Global Open

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal - a project of the Undercover Research Group in conjunction with SpinWatch.

Global Open was set up in 2001 by its Managing Director Rod Leeming, a former Special Branch officer.[1] The company keeps a "discreet watch" on protest groups for clients including E.ON.[2] According to its website, "Global Open can carry out a full security audit of an organisation's plants and offices from an activist's perspective".[3] Its corporate strapline is: "Be Aware. Be up to date. Keep the threat in perspective".[4] Groups monitored by Global open were listed as including those from 'animal rights, environmental issues, anti-corporatism and anti-globalisation'.[1]

Global Open has been associated with several cases of infiltrating public protest campaigns; its activities also raise questions about the revolving door between the police and private security industry. It first came to public attention in 2007 when it was implicated in the case of Paul Mercer, a friend of the then Conservative shadow defence minister, Julian Lewis, who was exposed by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade of spying for the arms firm BAE.[5]

In the short period between leaving the police and being exposed as a spy, Mark Kennedy worked undercover for Global Open. In July 2015, it emerged that a former girlfriend of Mark Kennedy was suing the company as they were in a relationship while he had maintained the false identify built up as an undercover police officer. Working for Global Open, Kennedy started to show interest in animal rights campaigning, something he had previously stayed away from.[6]

Global Open (company number: 04152470) is now listed as dissolved as of 2015.[7]

Global Open's Services

Risk Management

Global Open's website outlines services "aimed at clients at a more serious level of threat from activism".[4] It provides:

  • Forward-looking intelligence;
  • An assessment of future events with the potential for conflict;
  • A 24-hour warning service indicating, wherever possible, if a company is about to be targeted;
  • Notification of high-risk dates;
  • Immediate circulation of new activist tactics;
  • A daily summary of events as required;
  • Circulation of the movement of activist groups;
  • Telephone and email access to our analysts in order to answer your questions.
  • Graphs and push-pin maps of the current threat in any country or region.[4]


Intelligence gathering services

Their website states:

Companies currently being targeted by activists require fast access to information in order to avoid the effects of economic sabotage and personal harassment.[4]
Until they are targeted, risk managers engaged in business continuity planning often exclude the risk from activism connected with, for example:
  • Animal rights;
  • Environmental issues;
  • Anti-corporatism;
  • Anti-globalisation.[4]


Pharmaceutical companies

The first ascertained time that Global Open came to the attention of activists was in 2004, when a briefing document on animal right protest activities was disclosed in a civil case brought by several Japanese pharmaceutical companies against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The material seemed to be mainly open source, but attempts to look at the company discovered that its work was clouded in secrecy.[8]

CAAT

In 2007 Global Open was implicated in the case of Paul Mercer, a friend of the then Conservative shadow defence minister, Julian Lewis, who was exposed by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade of spying for the arms firm BAE.[5]

Background

Global Open's Director is Former Special Branch

Rod Leeming, a director of Global Open, is a former Special Branch officer. Until he left the police in 2001, he admits he regularly infiltrated undercover operatives into protest groups in his role as head of the Animal Rights National index. The animal rights movement subsequently became one of the main focuses of NETCU, which polices "domestic extremism".[9] He told The Guardian that the company only advises firms on security and insists Global Open does not infiltrate activist groups. The newspaper concluded however that Global Open "appears to have access to well-sourced intelligence".[2]

Peter Bleksley, former undercover police officer, when questioned about the Mark Kennedy affair in an interview for BBC2, confirms more police officers are currently embedded in the movement and that "there are also people from the private security sector working against climate campaigners".[10] A SpinWatch article comments on Bleksley's words that "the language itself is telling. Not ‘protestors’, but ‘campaigners’. Targeted not for taking illegal direct action, but simply for holding a view. And not simply monitoring: the ‘against’ testifies to an agenda in policing".[11]

State and private intelligence-gathering

When private security firms send spies into campaigns to gather information, their work bears parallels to that of undercover officer Mark Kennedy whose activities caused significant public outrage when he was exposed. The lack of accountability from ACPO who receive public funding, yet are not designated as "public bodies" was denounced. In the words of ex-undercover officer Peter Bleksley, "don't waste your time compiling a Freedom of Information Act application to see their costs, or examine their expenses – the act doesn't apply to them".[12] However, the measures to hold private security firms to account are even more limited. Senior police officers complain that spies hired by commercial firms are – unlike their own agents – barely regulated.[13] Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers which until recently ran the secretive national unit of undercover police officers deployed in protest groups, stated that "the deployment by completely uncontrolled and unrestrained players in the private sector" constituted a "massive area of concern".[13]


