The Guardian / Observer reports:
Police spies stole identities of dead children
Exclusive: Undercover officers created aliases based on details found in birth and death records, Guardian investigation reveals
Paul Lewis and Rob Evans
The Guardian, Sunday 3 February 2013 19.13 GMT
Britain's largest police force stole the identities of an estimated 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover police officers.
The Metropolitan police secretly authorised the practice for covert officers infiltrating protest groups without consulting or informing the children's parents.
The details are revealed in an investigation by the Guardian, which has established how over three decades generations of police officers trawled through national birth and death records in search of suitable matches.
Undercover officers created aliases based on the details of the dead children and were issued with accompanying identity records such as driving licences and national insurance numbers. Some of the police officers spent up to 10 years pretending to be people who had died.
The Met said the practice was not "currently" authorised, but announced an investigation into "past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS [Special Demonstration Squad] officers".
The technique of using dead children as aliases has remained classified intelligence for several decades, although it was fictionalised in Frederick Forsyth's novel The Day of the Jackal. As a result, police have internally nicknamed the process of searching for suitable identities as the "jackal run". One former undercover agent compared an operation on which he was deployed to the methods used by the Stasi.
Both officers worked for a secretive unit called the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was disbanded in 2008.
Under what legislation was this literal Identity Theft (i.e. actual theft of an identity, not mere "credit card fraud") sanctioned ?
From 2006 until the disbandment of the "Special Demonstration Squad" in 2008, the notorious and badly draughted Identity Cards Act 2006 applied.
Whilst implementing the appalling mandatory centralised biometric National Identity Register it also subsumed the previous legislation dealing with fake or improperly obtained identity documents e.g. Passports
So incompetent was the Home Office and their Labour government political masters at the time, that they literally forgot to enable the Sections of the new legislation dealing with fake or falsely obtained Passports etc. (which would have covered ID cards, had they actually been issued nationally) until <>strong>after the Repeals sections of the Identity Cards Act 2006 had come into force. There was therefore a gap of about a month during which it was not illegal to fake or falsely obtain a UK Passport !
They had to be reminded to do so by the NO2ID campaign and other critics of the whole repressive and wasteful scheme.
Home Office 'spectacular' cock-up corrected without apology NO2ID Press release 6th June 2006
Both of these Acts impose a criminal penalty of up to 10 years in prison and / or a unlimited fine i.e. it is much more serious crime to falsely apply for a Passport etc. using the stolen identity details of a dead child, than most of the petty civil disobedience crimes with which a member of a peaceful protest group is likely to get involved with.
The force added: "A formal complaint has been received which is being investigated by the DPS [Directorate for Professional Standards] and we appreciate the concerns that have been raised. The DPS inquiry is taking place in conjunction with Operation Herne's investigation into the wider issue of past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS officers. We can confirm that the practice referred to in the complaint is not something that would currently be authorised in the [Met police]."
There is a suggestion that the practice of using dead infant identities may have been stopped in the mid-1990s, when death records were digitised. However, the case being investigated by the Met relates to a suspected undercover police officer who may have used a dead child's identity in 2003.
Any falsely obtained Passport Renewals made after June 2006 would be covered by the Identity Cards Act 2006 or by the current Identity Documents Act 2010.
The practice was introduced 40 years ago by police to lend credibility to the backstory of covert operatives spying on protesters, and to guard against the possibility that campaigners would discover their true identities.
Since then dozens of SDS officers, including those who posed as anti-capitalists, animal rights activists and violent far-right campaigners, have used the identities of dead children.
One document seen by the Guardian indicates that around 80 police officers used such identities between 1968 and 1994. The total number could be higher.
Will any of the Police officers involved be disciplined ?
Spy Blog will not be surprised if the the first and perhaps only, Police officers who will be disciplined, or prosecuted under the Identity Documents Act 2010 were to be the couple of whistleblower former undercover officers who talked to the Guardian / Observer for this article.
What about other Police units ?
There are other Units within the Metropolitan Police who operate Covert Human Intelligence Source undercover officers e.g. SO15 Counter Terrorism Command etc.
Have they also unethically and illegally abused the stolen identities of dead children without the permission of their parents ?
What about the other 60 or so UK Police forces ?
What about Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs ?
What about The Serious Organised Crime Agency ?
Have any of them been acting in the same way ?
What about MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ intelligence agencies ?
There are no exemptions for the UK Intelligence Agencies under the either the the current Identity Documents Act 2010 or the Identity Cards Act 2006 which is mostly repealed.
However, if a Secretary of State i.e.(normally) the Home Secretary for MI5 or (normally) the Foreign Secretary for Mi6 and GCHQ, sign a Warrant under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 section5 Warrants: general
specifically authorising the otherwise illegal activity, they may get away with it.
N.B. such Warrants can only be applied in intelligence investigations into serious crimes defined as likely to lead to at least 3 years imprisonment for a first time offender if convicted. This clearly covers terrorism or or national security or even drug smuggling gangs etc.but is certainly does not apply to the infiltration of peaceful political protest groups.or even ones which engage in minor civil disobedience offences etc. unlikely to attract a 3 year prison sentence for a first time offender.
What about UK military armed forces ?
Special Forces (e.g. the SAS,, SBS etc.)) and their support units (e.g. Special Reconnaissance Regiment and Special Forces Support Group) and other military intelligence units of the UK armed forces also "collect HUMINT" and "run agents" and informers within the local population where they are deployed overseas.
They also did so in Northern Ireland.
Did any of these units also employ the "Day of the Jackal" style theft of dead children's identities ?
Are "protected witness" schemes also abusing the identifies of dead children ?
"Witness protection" schemes are currently handled by local Police Forces, so we expect exactly the same abuses of dead children's identities in these schemes, if the local Police Force practice for CHIS undercover false identities also abuse them.
How will the new UK Protected Persons Service which is supposed to be set up later this year deal with this matter ?
Thankfully the appalling Identity Cards Act 2006 is mostly repealed, so it is still legal to have more than one alias or stage name etc. provided that it is not being used for fraud etc.
Therefore a new identity does not necessarily require the stolen identity of a dead child.
What about the General Register Office
It could be possible for the Government to fake Birth and Death entries in the General Register Office databases.
However, these days, Genealogy is a major pastime / business available via the internet.
UK Birth and death record databases are effectively cloned by foreign (mostly USA based) Genealogy services for hobbyist, commercial or even religious reasons (e.g. the Mormons).
Can the UK Government guarantee to hide the Birth / Death Certificate details of a child from all the available online copies?
Even if the GRO issues a false Birth Certificate on the orders of (or in "voluntary" cooperation with) the Police or the intelligence agencies , it would have to keep doing this all the time. A mismatch between the current GRO online records and archived copies of previous years Births & Deaths held on other internet databases could be easily detected and would automatically raise suspicions..
What about online identities ?
"Official documentation" based on a Birth Certificate is not really enough these days. It is hard to believe that the targets of undercover CHIS infiltrators do not also have online digital persona of some sort i.e. email accounts, Twitter and Facebook identities etc.
Whilst there are various companies claiming to have software which automatically or semi-automatically create fake online social media identities, it does not exactly pass the Turing Test of artificial intelligence and looks like automated spam attempts to fool web search engine page ranking algorithms or email or blog comment spam filters
Maintaining believable online social media identities takes quite a lot of work , over time
and cannot be easily faked without the cooperation of mostly foreign based companies.