Duncan Campbell (journalist)

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Duncan Campbell

Duncan Campbell at DeepSec .jpg
Campbell at DeepSec In Depth Security Conference 2015
Born1952 (age 70–71)
Glasgow, Scotland
Alma mater
OccupationInvestigative journalist
Years active1975–present
Known for

Duncan Campbell FRSA (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 to 1991 and associate editor (Investigations) from 1988 to 1991. 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.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1952, Campbell was brought up and educated in Dundee. His mother was a mathematician who worked at Bletchley Park under Alan Turing.[2] As a pupil at the High School of Dundee, an independent school, he first trained in computer programming aged 16, taught computer languages, and undertook programming in scientific computer languages. He gained three S-levels in physics, chemistry, and maths, and then an open scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, graduating in 1973 with a first-class Honours degree in physics. The following year, Campbell completed a one-year MSc in Operational 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."[3]

Early journalism[edit]

After leaving Sussex University, Campbell became a journalist on the Brighton Voice. Founded in March 1973 by Roy Carr-Hill and George Wilson, the paper's content followed broadly anarcho-socialist principles, with emphasis on reports on housing, the police, gay rights, civil liberties, the environment, unemployment, anti-racism, fascism, and women's rights.[citation needed][4]

He was also a regular contributor to the New Scientist and Time Out magazines, which during the early 1970s had a much more radical editorial remit than they did in later years. In 1976, Campbell wrote a seminal story for Time Out, co-authored with Mark Hosenball, called "The Eavesdroppers".[5] It was the first time the British news media printed the acronym GCHQ, which stood for Government Communications Headquarters, a highly secretive arm of the British secret services, responsible for communications interception.

The article led to the forcible deportation of its American co-author, Hosenball.[6] 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 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, leading to 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.[7]

Notable articles[edit]

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. Campbell'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."[8]

Secret Society (1987)[edit]

The Secret Society series caused a political furore, known as the Zircon affair, 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, and 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 first episode, about secret cabinet committees, was too sensitive to show before the 1987 general election. Labour MP Alistair Darling believed that the Thatcher government leaned on the BBC to prevent its damaging allegations from being made public.[9]

  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 II. 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.

ECHELON (1988)[edit]

Appearing on tv discussion programme After Dark in 1991

Campbell revealed in 1988, in an article titled "Somebody's listening" and published in the New Statesman, the existence of the ECHELON surveillance program.[10]

In 1999, he wrote a report on communications intelligence entitled Interception Capabilities 2000 for the European Parliament.[11]

Child abuse images (2005 and 2007)[edit]

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, "Operation Ore Exposed"[12] and "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape",[13] were both published in PC Pro magazine.

Personal life[edit]

Campbell came out as gay in 1987[14] and has investigated many LGBT issues, including "bogus" HIV/AIDS medicines and quack doctors.[14]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Webb, D. C. "ECHELON and the NSA". Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism.
  2. ^ Campbell, Duncan (3 August 2015). "Global spy system ECHELON confirmed at last – by leaked Snowden files". The Register. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  3. ^ The Independent (7 August 1997).
  4. ^ Morris, Brian. Anarchism and Environmental Philosophy.
  5. ^ Campbell, Duncan; Hosenball, Mark (21 May 1976). "The Eavesdroppers" (PDF). Time Out. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  6. ^ Court ruling, "R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Hosenball", [1977] 1 W.L.R. 766; [1977] 3 All E.R. 452. Lord Denning presiding judge, March 29, 1977.
  7. ^ Campbell, Duncan (1982). War Plan UK: The Truth about Civil Defence in Britain (1st ed.). Burnett Books. ISBN 0-09-150670-0.
  8. ^ Campbell, Duncan (12 December 1980). "Colonialism: A Secret Plan for Dictatorship". New Statesman.
  9. ^ Wilby, David. "The Zircon Affair 1986–7" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  10. ^ Campbell, Duncan (12 August 1988), "Somebody's Listening", New Statesman, archived from the original on 20 April 2013, retrieved 6 September 2013
  11. ^ Campbell, Duncan (April 1999), Interception Capabilities 2000, European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Directorate A, The STOA Programme, retrieved 19 June 2007
  12. ^ Campbell, Duncan (1 July 2005). "Operation Ore Exposed". PC Pro. Archived from the original on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  13. ^ Campbell, Duncan (June 2007). "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape" (PDF). PC Pro Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Lesbian & gay rights". Duncan Campbell's official website. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Human rights | DuncanCampbell.org". www.duncancampbell.org. Retrieved 21 March 2021.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]