Written By: - Date published: 9:21 am, October 16th, 2013 - 31 comments
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As the resulting court battles die away and the suppression orders lift, the level of sheer dumb stupidity and outright silly paranoia of the police and other agencies involved in Operation 8 becomes clearer. It is time to start examining the fools amongst the officers in the police who brought so much dishonour and disrespect to their force.
And where better than Te Putatara who has a post up “Operation 8: The police raid at Parnell that got stopped in the High Court” which details a raid on an organisation with the resources to have an examination of the validity of the bloated and illegal search warrant to court while a raid was in progress. I’ll just pick off a few bits of interest to quote. But the whole post is worth reading.
We were raided at Parnell in Auckland on Monday October 15th 2007, exactly six years ago. It was part of the NZ Police’s Operation 8 “terrorist” raids at Ruatoki and elsewhere. There were raids on approximately 60 houses and premises around the country.
Like many other raids all over the motu you didn’t read about this one in Parnell or see it on the TV. There was a good reason you didn’t see this one on TV. We took the police straight into the High Court, stopped the raid, and got a suppression order to prevent any publicity.
The search warrant was a huge 20 page document. It listed all the items that the police were searching for including weapons, military equipment, clothing and computers. There were pages and pages of lists of things they were looking for. It was obviously an “omnibus” warrant that they were using right across the country. Most of it could not have been relevant to the raid on my office. There was no evidence at all that any of that stuff was in our building. It was a ridiculous warrant. It was also a lazy warrant and a shoddy piece of staff work, with nothing specific about what they expected to find at our location. There was this short paragraph about seizing computers.
It soon became obvious that they weren’t looking for any of the weapons, clothing and equipment that made up most of the warrant. The detectives were there to allow the electronic crimes people to attack our IT network and computers. The first thing they did was turn off our connection to the internet and forbade us from going anywhere near our network. I realised then that only the one short paragraph of that voluminous warrant was applicable to us. The bit about computers. The rest of the 20 page search warrant was absolute rubbish, and they knew it. It was a fishing expedition, looking for anything that might justify what they had enacted at Ruatoki and elsewhere.
I also thought that in that case the warrant might have been illegal and that whoever had obtained the warrant from the Court might have perjured himself.
The electronic crimes people were not sworn policemen and were led by a German fellow. He seemed to us quite nasty. We found out later that he had been a NZ policeman before joining the electronic crimes laboratory and that even some of his colleagues thought he was a nasty piece of work. We nicknamed him and called him “Fritz” to his face, which didn’t endear us to him at all. Fritz’s real name revealed in the Crown Indictment of 2012 was Juergan Arndt.
It came to me that this was the same Fritz who had a score to settle with one of my employees. About three years earlier Fritz had tried and failed to have my man charged with computer hacking, a benign petty offence about defacing a political website on the information super highway. My man would never do that of course. But it would be about as criminal as defacing a political billboard on any other highway but the police have convinced the parliament that it is a serious crime. It gives them something to do. So Fritz might have had another agenda apart from Operation 8 – a little bit of unfinished business.
We found out that Fritz planned to seize every computer and hard drive he could find. That would have been over twenty five computers and servers and would have put us out of business. I did my calculations and worked out that with our offsite data backups I could recreate the network but that it would cost over $70,000 and take weeks to get back into business.
It didn’t take long for an interim injunction to be granted with a full court hearing set down for 10.00am the next day. The raid was to stop until the court heard the application. I was to have no access to my technology and a police guard was to be posted in the premises overnight to ensure that I didn’t use it. The police were ordered to produce to the court the next morning the affidavit they had used to obtain the search warrant. We were attacking the warrant.
I went back to my office. A junior lawyer from my legal firm came with me to ensure that the police complied with the terms of the injunction.
There was another plainclothes policeman there. We hadn’t seen him earlier. He was big and intimidating. He asked my quite petite lawyer what she was doing there and she let him know she wasn’t intimidated at all. He then took an intimidating stance in front of me and asked me who I was. I looked at the nametag on his chest “Phil Le Compte” and said that’s a Hawke’s Bay family isn’t it. Taken aback he asked me how I knew that. I told him I went to school with a Le Compte and he asked me who that was. He was even more aback when I told him it was Alan Le Compte because it was his father. I said something uncomplimentary about father and son and he left.
