Monday, February 28, 2011

A climate-change activist prepares for the worst

By Mike Tidwell
Ten years ago, I put solar panels on my roof and began eating locally grown food. I bought an energy-efficient refrigerator that uses the power equivalent of a single light bulb. I started heating my home with a stove that burns organically fertilized corn kernels. I even restored a gas-free lawn mower for manual yardwork.
As a longtime environmental activist, I was deeply alarmed by new studies on global warming, so I went all out. I did my part.

Now I'm changing my life again. Today, underneath the solar panels, there's a new set of deadbolt locks on all my doors. There's a new Honda GX390 portable power generator in my garage, ready to provide backup electricity. And last week I bought a starter kit to raise tomatoes and lettuce behind barred basement windows.

I'm not a survivalist or an "end times" enthusiast. When it comes to climate change, I'm just a realist.
Read more

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Citizen journalists in Kent

Zoe, a co-founder of Undercurrents has spoken about the importance of peaceful protest and citizen journalists at a University of Kent event.
Zoe Broughton, a renowned activist, showed her latest work, Non-violence for a Change, which asks "where does non-violence end and actual violence begin?"
With the current freedom protests in North Africa and the Middle East as well as the recent student uprising against tuition fee increases and campaign for higher bank taxes at home, the event was most timely.
Ms Broughton told how her film was actually an updated version of one that was made a decade ago as a training programme for people to take part in non-violent protest.
read more

Join our video training workshops. Details on
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

How would Supersize Me get made today?

Jess Search moderated a panel with Shooting People patrons Morgan Spurlock and Lucy
Walker at the Vimeo Festival and Awards in NYC last year. You can watch the
whole panel online - lots of good, meaty discussion:

The point Jess makes about how Supersize Me would have a really robust
social media campaign if it were released today but wouldn't have sold for
as much is very true I think. It sums up the situation we're in today where
you can do amazing things with your film in terms of reaching audiences and
creating real change - but paying the rent can still be a struggle.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Alternative media under air attack in Libya

Anti-government forces control the city of Zawiyah, only 30 miles from Tripoli. They have tanks and anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks. But pro-Gaddafi forces control the outlying areas.

Breaking News: The Broadcast station in Misrata providing information on behalf of the protesters is under attack from the air by Gaddafi
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Photos of undercover cop who infiltrated groups in Cardiff

Old 'friends' of Marco from Cardiff have described him as a large, stong man, around 5'11'' and 15/16 stone. Carrying a little too much weight around the middle. His accent is said to be Derby.
They have also suggested that people who have been in contact him may remember him for his 'catchphrases', little phrases that were used frequently to deflect question or discussion, or to lighten situations. "Dear diary..." he'd say when we'd be discussing the days/weeks happenings. "And relax..." at the end of meetings or stressful conversations. Everything was "dinky do". He'd do a "welfare check" to see how you were, and generally things were ridic/hillar/bloody marv. Other people's witticisms were greeted with "did you see what he did there?". And that's a "negadive" (negative) or "check".

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Did you film at the Big Green Gathering?

We are seeking people who filmed at the Big Green Gatherings in the last few years?

Please get in touch on

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The wrong Thomas Harding

It has been a bizarre week with an anonymous person posting ridiculous comments about Undercurrents on Indymedia. Posting as 'Old Hand' the twit decided that the Thomas Harding who co-founded Undercurrents has to be the same Thomas Harding who writes about the military for The Telegraph and was a former paratrooper. If he checked closely for more than 20 seconds he would have found that the two are very very different.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Undercover protest cop Kennedy making a film

Undercover cop Mark Kennedy was spotted in London this week.
PC Kennedy still has short hair, undyed, and has regrown his beard that he shaved off for Max Clifford. He was wearing a rain jacket, dark jeans, and trainers. He said he'd sold his motorbike and the narrowboat Tamarisk”, although it seems likely from what he said, that he might be staying on the boat temporarily somewhere on the Grand Union canal just out of London, as Euston has lines serving this area.
He said that he was working on a documentary with an independent company, who he refused to name (but who are presumably operating in London). He said that he had been in the UK for three weeks and would remain here until the documentary was finished (approx 15 weeks in total, therefore for about another 12 weeks) and then planned to leave. He said that he was not going to be working on a film, but that there would be a book as he wanted to 'get the truth out there', and claimed that no-one would be named in the documentary or in the book.

Mark Kennedy encountered in London
Last week ex-undercover police spy Mark Kennedy was encountered by chance by an activist who was an erstwhile friend. Kennedy was about to board a train at Euston Station in London. The person who saw him was extremely shaken and completely unsure as to what to do, but in the end they decided to accept Kennedy's offer to talk and ask him questions.

Immediately after this meeting the person went to another trusted friend and told them as much as they could remember of the conversation, and it was written down from memory. A wider group of activists was consulted in order to decide what to do. A decision was then made to let those who had been very close to Mark know asap that he was back in the UK; they wanted to make sure that nobody else was taken by surprise in this way. Another decision was made to write the following statement for Indymedia, to share the information freely with the movement.

It is important to state at the start that obviously we all have to assume that nothing Kennedy said can be trusted; although in this conversation he claimed he would “tell the truth from now on”, he refused to answer many questions, and some of what he said was known by his questioner to be untrue (these known lies are not repeated here). In addition, we are aware of the danger that by reporting Kennedy's words there is a danger of acting as unwilling proxies for Kennedy to push his own agenda. Bearing all that in mind, the conversation is summarised below.

Kennedy's appearance and current activities
Kennedy still has short hair, undyed, and has regrown his beard that he shaved off for Max Clifford. He was wearing a rain jacket, dark jeans, and trainers. He said he'd sold his motorbike and the narrowboat Tamarisk”, although it seems likely from what he said, that he might be staying on the boat temporarily somewhere on the Grand Union canal just out of London, as Euston has lines serving this area.
He said that he was working on a documentary with an independent company, who he refused to name (but who are presumably operating in London). He said that he had been in the UK for three weeks and would remain here until the documentary was finished (approx 15 weeks in total, therefore for about another 12 weeks) and then planned to leave. He said that he was not going to be working on a film, but that there would be a book as he wanted to 'get the truth out there', and claimed that no-one would be named in the documentary or in the book.

Kennedy and the media
He is being represented by Max Clifford but said that he hadn't been paid for his Mail on Sunday article yet, and that he hadn't even read it. Much of what he said in the conversation echoed much of the story in the Mail on Sunday on January 17th, and there was not much that was new.

Kennedy's undercover career
He said that the first time he ever appeared at an action was at Faslane. He claimed never to have worked for Global Open (see, saying that he went to the animal rights gathering in Italy as a 'favour for a friend'. He said that he only contacted Global Open director Heather Millgate for advice on taking a legal case against the police for being beaten up at Drax.
He said that he personally knew of no other undercover officers that were in relationships with activists. He said that his boss (presumably at NPOIU) was called Andy Nightingale, and that Nightingale had purposefully stirred trouble in the media (for instance, saying that there was a hidden video camera in “Tamarisk”). He was asked about the newspaper article that involved undercover policeman Peter Black ( see, but Kennedy called him Peter Blexley. It is unclear if that was an accident or not.

