Privacy SOS

UK government to hold secret hearings on undercover lover allegations

Please note that by playing this clip YouTube and Google will place a long term cookie on your computer.

What would you do if you found out that your lover — or the father of your children — was an undercover police officer who had been tasked to spy on you and your friends, to report to the government on your political organizing? What if that undercover lover was so intertwined in your personal life that he attended your father’s funeral with you after he died of cancer?

Sounds like a nightmare, but it’s real. And twelve people who say they were victimized by five undercover officers for tricking them into sex, relationships and even reproduction are suing the British government for gross human rights violations.

Mirroring the troubling but increasingly frequent use of secret trials in the United States, a court has held that the claims will be heard in a secret court — where even the plaintiffs and their attorneys can’t hear the full extent of the government’s surveillance operations. The “court,” called the “Investigatory Powers Tribunal,” “deals with complaints relating to secret surveillance powers,” according to the BBC. The judge who decided to send the suits to the secret court told the plaintiffs that they could bring some of the claims to an open court, “but only after the IPT had ruled.”

An attorney for six of the plaintiffs told the BBC that the secret court proceedings would deny her clients justice:

This decision prevents both the claimants and the public from seeing the extent of the violation of human rights and abuses of public office perpetrated by these undercover units. The claimants have already suffered a gross violation of their privacy and abuse of trust by the police. If the case is dealt with by the IPT they will be denied access to justice and may never discover why they were thus violated by the state.

The lawyer representing the other plaintiffs said his clients would consider appealing the ruling:

Today the court has acknowledged that they have suffered the 'gravest' interference with their fundamental rights. It has nonetheless taken the view that the police are capable of authorising such grave interferences under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act). Our clients will have to carefully study the judgment and consider an appeal on this issue.

The government, for its part, has claimed that it did nothing wrong. Worse yet, police have argued that the practice is necessary because women in leftist-activist circles are so promiscuous that in order for officers to remain undercover, they must have sex with them. In other words, their covers would be blown if they didn’t have sex with members of the group.

As the policing minister put it: “Banning such actions would provide the group targeted the opportunity to find out whether there was an undercover officer within their group.”

Another officer said: "Everybody knew it was a very promiscuous lifestyle….You cannot not be promiscuous in those groups. Otherwise you'll stand out straightaway."

Officers told the Guardian last year that sleeping with marks is a “common technique” in the UK’s “National Public Order Intelligence Unit,” the division responsible for spying on and infiltrating (leftist) political groups.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, former FBI informant Craig Monteilh says that the bureau encouraged him to have sex with a Muslim woman to get information.

Apparently nothing is sacred when it comes to state surveillance. Not even love.

There is a sort of funny twist to this horrific story, at least. One of the undercover cops involved is now suing the government, too, claiming that it couldn't stop him from falling in love with his mark. Really.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.