Corporations delegating their "dirty work"

Different from corporate espionage between two private firms, cases of corporate espionage against the public are being uncovered. Arguably the very industries whose environmental and social impacts are being challenged are delegating their dirty work to private security firms. Responding to The Guardian after being exposed for employing the private security company Vericola, who was allegedly infiltrating campaign groups,

E.ON said it had hired Vericola and another security firm, Global Open, on an "ad hoc" basis as its executives wanted to know when environmentalists were going to demonstrate at or invade its power stations and other premises, as they had done in the past. The E.ON spokesman said it asked Vericola only for publicly available information and if Todd and her colleagues had obtained private information, they had done so "under their own steam". SRG and Scottish Power did not comment.[13]


The Revolving Door between Police and Private Security

Undercover Police Officer Mark Kennedy and Global Open

Controversially, Mark Kennedy carried on his life undercover after he left the police, using his fake name and beginning work within the private security industry. The nature of the links between Global Open and Mark Kennedy remain unclear. Leeming previously claimed never to have met or employed Kennedy. However, according to The Guardian it is now understood that Global Open had "offered to employ several ex-police officers, including Kennedy, who said he was hired by Leeming as a private investigator last year." [14]

Kennedy himself told the Daily Mail: 'Then in January last year [2010] I was approached by a private company which advises corporations about activist trends. It’s run by Rod Leeming, a former Special Branch officer. I’d never met him before.' He then apparently handed in his resignation to the police, finishing working with them in March 2010. He also claimed he did not work undercover for Global Open.[15]


Mark Kennedy set up his own private security company named Tokra. According to The Guardian:

In February 2010 – a month before resigning – Kennedy set up Tokra Limited, at an address in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Calling himself a logistics officer, Kennedy registered himself as sole director of the company. Intriguingly, the address he used is the work address of Heather Millgate, a solicitor specialising in personal injury, and a former director of Global Open, a private security firm.[2]
Last spring, Kennedy set up a second firm – Black Star High Access Limited – in east London.[2]On 12 April, Kennedy applied for Tokra to be dissolved. Within a few days of that application, he resigned from the police. Tokra was finally dissolved on the 17 August. On 31 August, Millgate resigned as director of Global Open. Black Star High Access has not yet filed any records to reveal whether it is a viable, financial concern, but it is still active.[2]

Leeming did confirm that Tokra was set up for a "reason" but he could not say what it was – only that it was a confidential matter between Kennedy and Millgate,[2]former director of Global Open [16]. Connections between Kennedy's firm Tokra and Global Open seem to go beyond sharing company registration addresses. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Kennedy says "in January last year I was approached by a private company which advises corporations about activist trends. It’s run by Rod Leeming, a former Special Branch officer. I’d never met him before".[15] The article stated that Kennedy handed in his resignation from the police in January, ending work in March. He resumed his relationship with his girlfriend while he worked for Global Open as a consultant – although he says he did not operate undercover for the company.[15]

Transferable skills and alliances: police and private security industry

Questions have been raised regarding the ethics of "former police officers cashing in on their surveillance skills for a host of companies that target protesters".[14] Peter Bleksley, director and co-owner of a business intelligence company, was a founder member of Scotland Yard's undercover unit in the 1980's.[17] Speaking as a former undercover police officer, when questioned about the Kennedy affair in an an interview for BBC2, he confirmed there are currently more police officers embedded in the movement and that "there are also people from the private security sector working against climate campaigners".[10] See: the revolving door between the police and private security industry

Global Open's clients

Global Open claims to have more than 90 clients and maintains "a discreet watch" on protest groups that could damage a firm's reputation.[14]

E.ON and Global Open

E.ON and Kingsnorth

Global Open produced a confidential document for another company interested in plans to attack the E.ON-owned power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, revealed the Guardian.[2] E.On was also criticised regarding the same protest when it emerged that information was being circulated detailing activists' movements, listing times, dates and numbers involved.[18] These emails were between E.ON and Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). On 24 July the emails gave details of the company's security strategy. In another, sent 28 July, BERR forwards intelligence from the Police National Information and Coordination Centre(PNICC).[18]