He said that he had told police they there was nothing being planned for the G20 and that was no need for a big presence. He said that the cops were already in riot gear when he got there, and then Ian Tomlinson died.

The questioner's response
Kennedy was told that he should move on asap, and that it's not okay for him to be going in and out of London as it could also be incredibly painful and distressing for others to bump into him. Was told that the documentary he was making would not help anyone at all. He was reminded that he had said at the beginning of the meeting that he would tell the truth and be asked anything, and that the conversation had proven both to be untrue. He was told that whatever he said or did, he needed to know that there was no way back and no happy ending, that nobody could ever trust him again.

Read more

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Germany sent 5 police undercover as protesters into the UK

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that MPs sitting in a confidential meeting of a parliamentary interior affairs committee were told at the end of last month that undercover German police officers were routinely sent abroad to infiltrate suspect groups.
Jörg Zierke, head of Germany's federal criminal police, told the committee that five undercover German police officers had been sent to the protests at the 2005 G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Read more

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spies found in our video archive

Going through our video archive, we have found images of the following spies who have infiltrated protest groups
1.Paul Mercer- a spy for BAe who has infiltrated many protest groups.Mercer was publicly exposed for his role in spying on anti-arms trade campaigners, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) in 2007. His contract for the operation was finalised through Global Open. We have images of him on M11 link road protests in 1995, surrounded by police looking like he is arguing with them. He has a stills camera with zoom lens around his neck.
2.Martin Hogbin- a spy for Bae who worked undercover in CAAT. Images of Hogbin driving a van for Mark Thomas who dumped manure on doorstep of Labour HQ.Also images of Hogbin dumping fake blood on steps of the AMG of BAe with activist Chris Cole. Images of both holding a CAAT banner and both being arrested.
3.The car which undercover cop PC Boyling/Sutton drove to block the streets for the carnival against capitalism in 1999. Images of 5 police pushing it away after the undercover cop 'accidentally' left the window open. This story was reported in the Guardian as follows
'Reclaim the Streets was a colourful collective opposed to cars. During its protests, members would block roads and start impromptu street parties. One notorious technique involved either crashing or parking "sacrificial cars" in the middle of traffic, sealing off the road. For police, they clearly constituted a potentially dangerous group of anarchists whose demonstrations had a record of descending into disorder.'

Boyling's operation would prove to be so successful that he played a central organising role behind the so-called Carnival Against Capitalism in 1999, one of the major anti-capitalist demonstrations of the past two decades. Those involved in organising the protest recall that he was "navigator" in a car that had been intended to block Upper Thames Street, in central London, kickstarting a day in which thousands of activists would clash with police.
The woman who was driving the car – purchased for £200 – recalls how Boyling made what at the time appeared to be a stupid error. He left the window open, enabling police to open the door, take off the handbrake, and push the car away.
Confronted over his error, Boyling was said to have replied: "Oh, I forgot." The protest went ahead anyway, but it was a setback for the activists.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

How to Blow a Fortune- Ireland Mon 21 Feb 2011 20:30 BBC One

Will the death of Ireland's boom-time economy spell big trouble for the UK? Fergal Keane returns home to find out why Ireland went from being one of the richest countries in the world to the brink of bankruptcy. Bailing out Ireland has put Britain on the hook for billions, but will it be enough to save one of our most important business partners?

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Inside Job

How did the financial crash of 2008 happen? This documentary, narrated by Matt Damon, does a good job of explaining a complex story of credit and discredit

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Quote of the day..

Quote of the day
'Once upon a time, a long time ago, late at night, before i went AWOL, i had the worlds most stupid idea - to found the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army - little did i know during our second ever training i was teaching a cop to clown ! shall i laugh, cry or hide under a large shoe in embarrassment..'
John Jordan

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Eco-Spying company, Vericola Ltd, uncovered after incompetence

A spying firm with corporate clients including E.ON, Scottish Power and Scottish Coal has been identified after accidentally emailing the activists it was spying on. Kent-based Vericola Ltd has been targeting groups including the Camp for Climate Action and London Rising Tide with low-level infiltration. Other groups are encouraged to check their lists and share any experiences.

The company, Vericola Ltd, CEO Rebecca Louise Todd, has been infiltrating activist groups including the Camp for Climate Action and London Rising Tide since at least 2007. Email addresses linked to the company have been used to sign up to email lists, and Vericola has been employing people to attend meetings, events and actions to collect information.

Three clients of the company have currently been identified. Firstly, E.ON, the target of the 2008 Camp for Climate Action at Kingsnorth coal power station in Kent. Secondly, Scottish Coal, the largest opencast coal mining company in the UK, which has been targeted by the Mainshill Solidarity Camp and the ongoing Happendon Wood Action Camp. Thirdly, Scottish Power, operators of Cockenzie and Longannet coal power stations in Scotland. Alan Somerville, the Managing Director of Scottish Coal and Scottish Resources Group Estates was identified as a recipient of the information, as was Gordon Irving, Director of Group Security at Scottish Power.

According to the Scottish Power website, Gordon Irving “has close links and a very good working relationship with the police, having been in the force himself”. He was in Strathclyde Police for 30 years, and head of special branch in Scotland.

The companies’ involvement was revealed after the CEO of Vericola, Rebecca Todd, began copying her emails to the Climate Camp email account by mistake on her Blackberry, with the names of her clients included. In response to a callout for the site take of the RBS Climate Camp on 14 July 2010, Todd wrote:

Please forward this to all usual suspects. Remember just to cut at paste the email
content I sent you and not the forward my email to you! X
Rebecca Todd
Vericola Ltd

Apparently not spotting her error, in response to a Climate Camp newsletter of 16 July 2010, Todd wrote:

Send to the usual suspects!
Rebecca Todd
Vericola Ltd

And on 22 July 2010 she wrote:

Can you send the newsletter to normal usual suspects.
Highlight the following:-
1. Alan sommervile – glasgow gathering and also coal action scotland call out
2. Gordon Irving – Glasgow gathering
Rebecca Todd
Vericola Ltd

IP addresses embedded in the headers indicate the emails were sent via a Blackberry.

With limited initial evidence it was decided to try and find out more about the company’s activities and clients before making information about the company public. Further emails intercepted by the Camp for Climate Action have now revealed a variety of aliases used by Todd to sign up to climate action email lists (see below), including lists comprised only of people attending organising meetings. In addition, contact made with other climate action groups have revealed further information about Todd’s and Vericola’s activities:

- Todd regularly attended London Rising Tide meetings in 2007 and participated in a day of action outside the Royal Bank of Scotland on Bishopsgate in September 2007.

