A who’s who of the U.K. radical left over the past half century was infiltrated by “spycops,” reports Asa Winstanley, who has personal involvement with this story.
In December 2018 I received a text message that changed my life.
“Do you know anyone involved in [the] UK group of [the] International Solidarity Movement?” it read. A public inquiry had released the name of “an undercover officer who apparently infiltrated them – Rob Harrison.”
Long buried memories slowly began to surface. I knew that name.
In my mid-20s I had indeed been involved with the International Solidarity Movement, known as ISM, first as a volunteer in Palestine and later with their U.K. chapter, ISM London. Rob had been a friend – or so I’d thought. We’d drunk in the same pubs, I’d danced to the records he’d spun as a DJ at fundraisers and we’d endured the same interminable meetings together.
But all along he’d secretly been an undercover British police officer, leading a double life and reporting who-knows-what to the authorities.
I swiftly turned to my old emails and found dozens from “Robert Harrison.” He’d even offered to drive me to the airport on one trip to Palestine. Luckily, I had declined.
There was no doubt – it was the same man. The man we’d thought had been our friend had actually been a spy for the state all along.
Looking back at that text message now, I think I was in shock and experienced some sort of trauma. I processed all this by snapping into professional mode – it would make a great story. And I was well placed to tell it. I called around some of my old comrades.
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