A shadowy Army unit secretly spied on British citizens who criticised the Government’s Covid lockdown policies, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Military operatives in the UK’s ‘information warfare’ brigade were part of a sinister operation that targeted politicians and high-profile journalists who raised doubts about the official pandemic response.
They compiled dossiers on public figures such as ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modelling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Toby Young. Their dissenting views were then reported back to No 10.
Documents obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, and shared exclusively with this newspaper, exposed the work of Government cells such as the Counter Disinformation Unit, based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Rapid Response Unit in the Cabinet Office.
Military operatives in the UK’s ‘information warfare’ brigade were part of a sinister operation that targeted politicians and high-profile journalists
But the most secretive is the MoD’s 77th Brigade, which deploys ‘non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of adversaries’.
According to a whistleblower who worked for the brigade during the lockdowns, the unit strayed far beyond its remit of targeting foreign powers.
They said that British citizens’ social media accounts were scrutinised – a sinister activity that the Ministry of Defence, in public, repeatedly denied doing.
Papers show the outfits were tasked with countering ‘disinformation’ and ‘harmful narratives… from purported experts’, with civil servants and artificial intelligence deployed to ‘scrape’ social media for keywords such as ‘ventilators’ that would have been of interest.
The information was then used to orchestrate Government responses to criticisms of policies such as the stay-at-home order, when police were given power to issue fines and break up gatherings.
It also allowed Ministers to push social media platforms to remove posts and promote Government-approved lines.
Former Cabinet Minister David Davis, a member of the Privy Council, said: ‘It’s outrageous that people questioning the Government’s policies were subject to covert surveillance’
The Army whistleblower said: ‘It is quite obvious that our activities resulted in the monitoring of the UK population… monitoring the social media posts of ordinary, scared people. These posts did not contain information that was untrue or co-ordinated – it was simply fear.’
Last night, former Cabinet Minister Mr Davis, a member of the Privy Council, said: ‘It’s outrageous that people questioning the Government’s policies were subject to covert surveillance’ – and questioned the waste of public money.
Mail on Sunday journalist Mr Hitchens was monitored after sharing an article, based on leaked NHS papers, which claimed data used to publicly justify lockdown was incomplete. An internal Rapid Response Unit email said Mr Hitchens wanted to ‘further [an] anti-lockdown agenda and influence the Commons vote’.
Writing today, Mr Hitchens questions if he was ‘shadow-banned’ over his criticisms, with his views effectively censored by being downgraded in search results.
Military operatives compiled dossiers on journalists including the Mail’s Peter Hitchens
He says: ‘The most astonishing thing about the great Covid panic was how many attacks the state managed to make on basic freedoms without anyone much even caring, let alone protesting. …