- A Vericola employee appears to have attended the Camp for Climate Action at Kingsnorth in 2008, signing up to join a rolling blockade of Kingsnorth if construction of a new coal power station is approved. This list is comprised only of people who put their email address in a box in the Welcome tent at the Kingsnorth camp.

- A Vericola employee appears to have attended a Camp for Climate Action national gathering, signing up to join the networking working group list in April 2008.

- Someone using an email address linked to Vericola booked a place on a minibus from London to the Great Climate Swoop at Ratcliffe on Soar coal power station in Nottingham.

The main method of infiltration was signing up to a wide variety of email lists, some public, some open only to those attending organising meetings. Spies also attended events and meetings, but their strategy appears to have been to be as passive and discreet as possible.

Vericola’s links to E.ON, Scottish Coal and Scottish Power have subsequently been confirmed following investigations by the Guardian newspaper. Information regarding the Camp for Climate Action gathering and Coal Action Scotland was provided to these clients in summer 2010.

Following Todd being given an opportunity to answer the evidence (which she has declined), we are releasing the email addresses, photos, and information below. We would encourage anyone with any further information about Vericola or Rebecca Todd to get in touch via

From information gathered during the investigation, it appears Vericola have targeted:
London Rising Tide
Camp for Climate Action
Coal Action Scotland
Plane Stupid
Campaign Against Arms Trade

Read more

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Metropolitan Police has paid out more than £100k to keep G20 demo cases out of court

The Metropolitan Police has paid more than £100,000 to G20 protesters who were mistreated by riot cops.An investigation by the Mirror found the cash had been used to keep 30 cases out of court.As of this month, £117,000 had been given to demonstrators who say they were assaulted or falsely imprisoned in the protests of April 2009.

The biggest payout was to David Hoffman, details obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals.The photographer, 64, was left with four ­fractured teeth after being smashed in the face with a shield.

The Met has been condemned by its watchdog for its approach to the protests in London, during which bystander Ian Tomlinson died after being pushed to the ground.
The Metropolitan Police Authority attacked macho training methods, a lack of supervision and confusion over kettling – where big groups are held in a confined area.Mr Hoffman said: “The police can just toss cash to people who complain but the officers who caused this have walked free.”

An MPA spokesman said: “The decision to settle does not imply that the officers involved have done wrong. Each case is considered on its merits.”

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Eco- film seeks translaters

Just Do It is the upcoming feature documentary from acclaimed director Emily James.
Currently in post-production and coming to a cinema near you this Summer, the film
is a behind the scenes portrait of the burgeoning environmental activism movement in
the UK. With unprecedented access, this unique body of footage tells the inside
story on the country's biggest troublemakers. Their adventures will entertain,
illuminate and inspire. Have a watch of the trailer here.

Just Do It is a completely independent, grassroots, crowd-funded project with a
slate of indie film giants on board, including Kurt Engfehr (Michael Moore's
editor), and our Executive Producers Christo Hird and Chris Atkins. Thanks to our
groundbreaking production model and unparalleled access, the film's already been
making quite a splash, with shed loads of mainstream and online press getting
excited about the release.

Our aim is for one million people to see the film in the year after it is released.
With this in mind, and with our extensive cinema and festival release in sight,
we're looking for translators to translate our English transcript so that we can
subtitle the film. We want to make sure as many people as possible - the world over
- get to enjoy it.

We are particularly looking for translators from English to:














We're looking for people with professional translating experience but if you're a
translator of a language not listed above, please do get in touch, we'd love to hear
from you.

As this is a grassroots, independent project, this is an expenses only
collaboration. But we can offer the opportunity to contribute to a ground-breaking
film, with a team of industry professionals.

Please get in touch with Lauren at to find out more.d

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Energy companies spy on eco-activists

Three large energy companies have been carrying out covert intelligence-gathering operations on environmental activists, the Guardian can reveal.
The energy giant E.ON, Britain's second-biggest coal producer Scottish Resources Group and Scottish Power, one of the UK's largest electricity-generators, have been paying for the services of a private security firm that has been secretly monitoring activists.
Read more
And more here

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Are solar panels any good in the UK?

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) have produced a Solar Calculator, accessible online at
which helps you get a rough estimate for costs and returns from a domestic solar PV scheme. The cost estimates we used were based on average market rates last autumn, and prices have fallen since then.For example, Tesco Renewable Energy now quote less than £15k for a 3.96 kW system.

Can you provide any evidence for your statement about lifetime of PV panels?
You will find it hard to find a panel on the market that does not guarantee at least 80% of its initial output after 20 years.I've written an article on the life expectancy of solar panels which draws on both our experience at CAT and on research in Switzerland.It's available at

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Undercover cop

Before actor Liam Thomas took to the stage, he spent a decade pretending to be other people working as an undercover police officer in Britain and Europe, keeping company with drug lords, arms dealers, and serious criminals. Listen here

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Swansea scamming international film-makers?

International Film festivals can be an exciting place for filmmakers to get an audience outside their own circles. However one Swansea man seems to be ruthlessly exploiting film makers. In May 2005 Binda Singh created The grandly named 'Academy of Media, Recording, Interactive, Television & Stage Arts' (AMRITSA). Recently filmmakers have been sharing their experiences of the shambolic AMRITSA events, most notably his Swansea Bay Film Festival.Due to my investigation in 2011, Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta Jones, BBC news anchor Huw Edwards and actor Michael Sheen resigned from Binda Singh's events. Read the full story below.

My own films were shown at the first Swansea bay film festival in 2006. TheSouth Wales Evening Post billed it as the 'City's own Oscars'. I joined other filmmakers outside the finale festival dinner as none of us could afford the overpriced supper. Whilst chatting we realized that we all had the same experiences. No published programme, no posters, no advertising of any kind so not surprisingly no audiences.Meanwhile during the corporate gala dinner my films was announced as winning 2 awards. These turned out to be an empty tin can, sprayed gold and stuck to a piece of MDF. So no money is being spent on the awards.Rene Kinzett, was one of the founding Directors of the Swansea Bay Film Festival.

Rene Kinzett is 3rd from left on back row
Kinzett said  'There is no selection committee, there is no real judging process..there was no real organisation behind the screenings. I lasted two Festivals.' Rene has severed all links with the event.

Four years on and very little has changed. While I only traveled 3 miles for the Swansea Bay festival, one couple traveled 7000 miles from California in 2010 to be told by the festival founder, Binda Singh that 'it was up to the filmmaker to find and bring the audience to the showing of their film, Boyhood Shadows .'

