what sometimes feels like competing needs of different groups within society. The units do a great deal to assist forces in facilitating peaceful, lawful protest.
The National Domestic Extremism Unit does not usually focus those who choose to protest peacefully and lawfully. The unit is mainly concerned with those who commit criminal offences in furtherance of their campaign.
The words "does not usually focus" could mean that they do actually snoop on lawful, peaceful protestors with up to half their resources.
The units will have less interest in those who choose to sit down in the road or fasten themselves to gates to protest - we are mainly concerned with those who commit more serious offences. However, police forces will always need to deal with such incidents.
More serious offences will include activity that has ranged from blackmail and serious intimidation in the name of animal rights; bombing campaigns by violent and racist individuals associated with far right wing groups; violent disorder from left wing or anarchist individuals, to large scale criminal damage against scientific GM crops studies and mass aggravated trespass or unlawful obstruction of lawful businesses associated with the national infrastructure of our country, such as power stations and airports by those who's stated aim is to stop any business perceived to harm the environment.
Who does NCDE investigate?
The role of the three units in NCDE is to assist police forces with specialist advice and expertise, to promote a coordinated response to domestic extremism.
They support forces dealing with incidents involving animal rights crimes, individuals from the extreme right wing who have made home made bombs and also some aspects of disorder and offending from some individuals within environmental groups.
NDET is responsible for co-ordinating police operations and investigations against domestic campaigns and extremists, as well as identifying possible linked crimes across the country.
What statutory powers does NCDE hold?
NCDE is staffed by a combination of police officers and staff from across the country. The police officers all hold the usual powers of a constable.
All operational work they are involved with has to comply fully with all aspects of legislation and is all carried out jointly with police forces.
Any police unit, including NCDE, comply fully with all legislation, including Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), the Management of Police Information guidelines, the Data Protection Act and the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act. As such, all powers used are properly authorised and can be disclosed in the criminal justice system. No national police units have any 'special' powers above and beyond those of a police officer in a local force.
That is still a vast amount of legal power, especially when applied by secret police units who are not directly accountable to anyone.
N.B. the Common Law offence of Sedition has been recently repealed by Coroners and Justice Act 2009 section 79 Abolition of common law libel offences etc. with effect from last January 12th 2010 (automatically 2 months after Royal Assent).
Who works for NCDE?
ACC Anton Setchell is the head of NCDE, and the units within NCDE are staffed by around 100 serving police officers and employees of police forces across the country.
Steve Pearl is the public face of NETCU - the prevention unit of NCDE.
We do not proactively release the names of those working for NCDE for security reasons.
What are the names and ranks of the heads of the NPOIU and NDET?
NPOIU and NDET typically provide support to police forces rather than to the public and much of the work that they are engaged in is of an operationally sensitive nature. We therefore do not identify individuals within those two units.
That is not acceptable.
There is a case for hiding the identities of the low level officers and staff, but there is no excuse for the senior managers to hide their ranks or identities or office contact details.
They are paid to be senior leaders and managers, so they should be accountable to the public, who need to know who they are so that complaints and investigations
Where are NPOIU and NDET based?
Both units are based in London. For reasons of operational security we do not disclose the exact location of any of these units.
Why should these intelligence and surveillance units NPOIU and NDET be even more secretive and less contactable than MI5 the Security Service, Mi6 the Secret Intelligence Service or GCHQ ?
Even NETCU has a website, www.netcu.org.uk which publishes a postal address:
PO Box 525
There is no excuse for not publishing a Post Office Box contact address, a 24/7 (freephone) telephone contact, an email address, a SSL/TLS encrypted web contact form and a PGP Public Encryption / Digital Signing cryptographic key etc.
Do they really not want the public to provide them with intelligence tip offs ?
What is NCDE's budget?
The annual funding is approximately £9m across all three units; this money is provided jointly from the Home Office, police forces and from the CT Grant (Home Office). The £2m that features on the ACPO accounts statement for the DE project is part of this overall funding.
So who independently scrutinises this budget ? Nobody.
How do we know whether or not these secretive units are not wasting public money ? How do we know that they have not suffered from financial scandals, like the abuse of American Express corporate credit cards by the Metropolitan Police specialist units ?
e.g. this BBC report Credit inquiry into 300 officers
Why do these secret Police intelligence and surveillance units not come under even the weak scrutiny of the Parliamentary Intelligence Services Committee ?
