Police surveillance of Muslims set up with ‘no regard for law’

Police covered up counter-terrorism unit’s £3m camera operation which spied on Muslims in Birmingham.

A secret police operation to place thousands of Muslims living in Birmingham under permanent surveillance was implemented with virtually no consultation, oversight or regard for the law, a report found today.

Project Champion was abandoned in June after an investigation by the Guardian revealed police had misled residents into believing that hundreds of counter-terrorism cameras installed in streets around Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.

In fact, the £3m project was being run from the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit with the consent of security officials at the Home Office and MI5.

The network of CCTV and automatic number plate reading (ANPR) cameras, which were weeks away from being switched on, were intended to monitor people entering and leaving the predominantly Muslim suburbs.

Revealing the findings of her damning report into the project, Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley police, revealed how:

• Police devised a “storyline” that concealed the true purpose of the cameras. Counter-terrorism insignia was removed from paperwork as part of a deliberate strategy to “market” the surveillance operation as a local policing scheme to improve community safety.

• Top police officers failed to ask questions about the operation’s “proportionality, legitimacy, authority, necessity, and the ethical values inherent in the proposed course of action”. The report documented 11 instances when “oversight” mechanisms offered limited or no scrutiny.

• Police assurances that security cameras would be used for local policing were highly misleading. Although ANPR data was to be shared on regional and national databases, the network was controlled by the counter-terrorism unit. There was “no local facility to view the cameras” and “nobody in place to monitor them”.

• Attempts by police to conceal the true purpose of the project caused “significant damage to community relations” in the West Midlands. One community leader was quoted as saying the project had “set relations back a decade”.

• Officers failed to comply with national CCTV regulations or conduct proper consultation. They did not obtain statutory clearance for the use of covert cameras and, Thornton said, there was “very little evidence” that police had even considered their legal obligations.

Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, confirmed in a statement that 29 covert cameras had been removed. Police had planned a total of 218 cameras in the area, 72 of which would be covert.

The West Midlands chief constable, Chris Simms, said in a statement that he fully accepted Thornton’s findings. “I am sorry that we got such an important issue so wrong and that it has had such a negative impact on our communities.”

His force has declined repeated requests for an interview with a senior officer since June. Today the force again declined to provide a senior officer to answer the Guardian’s questions.

There have been no resignations or disciplinary action over Project Champion. The West Midlands police authority, the force watchdog, is considering complaints from councillors who say they were misled by senior police officers.

Assistant chief constable Anil Patani, who had overall responsibility for Project Champion, is not known to have made any public statement about the fiasco. The project was removed from his command in July.

Thornton said the scheme was funded out of a counter-terrorism fund administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) as a direct response to the perceived concentration of terrorist threats in 2007. In their proposal police said they intended to place a surveillance “net” around two Birmingham neighbourhoods identified as containing a high proportion of terror suspects.

The bid for the funding was submitted in January 2008 and the following month the project received the backing of the police authority, which Thornton said failed to ask the obvious question: “Is this the right thing to do?”

In January 2009 the project was well underway and senior officers turned to public relations. Minutes from meetings chaired by Patani reveal officers decided to “formulate a narrative” that concentrated on tackling crime.

Seeking to find “a storyline on which to hang the project”, it was decided to remove the counter-terrorism “badge” from documentation. The logos were replaced with a new brand – the Safer Birmingham Parternship (SBP) – which was given nominal responsibility for the cameras.

Senior officers were aware of the dangers. “We are not going to install 150 plus cameras without questions being asked,” the officers noted.

The Guardian

One Comment

  1. Looks like the “stepping stones technique” again not apparent to the naive and the gullible, yet the trained mind is always alert to such insidious attempts to impose what is highly reminiscent of dovetsky’s account of the purges of czarist russia to impose totalitarian police control by stealth!
    never be fooled by such plausible reasons as safety and crime prevention-what is taking place in britain today is the early/intermediate stages of elimination of what is now the only threat and real opposition to the banking elite pre crash,the reality at present is the future is very grim indeed post crash, because the masses have like servile occupants of the gulag confined themselves to no other possibility -the muslims are as guilty of this nihilistic passivity as anyone else for the most part,prefering tyranny over anarchy, the rule of law seems the safe option but how long can the muslims and indeed all those looking for a way out in britain accept such a covert and overt policy of survailance?
    It is often said by those still alive today who remember the war against fascism in europe the one my grandfathers were willing to die for that britain has indeed succumbed to fascism “why does my homeland feel like an open prison”,” why are we now aliens” ,”what future do my children have?” – these are the words today of those who sacrificed there yesterday for our today!
    Does this sound like liberty won the day, if so for who?what of the lawless rabble in todays parliment what loyalty to the country folk have they shown?
    Nay they have sold the land,lives and future aspirations of a nation into the hands of a banking oligarchy non national yet weilding national powers! is the current survailance society any suprise then,of course it is not- how else can such an insidious programme of government guarantee itself from the backlash of its people-if the carrott no longer works a big stick surely will!
    March you are monitored and recorded
    Protest you are monitored and recorded
    Form a group you are monitored and recorded
    Hold a different view you are monitored and recorded
    Go to the masjid you are monitored and recorded…etc etc
    Under the guise of fighting “crime” today the civilian in britain has just about every aspect of daily life monitored and recorded by a centralised police archive which they themselves may not access-car thieves and burglars may find ANPR an occupational hazard as it of course increases the risk of identification,tracking and arrest but this is not the point,the reality of totalitarian police control is now here as the monitoring of the civillian is interlinked to such a degree, that organised opposition to the the state through peaceful means or otherwise can result in imminent arrest once you step out of the confines of the structuralist path of continuity and conformity.
    Of course this cynical policy of “the terrorist within” ,”all restrictions are fair game” approach is that it for a period longer it distracts the masses from the real danger looming overhead that is the total collapse of the zero worth -numbers economy and the tbetrayal of the politicians and the monetarists to provide safety and stability to its citizens-(the overpaid police and terror experts utterley impotent in stopping london becoming flooded with russian intelligence personel,at the same time throw millions into spying on a certain social demographic to further isolate and restrict social cohesion and innovation) the drain of the taxes into the hands of the same oligarchs who stole our wealth is explained in the best rational language available by the party that wishes us to beleive it didnt happen!all of this is old news so long as the” terror threat ” remains and creates an aura of fear and apprehension strong enough to let the thief slip away unnoticed,the fraud not comprehended and the dream that everything will get better still better than the reality!

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