Not to be deterred, Steve Rosen,and his co-director Terri DeBono, went out into Swansea, a city they had never been to before, and managed to persuade people to attend their showing. Unannounced Binda Singh decided to change the time and venue. The filmmaker did what filmmakers do best- they picked up their camera. Their film 'Looking for an Audience' has been released on YouTube which follows their journey from the USA to Swansea, collecting interviews with other film-makers who attended the festival from Denmark, Scotland and USA. It is a shocking insight into an event which has actress Swansea born Catherine Zeta Jones (photo) as a patron and Port Talbot born Michael Sheen (photo) as vice president. When I asked Steve if he saw any publicity for the festival anywhere in Swansea he replied-
'No. In fact even the place I rented the tux (for the festival gala dinner) didn't know about the festival, and Binda sent us there!'
When asked why Steve made his film about his journey to the festival he said
'We had an Executive Producer for BOYHOOD SHADOWS who graciously paid for our trip to Wales.There is an obligation of accountability when you're spending someone else's money. This little film is the result of the promise we made to our funder to document our experiences at the festivals in lieu of her attending.'
Binda Singh (R), Karen White (C) Filmmaker (L)

Their video report can be watched on YouTube.
Once again no programme was printed for the 2010 festival, no synopsis of the films are published online, and no visible signs of any advertising for the festival around the city. So again no audiences. The film makers paid $100(£63) to have their film chosen for the Swansea Bay film festival.

Another film-maker drove across the UK, from Kent, to attend the awards ceremony only to be ushered into the bar. Colin Holt recalled;
'We sat in our hired tuxes watching the goings-on upstairs on a plasma screen, along with plenty of other disgruntled attendees who also didn't want to pay £50 to have dinner...It was a complete waste of time, money and effort.'

Another director traveled 600 miles to the Swansea event and explained;
'I turned up with my other half at the start time advertised to us in emails and weblinks, only to find out that the place wasn't even open yet. Eventually we got fed up and went for a walk, returning half an hour later to discover that, an hour after schedule, Mr. Singh and co had arrived.'

He described the room that had been set up for the showing of films;
'A poorly calibrated, off-colour projector against a battered old screen. left the room feeling very disappointed, not just for my film, but for all the other filmmakers who had spent their money and effort getting to the 'festival'.'

An AMRITSA spokesperson explained in an email to a German film-maker;
'Binda Singh founded AMRITSA, and its role is to act as an umbrella organisation or one-stop-shop for film makers who wish to access international film festivals without needing to apply to events separately.'

While his website states 'AMRITSA Film Festivals do NOT charge an entry fee until you have selected status. Unlike many other film festivals which charge you just to enter, AMRITSA Film Festivals put you, your film and your money first.'

So if a film maker enters their film via AMRITSA, they shouldn't be surprised that all 10 festival have chosen their film to be shown. Since all the festivals are linked directly to Binda Singh, it is clearly in his own financial interest to get each film maker paying $30 for each festival. However having their film shown in his festivals could mean 4 chairs in a broom cupboard in Ireland or a portable TV in a corner in South Africa. With no festival expenses such as a programme or posters, the $30 appears to be profit for Singh, while his website claims 'Enter now, you've nothing to loose'(sic)

One Australian film maker recently submitted her film to the AMRITSA Gay film festival and was surprised to receive an invitation to screen her film in Ten other AMRTISA festivals. She declined when AMRITSA requested $330 from her.

Michael Sheen, is vice president of the Swansea Bay Film festival.In his online video (displayed on this page), the Hollywood actor from Port Talbot states that 250 videos were shown last year in the Swansea Bay Film Festival. Do the simple maths (250 x $30 = $7500 (£4700).Since Singh gets his venues for free, spends nothing on publicity or programmes, where does this cash go? AMRITSA accounts show no sign of any income so what happens to the cash? AMRITSA accounts clearly display Cash in bank as only £1 on March 31 2010.
Replicate this with 10 other festivals worldwide and you get a picture of how Mr Singh is funding his lifestyle.His latest scheme is persuading filmmakers to pay him $40 to upload their own films to his amateurish website.

I asked the Vice President of Swansea Bay Film Festival- Hollywood actor Michael Sheen who replied;
'Allegations of financial misdealings are obviously very serious and those making the claims, as well as those that the claims are about, need to be sure that they are working with fact.'

On March 16th 2011 I received official confirmation that Michael Sheen has withdrawn his vice-presidency of the Swansea Bay Film Festival. He gave his reasons in the following statement;
'When I first got involved with the Festival, I was happy to be a part of something that was encouraging young and new filmmakers. The inclusivity of the Swansea Film Festival was something I felt could benefit a lot of people. However, I am concerned about a film festival that does not have the quality of its films as a top priority.'

Michael Sheen continued;
"While there are so many issues unresolved at present, no matter what the agenda of those raising those issues may or may not be, I feel until those issues have been resolved openly and fairly, I need to withdraw my endorsement."

Singh's chaotic Swansea Bay film festival is not an isolated event.The Swansea man is running similar festivals in Australia, Egypt, USA, Ireland, Thailand, as well as the Caribbean amongst others.His South African Film Festival last year was such a shambles that it ended with Singh dumping all the DVD's on an unsuspecting audience member before he left the country. A Canadian film maker who traveled to the festival explained Singhs management style. She said
'it is important to note that B.S blames the locals on poor organization and when I confronted him about the film festival, he just said it was all the locals' fault and he had nothing to do with it. All the local South Africans did their very best and they weren't given any information or tools to accomplish the job.'

South African newspapers and media journals have written about the festival describing it as the 'Phantom film festival' writing that AMRITSA South African International Film Festival 'had no publicity material, no programme, only make-shift screening facilities, hardly any audiences and no jury.Despite this, at the end of the festival a long list of films that had won in many categories was published.'

Another film maker who also traveled to South Africa wishes to remain anonymous said;
'There was no audience, only other duped independent film makers. Between us we made the most of it, but unfortunately that wasn't much at all. The "gala dinner" drew upon local businesses and media, none of who attended any of the screenings. The screening rooms were pathetic empty spaces where a lousy projector was hooked up to the left channel of a semi-working PA system. The projectionist would throw things on at random and stop films mid-credits.'

Singh creates the jury for the film festival awards in a bizarre way. To nominate a film for one of the numerous awards in his festivals, a person has to first pay £25 to join AMRITSA.In an email exchange with one AMRITSA member, Binda Singh appears to be stating that film-makers can win awards just by paying for them. Singh wrote;
'Unfortunately every process no matter how we attempt to safeguard it, the ingenuity of those focused on winning, will always find a crack.Even the £25 fee to join AMRITSA doesn't deter folk who just WANT that nomination... irrespective of the quality of the piece.... or the price they pay.'

One film-maker, who is a paid up member of AMRITSA complained;
'I have never received any information about awards, nominations, meetings, bylaws,
rules, regulations..nothing. Basically my 25 quid was sucked into the void and while my name appears listed as a "member" that is the sum totality of what I got.'

Binda Singh's festivals, including the Swansea event, is focused on the dinner for his sponsors and the minor celebrities he can attract (few of whom bother to attend any of the film showings). Film-makers are generally excluded from the gala, unless they can afford £50 per head plus Tuxedo hire. With glitzy dinners and celebrity presenters such as Liz Fuller (ex Miss Great Britain).Singh uses that one evening to present his festival as a well organised event. By inviting the local newspaper editor to present one of the numerous awards, he ensured uncritical media reviews from the South Wales Evening Post. However the newspaper which produced enthusiastic video podcasts promoting the festival in 2007 has now backed away from being involved.

