In an earlier piece on the impact of PREVENT and the implication of “terrorist toddlers”, I drew attention to the fascist neoconservative impulse permeating the policy and the pervasiveness of the securitisation of public services. Under PREVENT and the Channel deradicalisation programme, public service employees would spy on people for signs of radicalisation and refer them to a PREVENT officer, effectively creating a modern police-state primarily for Muslims.
I likened this to the authoritarian East Germany of the 80s and 90s which popularly became known as the Stasi state. I noted that there were multiple levels of surveillance: those who were “officially” employed and those who spied in an unofficial capacity. At that time I had focussed on the “unofficial” spies: those who were employees of schools, hospitals and most public services tasked to monitor ideological leanings of people.
Until recently, aside from Quilliam Foundation founders’ alleged link to the security services (Quilliam have been ardent proponents of PREVENT), there was never an official document (that I knew of) which could link the PREVENT programme to the security services.
The Intercept has revealed a document which shows an explicit link between the PREVENT Strategy and GCHQ. The document is dated from 2008 to 2009. It documents the GCHQ’s “stakeholder relationships” with various government ministries. One of those is head-titled “DCLG”. Under the previous Labour government, DCLG was responsible for rolling out the PREVENT Strategy, which was primarily created to form a version of Islam, co-opting “liberal Muslims”, through which the government “could engineer if not exact power” in the community.
According to the released document, the “top level aim” of GCHQ’s interaction with DCLG was to,
“develop their engagement with PREVENT (specifically the intelligence) community and promote IA for Local Government.”
IA presumably refers to “intelligence analysis”.
The objectives for GCHQ were,
- Improve engagement from Communities Senior Leadership (SoS, PermSec, DG) with SECRET PREVENT
- Develop our understanding of how intelligence fits in their day to day
- Develop mechanism for delivery of IA for Local Government
It is interesting to note the list of “headline issues”. The first which stands out was the “relevance of traditional Sigint”. “Sigint” is shorthand for “signals intelligence”, which refers to interception of electronic forms of communication – something GCHQ primarily involves itself in. Why would this be a concern in the context of its dealing with DCLG and PREVENT? Was Sigint a method of collating information on the Muslim community?
The second is a reference to “Department for SECRET PREVENT and communities”. The obvious question is what is “SECRET PREVENT and communities”? It does not exactly sound transparent. Furthermore, next to the words “SECRET PREVENT” are the letters “DI”, which refers to defence intelligence – an organisation which is an integral part of the Ministry of Defence
The notable areas which these issues impact the GCHQ are identified as,
- Bulk removal of extremist material from internet,
- Co-ordination and cooperation over PREVENT community activities.
Amongst the major issues and targets for GCHQ was a political shift away from “SECRET PREVENT” for which it was suggested that there be an improvement of engagement with Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State at that time, and provision of education on intelligence analysis. GCHQ also identified a number of state officials involved with PREVENT for “targeted education” of intelligence analysis.
The “GCHQ Products and services” section includes “tip-offs”, intelligence analysis consultation and PREVENT activity planning input.
“Children, Schools and Families”
Ed Balls was the secretary of state for Children, Schools and Families, a post which was superseded by the Department for Education when the neocon Michael Gove took the post. Disturbingly, the intelligence penetration of education sphere seems to be have occurred very early on in the PREVENT Strategy’s life. Balls is identified as the “conduit” for GCHQ’s objectives, which include,
- Promotion and delivery of IA service.
- Ensure appropriate participation in PREVENT community
- Ensure delivery of reporting service on radicalisation.
Shockingly, the intelligence gathering culture was being fostered and promoted from the inception of PREVENT even in schools. Furthermore, in the last objective involving the reporting service on radicalisation, we can see the foundations being laid for the Orwellian Channel programme, which places “vulnerable” individuals before a panel to judge whether they need to be “deradicalised”.
When I saw Professor Arun Kundnani Tweet the link to the pdf stating that GCHQ was “all over the PREVENT program”, I did not expect the level of penetration to be to this extent. PREVENT has been viewed by most of the informed Muslim community with utmost suspicion, especially given the highly questionable, often neoconservative figures pushing the failed Strategy in an expressly invidious fashion.
From explicitly targeting PREVENT for intelligence, and promoting an “intelligence analysis” culture as inherently part of the PREVENT Strategy, to targeting, training and influencing government officials, the pervasive nature of GCHQ’s involvement with PREVENT is telling: the multi-agency surveillance state courtesy of the present version of PREVENT has been manipulated from the outset by one of Britain’s premiere spy agencies. Disreputable stooge organisations like Quilliam Foundation, and Inspire which promotes the “British values” PREVENT Strategy in schools as “safeguarding” and comforts schools that it is “not about spying”, have just had the remaining tatters of their reputations now completely torn off.
There are questions which require answers. If this was the level of GCHQ-penetration in 2008, how much involvement does it have now in 2015? What is “SECRET PREVENT”? Why is the intelligence branch of the MoD involved and what is the current manifestation of SECRET PREVENT? Finally how much intelligence from GCHQ was used to determine the targeting of areas where the Muslim minorities are the majority?
The fact that such questions are even raised is shocking enough.
Welcome to Britain, the neo-Stasi state.