| Duncan Campbell |
At RAF Menwith Hill, eavesdropping base
Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Since 1975 he has specialised in the subjects of intelligence and security services, defence, policing, civil liberties and, latterly, computer forensics. From 1978-91, he was a staff writer at the New Statesman and associate editor (Investigations) from 1988-91.
In 1977-78, Duncan Campbell was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act in the ABC Trial and made the series Secret Society for the BBC in 1987. Before the programme ran, however, the BBC became nervous about the nature of its content and approached the Thatcher government for advice. Their reaction was to raid the BBC’s Scottish headquarters and then Campbell’s home. Special Branch seized the film in what became known as the Zircon affair.
Duncan Campbell has exposed state snooping for nearly 40 years. In 1976, he revealed for the first time the existence of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) in a piece for Time Out magazine called, "The Eavesdroppers". This led to his arrest in February 1977 with Crispin Aubrey and John Berry, and their being charged under Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (Berry was charged with "communicating classified information to unauthorised persons", and Campbell and Aubrey with "unauthorised receipt of classified information").
On 5 September 1978, the resulting ABC Trial opened at the Old Bailey in front of Mr Justice Willis but was stopped two weeks later after the jury foreman was exposed as a former SAS officer. Three weeks after the second trial opened in front of Mr Justice Mars-Jones on 3 October 1978, all Section 1 charges were dropped. On 17 November 1978, Crispin Aubrey, John Berry and Duncan Campbell were found guilty and received non-custodial sentences. The ABC Trial was described by defence witness Ewen Carmichael as "a farcical romp of political stupidity, as prosecution witnesses, testifying anonymously under letters of the alphabet – in particular witness B, Colonel Hugh Johnstone, head of Signals Intelligence – were identified to the public outside the courts, and later by NUJ members at their annual conference." To Crispin Aubrey, the prosecution's attempts at secrecy were "the security services trying to cloak their witnesses in anonymous letters and make the whole affair appear more sinister."
In 1989, Section 2 was amended to make it an offence to divulge information only in relation to six specific categories.
After the trial, Duncan Campbell joined the New Statesman magazine. During his 15 years, he investigated Britain’s secret phone-tapping centres, corruption in GCHQ, secret war time plans to suspend civil liberties, and the top secret global surveillance programme, Echelon. Recently, he has produced reports based on the Snowden files for the Independent, including how the British Embassy in Berlin was being used as a covert listening station.
In November 2017, marking the 40th anniversary of the arrests of the ABC three, John Berry and Duncan Campbell took part in a panel discussion with Statewatch Director Tony Bunyan and Sarah Kavanagh, NUJ Senior Campaigns and communications officer, looking at the events from those involved in 1977 and considering its legacy today. It was organised by Aubrey’s family as part of the Crispin Aubrey Legacy Fund set up to support aspiring journalists and in conjunction with the University of West of England’s Film and Journalism Department and Bristol Festival of Ideas.
In January 2018, Campbell published an article in The Guardian entitled Why the secret handshake between police and Freemasons should worry us, arguing that "membership of both bodies is incompatible with public service".
Documents by Duncan Campbell
|Title||Document type||Publication date||Subject(s)||Description|
|Document:GCHQ and Me: My Life Unmasking British Eavesdroppers||Article||3 August 2015||GCHQ|
|No one at the May 2015 conference on intelligence, security and privacy argued against greater openness. Thanks to Edward Snowden and those who courageously came before, the need for public accountability and review has become unassailable.|
|Document:Memo To Prime Minister - Your Merchants of Death Are Cooking The Books||article||17 October 1980||Millbank Technical Services|
|Document:Why the secret handshake between police and Freemasons should worry us||Article||2 January 2018||Freemasonry|
|Successive Met Commissioners have tried to end the society’s influence. It is as clear as ever that membership of both bodies is incompatible with public service.|
A Quote by Duncan Campbell
|Streisand effect||“[T]he British Government moved to silence the national media. Using the D-Notice system that Australia similarly enforced, Rear Admiral David Pulvertaft warned editors that "a US-based website has today published on the Internet a list which identifies a large number of SIS (MI6) officers. Departmental officers are examining how the damage of this disclosure can be minimised. While this is in progress, I would ask that editors do not interpret the information in the website as being widely disclosed and do not, therefore, publish the address or the content of the website". Duncan Campbell wrote a week later that "The folly of the decision sank home in London this weekend as officials watched the list from Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) spread across the world.”||16 May 1999||The Age|
- "Duncan Campbell biography"
- "GCHQ and Me: My Life Unmasking British Eavesdroppers"
- "Duncan Campbell, investigative journalist and forensic expert"
- "Brighton CryptoFestival 2013"
- "The ABC Secrecy Trial – 40 Years On"