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Northern Constabulary Response Docu VER

Northern Constabulary Response Docu VER

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Published by: Attica66 on Feb 15, 2013
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Your Ref: 35/2013Dear Ms Sherriff Thank you for your response dated 8
February.In your response you provided different reasons in support of a refusal of the information. I will try to groupthe points with my response for simplicity. I apologize if you find the length of my response objectionable.But I feel it is necessary to encompass the reasons for dissatisfaction at the decision, the public interestarguments, and the supplementary text you added.INABILITY TO OBTAIN INFORMATION WITHIN COST LIMITIn your response you quoted my requests. I should note that you did not mention the annotation below itwhich stated that the request was for the relevant statistics on the given date (13
January). This is relevant because I was only looking for the information on operations which were active on the specific date therequest was made. I will proceed on the assumption that you understand this and that my mention of the present tense in the original request itself means that you grasp that I was not looking for statistics oninactive surveillance operations.You stated that:“as per previous request we would look at all investigations across now 11 years or more to determine if surveillance was part of this investigation”If what you are saying is to be taken at face value; it is very concerning. You are stating that the only recordsavailable of active surveillance activity would be those which happen to be in the database of all reportedcrimes.You are thus indicating that there would be no categorisation of such activity; no operational records, norecord of staff activity or deployment, no documented organisation of units dedicated to surveillance, norecords kept of such activity within such departments and no financial records which couldidentify the relevant activity.The use of staff in surveillance activity tends to be very costly in terms of time and money, and typical activeoperations will employ a total complement which is comfortably into double figures. We are all very familiar with the complaints from certain sections of police about the need to do so much paperwork. The need for a paper trail within public bodies tends to be very pronounced, especially where costly expenses are gathered.You continue to provide a paragraph which moves toward the risks of providing information to criminals andindicates that responses do not differentiate between those asking for information on such a basis. But it isimportant to say that Freedom of Information legislation provides many exemptions which allow thereleasing of only the information which relates directly to a valid request. That is to say, it is not uncommonfor documentation to be released where the bulk has been redacted because it is exempt. By doing this, theorganisation can thus satisfy the requester and ensures compliance with legal obligations.OTHER POTENTIAL REASONS FOR REFUSING INFORMATIONFollowing your indication of a refusal on the grounds of excessive cost, you continue to further argumentsagainst providing the information in the event that it was retrievable within the cost limit, stating:“If the information were retrievable it would be exempted by virtue of the exemptions and rationale listed
 below:To disclose information that mentions police tactics used in the prevention or detection of crime, through themedium of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, is tantamount to disclosing that information tothose minded to criminality, thus giving those individuals an advantage over the forces of law and order.Disclosure would raise awareness amongst serious organised crime groups and terrorist groups of the toolsand techniques available and deployed. It would reveal the capacity and capability available across Scottish policing again placing communities at risk by highlighting our weaknesses which would be exploited bycrime groups”This seems to be the foundation for citing Sections 31, 34, 35, 38 and 39 of FOI legislation.According to the Cambridge Online Dictionary the definition of “tactics” includes:“a planned way of doing something “and“the arrangement and use of soldiers and equipment in war “(http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/tactic#tactic__3).But I am not requesting information about tactics used in operations, I am requesting basic statistics aboutsurveillance operations (which are by their nature extremely intrusive), not charging people over long periods of time. My request does not pertain to “capacity, capability, tools or techniques”. Capacity wouldencompass all operations and staffing. Tools, techniques and capability are unrelated to my request.So there is a clear distinction between general statistics which are unattributed to any person or group, andmethods used within such operations-which are irrelevant.The information requested, since non-specific, would not constitute any hindrance to crime prevention or serve to facilitate criminal actions. Also this request is not for a Scottish total as you indicate, only for  Northern Constabulary.If criminal risk was a key argument against