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Duncan Campbell (journalist)

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Title: Duncan Campbell (journalist)  
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Duncan Campbell (journalist)

Duncan Campbell (born 1952) is a British freelance investigative journalist, author and television producer. Since 1975 he has specialised in the subjects of intelligence and security services, defence, policing, civil liberties and, latterly, computer forensics. He was a staff writer at the New Statesman from 1978–91 and associate editor (Investigations) from 1988-91. He was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act in the ABC trial in 1978 and made the controversial series Secret Society for the BBC in 1987 (see Zircon affair). In 1988, he revealed the existence of the ECHELON surveillance program.

Early life

Born in Glasgow in 1952, Campbell was brought up and educated in Dundee, where he was a pupil at the High School of Dundee, an independent school. Something of a science prodigy, he first trained in computer programming aged 16 and, whilst still at school, taught computer languages and undertook programming in scientific computers languages. He gained three ‘S’ levels (the old Scottish equivalent to ‘A’ levels) in physics, chemistry and maths, and then an open scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, graduating in 1973 with First Class Honours degree in physics in 1973. The following year, Campbell completed a one-year MSc in operations research at the University of Sussex; the course included psychology, economics, accountancy and model building. He later told The Independent "It was extremely useful. It was not difficult to make the grades, though they'll hate me for saying so".[1]

Early journalism

After leaving Sussex University, Campbell became a journalist on New Scientist and Time Out magazine - which during the early 1970s had a much more radical editorial remit. In 1976, Campbell wrote a seminal story for Time Out - co-authored with Mark Hosenball, called "The Eavesdroppers". It was the first time the British news media printed the acronym GCHQ. It stood for Government Communication Headquarters, and it was a highly classified arm of the British secret services responsible for communications interception.

The article led to the issue of a deportation notice for its American co-author, Hosenball. Campbell, who could not be deported, was instead placed under MI5 surveillance, which included the tapping of his phones. The following year, Campbell agreed to talk with ex-Signals intelligence [SIGINT] operator, John Berry, at Berry's home. He was accompanied by fellow Time Out reporter, Crispin Aubrey. After a three-hour conversation, Special Branch arrested the three under the Official Secrets Act 1911, in what became known as the ABC trial.

In 1982 Campbell published War Plan UK - the Truth about Civil Defence in Britain which revealed and discussed often for the first time the inadequacy and futility of the British government's preparations in the event of nuclear war.

Notable articles

In 1980, his article revealing the existence of the secret Standing Committee on Pressure Groups (SCOPG) in Hong Kong led to the revelation that most pressure groups and individual members of the opposition were under surveillance by the colonial government. Duncan's article asserts that Hong Kong under then governor Sir Murray MacLehose had become a dictatorship. In his words: "Hong Kong is a dictatorship; and scarcely a benevolent one."


Campbell revealed in 1988, in an article titled "Somebody's listening" and published in New Statesman, the existence of the ECHELON surveillance program.[2]

In 1999 he wrote a report on COMINT entitled Interception Capabilities 2000 for the European Parliament.[3]

Child pornography

In 2005 and 2007, Campbell investigated and wrote criticisms of the Operation Ore child pornography prosecutions in the UK, which exposed police errors. Additionally he "revealed how computer evidence used against 7,272 people in the UK accused of being paedophiles had been founded on falsehoods." These articles were "Operation Ore Exposed" and "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape", both published in PC Pro magazine.[4][5]

The Who's Pete Townshend and Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja were both cleared of charges they accessed child pornography through the Landslide site by the investigation detailed by Campbell in PC Pro magazine. When their credit card charges and IP addresses were traced, both were found to have accessed sites which had nothing to do with child pornography.[5]

Secret Society (1987)

The Secret Society series caused a political furore in 1987. The production team behind the series was threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Campbell's front door was kicked down and his home searched. In 1987, Strathclyde Police raided the corporation's Scottish headquarters in Glasgow and seized the tapes from the offices of BBC Scotland where the series had been made. The tapes were later returned and the series broadcast on the BBC except for episode one. The BBC decided that the episode (one) about secret cabinet committees was too sensitive to show before the 1987 general election. The Thatcher government leaned on the BBC to prevent its damaging allegations being made public.

  1. The Secret Constitution: Secret Cabinet Committees - about small, secret and influential Cabinet committees.
  2. In Time Of Crisis: Government Emergency Powers - Since 1982, governments in every other NATO country have been preparing for the eventuality of war. In Britain, these preparations are kept secret. So what will happen when the balloon goes up?
  3. A Gap In Our Defences - Bungling defence manufacturers and incompetent military planners have botched every new radar system that Britain has installed since World War Two. Why? And can we stop it happening again?
  4. We're All Data Now: Secret Data Banks - The Data Protection Act is supposed to protect us from abuse, but it's already out of date and full of loopholes. So what kind of abuses should we worry about?
  5. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) - ACPO Making up their own law and policy. About the Association of Chief Police Officers and how Government policy and actions are determined in the fields of law and order.
  6. Communications Zircon - About GCHQ with particular reference to a secret £500 million satellite. Reference to Zircon spy satellites which the public accounts committee were not told about.



See also


  1. ^ The Independent, 7 August 1997
  2. ^ Campbell, Duncan (1988-08-12), "Somebody's Listening",  
  3. ^ Campbell, Duncan (April 1999), Interception Capabilities 2000, European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Directorate A, The STOA Programme, retrieved 2007-06-19 
  4. ^ Campbell, Duncan (2005-07-01), "Operation Ore Exposed",  
  5. ^ a b Campbell, Duncan (2007-04-01), PC%20Pro%20article%20June%202007%20.pdf "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape",  

Further reading

  • Campbell, D. (1980). Colonialism: A Secret Plan for Dictatorship New Statesman, 12 December 1980.
  • Campbell, D. (1981). Big Brother is Listening: Phone Tappers and the Security State. New Statesman Report 2. ISBN 0-900962-08-9
  • Campbell, D. (1982). War Plan UK: The Truth about Civil Defence in Britain (1st ed.). Burnett Books. ISBN 0-09-150670-0 (hardback), ISBN 0-09-150671-9 (paperback). 1983 Revised edition Paladin Books ISBN 0-586-08479-7.
  • Campbell, D. (1984). The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier: American Military Power in Britain. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-7181-2289-5 (hardback), ISBN 0-7181-2350-6 (paperback).
  • Campbell, D. and Connor, S. (1986). On the Record: Surveillance, Computers and Privacy: the Inside Story. London. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0 7181 2575 4 (hardback) 0 7181 2576 2 (paperback).
  • Campbell, D. (1988). Secret Service. 'Issues' series of children's books. London. Franklin Watts. ISBN 0 86313 725 3.

External links

  • Duncan Campbell's website
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Inside Echelon by Duncan Campbell
  • Interception Capabilities 2000
  • Secret Society episodes
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