You won’t see Phil Le Compte mentioned anywhere else in connection with Operation 8. Detective Sergeant Le Compte was at the time with AMCOS (Auckland Metro Crime and Operations Support) based in Harlech House with the Auckland SIG (Special Investigation Group) which was the lead agency in Operation 8. Le Compte did have a role in Operation 8 and that will be explored in a later article.
I’d point out here that Harlech House in Otahuhu is the Counties Manakau headquarters of the police. It also appears to be police’s repository for the biggest arseholes in the police force.
They concentrate in units like the Auckland SIG, Threat Assessment Unit (TAU) and others. Over a series of actions in the last decade it has become apparent that they neither understand the democracy that they live in, the activism that maintains its stability, nor the activists themselves.
They also play extremely loose with any kind of legal basis for what they do and attempt to keep both themselves and their activities well below any legal or public scrutiny. In effect they use the police force to hide their own unlawful activities.
The next morning at 8.15 I got a call from the lawyer to say that the police wanted to negotiate an agreement before the full court hearing. They claimed that they didn’t have enough time to redact (blackout) confidential parts of the affidavit before they had to produce it in court. They had about 16 hours to do that between the hearing on 15th October and the full hearing on 16th October, so that was no excuse at all. It was bullshit. I knew then that they absolutely did not want that affidavit to be scrutinized by a high court judge lest the warrant be struck down. That was the same warrant that they were using all over the country and that would have been disastrous for Operation 8 (from their point of view).
My reaction to their raid had obviously taken them completely by surprise and they were scrambling to contain the situation.
Emotionally I was inclined to ignore them and to go straight to court. I was in the right sort of mood to take them to the cleaners regardless of the cost. But logic and reason prevailed as I had a business to protect and staff and their whanau to think of. So we went into conference at 9am at the High Court. My lawyer and I sat down with Detective Sergeant Gutry and his lawyer Mina Wharepouri. The two lawyers had already drawn up an agreement which we signed. Under the agreement:
- They would not remove any of my computers and drives except for the one computer on my staff member’s desk; the staff member they had already arrested and imprisoned.
- That computer was to be returned to my office within 72 hours (the police usually keep seized computers for months or even years).
- The electronic crimes people would be permitted to inspect my file server, under my supervision, to locate and remove any files relevant to Operation 8, specifically files related to an encrypted online chatgroup called AoCafe (I knew that there would be none).
- The police would facilitate contact with my man in prison so that I could obtain any passwords I might need.
We went into court to wait for the judge.
It was Justice Winklemann again. She endorsed the agreement we had negotiated. Mina Wharepouri declared in court that the police had no interest whatsoever in me personally. We applied for blanket suppression of anything and everything that would indicate the identity of me or my business, and the location of my business, and it was granted by the judge. That was it.
In writing this piece I have unilaterally lifted that suppression order.
My lawyer remarked to me that it was rare indeed for anyone to bring a police operation to a grinding halt.
I’ve definitely violated the fair use on Te Putatara’s much much larger essay so I’ll contact them to apologize. 🙂 But I think I’ve given the gist of the sequence of events in their own words
Before the raid they appear to have had the usual dumb and petty harassment, intimidation, and surveillance that the police “intelligence” seems to specialise in when it comes to activists. With the people I know who have come under it, I’ve found it quite stupid and inept.
My experience of *all* activists in NZ is that the fastest way to find out what is happening is to simply ask them. They’re not doing anything that rises much above a misdemeanour level. Normally activists are hard to shut up about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they hope to achieve. In fact the only time in my experience you see them not wanting to shout their intentions all over the world is when they have had recent experience of some unthinking moron from our under-employed anti-terrorism police making complete testosterone fuelled dickheads of themselves.
Typically this consists of dragging activists through court on a fantasy trumped up charge. Usually this is only so that a moron from the police can get a search warrant to satisfy their prurient pantie-sniffer curiousity. One way to get their jollies. Just asking the activist or other activists what they thought they were doing would give a far more accurate information.