David Howarth MP, asks "The question is how did that [police] intelligence get to BERR? Did it come via the Home Office or straight from police? And once they'd got this intelligence, what did they do with it?"[18] In response, a spokesman for E.ON said it was normal practice for energy companies to confer with "relevant authorities ... when strategically important energy assets such as power stations are being threatened with mass trespass and potentially violent closure".[18]

E.On and Vericola

In February 2011, E.ON also admitted to employing Vericola, which was infiltrating campaign strategy meetings.[13]In September 2009, green activists involved in the Climate Camp network were planning a major demonstration against Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire, owned by E.ON. Emails seen by The Guardian instructed Vericola's agents to attend a protest planning meeting held at London's SOAS university.[14]

It is argued that the very industries whose environmental and social impacts are being challenged are delegating their dirty work to private security firms. Responding to The Guardian, after being exposed hiring Vericola:

E.ON said it had hired Vericola and another security firm, Global Open, on an "ad hoc" basis as its executives wanted to know when environmentalists were going to demonstrate at or invade its power stations and other premises, as they had done in the past. The E.ON spokesman said it asked Vericola only for publicly available information and if Todd [Vericola's CEO] and her colleagues had obtained private information, they had done so "under their own steam". SRG and Scottish Power [also Vericola's clients] did not comment.[13]


Shortly before The Guardian released the story, a full account of the Vericola exposure was releasd on independent media site, Indymedia UK. The account included publishing the full company details, the process by which activists gathered evidence about the infiltration and photos of Rebecca Todd. The groups which had been targeted were included, as were the email addresses she and her agents used so that campaigning groups can assess whether they had been infiltrated, and to what level.[19]

Mark Kennedy, Global Open & E.ON

On 12 January 2011, the Daily Mail released an article claiming that Mark Kennedy had 'used his false identity to spy for an energy giant after leaving the police.' It notes that E.ON were a client of Global Open and that Kennedy had gone to work for Global Open on leaving the police, which appears to have been the logic for making the claim. The original article stated that E.On would not confirm or deny whether Kennedy had worked for them.[20] However, later that day, they issued a press release, stating that 'the company has never employed [Mark] Kennedy, either directly or indirectly via a third party, in any role.'[21]

Economic or Violent Threat?

In response to E.ON's comments, elaborated in a comment piece for The Guardian are questions regarding the disproportionate resources used to infiltrate and monitor protest.

E.ON, the owner of the alleged target of the alleged protest, gave us a clue about what is going on here in its statement following the arrests: "While we understand that everyone has a right to protest peacefully and lawfully, this was clearly neither of those things."
Spot the deliberate mistake. E.ON's statement conflates the notions of "lawful" and "peaceful" protest; but the critical distinction between these two lies at the heart of the question of whether the extent of policing being applied to the climate movement can be justified. Peaceful does not mean the same thing as lawful. No activists at Plane Stupid or the climate camp have ever been convicted of a violent crime, and we are proud to be a part of the long tradition of non-violent protest.
The accusations that climate activists represent a threat to people's safety are baseless and defamatory. The true threat we represent is a financial threat to some powerful special interests.
It is time to drop the pretence of preventing violence against people, and start an honest conversation about all of this. It is time to ask what constitutes appropriate policing of peaceful protest, whether lawful or otherwise; and to question whose interests are really being served by devoting such extravagant police resources to preventing it.[22]

Company details

Company directors

Companies House records show Global Open was incorporated on 1 February 2001. Its directors are listed as security consultants Roderick Leeming and Victor Ash, and analyst Alison Leeming, who is also company secretary. Heather Millgate, a solicitor, is listed as a former director. [23]

Stephen Solley

A former member of the Royal Marine submarine service (1976-1981) and a police officer (1982-2003), he became an analyst with Global Open 2003 - 2008, before leaving to found his own company Solent Risk Management Ltd[24] He is also listed as a 5% shareholder in Androtech Systems Ltd at one point, a company Rod Leeming was a shareholder and director of also (see under Rod Leeming for further details.[7] Based in Gosport, Hampshire, Solent Risk Management[25] 'provides information about the risk from single issue extremism', and has a focus on animal rights activists, as welll as environmental and anti-globalisation issues.[26] From 2011, Solley has also been Deputy CEO, Director of Global Security and Risk Management for the International Fur Trade Federation, and as such is believed to be the ex-Special Branch officer referred to in a German newspaper article as appointed head of security for an international fur trade association.[27]


