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Private Sector Stasi,
This review is from: Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists (Paperback)
The author of "Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists" Eveline Lubbers is, as a long time investigator (for SpinWatch in Britain and Buro Jansen & Janssen in the Netherlands) and academic, well qualified for the task of putting the covert activities of corporations under the spotlight.
Readers shouldn't let the somewhat dry opening chapter which looks at academic and the scope of past academic studies, and other matters of a largely academic nature, put them off from continuing to a fine brief history of corporate spying and what was for me the core of the book, its five case studies: (i) Rafael Pagan, Nestle and Shell [regarding Pagans pioneering work for Nestle against those campaigning for a boycott of the company for its policies pushing baby formula milk in 3rd world countries without clean water supply]; (ii) McSpy [on McDonalds spying - mainly regarding the infamous libel case against London Greenpeace Members; (iii) Cyber-surveillance and Online Covert Strategy [looking at three different agencies offering online intelligence services to the private sector: Infonic, eWatch and Bivings]; (iv) Hakylut and the Jobbing Spy [Looks at MI6 connected private security company Hakylut and its work for oil companies spying on environmental groups with particular regard to Manfred Schlickenrieder - the Jobbing Spy of the chapters title - covert actions]; (v) The Threat Response Spy Files [looking at the ubiquitous Evelyn le Chênes - amongst others - action for BAe against the Quaker and Christian based pacifist Campaign Against the Arm Trade].
The five case studies are laid out in detail, and look at the scope of the spying and other covert actions (eg. Disruption of activist groups, agent provocateur type actions), the links that the private sector snoops have with the Police Service and other state bodies up to and including MI5 & MI6, and how spying influences Corporate Strategy. A couple of things were especially clear, to this reader at any rate, that the connections between formal policing and security bodies and the private sector are ubiquitous, the methods used against campaigning groups are strongly reminiscent of those carried out by the Stasi in the GDR during the cold war (see for instance Mike Dennis's The Stasi: Myth and Reality) in terms of the destructive effect they had on dissidents on a personal as well as political level: one cannot overstate the destructive effect of discovering that a long term colleague in the somewhat intense world of activism is a paid plant for the very corporations that you are campaigning against. The recent relatively well publicised case of undercover policeman Mark Kennedy and his activities in the environmental movement is eloquent testimony to this.
The book ends with a conclusion that is marginally more welcoming to the reader than the introduction, followed by two appendices that include documents relating to Manfred Schlickenrieder (see the fourth case study) and documents relating to Evelyn le Chêne (see fifth case study).
Lubbers has written a fine, intelligent and precise account of Corporate Spying and how it effects activist groups and the private corporations response to their campaigns. For those readers interested in reading further into the McDonalds case see John Vidals excellent McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial. Another case of spying and covert action, though not directly attributable to the private sector, is covered in Seamus Milnes magnificent The Enemy within - namely the Tories war against the Miners.