The ABC secrecy trial: 40 years on
Friday 3rd November 2017
7.00 - 9.00pm (Networking & Drinks from 6.00pm)
Every post-war generation has had its own whistleblower who has tried to expose the extent to which governments monitor public communications. For the 1970s it was the ABC trial. This shone a light on the darker corners of state surveillance and sparked a ferocious attempt by the government to criminalise journalists. At this special event, hear from those involved and the contemporary relevance in our post-Snowden world. This unique panel discussion will look at the events from those involved and consider how much has really changed and the threats to journalists and whistleblowers today.
Background to the Event
This event marks 40 years since the joint arrests of Crispin Aubrey, John Berry and Duncan Campbell. In the early seventies, Crispin Aubrey became a leading figure in the campaign to prevent the government deporting two Americans on national security grounds - former CIA case officer Philip Agee and Time Out journalist Mark Hosenball - after Phillip Agee had exposed CIA malpractices and Hosenball and Duncan Campbell co-wrote the first ever article on the GCHQ intelligence agency. Then, whilst researching an article for Time Out to expose British government secrets, he was arrested with Duncan Campbell under the Official Secrets Act for receiving classified information from John Berry, a former signals intelligence operator.
Crispin Aubrey, John Berry and Duncan Campbell appeared in court in what was known as the ABC trial (an acronym of their surnames). The ABC case attracted huge public interest as the government mounted a prosecution by turns farcical and ferocious. The case became notorious for a number of reasons, including jury vetting after the defence discovered that the jury foreman was a former SAS officer and that two other jurors had signed the official secrets act, as well as the prosecution of journalists under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act. The trial revealed much about government surveillance and also the lengths it would go to keep its activities secret. Following the trial, Crispin wrote the book Who’s Watching You: Britain's Security Service and the Official Secrets Act (1981).
In 2012, Crispin Aubrey sadly passed away and this event has been organised by his 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.
18.00 - 19.00 Drinks and networking
19.00 Opening address from the Crispin Aubrey Legacy Fund
19.10 Panel Discussion One : Reflections from the trial and campaign
Chaired by Andrew Kelly, Bristol Festival of Ideas
ABC defendant, John Berry
Sue Aubrey, wife of ABC defendant, Crispin Aubrey
20.00 Panel Discussion Two: Lessons from the trial and legacy today
ABC campaigner and Statewatch Director Tony Bunyan
Sarah Kavanagh, NUJ Senior Campaigns and communications officer
ABC defendant, Duncan Campbell
Entry - to register for the event please click here. There is a suggested £5 donation (to be paid on the door) to the Crispin Aubrey Legacy Fund.
For more information about the trial and this event download the background reading material below.