Cathy Duncan, Assistant Editor of the South Wales Evening Post said
'The South Wales Evening Post has sponsored the festival in the past but was not a sponsor in 2010. We covered it for our publications as we would any sizeable event in the city. We have no plans to sponsor the festival in the future.'

The main company engaged in promoting Swansea is also no longer involved in Singh's event. Fiona Rees of Swansea Bay Futures said
'We did have some involvement with the Film Festival in the first couple of years - providing welcome packs for visitors from outside the area who were staying in the region and hosting a reception for the international film makers - but have not been involved since 2008'

None of this has affected Singh, as he displays no signs of stopping, creating International film festivals in West Wales in Llanelli.. For 2011, he has created a Gay film festival,Digital Arts and also a Youth event.Singh appointed a new director for his Spiritual festival- a man who operates under the pseudonym of Darren Michael and promotes himself as Psychic Darren- the clairvoyant medium. Darren Hembrow (his real name) has since told me
'I haven't been involved with Binda for ten months and am no longer running the festival.I have never been financially involved with him.'

Having high profile celebrities as Patrons of his events is a key part of Binda Singh's operations. In March 2011 Huw Edwards of BBC News was listed as a Patron of Singh's 'International Film Festival of West Wales (WWFF)', at least until I contacted Mr Edwards with my findings. The BBC news anchor replied to my email stating why he got involved with Singh's International Film Festival of West Wales-
'I agreed as I always try to support cultural activities in my home town (Llanelli). I had never heard of Binda Singh, and have had absolutely no contact with him. I severed all ties with the WWFF after the Swansea Bay controversy and Michael Sheen's response to it. You can imagine my feelings on the matter.'

The festival director Kelvin Guy has also quit and so too has the festivals President, Kevin Green, star of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire. Mr Green told me;
"I was president of the West Wales Film Festival but in light of recent events surrounding the Swansea Bay Festival and other festivals run by Amritsa have resigned. I do not know and have never had any dealings with Binda Singh."

However as fast as his celebrities resign, Singh dreams up a new scheme- this time raising his events profile by thin associations. Splashed across his new Swansea Bay Film Festival (now moved to Port Talbot) website was the statement 'The home town of acting legends Sir Anthony Hopkins & Richard Burton'.
He is obviously using the images of Burton and Hopkins without permission to promote his own event.

Singh managed to keep the local radio stations on board as supporters up the last minute, perhaps because he was a presenter for Swansea Sound, The Wave and Real Radio Wales from 1995 to 2000. In April 2011 the Director of The Wave & Swansea Sound, Helen Bowden told me
'We are no longer media partners for the film festival.I pulled out from being a media partner over a month ago.'

Meanwhile as the pressure grows on the Swansea Bay Film Festival, Karen Struel-White, the festival Executive Director finally acknowledged that there was a problem and released this quote;
'Its a great shame when some excellent films get small audiences and we share the disappointment of film makers who fail to get the numbers they would wish to see attend their screenings. To that end we are increasing the number of venues for 2011

This shows how AMRITSA have ignored what the problem actually is. Just having more places to show the films is not enough. If anything, this suits Binda Singh as more venues means he can squeeze more films into over packed schedules, hence taking even more money from film-makers. Since AMRITSA made their statement, two venues have pulled out of the Swansea Bay film festival while others are considering their position. Their logos have been removed from the Swansea Bay Film Festival website.

On the AMRITSA website is a list of people who make up the 'Swansea Bay Film Festival Team'.Alongside a photo of Swansea Councilor Nicolas Bradley, is a few paragraphs of his supposed involvement. However when I pointed this out to the Councilor he replied 'I am certainly not a member of the festival team' adding he has 'never actually been to one of the events'. He also replied 'some of that statement is completely made up!'

Why is there so many discrepancies in this festival? Just what exactly does Binda Singh and his company AMRITSA hope to achieve?

The 6th Swansea Bay Film Festival takes place in May 2011. Binda Singh is using the event for self promotion by premiering his new play entitled 'Encore'.The new main venue will be Apollo Cinema in Port Talbot, hometown to actor and former festival vice president Michael Sheen. They have offered the venue for this year's festival for free.A spokesperson for Apollo Cinema told me;
'We do not have any involvement with the organising and running of the Festival, and will continue not to.'

Apollo Cinemas continued to say:
'Until your email alerted us to the growing number of complaints from filmmakers about Mr Singh and his company, AMRISTA, we have not directly received any complaints.'

However just a few weeks before the start of the festival, Apollo Cinema pulled out of the event, leaving Singh to scramble a new venue in Blanco's Hotel,Port Talbot. By moving his venue from Swansea to Port Talbot, perhaps Singh hopes to leave the criticism behind. But I am getting reports from film-makers who have entered their films but are now contacting AMRITSA demanding to withdraw and have a full refund. Perhaps in a desperate attempt to divert the criticism, Binda Singh closed submissions a month early to his Swansea Bay Film Festival. Originally planned to close on April 1st 2011, his website stated on March 3rd that 'SBFF 2011 deadline for entries has expired.'

I smell panic in the air. Most film makers enter their films in the last few weeks for festivals so I suspect he is battening down the hatches and waiting for the barrage of criticism coming his way. On March 12th 2011, Binda Singh radically changed his AMRITSA website. Gone are any links to his AMRITSA portfolio of 'actors' and his 'video on demand channel'. Now it just links to a page stating that his events are now being run by a William E. Edwards under the name of Planet Film Festival. I suspect that since William E. Edwards has no history or known associates or even an internet presence, he is just a figment of Mr Singh's imagination.

It is important that film-makers understand the full story about AMRITSA/Planet festivals, before they part with their hard earned cash and films.

The latest sponsor is TheBestofSwansea and its director Elizabeth Hollingworth-Evans told me her company plans to write blogs and interviews about the festival. She said;
'We are not organising the event nor are we being paid for this service as we publicise all local events for free for the benefit of the community and those coming to Swansea'

In theory anyone can post their own review (or testimonial) of the festival,but in practice only reviews supporting Binda Singh and his festival are being allowed to appear. The only published testimonials allowed so far are by people linked directly to Binda Singh and mostly directors of his events. Any testimonials which don't give glowing reports about the event will not be published. Instead Elizabeth Hollingworth-Evans stated they will be 'passed onto the businesses for them to deal with...It is up to them to deal with any negative feedback. Elizabeth Hollingworth-Evans obviously realised that there is no future in running a company like this, so by April 2011 she closed her company as a franchisee 'The Best of Swansea Limited'.

On March 30th the mainstream press finally took notice and published an article in the South Wales Evening Post and the Western Mail about the festival. However I find it laughable that Binda Singh is allowed to frame the serious issues surrounding his Swansea Bay Film festival as a simple tale about his Hollywood star just being asked difficult questions by journalists.Mr Singh is quoted as "It is obvious why Michael Sheen has withdrawn. He is being harassed and asked questions for which he has no answers."