After the usual experience with the police, activists often get secretive, covert, hidden and hostile. As far as I can see the only major effect that the police has on the activist communities in NZ is to make them stop being open about what they are doing. After decades of watching the police bumblers dealing with activists acting almost entirely within the law, I have obviously no respect for either them or their counter-productive tactics. I’d also advise anyone getting involved as an activist of any kind, from a greenpeace contributor to working in a community law office or a political party to simply treat the police as being dumbarse enemies of any democratic action. The police in NZ formed as a militia intent of suppression on any possible rebellion, and that has remained their culture ever since.
And in any case, what kind of level of “crime” ? The same kind of level that many of us have when we doing our daily living. In my life, I’ve handled and fired weapons, made explosive devices, written virus and surveillance code, cracked into innumerable computers both local and remote, done some dangerous driving, dropped out of planes, done active political subversion, broken into other people’s houses, slaughtered animals wholesale (for dog tucker), taken prescription drugs without a perscription, and innumerable other activities.
Some of these were in the army or as part of my general level of political activism. Most were not. Some were just part of general living (like acting as a super and breaking into an upstairs apartment to turn off their flooding dishwasher). Some were part of my work in places as diverse as farms and writing code. Some were just for fun, for instance doing the same combat maneuvers in the army and in paintball – and the paintball was much more lethal.
Some were legal when and how I did them, for instance playing with explosives is really a lot of fun. Some were subsequently made unlawful. Some were unlawful because sometimes the law is an arse on acts rather than intent. And some were simply unthought of by the politicians and legal fraternity when I did them .
But I’m just a damn geek. I spend much of my sedentary life either on computers or with my nose buried in content. God knows what people who are more active than me get up to. Of course there are some fools around who just like easy targets for political smearing.
What matters is the intent, the “mens rea”, and that is specifically what some members of the police and other security forces simply are inadequate. That the courts find against them most of the time when they try to charge activists is for exactly this reason. Sure, they may have done the act (actus rea), but it was done for the best of intentions.
A classic example is animal rights activists with their video cameras collecting data on the institutionalised cruelty of some kinds of factory farming. Sure they break and enter into chicken and pig sheds. But who’d blame them after looking at some of the disgusting conditions they shoot with those cameras. I sure as hell don’t want to eat food that comes from those conditions. Given the rapid and widespread take up of free range eggs and pork products, many of my fellow citizens don’t either.
But getting back to what played out for the author at Te Putatara. In effect what they had in a single day was the abbreviated course of the subsequent three years of most of the rest of those caught up in the Operation 8 dragnet on activists. Because they had the resources to hire some expensive and effective lawyers to protect their business, they were able to legally squelch the unlawful actions of the police early.
For the rest of the defendants they had to suffer through a long, protracted, even more expensive, and ultimately undefendable face saving legal exercise for some idiots in police. The few relatively minor convictions that the police obtained at the end of it were simply a token figleaf gesture to cover the institutional “deep in the forest” paranoia. That is a problem for the police that the police seem to be incapable of handling inside their own organisation.
But I’ll leave the last word to Te Putatara, and I must say that I’m going to be interested in reading further from them (they’re now in the Feed)
But this story is the starting point for a full analysis of Operation 8 in future articles. As a retired army officer and a former intelligence analyst I was very interested in the intelligence analysis that led to the “termination” phase of Operation 8. I then started to collect as much information as I could to analyse the intelligence operation behind Operation 8. I followed the case through the courts to the High Court criminal hearing in 2012 and thence to the Court of Appeal. I did some work for the defence team at the trial.
I early on came to the conclusion that the police operation was incompetent and unprofessional. I concluded that the detectives involved were total amateurs in the field of Intelligence and that their incompetence, and the incompetence of their superiors, had led to a debacle from which they scrambled to extricate themselves. They had the the help of a very professional and strategically canny prosecution lawyer, Mr Ross Burns. The courts have also established that the police had knowingly acted unlawfully in obtaining and executing warrants during the intelligence operation.
This series of articles will describe in detail all of that. And Te Putatara will raise a series of questions that have never before been asked, and certainly not answered.