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:

Rachel
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
CEO
Vericola Ltd
07944896138
rt@vericola.com

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

Rachel
Send to the usual suspects!
Rebecca Todd
CEO
Vericola Ltd
07944896138
rt@vericola.com

And on 22 July 2010 she wrote:

Rachel
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
Cheers
Rebecca Todd
CEO
Vericola Ltd
07944896138
rt@vericola.com

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 tacticsandpatterns@gmail.com
2) GROUPS THAT HAVE BEEN TARGETED OR MAY HAVE BEEN TARGETED BY TODD OR VERICOLA

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

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