Micheal Sheen was vice president of the event so he should spend the time to find those answers. He needs to pull his finger out and work out what is going on in any event which uses his status to promote itself to film-makers worldwide. The reputation of Swansea city is being tarnished worldwide because of this event so we need a real investigation into the allegations being raised.

On April 12th Catherine Zeta Jones resigned as Patron of Swansea Bay Film Festival.
The BBC followed my investigations and published their story online.

Binda Singh told the Western Mail that he blamed the California film-makers;
'I cannot speak for her but I feel Catherines decision must have been influenced by the anti-Swansea Bay Film Festival brigade inspired by our Californian friends.Essentially we are a small Welsh festival which has fallen foul of two skilled American film makers who took umbrage because their movie coincided with a free drinks reception.'

Er..No Binda. Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Sheen have resigned because you refuse to accept any responsibility to produce a quality event which supports film makers. Instead you just see them as a way to make some easy money. But the story has been splashed all over the media including BBC so hopefully film makers won't be wasting their time and money by entering their films next year.

His 2011 film festival went ahead in a tiny hotel conference room in a Port Talbot hotel. Film director Nick Padley was invited to do a Q&A about his film so he traveled from Yorkshire to attend. He described the experience;
'My film was stuffed into a laptop and shown on a poorly calibrated projector that resulted in hugely overexposed image.I apparently got a deal (as a festival attendee) on my room which still cost £80 and I did a round trip of 9 hours in the car.Please avoid this festival at all costs. It is a waste of time and I really hope all of this helps to being it to an end.'

Another filmmaker, Anthony shared his experience;
'There was no serious publicity. There was no real audience. I arrived and Binda Singh was there and on introduction to me, made his excuse and left asap.Some American guy waffled and introduced each film. There was no audience other than the other film makers. It was sad. I laughed and left.'

Months after I broke the story, on June 26 2011, BBC produced a radio report based upon my investigations. The BBC reporter doorstepped Binda Singh about where the money goes, and added interviews with film makers, Councillors, and key people in the Welsh film industry. Listen to the radio report here. . The BBC website headlined with 'Swansea Bay Film Festival: questions about finances'

I would like to believe that this is the end of the story for Binda Singh but I am quiet sure he will pop his head up somewhere to dupe unsuspecting film makers, actors and musicians. The Daily Mail followed up on my story months later and interviewed Binda for This is Money.

They wrote:
Singh, who has doubts about the future of the Swansea Bay Film Festival and claims to have left to pursue a teaching career, said: 'They're not even huge awards. Really it is a reason to have a little party. People want to say their film was accepted into a festival and screened.'

He doesn't give in does he?

2013 update: Binda Singh reinvented himself in 2013 as Belvedere Pashun and
Jeroboam Snatch. Read my report here

Investigation and article written by
Paul O'Connor who is co-founder of Undercurrents- an award winning alternative news service

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spies for Corporations in the social change movement

The Mark Kennedy case has thrown the world of police and private spying on activists into the spotlight. One of the many revelations about Kennedy is that he can be linked to private spying company Global Open. Kennedy worked as a consultant for them and set up his own company, Tokra, using the address of Global Open director Heather Millgate.

Nottingham Indymedia can reveal that a second spy linked to Global Open, Paul Mercer, was actively involved with environmental and animal rights campaigns in Nottingham, including Nottingham Against Incineration and Landfill (NAIL). Mercer was involved in groups in Nottingham in the period 2002-2007.

Mercer was publicly exposed for his role in spying on anti-arms trade campaigners, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) in 2007. His contract for the operation was finalised through Global Open.
Read more

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Is Swansea Film Festival the worst festival ever?

We all know the excitement of traveling to see your hard made film shown to an audience in a festival. Imagine traveling 6000miles to be told by the 'organiser' that it is up to the filmmaker to find the audience.

So once you do find people, the organiser then changes the time and venue. Then holds a big dinner for the corporate people who didn't attend any of the film showings. Film makers were excluded unless they had £50 per head.

A couple from the USA made a brilliant video diary of their chaotic treatment at the Swansea Film Festival 2010.

I know the festival as I 'won' a prize in the festival in its first year. Our prize was a tin can sprayed gold. Watch their film here

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Undercover works for the campaigners so why are the Police so bad at it?

Undercurrents co-founder Zoe Broughton writes in the Guardian today

The undercover policeman and "environmental activist" Mark Kennedy is giving us covert operatives a bad name. I was first recruited to work undercover back in 1996. Taken to a room, sworn to secrecy, I then spent the next 10 weeks investigating Europe's largest animal-testing laboratory, Huntingdon Life Sciences. I was filming for a Channel 4 documentary. It is not just the police who use spies to gather information; the media and campaigners do too.
read more

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Can't see the woods for the ....

Then it is time to get out to meet the trees..

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Philip Pullman on why we need to save libraries from the Tories

Philip Pullman Interview from Pete Speller on Vimeo.

Philip Pullman on why we need to save libraries from the Tories' "barbaric and spiteful" cuts. Filmed by Zoe Broughton

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

GM crops to be allowed into Britain under controversial EU plans

Genetically modified crops will be allowed to enter the UK food chain without the need for regulatory clearance for the first time under controversial plans expected to be approved this week.The Observer understands that the UK intends to back EU plans permitting the importing of animal feed containing traces of unauthorised GM crops in a move that has alarmed environmental groups.
Importing animal feed containing GM feed must at present be authorised by European regulators. But a vote on Tuesday in favour of the scheme put forward by the EU's standing committee on the food chain and animal health would overturn the EU's "zero tolerance" policy towards the import of unauthorised GM crops.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Protesters occupy library to stop closure

Protesters taking part in a national day of action over planned library closures are staging an all-night sit-in at a library in south-east London.Campaigners against cuts at New Cross Library, who were taking part in an earlier "read-in", resolved to occupy the building until lunchtime on Sunday.

Groups held "read-ins" and storytelling sessions at dozens of threatened libraries across the UK on Saturday.Philip Pullman and Mark Haddon were among a number of authors taking part.More than 450 libraries and mobile services across the country are currently threatened with closure.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Poice infiltration of anti-fascist groups in Hackney from 1995 - 2000.

This article recently appeared in Big Issue in the North.

We should have seen him coming.
Mark Cassidy walked into the Colin Roach Centre in Hackney early in 1995. Within weeks he had thrown himself into virtually every area of the centre’s political life and quickly began writing for our internal bulletin and that quarterly magazine sold to the public. As the owner of a van he could also be relied upon to transport people and equipment to meetings and ensure they got home safely afterwards. Always polite and happy to help out he soon became well liked and respected.

But Cassidy wasn’t what he seemed. With recent revelations of undercover police officers infiltrating the environmental movement and sleeping with the enemy, Cassidy’s story only underlines the lesson that political activists who threaten the established order should guard against spies who want to maintain the status quo.

