On Tuesday, some police in Wellington raided Nicky Hager’s house and in the course of 10 hours five police grabbed and held as evidence all of the computers, documents, cameras and any device that might contain data. The purported reason for this was not to charge Nicky Hager, but an attempt to find evidence to point to ‘rawshark’, the hacker who broke into Cameron Slater’s technically poorly secured computer, and presumably to charge ‘rawshark’ with theft for the emails and other information that was passed to Nicky Hager and other journalists.
This happens a few months after Nicky Hager’s book comes out detailing the links between Cameron Slater and John Keys office for pursuing dirty politics against his opponents, and after Cameron Slater lays a complaint with the police in Auckland about the theft of the information.
Now contrast this with the police treatment of a very similar episode 2 years earlier. In 2012, