In 2017, the NYE ran a series of articles by our crime correspondent TIM HICKS on how military Information Warfare (IW or InfoWar) techniques have been systematically adopted by public bodies in North Yorkshire.
This proved to be one of our most popular series of articles ever. It was discontinued because the NYE felt it had covered the topic satisfactorily and we had other more important stories to cover.
The NYE is returning to this series now to cover a new and disturbing trend in British policing being led by Chief Constable Lisa Winward, who is establishing a formidable reputation as a master practitioner of the black arts of Information Warfare.
IW8 Media Suppression: The Winward Prototype
by TIM HICKS
Introduction: Information Warfare
Information Warfare (IW) was a United States military concept involving:
- The collection of tactical information.
- Obtaining assurance that one’s own information is valid.
- Spreading of propaganda or disinformation to demoralise the enemy and manipulate the public.
- Undermining the quality of opposing force information and denial of information-collection opportunities to opposing forces.
This can involve the suppression of information or points of view and can be passive, proactive and/or aggressive. It can include information suppression, media manipulation, media suppression, psychological operations aimed at disaffecting enemy morale, and disinformation. Which are all standard IW terms.
Aggressive measures include legal action, detention, crowding out, internment, arrest, hacking, virus attacks, direct action or the threat of any or all, or a combination of these.
Most of the rest of the world use the much broader term of Information Operations, which uses technology and the more human-related aspects of information use.
Information Operations and Media Manipulation are often incorporated into Media Operations, which use a series of related techniques to ensure the supremacy of an image or argument that favours the interest of the organisation.
The ethical aspect of Police IW Operations
There are practical, ethical and legal issues affecting relations between the media and the Police:
- Legal:Police forces are under an obligation to act openly and within the law.
- Ethical: The Policemust submit to public scrutiny and be accountable. Without open access to information, journalists cannot exercise effective scrutiny over the Police on behalf of the public.
- Practical:The Police have to work and cooperate with the media, to obtain information from the public to support investigations and to keep the public informed generally about policing.
Pursuing a policy of media suppression is contrary to the primary duties of the Police to act within the law in a democratic society and investigate crime. However, other factors cause conflict with these principles:
- Reputation: When the media exposes misconduct or incompetence by the Police, this causes reputational damage for the force.
- Self-preservation: When the media reveals misconduct, this can result in misconduct charges being brought against PoliceOfficer
- Cultural: PoliceOfficers are powerful authority figures, routinely used to telling other people what to do and usually getting their own way, because they are backed up by Police When misconduct is revealed by the media, the Police dislike this because they have a strong sense of loyalty to their force’s reputation and their colleagues, and they resent criticism –no matter how accurate- from outsiders.
These factors can lead to the Police responding to criticism with denial, refusing to accept the criticism as valid or in the public interest. This in turn can result in the Police going on the offensive when faced with criticism, by retaliating against the media, or restricting the media’s ability to expose misconduct by constraining its access to information.
When the Police do this, they are contravening the Seven Principles of Public Life:
- Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
- Integrity:Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
- Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
- Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
- Openness:Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
- Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.
- Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
They are also engaging in Information Warfare (information suppression, media manipulation and media suppression) and are undermining the public’s right to have:
- A free and effective press.
- Access to information it is entitled to have.
- Public bodies that are properly scrutinised by a free press and more efficient as a result of being held to account by the media.
NYP Information Warfare Phase 1
As a generalisation, traditional print media in Yorkshire has not been very challenging of the Police. With the arrival of citizen journalism in the form of the NYE that changed. For the first time in its history, North Yorkshire Police came under effective scrutiny from the media.
The NYE exposed a number of scandals, embarrassing NYP, the former North Yorkshire Policing Authority and the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (PFCCNY). As a consequence, the NYE has been the subject of information warfare by successive Chief Constables, thereby preventing lawful media scrutiny and criticism:
In 2012 we revealed exclusively that the Chief Constable had received enormous expense allowances without having to account or pay tax on them. The response from NYP was to demand that I take down the article. (Information suppression for the purpose of media suppression and media manipulation), thereby preventing media scrutiny and criticism.
When NYP exempted itself from the IPCC and HMIC Jimmy Savile investigations by claiming that Jimmy Savile did not have any connections to North Yorkshire. (Disinformation for the purpose of media suppression and suppressing lawful scrutiny). The NYE contacted the IPCC and forced it to include NYP in the investigation.
When the NYP investigation into Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli by Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Sue Cross repeated the original finding that NYP had known nothing about Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli. (Disinformation for the purpose of media suppression).
When a BBC documentary upheld our allegations of Police misconduct over the Peter Jaconelli paedophile ring (BBC investigation here ). North Yorkshire Police would not even appear on the program. (Information suppression for the purpose of media suppression). Working with the BBC, we forced NYP to re-open the investigation.
The new NYP investigation into Jaconelli conceded that ACC Cross’s investigation had failed to detect a major paedophile vice ring operating in Scarborough run by Peter Jaconelli. Probably the greatest investigative failure in the history of policing in North Yorkshire and in the history of the IPCC. Forcing a humiliating climb down by force media spokesman Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy, which he undertook with considerable skill. (Media manipulation by diversion of media comment) to prevent/reduce lawful and accurate criticism of North Yorkshire Police. This is covered in the article Undercover & Information Warfare Operations in Yorkshire 2
Following long coverage of the unit, the NYE also exposed failings in the Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit, shortly after NYP had given it a clean bill of health in a report commissioned by the PCCNY. (Disinformation for the purpose of media manipulation).
- The refusal of NYP to interview Alderman Norman Murphy over the identity of a murder victim wose body was found in 1981 at Sutton Bank, to conceal failings in the original investigations. Information suppression for the purpose of media suppression.
Some examples of Police IW operations from other forces are below:
- The cover ups into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, the 1984 Battle of Orgreave are examples of Police media suppression operations.(Disinformation for the purpose of media manipulation).
- This video of Essex Police video shows Essex Police arresting a blogger for “harassment against Essex Police by continuing to obtain personal details, social media profiles of serving Officers and operational video footage used to incite anti Police views on social media”. (Aggressive media suppression by direct action).
- This video of Thames Valley Police shows Police Officers swearing at a blogger then arresting him because they objected to him filming a Police station (Aggressive media suppression by direct action).
- The refusal of Greater Manchester Police to respond to correspondence on the murder of Helen Sage* (NYE article here) so it can manipulate its crime figures by maintain she is a missing person. Information suppression for the purpose of media suppression.
Here I can do no better than quote the Chair of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel*:
“Concealing or denying failings for the sake of an organisation’s public image is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit. This constitutes a form of institutional corruption”*
However, it is NYP under Chief Constable Winward that has been leading the way in Police Information Warfare operations.
NYP Information Warfare Phase 2
When Chief Constable Winward assumed command in April 2018, NYP and the PFCCNY moved into a more sophisticated, coordinated and formalised phase of information warfare using four techniques.
1: Refusal to release information under the Freedom of Information Act
The NYE has revealed that Chief Officers have received expense payments for visiting the Edinburgh Tattoo, the costs of their hobbies, visits to European Cities to attend Alumni events which have dubious training value and include time for shopping and sightseeing, dinner dances, visits to Buckingham Palace Garden Parties and an overnight stay in London, Boston, Dublin and Belfast, which NYP will not comment on.
When I asked questions about Chief Constable Winward’s expenses, she refused to respond to them on the grounds that my enquiries were “vexatious” within the meaning of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
The concern must be that Chief Constable Winward is refusing to respond to complaints because any impartial investigation would uphold them and she is trying to conceal misconduct.
Two Police Officers who were photographed asleep on duty and unmasked, but were protected from any misconduct investigation by Chief Constable Winward using Information Warfare techniques.
3: Restriction on Police Officers use of social media
On the 1st of April 2021, NYP announced that it was imposing restrictions on use of social media by its Officers, requiring them to post only on eight force social media accounts. NYP announcement here. This of course means that NYP will be able to censor what Officers’ post on social media and prevent the release of any information or opinions it objects to.
Quoted in this BBC article former NYP Officer Mike Pannett described the policy as the “the biggest PR failure in recent years” and commented that “years of building trust and confidence” and community engagement had gone “down the pan”. Another Officer commented “In the meantime, the human side of policing will get lost in the usual dirge promulgated by sanitised (i.e. censored) official accounts”. Chief Constable Nick Adderley described Chief Constable Winward’s policy as ‘bonkers‘ and confirmed that Northamptonshire Police would not adopt the same policy.
This is obviously a well thought out move as part of Chief Constable Winward’s IW strategy.
The NYE monitors Police social media accounts and this generated some articles. She knows this because the most famous example was her posting admitting that she had been unnecessarily visiting Skipton Police Station (See lead illustration), thereby appearing to be in breach of the lockdown regulations she has been zealous in enforcing on the rest of us.
Hence I suspect why Chief Constable Winward has clamped down hard, to exercise control over all information relating to NYP and censor any unauthorised information leaking out to the public. (Information suppression for the purpose of media suppression).
4: Police vetting of journalists accreditation
Chief Constable Lisa Winward assumed temporary command of NYP on the 16th of April 2018. The next day, she sent me the letter below, informing me that her force did not accredit me as a journalist and would not respond to requests for information from me. The PFCC followed up shortly afterwards by adopting the same position. (Information suppression for the purpose of media suppression).
Chief Constable Winward justified her policy on the basis that the NYE was not registered with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and that I only write for the NYE. This is clearly a pretext (Disinformation for the purpose of withholding information) because:
- There is no requirement for any media outlet or organisation to register with IPSO. Many media organisations are not IPSO registered including the Financial Times, the Independent and the Guardian.
- Chief Constable Winward and the PFCCNY do not know what organisations I work with and made no attempt to find out. In fact I work with a wide range of media organisations, not just the NYE.
NYP’s IW offensive
Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan is the National Police Chiefs Council Lead for Media Relations. In my opinion he perfectly summed up the relationship that should exist between the media and the Police in this quote:
“The media also play a vital role in holding the Police service to account and in connecting us with the public – this includes highlighting when things may have gone wrong or where policing is under legitimate scrutiny. The relationship should also therefore be challenging and we need to recognise the role the media discharge on behalf of the public in ensuring that we are accountable. The responsibility to be open, transparent and accountable is part of the Code of Ethics and sits with everybody in policing.
In recent years there has been a perception, rightly or wrongly, that the Police have withdrawn and communicate less openly with the media. This does policing a disservice and I am determined that we need to reset the relationship with the media – an appropriate and professional relationship between the Police and the media is in the public interest.”
However, it appears that Chief Constable Winward has ignored the sound principles outlined in para. 1, above. Then applied all of her formidable ability and efforts to implementing the dysfunctional approach criticised in para. 2.
In reality, Chief Constable Winward is pursuing an Information Warfare offensive aimed at controlling the information issued to the public and retaliating against the NYE because it has been particularly effective in holding her and her force to account.
From the perspective Chief Constable Winward and the PCCNY, this policy is smart. It inhibits the media’s ability to gather information, denies the media access to specific information they prefer to be withheld and thus prevents any embarrassing media disclosures. This prevents reporting on NYP to the people of North Yorkshire and is a blatant form of Police censorship of the media.
I believe Labour PFCC candidate Mrs Alison Hume’s views reflects opinion amongst the North Yorkshire electorate:
“I am completely supportive of citizen and community journalism and believe the public should be allowed to know what is going on. I am aware of the NYE’s work and would congratulate you on your campaigning style of journalism. You are turning over stones that other people want to be left untouched, which is healthy for the community. The Police should have nothing to hide.”
The accreditation policy has enormous implications for the media and civil liberties in the UK. It is essentially aimed at choosing to accredit those media outlets that do not criticise NYP and refusing accreditation to those like the NYE that do not. Some examination of the full power this policy confers on the Police is now appropriate.
The wider implications of Chief Constable Winward’s accreditation policy
The Victoria Police (VP) in Australia has adopted the accreditation policy. It has used the full powers of this policy to harass the controversial journalist Avi Yemeni, who is the Australian correspondent for Rebel News, a Canadian internet based global news channel. I do not agree with some of Mr Yemini’s views or his confrontational style of journalism, but setting that aside, he has an impressive history of exposing Police misconduct here. Hence perhaps why VP applies this policy to him, but not to other media organisations.
- This video (here) at 4.38 shows Officers from VP using this policy to arrest Mr Yemini and to pick which journalists they choose to allow to cover demonstrations.
- This video (here) shows VP serving a letter on Mr Yemini at home at night, telling him not to cover a protest the next day, because he is not accredited by VP.
- This video (here) starts with a clip of VP serving a letter on another new media journalist directing him not to cover a protest demonstration. At 5.48 he explains how VP are using accreditation to intimidate those media outlets it does not like.
- This video (here) at 7.17 shows VP arresting and handcuffing Mr Yemini on the pretext of acting for “his safety” at a demonstration, then they move his cameraman away to prevent further coverage, accuse him of “breaching the peace” and then of “hindering Police”.
- This video (here) shows Mr Yemini being arrested and thrown to the ground covering a demonstration, despite having his press pass.
As VP has demonstrated above, NYP’s accreditation policy allows Chief Constable Winward to control the access to courts, events and demonstrations, and movement of journalists from any media organisation she chooses not to accredit.
This has implications for the NYE because our journalists sometimes cover demonstrations (examples here and here) and our readers acting as citizen journalists routinely photograph NYP Officers breaching the coronavirus regulations.
Chief Constable Winward appears to be employing a new and controversial approach to Police media relations. The concern must be that the accreditation policy in North Yorkshire is a prototype undergoing a trial run and will be adopted by other forces. Thereby restricting the ability of the media to hold the Police to account and cover events the Police do not want the media present at.
*The Daniel Morgan and Helen Sage cases will be covered in forthcoming articles.
Right of Reply
Chief Constable Winward and PFCC Allott were provided with a draft of this article and invited to comment, but chose not to. Another classic IW technique. (Restricting the information issued to the public on a controversial policing issue).
If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the letters@NYEnquirer.uk email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.
The other NYE IW articles are:
- IW1 covered the influence of the military on armed and undercover Police operations and can be read here.
- IW2 covered the influence of the military on Police information warfare operations and can be read here.
- IW3 covered information warfare operations by Local Government Organisations and can be read here.
- IW4 covered information warfare operations by NYP and the OPFCC and can be read here.
- IW5 covered information warfare operations by Special Branch and can be read here.
- IW6 covered Surveillance, Undercover and associated Information Warfare Operations by Scarborough Borough Council and other Public Bodies can be read here.
- IW7 covered the way PoliceFire and Crime Commissioner Philip Allott has used media manipulation techniques and can be read here.