How many people work for NCDE?
The level of staffing across the three units is about 100, of which two thirds are police officers and one third are police staff.
How is NCDE linked to the Home Office?
NCDE is independent of the Home Office, but works with Home Office and other government departments such as BIS, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Why was the unelected and disgraced Lord Mandelson allowed power or privileged access to such Police intelligence and surveillance units ?
Has BIS passed on such intelligence information to private sector vested interests ?
What links does NCDE have to the security services?
These are policing units working to assist police forces. The units will work wherever it is relevant or necessary with a wide range of other agencies and organisations both in the UK and abroad, just as police forces do. We do not comment on specific organisations or the work we do with them.
By not clearly spelling out the rules of engagement or demarcation with the intelligence agencies, many innocent people will naturally fear the worst.
Is NCDE spying on us and contravening our human rights?
No. The police take an interest in protest and also domestic extremism because each can impact on communities and can sometimes lead to disorder and crime. Whilst the police have a duty to facilitate lawful protest, they also have responsibilities to prevent crime and disorder and to reduce disruption to society. We will therefore have an interest in some individuals or groups that are involved with such events; if there is potential for crime or disorder we will always need good quality information and sometimes intelligence to help us to assess potential risks and threats; we will always try to balance what sometimes feels like competing needs of different groups within society. The units do a great deal to assist forces in facilitating peaceful, lawful protest.
Police forces do much to ensure that campaign groups can exercise their domestic freedoms of speech, but at the same time ensure communities can continue to enjoy their freedoms to go about their business or travel with minimum disruption and without being subjected to disorder or intimidation.
It is a small number who believe breaking the law is justifiable and will help further their campaign aims. NCDE is there to support forces in facilitating peaceful, lawful protest and preventing that which is unlawful.
So NCDE are in fact spying on us, but they claim that this is not "contravening our human rights"
Does NCDE hold personal information on individuals?
Intelligence held by NCDE is owned by the police force that collected it.
NPOIU is responsible for coordinating intelligence from across the country in order to advise each force of the bigger picture. However, the ownership of each piece of intelligence lies with the force it came from.
This is a deliberate technique for avoiding Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act requests, by making it too easy for individual Police units to claim that someone else is in charge of the personal data which they hold and amend copies of.
If you set up a database , from multiple other data sources, you should be made responsible for any use or abuse of that collated intelligence resource and people should be able to contact you directly about it.
How many people are on the NPOIU database?
At the most recent count, there are only 1,822 photos held by the NPOIU. Considering this is a national police intelligence database and there are many hundreds of protest events every year, some attracting tens or hundreds of thousands of people, this very small number should provide context for anyone who has any concerns about the scale of photograph retention. Many are only retained for a very short period, some we need to retain for several years; each one is individually assessed and reviewed regularly.
Before a photo or any information or intelligence can be entered onto the database, it has to be individually assessed against a set of MOPI and ECHR compliant criteria and be given a review date; the system automatically prompts this review when it is due.
In addition to having a duty to facilitate lawful protest, the police service has a responsibility to secure public safety and needs good quality, relevant information and intelligence to do all of this. Good intelligence protects not only the public and democracy, but suspects and offenders too.
What action did the unit take following the ruling of Wood v Commissioner of the Metropolis 2009?
The outcome of the Wood vs. Commissioner of the Metropolis case was welcomed by NCDE, in particular NPOIU as it brought clarity to an area that had not previously been tested in the courts.
The three national Domestic Extremism (DE) units work hard to ensure that all they do is necessary, justified and proportionate and this applies to the management of any information or intelligence, including any photographs. In this respect, the Wood judgement did not change anything for NPOIU and the photos it holds - it cemented existing practice.
Presumably they mean Judgment (the spelling now used for High Court or UK Supreme Court Judgments) rather than "judgement"
The judgement fully reflected our views about the retention of photographs taken by police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) teams and in following the Statutory Code of Practice for the Management of Police Information (MOPI) since its introduction, our practice has been compliant with the judgement findings.
The judgement also recognised the Metropolitan Police would not have retained the photos beyond a few weeks, not indefinitely as some misreporting would have it.
The Metropolitan Police tend to retain stuff for at least 6 or 7 years.
The ACPO guidance on data retention does effectively mean "indefinitely" for so long as a criminal investigation is considered to be active.
