Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 7, February 27, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

No to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill!

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2019-2021 (the CHIS Bill, otherwise known as the "Spycops" Bill) is on the brink of receiving Royal Assent and becoming law after the final debate, agreeing the House of Lords' latest amendments, took place in the Commons on February 24. The Bill had been introduced in the House of Commons on September 24, 2020.

The Solicitor-General, Michael Ellis, in introducing the debate, went all out to claim that the CHIS Bill was a necessity in order to give statutory footing to undercover agents participating in criminal activity. It is certainly repugnant that the government has rejected excluding heinous crimes from being unlawful, using the twin, but contradictory, arguments that to do so is unnecessary as their prohibition is covered by the Human Rights Act, but at the same time these terrible crimes may have to be committed - in order to prevent the unmasking of the agents - as necessary to bring "terrorists" and others to justice. On the face of it, this flies in the face of reason. The Bill specifically authorises criminal activity including murder, rape, torture, perverting the course of justice and all other crimes defined by civil society committed by undercover police agents and other intelligence services. This clearly also covers provocateur activity. Authorisations will be known as cr iminal conduct authorisations (CCAs).

But there is something deeper at work here. It exposes the reality that for the state of the ruling class, setting its agents and assassins in motion, the "rule of law" is nothing other than the rule of police powers. The force of law is given to the police powers, and that is that. It is not that the Bill "goes too far". Powers are being enacted without limit, and are being reinforced by arguments that this is in the national interest. But who decides? In fact, that "rule of law" is the mode of operation of the British state, committing acts of racism, assassination, terrorism, and then claiming that undercover and political policing is necessary by blaming the people for such acts. In other words, these arbitrary powers, which the state squirms to portray as legal, must be considered not as exceptional and needing to be codified, but making what is supposed to be covert into overt policy, despite all the ongoing attempts of the people's forces to oppose, subvert and condemn it.

This Bill is going hand in hand with the passage through Parliament of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, at present at the Committee stage in the House of Lords, which gives immunity from prosecution to British soldiers for crimes including torture and genocide. That Bill would also protect the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State from legal claims to damages.


Black Defence Committee demonstration Notting Hill against racist state attacks on the community, London 1970. The enquiry heard that the police found it difficult to infiltrate black power movements; a rather telling sign that they were lacking in black police officers.

These two Bills together confirm that police powers are not just a matter of particular police forces, but refer to the arbitrary powers of the executive and the judiciary in the spheres of war and peace, crime and punishment and any other matters they see fit to decide to pursue. It cannot be claimed that these Bills are for the people's security or the protection of rights. In reality, they are designed to wipe out or keep in check the adversaries of the person of state, defended by sword and crook. It can be argued that one reason the powers-that-be are so determined that there should be no writing of history but their own writing, and at the very least advocate a so-called balance within historical accounts, is that they are desperate that the people at large should not draw the conclusions regarding the present from the historical facts of crimes against humanity, genocide, crimes of famine and starvation, torture, assassinations, massacres, rape and savagery against the colon ised peoples as well as the people of Britain themselves when they failed to toe the line of the ruling class.

The crimes committed against the Irish people are a case in point, where the most brutal attempts to quell the heroic struggle for Irish independence from British rule and annexation have been committed. The demands for justice for the crimes of British colonialism in Africa and elsewhere are still resounding.

The state organises and itself commits acts of terrorism, acts of aggression and intervention, sometimes overt, sometimes covert, all in the name of the rule of law and of a rule-based international order. In summary, these police powers are not just a case of bad behaviour and undercover agents abusing their powers and overstepping the mark. It is the case that Britain has a long history of using secret police to commit all manner of crimes to defend whoever is in power at the time. The Mitting Inquiry, for example, has the remit of investigating such crimes from the time of the Vietnam War and since. The CHIS Bill, along with the Overseas Operations Bill, are moves to ensure that the state forces of undercover agents, the armed forces - including what is being touted as operations somewhere between war and peace - and the police are given increased licence to act with impunity.

At the same time, the police powers are also the powers behind the throne, the means by which the state attempts to maintain its rule against the movements of the working class and people for their rights, security and ultimately the achievement of their own decision-making power.


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