Ciaron O’Reilly, a Ploughshares and Catholic Worker organiser, is one of 10 people named in a letter to the Green party peer Jenny Jones by an anonymous whistleblower who alleged the emails of those individuals were among those illegally monitored by a secretive Scotland Yard unit working with Indian police and hackers.
O’Reilly, a key supporter of Julian Assange, was contacted last week by a London law firm that confirmed his email account and password were identified in the letter, now being examined by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
He told Guardian Australia he was “outraged but not surprised” by the alleged intrusion of the Metropolitan police’s national domestic extremism and disorder unit into his private emails.
O’Reilly said he assumed “the significance of Julian Assange” and his own role in rallying support for the WikiLeaks founder outside courts and the Ecuador embassy had put him on the unit’s “priority list”.
The Brisbane-born activist, who has twice served jail time for damaging US military equipment, said he was the kind of non-violent protester who “could end up in quite vulnerable positions with these [police], who kind of overrate our significance”.
“But part of overrating our significance is justifying their budgets,” he said. “If I’m their problem, they haven’t got a problem. The reason I’m coming out publicly is to remind people how dangerous this is, because with areas like the secret police, there’s no accountability, there’s no transparency.”
O’Reilly is one of at least seven people who, at the request of the law firm acting for British Green party peer Jenny Jones, have volunteered passwords matching or closely resembling those on the whistleblower’s list.
Jones, who received the allegations in a letter from the unnamed whistleblower, referred them to the IPCC and called for “a full-scale criminal investigation into the activities of these police officers and referral to a public inquiry”.
The IPCC has been separately investigating claims the Metropolitan police unit shredded a large number of documents in May 2014, despite being told the files should be preserved for a judge-led public inquiry into undercover policing of political groups.
The letter’s author, who claimed to formerly work for the intelligence unit, said the unit worked with Indian police who used hackers to illegally obtain passwords for the email accounts of campaigners and some journalists, including from the Guardian.
The lettter’s writer said he or she had spoken out about the “serious abuse of power” because “over the years, the unit had evolved into an organisation that had little respect for the law, no regard for personal privacy, encouraged highly immoral activity and, I believe, is a disgrace”.
The Metropolitan police service last month said it was “aware that the IPCC are carrying out an independent investigation” into “anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data”.
The police service had referred the matters to the watchdog on its request, it said.
O’Reilly has served jail time in Ireland in 2003 and the US in 1991 over Ploughshares’ protests that inflicted damage on a US navy warplane and an airforce runway, respectively.
Inquiry over Met police intelligence unit claimed to have destroyed files https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/08/inquiry-over-met-police-intelligence-unit-claimed-to-have-destroyed-files
He was also detained five times under anti-terrorist legislation in Dublin, Belfast and London in a single year around 2008. He said that was part of authorities using “the whole cover of the war on terrorism to crack down on the civil rights of non-violent, anti-war people”.
O’Reilly said Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency showed there was “no privacy in email and texting”.
“But in this case, how dodgy are [the UK police] to subcontract this out to India? I’ve never been to India, never pissed off any Indians, so that was all a bit weird as well.”
O’Reilly has founded three activist support groups in the UK since 1996, the first one allegedly infiltrated by a former soldier.
O’Reilly said he suspected Giuseppe Conlon House, which he co-founded in 2010 to offer hospitality to war zone refugees in London, had been infiltrated from the start by a former activist who was “compromised and turned” by authorities.
He said he hoped the broader undercover policing inquiry would “reveal the specifics of how our efforts to offer solidarity to these most heroic people of our time were undermined”.