If there has been even a minor conviction, then the data will be retained until your One Hundredth Birthday (by which time the rules will probably have been extended)
It is also important to remind those who have expressed concerns about FIT teams that the Law Lords recognised there was a legitimate aim by the police in the taking and retaining of the photographs at least for a short time - this was described by them as being for the prevention of disorder or crime, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. To report on only one aspect of the outcome of the case is misleading.
There is a framework of legislation in place to safeguard the rights and freedoms of society which the police must comply with; for the gathering of intelligence these laws include RIPA, MOPI and the Data Protection Act, which are all underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition to the strict requirement for legal compliance, we simply do not have the capacity or staff to process and store irrelevant photos,
With modern digital storage media capacities even for home computers, now being measured in TeraBytes, the claim to have no capacity to store irrelevant photos is untrue.
they are of no value to us and we do not want them. It has been practice since long before the Wood judgement that FIT officers could attend a protest or public order event and either take no photos at all, or where they have taken photos, to recognise there is no need to process them afterwards because they were of no value. Officers will always need to exercise this judgement.
We have little faith in the
We simply do not believe that the only information held or used by the NOPIU involves a few copies of photographs of protestors.
What about the Police National Computer ANPR tag 7 REASON - Protest used and abused by Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems ?
See the Spy Blog post
What is the mechanism, if any for deleting such information on the NPOIU database if the local Police force decides to do so ?
What about the reverse process, if the NPOIU decide that your photo or vehicle number plate etc. is not relevant to an investigation into "Domestic Extremism", then does this data get removed from the local Police force's criminal intelligence databases ?
We doubt that this happens at all - the tendency of the Police is to hold on to every bit of data or information for as long as possible, regardless of its accuracy or proper context.
What information is collected by NCDE?
There are two types of information collected by NCDE.
Because domestic extremists don't work within police force boundaries, each force submits their intelligence to NPOIU, who then feed it into a database and analyse the information to identify common incidents, tactics and people committing offences across the country.
This information is then fed back to the police forces concerned, to allow them to see the bigger, national picture and join up their investigations, if appropriate.
NETCU, on the other had, collects 'open source' information - that is information gathered from websites and the mainstream media. They also collect post-event information from police forces, such as where a protest happened, how many people attended and how long it lasted.
This information is used to provide tactical advice and guidance to police forces across the country to promote a coordinated and consistent approach to tackling domestic extremism. It also allows NETCU, in their capacity as a crime prevention unit, to support industry, academia and other organisations that have been or could be targeted by extremists. NETCU also provides the Government and partners in the police service and the Crown Prosecution Service with collated public information about domestic extremism trends, as well as post-event incidents and crimes.
Does NCDE carry out surveillance?
All operational work NCDE is involved with is done together with police forces. Any force carrying out surveillance does so under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and must meet the test of proportionality under that legislation.
We do not believe that they never conduct intrusive surveillance including "interference with property" under the Police Act 1997 Part III Authorisation of Action in Respect of Property
Does NCDE share intelligence or information with industry?
NCDE deals with two types of information, or intelligence. The first is police intelligence, supplied by police forces, which is analysed by NPOIU to identify common incidents, tactics and people committing offences across the country.
This information is then fed back to the police forces concerned, to allow them to see the bigger, national picture and join up their investigations, if appropriate.
The second type of information is 'open source' information, gathered from public websites and the mainstream media.
We do sometimes wonder if the visitors to this website using Police National Network or Metropolitan Police or or West Midlands Police etc. IP addresses are (ineptly) doing this sort of "open source" intelligence gathering, or if they have subcontracted this out to commercial internet "business intelligence" companies.
This is collated by NETCU and has two purposes.
Because domestic extremists don't work within police force boundaries, NETCU collates information about up and coming events and protests, from public websites and gives it to the police force, or forces concerned, so they can plan their resources accordingly. NETCU also provides tactical advice and guidance in order to promote a coordinated and consistent approach to tackling domestic extremism.
Acting as a crime prevention unit, NETCU also supports industry, academia and other organisations that have been or could be targeted by extremists. They collate open source information to provide a bigger picture of the issue, as well as providing security advice, risk assessments and information that can help minimise disruption, disorder and criminality if there is a protest and help them keep their employees safe.
At no time does NCDE pass any police intelligence to anyone other than other police forces. The only information passed to industry, academia and other organisations has come from a public source, that anyone could find.
