Confidential Intelligence Unit

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Group.png Confidential Intelligence Unit  Rdf-icon.png
FounderAssociation of Chief Police Officers
Parent organizationNational Public Order Intelligence Unit
Typeintelligence agency

The Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) is a unit set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers to carry out covert monitoring of 'domestic extremism'.[1]

Role

The job description for the head of the Confidential Intelligence Unit states that this individual would "manage the covert intelligence function for domestic extremism" and "make a significant contribution to the overall performance of the police service of England and Wales and the national Domestic Extremism units in reducing or removing the threat, criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism in England and Wales specifically, and the UK generally."[2]

Domestic extremism is not defined in the document but is divided into a number of categories:

  • Animal Rights Extremism
  • Environmental Extremism
  • Extreme Right Wing
  • Extreme Left Wing
  • Emerging Threats[3]

Press reports highlighted the breadth of interpretation to which these categories were open:

Targets will include environmental groups involved in direct action such as Plane Stupid, whose supporters invaded the runway at Stansted Airport in December.
The unit also aims to identify the ring-leaders behind violent demonstrations such as the recent anti-Israel protests in London, and to infiltrate neo-Nazi groups, animal liberation groups and organisations behind unlawful industrial action such as secondary picketing.[4]

Running informers

Several points in the job description, highlight the covert role that the head of the Confidential Intelligence Unit is expected to play.

  • Manage and direct the covert operational response to NCDE taskings’ and associated DE investigation strategies
  • Where appropriate, set strategic direction to national intelligence collection plans, and covert intelligence development operations that may involve CHIS and technical assets.
  • Represent NPOIU at Public Interest Immunity hearings, and legal meetings regarding sensitive source material[5]

CHIS is an acronym for covert human intelligence sources, i.e. informers.

Structure

The CIU is a unit of the Association of Chief Police Officers. The job description for the unit's head states that they carry out their duties on behalf of the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism. The head of the CIU is expected to be a Detective Chief Inspector who reports the Detective Superintendent heading the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU). The head of the CIU is a member of the senior management team of the NPIOU and may be expected to function as its deputy head.[6]

The CIU's status as a unit of ACPO, a private body, was highlighted by critics when the unit's existence became public. Henry Porter of the Guardian wrote:

It is evident that the CIU will not be troubled by any public accountability and that the individual who becomes its head will be able to make decisions unilaterally about the nation's politics. If all environmental groups are to be branded extreme, if those who demonstrate against the invasion of Gaza are, as a matter of course, to be regarded as a criminal threat, we will enter a period of enormous tension between the authorities and those people who wish to exercise their legitimate right to demonstrate.[7]

Surveillance researcher Dr David Murakami Wood described the CIU as "effectively a kind of privatisation of MI5 functions."

it seems the only reasons for this new public-private initiative is to keep the CIU free from examination (and Freedom of Information requests) from the public and ‘off balance-sheet’ so not subject to National Audit Office or Parliamentary budgetary scrutiny. Yet in that case, how can its position within police headquarters be justified?[8]

History

Details of the senior vacancies at the new unit were circulated to police forces in 2008, with a closing date for applications of 14 November 2008. The unit's existence was first reported in February 2008, when the Mail on Sunday published details of the job descriptions for the vacancies.[9]

A number of critics followed the Mail in seeing the CIU as a revival of the kind of political policing carried out by MI5 and police Special Branches in the 1970s.[10]

Affiliations

References

  1. Role Profile (word document), Association of Chief Police Officers, accessed 10 February 2009.
  2. Role Profile (word document), Association of Chief Police Officers, accessed 10 February 2009.
  3. Role Profile (word document), Association of Chief Police Officers, accessed 10 February 2009.
  4. Secret police unit set up to spy on British 'domestic extremists, by Jason Lewis, MailOnline, 7 February 2009.
  5. Role Profile (word document), Association of Chief Police Officers, accessed 10 February 2009.
  6. Role Profile (word document), Association of Chief Police Officers, accessed 10 February 2009.
  7. The secret police are watching you, Henry Porter, Comment Is Free, guardian.co.uk, 10 February 2009.
  8. Privatising political policing in the UK?, by David Murakami Wood, Notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society, 10 February 2009.
  9. Secret police unit set up to spy on British 'domestic extremists, by Jason Lewis, MailOnline, 7 February 2009.
  10. For example Privatising political policing in the UK?, by David Murakami Wood, Notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society, 10 February 2009.