Contact

Companies House registered address:[28]

Global Open Ltd
10 Springpark Drive
Beckenham
Kent BR3 6QD
Company No. 04152470
Website: http://globalopen-uk.com
Email:http://globalopen-uk.com/contact/ (email form)

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Association of Security Consultants, CONSEC 2012 - 18th Annual Conference & Exhibition, 2012 (accessed 10 July 2015). Rod Leeming gave a talk at this conference entitled Emerging Corporate Threats: Protecting Commerce and Individuals from Sophisticated Activism.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Rob Evans, Amelia Hill, Paul Lewis and Patrick Kingsley Mark Kennedy: secret policeman's sideline as corporate spy The Guardian, 13/01/11, accessed 17/ 01/11
  3. Global Open Website Security Audit accessed 17/01/11
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Global Open Website Home accessed 17/01/11
  5. 5.0 5.1 Legal briefing, File:CAATvMercer-briefing.pdfCAMPAIGN AGAINST ARMS TRADE v PAUL MERCER & LIGNEDEUX ASSOCIATES, Leigh Day & Co. 18 April 2007.
  6. Rob Evans, Former girlfriend of undercover spy sues corporate security firm, The Guardian, 12 July 2015 (accessed 13 July 2015).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Companies House search conducted 13 July 2015 by Undercover Research Group.
  8. Undercover Research Group: interview with Max Gastone, 2014.
  9. LEADING ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST SENTENCED, ACPO press release, 25 February 2005.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kirsty Wark, NewsNight "BBC2" 10/01/11, accessed 11/01/11
  11. Tilly Gifford Unmasking the environmental infiltrators, SpinWatch, 19/01/11, accessed 22/02/11
  12. Peter Bleksley Corporate hired spies are here to stay The Guardian, 16/02/11, accessed 22/02/11
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Rob Evans and Paul Lewis Revealed: how energy firms spy on environmental activists The Guardian, 14/02/11, accessed 22/02/11
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Rob Evans and Paul Lewis Green groups targeted polluters as corporate agents hid in their ranks, The Guardian, 16/o2/11, accessed 22/02/11 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Evans2" defined multiple times with different content
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Caroline Graham I've always respected the police. But the world of undercover policing is grey and murky The Daily Mail, 17/01/11, accessed 18/01/11
  16. Companies House, Global Open Annual Return 2010, accessed 19/01/11
  17. Contributor's profile Peter Bleksley, The Guardian, accessed 22/02/11
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Matthew Taylor and Paul Lewis, Secret police intelligence was given to E.ON before planned demo The Guardian, 20/04/09, accessed 22/02/11
  19. company, Vericola Ltd, uncovered after incompetence, Indymedia UK, 14/02/11, accessed 25/02/11
  20. Colin Fernandez, Rebecca Evans and Claire Ellicot, Police eco-spy was working for energy giant after he left, Daily Mail, 12 January 2011. The article appears to have been pulled from the Daily Mail website, though an image of it appears on Indymedia.
  21. E.ON UK, [http://pressreleases.eon-uk.com/blogs//eonukpressreleases/archive/2011/01/12/1651.aspx E.ON statement re Mark Kennedy/Stone], press release, 12 January 2011 (accessed 10 July 2015).
  22. Matilda Gifford Why spy on peaceful protesters? The Guardian, 26/04/09, accessed 17/01/11
  23. Companies House, Global Open Annual Return 2010, accessed 19 January 2011.
  24. Stephen Solley, Profile, LinkedIn.com, undated (accessed 10 July 2015).
  25. Company number: 912801763. Address: 30 Broadsands Drive, Gosport, Hampshire, PO12 2SD. Other director is Carla Tracey Jennings. See Solent Risk Management Ltd, CompanyCheck.co.uk, undated (accessed 10 July 2015).
  26. Solent Risk Management About Us, company website, 2008 (accessed 10 July 2015).
  27. Undercover Research Group, details to come.
  28. Companies House, Global Open, accessed 17 January 2011.