So they never pass any police intelligence directly or indirectly to MI5 the Security Service or to SOCPA the Serious Organised Crime Agency or to the UK Border Agency or HM Revenue and Customs etc. etc., none of which are "other police forces"
Somehow we do not believe them.
NCDE need to prove this claim about "police intelligence" to the public.
All information is handled by NCDE in accordance with the MoPI regulations, therefore information would only be passed on if it met the criteria for a policing purpose; namely the prevention crime and disorder.
"the MoPI regulations" - ACPO Guidance Management of Police Information second edition (.pdf)
Does NCDE get companies' injunctions?
No. Getting an injunction is the responsibility of the company or organisation and the High Court. The Protection from Harassment Act allows people or organisations to obtain injunctive relief where harassment has occurred or is anticipated to occur.
As a police unit it is our role to remain impartial and as a result we do not have any direct involvement in obtaining injunctions, unless specially asked to provide evidence and information at the court hearing for the injunction application. Anything we say in court is placed on the court record and is available to the general public.
We would only provide evidence or information upon a formal request by a lawyer acting as an Officer of the Court. Requests for such evidence/ information for police held information/evidence would be made under Section 35 (2) of the Date Protection Act 1997; by Court Procedure Rules 37 (7) or by subpoena.
If a lawyer or a company ask us for evidence as part of an injunction application, before the injunction court hearing, we will provide them the details of a force or the names of police officers who may be able to help. The passing of this contact information is a central part of the tactical and coordination remit of our unit.
NETCU also provides generic information to companies and organisations about injunctions and the process involved, in its capacity for preventing domestic extremism.
What is the relationship between former Police constables or civilian staff who have worked in these Domestic Extremism units and the private sector security companies who sell their expertise and experience to large multinational companies whose vested financial interests may be affected by political campaigns and protests ?
What is the official relationship or connection between ACPO and NCDE?
NDCE is a national police unit within ACPO, specifically within TAM (Terrorism and Allied Matters). The unit reports to the ACPO committee and is answerable to all chief police officers across the country.
That is not an acceptable system of accountability and transparency in a democratic society for secret Police units which exercise so much politically based intrusive surveillance snooping on innocent members of the public, no matter how good their "law and order" intentions are.
Why is NCDE not subject to Freedom of Information?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) applies to public authorities in England and Wales. Under the FOIA, organisations listed in Schedule 1 of the Act - either by name or by a description - have to provide public access to information they hold.
NCDE is not a public authority as defined by Schedule 1 of the FOIA, therefore there are currently no obligations on NCDE to disclose information under the Act.
ACPO and all of its sub-units should be made accountable under the Freedom of Information Act, exactly like each of the regional Police forces is already.
There a plenty of Exemptions under FOIA to prevent the release of anything which might damage ongoing criminal investigations.
However, in the spirit of the Act, NCDE will consider all requests for information and aim to make available as much information it properly can.
Does NCDE/police involvement stifle lawful protest?
No. Thousands of people take part in protests across the country each year, and NCDE, alongside the wider police service, fully supports people's rights to democratically express their views on issues they feel strongly about.
Unfortunately, within some otherwise lawful campaigns, a few individuals resort to criminal activity to further their cause. These individuals sometimes try to hide their illegal activities by associating themselves with otherwise lawful campaigners. It is this minority which police forces, together with units like NCDE, are determined to stop and bring to justice.
It is important to note, however, NCDE does not deal with most protests or public order issue - these are dealt with by the local police force.
They have been controversially present at, say the Kingsnorth coal fired power station or Heathrow airport expansion protest camps.
Are people not entitled to 'have their say'?
Yes. The police service and other law enforcement agencies have a vital role to play in ensuring that where protest action takes place, it does so in a peaceful and safe manner and does not cause unnecessary disruption to a community.
We seek to strike an appropriate balance between everyone's rights; the rights of citizens to protest with the rights of a lawful business and its employees to continue working without unlawful disruption or intimidation and the rights of other members of a community to continue their daily lives without excessive disruption.
Are protestors really extremists?
The majority of people who choose to take part in a protest do so legally and peacefully and never are considered 'extremist'. The term only applies to individuals or groups whose activities go outside the normal democratic process and engage in crime and disorder.
Do the police favour one side over another?
No. The police service, including NCDE, maintain a strictly impartial position on protest issues and causes.