After months of hard work the Special Branch Files Project website is live, publishing hundreds of Special Branch documents detailing the secret police surveillance of protest groups in Britain since 1968.
The provocation for the project was the fact that the Met Police refused to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act which they had released to another journalist (Solomon Hughes) in the past. I couldn’t believe that they could ‘unrelease’ information which they’d previously disclosed – but apparently they could.
Considering the fact that information released under the FOI Act is purportedly ‘released to the world’, the idea formed to get these documents from the journalists who received them originally and publish them in the public interest. I am so grateful to all of the journalists who shared their files.
It seems fitting to gather together some intelligence on the workings of the intelligence-gatherers.
I’ve written an article for OpenDemocracy introducing the project.
The website already has documents which show how the police spied upon protestors against the Vietnam War in 1968, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Wapping industrial dispute. There are also documents regarding the welfare policy for undercover police officers suffering from mental health problems resulting from their deployment.
The great thing about the website is that readers can view the original documents for themselves and read overviews analysing each set of files. We want to keep expanding the site, so if you know of files that we haven’t published yet, then please do let us know.