I was elected co-ordinator of the Colin Roach Centre. Named after a young black man shot dead inside Stoke Newington Police Station in 1983 this brought together the once council-funded Trade Union Support Unit and one of Britain’s best known community organisations at the time – Hackney Community Defence Association.

The latter had uncovered serious corruption, with Panorama and World in Action undercover investigations confirming that some officers at the police station were involved in drug dealing.

Many convictions were overturned as a result and people were released from prison and paid compensation. Some of this helped keep the centre open seven days a week to provide support to Hackney’s cosmopolitan community, including many refugees and asylum seekers. The centre was well used and popular amongst ordinary people but less so with the Association of Chief Police Officers, which tried to block the registration of our Defendants Information Services (DIS), which recorded police officers known to have complaints or convictions against them.

A year after the official opening in 1993 the centre was broken into. No serious damage was done and money and expensive equipment was left untouched. Computers though were smashed up and when the local police were phoned it took hours for them to arrive and only a matter of seconds to depart. If the intention was to put a spoke in DIS this failed as the service was for security reasons run from a different location.

London magazine Time Out was unable to gain comment from either the police or security services after a centre spokesperson suggested either might be behind the break-in.

Other activities were also bound to attract attention. The centre was affiliated to the radical anti-fascist group Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), which had organised large demonstrations through a British National Party stronghold in nearby Bethnal Green. Centre members were involved in physically clearing the BNP from its Sunday morning paper selling point at the top of Brick Lane, an almost exclusively Asian neighbourhood.

It was into this often chaotic world that Cassidy came. From my campaigning experience it was unusual for someone to simply walk in – most people start their involvement after meeting someone or attending an event. He claimed to have seen TV coverage of a demonstration by the families of people killed at the hands of the police, and radical lawyer Gareth Pierce speaking afterwards, and wanted to get involved. He had come down from his hometown of Birkenhead to continue working as a builder and didn’t know many people locally.

Within a year he had found himself a long-term partner Alison (not her real name) who was also active in the centre. He was elected to chair the Brian Higgins Defence Committee. Higgins was a radical building worker who had suggested that workers were not being properly defended by their union, UCATT. A union official responded by suing him for libel. Cassidy had earlier transported pickets to sites where people had been killed in efforts to stop production. Such actions had infuriated building employers as it cut profits.

Yet by now a few of us were starting to get suspicious. He had never shown any interest in the centre’s work with refugee or asylum seekers or helped run the advice for members of the public. But he had been very keen when it was suggested a delegation was organised to Republican West Belfast to see for ourselves the situation in Northern Ireland. He even volunteered to take his van, although it would inevitably ensure his registration was noted and added to a police computer. He disappeared on the second morning of the visit, arriving back to inform us that he, a Catholic, had taken a walk up the Shankhill Road, a Protestant stronghold.

More importantly no one had ever met any of his family and although he professed to be a supporter of Tranmere Rovers when I went to a couple of games with him he didn’t know any of their fans. It was all a bit odd, but unable and unwilling to challenge him directly I shared some of my concerns with those closest to me and began to ensure that his opportunities to gather information on people and organisations were reduced. A second visit to Belfast was cancelled.

By now though Cassidy was already becoming less active in the centre. He had drifted off to play a more active role in AFA and the associated working-class organisation Red Action. He still visited the centre and could be counted on to assist at active times but slowly dropped away. Then so did Alison, just before the centre closed in 1999.

Having moved soon after to Sunderland to help look after my dad with Alzheimer’s I thought little more of it until I was told that Cassidy had disappeared from home on 11 April 2000. After spending the next day in the offices of Red Action he was next heard of when he rang his Alison and told her he was in Germany. Attempts to trace the call had failed.

His disappearance came after an extended period when he had acted suspiciously, including at times sleeping on the settee in his clothes. Alison had also discovered a credit card in someone else’s name, which he claimed to have bought for £50 in order obtain petrol dishonestly.

Now seriously concerned, Alison then rung his workplace, only to be told that he had left around two or three years previously. Yet he had continued during this time to leave for work at 6.30pm, apparently earning sufficient to be able to go on long holidays to the Middle East and Vietnam. The couple had also visited a counsellor to discuss overcoming his reluctance to have children but had abandoned the visits without him mentioning anything about his family.

When she found out I had expressed reservations about Cassidy two years earlier, Alison contacted me in 2001 to reveal that he had left behind a number of items including a second passport in someone else’s name and a number of photographs. Now happily settled Alison doesn’t want to make them public.

Having been told that Cassidy’s father had been killed in a car accident in Birkenhead in 1975 she checked the deaths register, only to discover the tale was untrue.

Incidents such as when he had ducked down in a frog position with his hands in his ears after a car had backfired suddenly became much more sinister when she realised it was position security officers are trained to adopt if a bomb goes off.

Other centre members began to recall incidents that at the time just appeared a little odd. Taxi driver Jim Kelly recalled that Cassidy had displayed extensive knowledge of events in Ireland during the 1970s even though he wouldn’t have even been a teenager at the time and claimed to be new to political activity. Amanda, an activist, recalled a meeting where threats to attack the centre had been received from the BNP and he had told her he was there as a “shield”.

Since his disappearance over a decade ago nothing has been heard of Cassidy. No one has ever seen him, even at the Tranmere games I have occasionally watched! Attempts by the media to get Alison to go public have failed and I have no wish to involve the authorities by complaining to them.

I feel there’s little point. At the Trade Union Support Unit I worked with Midge a black activist who had left Philadelphia in 1986 after discovering her boyfriend was an FBI agent. So I was always aware such things happened and, as Bernard Porter’s history of the Metropolitan Special Branch, The Origins of the Vigilant State, makes pretty clear the placing of informants inside radical organisations began almost as soon as the organisation was born in 1881.

The trick for those environmental activists, and other in progressive politics, is not to go running to the very people who organise against them but to adopt some simple methods of checking that people really are who they say they are. Sadly that is something I, and others, failed to do with Mark Cassidy.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cops use alternative media on Indymedia - An Exposé

Advocating Domestic Extremism - Cops on Indymedia - An Exposé

On April 27th, 2010, a comment appeared on the Indymedia UK newswire entitled Don't use SPEAK as a model. The comment, on an article entitled New animal lab at Leicester; New nationwide campaign to start urged readers to respond to the campaign by "Model{ling} the campaign on a successful AR campaign such as Hillgrove cats or Darnley(sic) Oaks etc". Readers familiar with those campaigns will be aware that the campaigns are alleged to have included violent actions against individuals, including a a letter bomb in the Hillgrove Cats campaign, and the removal of Gladys Hammond from her grave.

Posts which incite others to commit violent acts are a risky business for Indymedia Collectives. In early 2009 Indymedia UK had one of its servers seized after a comment was posted to the newswire, with the home address of the judge from the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) trial. An individual was arrested, and to this day the police continue to hold the server, along with personal belongings of the arrestee. In 2005, a local collective, Bristol Indymedia had their server seized from the home of an activist, after a site user complained to the police about an anonymous post to the Bristol Indymedia newswire, which reported an 'action' in which objects were dropped onto a freight train carrying new cars somewhere near Avonmouth.

