U.K. Cops Stole Dead Infants' Identities for Domestic Espionage

In classic spy tales, secret agents sometimes dig through graveyards and death certificates for the names of dead children that can be built into phony identities. (The late, great Loompanics catalog used to sell books offering detailed instructions on how to do this.) Spies, such as sleeper agents, were even said to create phony lives, including families, that they would drop at a moments notice if called upon to do so. It's all cold, cruel stuff, but what else would you expect of the cloak-and-dagger set? Oh, and of the United Kingdom's Metropolitan Police Department, which did all this just to conduct surveillance on British political activists.

Reports The Guardian:

Britain's largest police force stole the identities of an estimated 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover police officers.

The Metropolitan police secretly authorised the practice for covert officers infiltrating protest groups without consulting or informing the children's parents.

The details are revealed in an investigation by the Guardian, which has established how over three decades generations of police officers trawled through national birth and death records in search of suitable matches.

Undercover officers created aliases based on the details of the dead children and were issued with accompanying identity records such as driving licences and national insurance numbers. Some of the police officers spent up to 10 years pretending to be people who had died.

That's rough stuff ... It's creepy as hell and inconsiderate of the feelings of family members who put babies to rest only to have their personal tragedies turned into tools of domestic espionage. But at least it's not The Americans, you know that Cold War-nostagia TV show about KGB agents whose own families don't know they've been spent to spy on the United States.

Oh, wait. The Guardian, again:

Two undercover police officers secretly fathered children with political campaigners they had been sent to spy on and later disappeared completely from the lives of their offspring, the Guardian can reveal.

In both cases, the children have grown up not knowing that their biological fathers – whom they have not seen in decades – were police officers who had adopted fake identities to infiltrate activist groups. Both men have concealed their true identities from the children's mothers for many years.

At least one of the officers was married while getting under the covers, undercover, so to speak.

There must have been good reason for all of this John le Carré stuff, right? Nuclear secrets? Terrorism? Lives on the line? Well ... The reports, so far, all refer to police infiltration of "animal rights and environmental groups" over a period from the 1980s into the 2000s.

Parliament is, of course, quite shocked, and lawmakers are calling for an investigation.

U.S. authorities have been enthusiastic in their own use of undercover agents in all sorts of application — including investigating anti-war groups and even pigeon-fanciers. It might be worth seeing if they've also gone the bogus-identity and unwitting family route, too. It's hard to believe they've shown less dedication to their jobs than their British counterparts.

By the way, Bruce Schneier says that building new identities takes a little more work, these days.

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  • Gladstone||

    Well according to Stephan Kinsella this would be America's fault for seceeding.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Come on, it's The Day of the Jackal.

  • Drake||

    Nope - It was Connor MacLeod.

  • ||

    Look, whatever they have to do to prevent CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is worth it.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Plus, they ran up huge credit card bills and subscribed to Thrupennies Weekly.

  • ||

    There must have been good reason for all of this John le Carré stuff, right? Nuclear secrets? Terrorism? Lives on the line? Well ... The reports, so far, all refer to police infiltration of "animal rights and environmental groups" over a period from the 1980s into the 2000s.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the greatest threat from terrorism the United States faces comes from animal rights and environmental groups.

  • ||

    Some would see your statement as hyperbole. The truth is, it's probably a good estimation of how all the groups the public afraid of AREN'T big threats to Americans. That the most we have to fear is from over-zealous PETA or Sierra Club members isn't the biggest endorsement of the security/police state.

  • kinnath||

    I got nuthin

  • NeonCat||

    "It's creepy as hell and inconsiderate of the feelings of family members who put babies to rest only to have their personal tragedies turned into tools of domestic espionage."

    I'm sorry, why am I supposed to be outraged by this? Will the family of (let's say) Ted Smythe think poor little dead Ted is being exploited if they encounter a Ted Smythe out in the world forty years later? Or would they just think it's an odd coincidence, think about their loss, tear up a bit and move on?

    Honestly, I don't expect to find blubbering "for the survivors of the children decades later" at Reason.

    Now, if you want to say it's outrageous that police craft elaborate fake identities to infiltrate politically-unpopular groups, okay, sure. I would guess in some cases when you have an actually violent group it would make sense to have an airtight cover but it's certainly seems to have been abused.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, I have less of an issue with the whole using dead baby names than with the fact that the only reason they did this was so they could sleep with young college protesters until they impregnated them and than took off and left eveyone else to pay for raising their kid.

  • SIV||

    That Newsmax widget is still touting "Dick Morris exclusives".
    Cancel my fucking subscription.

  • tarran||

    Actually, it can potentially open those families to great danger.

    Let's say my son had died at birth, and a copper assumes her identity. Copper does something bad (maybe a date rape ending in pregnancy or suicide). Cop then vanishes.

    Outraged scumbags decide to get vengeance, and want to find him. A little googling and they realise his dear old mum or da is living nearby. So these guys show up, demanding I tell them where my son is. And when I say "dead" they decide to beat the truth out of me.

    It's the sort of reckless tyranny that is the hallmark of Queen Elizabeth II's reign over her subjects.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I was about to say "Fucking Tudors" again, then saw the II.

  • NeonCat||

    I can see that is possible (I think it's a bit far-fetched, but possible), but I'm not sure about this part of your comment:

    Let's say my son had died at birth, and a copper assumes her identity.

  • tarran||

    Originally, I was going to use my daughter as an example, but I realized rarely are women used for undercover work, and I messed up my edits.

  • Chris Mallory||

    In years past, this was the way to set up a second identity. Especially before the computer age when birth and death records weren't cross referenced.

  • SIV||

    It was much easier when you got your ssn# right before your first job and not at birth.

  • ant1sthenes||

    "I banged your girlfriend."

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Bruce Schneier doesn't use an IDE, or even a text editor, he uses an AK47 and a punch card.
  • Cliché Bandit||

    In Bruce Schneier's hands, ROT-13 is provably secure.
  • Cliché Bandit||

    Bruce Schneier's phone number is a 200 digit prime
  • Cliché Bandit||

    Alice and Bob met for the first time at Bruce Schneier's pool-party
  • Cliché Bandit||

    If you get any of these then you should subscribe to his newsletter...no joke.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    Bruce Schneier taught his dog to do a secure handshake.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Bruce Schneier uses a different salt for his soup everyday.


    I guess I am the only one who like crypto security on here...Schneier Facts

  • ||

    I just saw these. I don't get all of them, but the ones I do get are hilarious. Where did this site come from?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Fans and subscribers of Bruce. I love friday squid blogging too.

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