Regular readers  might remember an extraordinary interview in Overland 196 with a man called Thomas Shepherd, who had been an undercover agent for ASIO inside various left-wing organisations for over fifteen years. Shepherd kept his identity secret from his closest associates, even embarking upon a relationship with someone who knew nothing of his secret life. Before his eventual exposure, he grew sympathetic to the ideals of those he was spying upon. The whole experience left him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which he was  seeking compensation.

A few days ago, the British Guardian published a remarkably similar piece, a feature on a man called Mark Kennedy. Kennedy had spent seven years as an undercover police agent infiltrating the British environmental movement. He, too, became romantically involved with some of those he was investigating and adopted their ideals — indeed, at one point in the interview, he criticises the movement for not being radical enough.  And like Shepherd, Kennedy now suffers from PTSD.

Read both pieces. The similarities are remarkable, even though the events took place in different political eras.

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  1. Interesting to see in both cases these people going “native” ie identifying with the causes and people they are meant to be infiltrating. You’d think that would normally be something the police would want to avoid but reading these pieces it occurs to me it could have worked for them rather than against them. Their agents gained maximum infiltration through identifying with the “subversives” while unable to risk self-exposure without significant personal cost, even trauma.

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