Aviation spy revealed as airhead

The case of the Plane Stupid mole proves that corporate espionage is not for the plain stupid.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Former Oxford student ‘Ken Tobias’ volunteered in July to help anti-aviation group Plane Stupid in its protests against the air industry. He was yesterday exposed as Toby Kendall, a corporate double agent working as ‘an analyst’ for C2i International, a UK-based ‘special risk management’ and investigation company. Unfortunately for Ken/Toby, he has emerged as more of a bungling Inspector Clouseau than a bulletproof Bond.

Members of Plane Stupid, which occupied the roof of parliament last month, yesterday revealed the clues that aroused their suspicion over Kendall: he was always first to meetings, always pushing for more extreme action, and he dressed too well. These are, of course, schoolboy errors. When attempting to blend in with a group of protestors, he should have bowled up late in a jester’s hat and hemp poncho, made some excuse about his string-leashed mutt eating his schedule, and sat behind a copy of the Socialist Worker with two eye-holes cut out of it.

It gets worse. When the group ran an identity check on his Ken Tobias persona, the holes were gaping. One activist pointed out that while he claimed to live in London, he wasn’t on the electoral register, nor on the records of the rugby team he claimed to have played for. When the real activists fed him false information about direct action, UK airport security had strangely been alerted. And one protestor said that when Ken tried to convince the group to disrupt the T5 opening, this appeared in the Evening Standard ‘almost verbatim’.

His true identity was eventually unearthed by what intelligence professionals call ‘looking him up on Bebo’, which revealed Kendall as a 24-year-old fan of war and revenge movies, with a link to a coporate networking site that highlighted his link to C2i. At the time of writing no one seems sure who hired him. But in true anti-aviation protest tradition, the group appeared surprisingly mellow about their new friend. Even after they’d found out he was a mole, they still let him hang around.

Here at MT this all reminds us of last year’s Heathrow Climate Camp protest, which our man managed to briefly infiltrate. Not for MT the underhand methods of other ‘scumbag’ journalists, however: he had actually been welcomed under the string fence by one of the camp’s blissed-out ‘legal supporters’ – even though this contravened camp policy – on the basis of being ‘a nice guy’. It was only when he’d spent a good 25 minutes in their direct action meeting, which included an insane ‘ex-special forces man’ called Feather spurring the rest of them into something ‘really radical’, that someone from their media team came over and told him to sling it. Apparently he should not have been there outside the designated ‘media hour’.

It just goes to show, if you are a corporate spy who can’t get one over on anti-aviation protestors, it may be time to investigate a change of career.

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