In both those cases Indymedia, because of stringent rules designed to protect user anonymity, was absolutely unable to provide IP addresses to anyone as the system does not log IP addresses. Today however, we are able to state categorically that the comment containg the incitement was one of a long list of posts which have come from a Government Secure Intranet known as Gateway 303, a state network which provides a secure proxy network behind which state agents can maintain their anonymity. Other posts from the same government secure intranet have targeted individual activists, put out information about activists that is not in the public domain, attacked campaigns, and urged the disruption of peaceful protests with Direct Action. The main targets of these many articles and comments have been Environmental Campaigns and Animal Rights campaigns and activists. Whilst we do not have any way of identifying from which computer behind the Government Secure Intranet these posts came, we would hazard a guess that they came from someone who has links to The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit known as NETCU, a shady body which has so far evaded accountability because it has been set up as a private limited company despite the fact it is staffed by serving police officers, and funded by the Home Office.

We have decided to publish a list of all posts that we know were made from Gateway 303 so that activists can see for themselves some of the tactics that agents of the State have used to disrupt, and provide disinformation on Indymedia, and which campaigns and activists they have targeted. With this information, we believe that the state should be able to identify their own agent-provocateurs, and furthermore that this exposure of the posts by State Agents undermines the state itself in a number of ways. It shows once again that the so-called "forces of Law and Order" are infiltrated with unprofessional individuals who are prepared to go to great lengths to set-up individuals and protest campaigns, and that despite all their many claims, parliamentarians are unable to take effective action to weed out the 'bad apples' they say are the problem. It undermines attempts by the Crown Prosecution Service to smear defendants by pointing to anonymous postings on Indymedia. Judges will now have to take into account that there is clear evidence that Indymedia UK is abused by State Agents to harass campaigns and individuals, and to incite the very kind of 'Domestic Extremism' that outfits such as NETCU were set-up to specifically stop. We wonder if some of their own posts have been used by NETCU to bolster their own importance and to justify higher levels of funding than they might otherwise receive. We cannot know for certain, but can strongly suspect, that there have been other state posts which have come from non-filtered IPs, and that by going public on these posts, we have made public the propensity of the State to harass campaigns and activists through abuse of open publishing sites.

How does Indymedia UK know where these posts came from, when it always said it doesn't log IPs?

It is absolutely true that Indymedia does not log IPs - by which we mean the IP Addresses of those who use the website are not recorded for the purposes of protecting their privacy. However, what has never been openly stated before is that the CMS system we use has a number of anti-abuse measures which include the ability to monitor for particular IP addresses and log their behaviour. The key here is that IP addresses are never written to the hard disk - they are briefly held in the RAM (i.e. temporary) memory only. Only when particular IP addresses are identified as persistent abusers are they applied to filters. There remains no general practice of logging each and every user. Once the anti-abuse measures are turned off, any IP addresses identified are automatically wiped from the virtual memory and, as they were never written to the hard disk, no amount of forensics would ever be able to find them.

In this particular instance however, the filter for the Gateway 303 IP was manually added after site admins became aware of a post on Animal Rights Copwatch which revealed that someone posting from Gateway 303 had posted to their site, posing as an Animal Rights activist. This allowed all posts from Gateway 303 to be identified and each post was flagged with an internal comment that identified it as a post from Gateway 303.

In the early days of Indymedia UK, which recently celebrated it's 10th Birthday, site admins believed that they would never be able to gain the trust of posters, if the range of anti-abuse measures were made public. As is often the case, once a body has failed to be completely open about something, it becomes 'the elephant in the room' and so a situation was created where the new and current admins were actively blocked from bringing these measures into the open. The stalemate continued until now, with site admins proposing a new approach of coming clean about the measures that are in place, and others in the collective blocking this.

The dilemma was brought to a head when it became clear that the state was exploiting the stalemate to attack campaigns and activists, and the most recent posts meant that the calls to expose these attacks became louder. We sought to convince people within the collectives that activists are now much more aware of how the internet works, and many have direct experience of working on sites which have a range of anti-abuse measures. We also argued that continuing to gloss over the reality in a misleading way was detrimental to Indymedia UK, and that there was no small likelihood that at some stage we could be outed. Furthermore, we argued that as a group we have a duty to defend campaigns and activists that are being targeted by the state, in exactly the same way that people have supported us when we have experienced state repression, and that we could no longer justify allowing state agents to abuse Indymedia UK, by glossing over what we knew was happening.

However the state chooses to respond to this revelation, the truth remains that there is no written log of IP addresses, and that no amount of duress will enable any IMC admin to reveal information that quite simply is not available to them. We will endeavour to produce an article detailing how our anti-abuse measures operate, as quickly as possible.
Be Cleverer than NETCU - mask your identity.

Posts on Indymedia have often urged people to protect themselves from the cameras and Police Intelligence Units by masking up at public demonstrations. Those activists who have taken steps to avoid detection of covert actions before, during and after they take place, are well advised to take other steps to avoid detection when posting about those actions . This is because we know that we cannot guarantee that there are not other ways for the state to trace your computer activity.

In our post-server seizure article in February 2009 we suggested the following steps to to improve your security when using the IMC-UK website:

* Only post stuff to Indymedia that won't get you in trouble.

* Use Tor - an application that allows you to anonymise your IP address. Bear in mind that it is not 100% safe - see these Tor caveats. The safest way to use Tor is probably via a live CD or USB stick, see the The (Amnesic) Incognito Live System, which is designed so that "all outgoing connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network" and "no trace is left on local storage devices unless explicitly asked".

* Don't post it on Indymedia, post it on wikipedia or blogspot or... well those two aren't that good, but cryptome is pretty secure and better security than Indymedia in a number of ways.

* Set up your own open publishing platform: the more the merrier.

* Don't post anywhere on the internet.

We take this opportunity to urge you to look out for workshops on internet security, and to read up on proxies, anonymisers and SSL.

We issued this statement when the server was seized last year:

Indymedia takes your privacy seriously and works hard to ensure that the strictest security measures are in place. However, while we hope that everybody trusts our commitment to protect our users - and thus our technical and security procedures - we also understand that the measures we take may not be easily understandable by non-techs. In this article we have therefore tried to explain some of the measures we take and why we take them. We end with a reiteration of our commitment to the global Indymedia Principles of Unity - and particularly want to highlight Principle 4:

4. All IMC's, based upon the trust of their contributors and readers, shall utilise open web based publishing, allowing individuals, groups and organisations to express their views, anonymously if desired.

We re-affirm that commitment to your security now, and we apologise for allowing a situation to develop where we did not inform you of the full picture. This article marks out our commitment to take steps to avoid allowing a similar situation to arise.
From Birmingham IMC

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Egyptian protesters push back armed police

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