releasing data, then you might have offered a partial release of the information for those who do not have any criminal record or for surveillance which had gone on for some of the longer periods mentioned. As surely any assertion that those targeted were criminals would besubstantiated either by a previous criminal record, or by actual evidence which would lead to convictionrather than self perpetuating surveillance for years/decades on end.PUBLIC INTEREST ARGUMENTS FOR DISCLOSUREThe information I am requesting is regarding surveillance on those who have not been charged. If there is along term surveillance operation which is not pressing charges against someone, especially where the personhas little or no criminal record, then it begs a raft of questions which include:Is what they are doing appropriate?Who is responsible for the justification of such activity and is it founded on solid grounds?If someone has not been charged; why should those who are paid to carry out surveillance, and have aninherent interest in it's continuity, decide who is criminally minded or not?Is due process being followed, if not why not?Is there any proper oversight of such activity?
It is apparent that the information, if released, would not afford answers to these questions. In compliancewith legislation it could not. But any public debate on such matters would undoubtedly be a healthy anddemocratic thing.You mentioned in the response that:“The Office of the Surveillance Commissioner regulates this area rigorously.”Before continuing it is worth noting the strangeness of mentioning rigorous regulation for an area where youseem to assert there is no dedicated records.It states on the OSC website that it's budget is one million pounds and it employs 26 people. When youconsider this relative to the whole UK, this is a fraction of a fraction of the total money and staff used oncovert surveillance. Especially when one considers the number of different organisations involved.Anyone who reads about crimes and misconduct carried out by covert police officers will be aware that it isalmost always because of the innocent targets or whistle-blowers that scandals are uncovered. I have yet toread any story in the media showing that the OSC has successfully uncovered corruption. This indicates that,at best, the OSC may be uncovering problems but does not trust the public to know about them. Regardlessof whether they are righting maladies or not; it isn't an open and honest approach.As there is no legislation which curtails the length of time such surveillance can continue without charge,and those who are the subject cannot defend themselves against what has not been revealed, there is anevident grey area here which can and has been abused (http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/robevans, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/undercover-with-paul-lewis-and-rob-evans) .The reasons themselves which can be provided in order to justify ongoing surveillance can be very wideranging and take many different forms.Such justifications are inherently weaker than actual court based evidence which affords measures to test thevalidity, veracity and truth of documents/accounts/recordings etc. With the striking constraints that the OSChas, it couldn't possibly verify the accuracy of all justifications for surveillance. So it likely relies on goodfaith. We live in a day and age where there is such high technology that just about any type of evidence can be manufactured, and the mechanisms which are meant to keep checks and balances have been longoutstripped, outmanoeuvred, overstretched and underdeveloped. This is not to say that there are no expertswho can properly analyse and evaluate such evidence accurately; but it tends to be beyond the resources andwill of those with the powers to correct matters.Those who are aware of what has been publicly released regarding surveillance operations in general willknow that surveillance can be initiated for reasons which can be entirely injudicious and inappropriate. Thesurveillance of peaceful activists is something which police establishments continue to perpetuate withoutaddressing the fact that taxpayers are largely against this. Such operations continue in wilful ignorance of democracy, without proper explanation or account. Countless untold millions of tax money are spent oncovert operations each year. Those who operate in such activities largely have carte blanche to do as they please.Where covert crimes and unethical behaviour are exposed, officers tend to indicate that the small proportionof problems which do get publicity are part of systemic patterns(eg with Mark Kennedy). That is to say, theyare the tip of the iceberg. Where surveillance is wrongly applied, it is a diabolical thing. With the recent blacklisting scandal of labour workers, the legacy of destruction of peoples lives is only starting to transpire.The opinion of experts was that the intelligence stored by the company involved could only have beengathered by covert state forces. Where people are targeted, their whole families are made to suffer along withthem too. Lives are destroyed and cast by the wayside.Much time is spent by certain parties arguing in favour of non-disclosure of covert crimes because it may

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