Guardian “expose” on student surveillance is gut-wrenchingly disingenuous

The Guardian, hot on the tails of its Wiki-releases and informant-endangering NSA-leaks, has sought to capitalise on pseudo-anarchist (read: selective statist) sentiment by releasing a video of a police officer looking to recruit an informant at Cambridge University. The newspaper reported yesterday:

“An officer monitoring political campaigners attempted to persuade an activist in his 20s to become an informant and feed him information about students and other protesters in return for money. But instead the activist wore a hidden camera to record a meeting with the officer and expose the surveillance of undergraduates and others at the 800-year-old institution.”

What a clever little boy this Cambridge student is!

He realised, like a good, greedy little capitalist, that he could make more money selling the story to The Guardian, than the police could ever pay him. Fair enough, I suppose.

But the supposed “outrage” over a police offer basically doing his job in trying to protect the interests of the country and the public is risible. We’re supposed to believe of course, that this is some major incursion by a police-state, looking to crush dissenters who dare to criticise government policy. But er… it’s not. The police offer says so, on the covert video, himself.

Police are evidently looking to establish an informant network that actually supports peaceful protest, and cracks down on the sort of violent, civil-disobedience types that eminate from, “The EDL… UAF… UKUncut…” and more. The officer makes it clear, “do they come under peaceful protest… which is absolutely fine?” Funnily enough, the Guardian failed to mention in its report that the English Defence League was the first group the officer mentioned. Its ever-reliable journalism states:

“The other proposed targets of the surveillance include UK Uncut, the campaign against tax avoidance and government cuts, Unite Against Fascism and environmentalists. The Cambridgeshire police initially insisted that there were implications for “national security” but later dropped this argument when challenged.”

As if there were something wrong with the police wanting to know more information about a group that was derived from and maintained the same parts as the lot that smashed up private property at demonstrations in 2011 (UKUncut). Or the group that the terrorist murderer of Drummer Lee Rigby found himself a part of (Unite Against Fascism). Goodness only knows why the police may want to have decent intel on these groups. Do I really need to elaborate on this? I doubt it. You’re smart people.

So let’s get back to the Guardian’s disingenuous reporting on the matter. On the third video down, the Guardian claims, “Police officer offers Cambridge University activist money for information on political meetings”. But as you can see if you watch the video (which I suppose many won’t), he did no such thing. The student leads the questioning, trying to “catch” the officer doing something immoral: “I guess the money wouldn’t come into it until I was going to other things…” The officer responds, “…we will cover your expenses… it’s not about rewarding you financially… because that goes against… what we’re doing… all we want to do is help people… we help you with expenses”.

[Watch the videos yourself please, because I couldn’t make out all the words clearly].

In short, the real scandal here is how The Guardian tries to misrepresent the police officer, who it will seem to any rational person, is genuinely just trying to do his job which entails community cohesion and keeping the peace, and how the student tries to egg him on and catch him in the act of offering something illegal. He fails.

Of course, Rusbridger and co would no doubt have paid “John Armstrong” (pseudonym) and decided, “Well, we’ve got this footage. Just cut it up cleverly, throw in some ill-fitting captions, oh and leave the part about the EDL out, we want this to look like an attack on the Left” [not actual quotes]. Except it doesn’t. It looks like shoddy and duplicitious journalism. And if I were in charge of the Cambridgeshire police, I’d be running this one up the press regulation flagpole at first light.

Because hypocrites and liars must be exposed as such. 

About Raheem Kassam

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Raheem Kassam is the founder/editor of He was previously Executive Editor at TheCommentator, Communications Director at the Henry Jackson Society, and serves as director at counter-extremism pressure group, Student Rights

  • Selohesra

    Just like NotW – the Guardian simply prints what its readers want to read. Truth and ethics dont really come into it.

  • Hugh

    Looking at the videos he seems to be asking the person to give him information on peaceful protesters, not those involved in violence. All the policeman wants to do is help people, he says, but for some reason thinks the best way of doing so is to use a spy to gather information on names, number plates, movements and so on. I’m sorry, but it is a bit sinister. Even the Guardian can be right occasionally.

    It’s amazing the police apparently go to such effort to gather this information and then prove so ineffectual when it actually comes to stopping idiotic lefty students smashing up the place.

  • London_Liz

    BBC 5Live also carried this story this morning. Very self-serving by the student & shrill anti police complaints by the student union leader. Absolutely one sided as usual.

  • Duke_Bouvier

    If you think it through, to be effective the police need to track people early enough on their journey toward violent extremism that they have not started taking strong measures to conceal their activities. Of course most of them will not turn violent, and they should not suffer for their purely political activity but those who are crossing the line are more effectively identified.

    And lets be clear – there are various groups of the hard left students who have a track record of using violent disorder to disrupt the legitimate political events of other students.

    Which is why when I was at Cambridge there was discrete liaison between various university societies and Special Branch, especially over visiting speakers.

  • Duke_Bouvier

    And funnily enough violent protesters don’t advertise their propensity for violent protest, preferring to hide among peaceful protesters and whine.

  • george

    classic graun tribalism
    when it was plebgate … the police are gods stick used to beat enemies

    soon as someone suggests that the left might have to obey laws like not smashing places up or not employing a data mule to ferry stolen info … the police are facists intent on a police state.
    sickening hypocrisy from a deeply corrupted rag … so business as usual really.

  • Hugh

    No, criminals normally don’t advertise their intention to commit crimes; but, then, we don’t normally see that as a reason to license widespread undercover surveillance of those who are law-abiding. A state that reckons recruiting spies within lawful organisations is the most appropriate way to help with parking arrangements is a bit more worrying to me than the risk posed by UK Uncut.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Guardian obviously takes its line from Pravda and Izvestia. Never worry about the truth. Just use lies and smears to attack anyone who is not ideologically “sound”.

  • Duke_Bouvier

    But we do heavily police football crowds and the Notting Hill Carnival and try to build up intelligence on gangs and networks with a known propensity to crime. Same thing.

  • Hugh

    Heavy policing, by usually uniformed coppers, of football crowds and carnivals isn’t really the same as recruiting university spies to report the names and movements of people who do nothing more than attend UK Uncut meetings. It’s not really the same thing as gathering intelligence on “gangs” either when you think about it.

  • Duke_Bouvier

    “gangs” are groups some but not all of whom have committed crimes in the past, are likely to commit crimes in the future and who are subject to a degree of covert and overt monitoring by police.

    Certain segments of football crowds are groups some but not all of whom have committed crimes in the past, are likely to commit crimes in the future and who are subject to a degree of covert and overt monitoring by police (not to mention pre-emptive confiscation of passports)

    Some groups of left wing protesters (and – yes – some other groups of protesters) are groups of people some but not all of whom have committed crimes in the past, are likely to commit crimes in the future, and who are subject to a degree of overt and covert monitoring by police.

    No difference.

    Though actually the Trots seem more likely than most to announce and seek to justify their intent to provoke violent disorder than the others. “There’s a row goin’ on, down near Slough…”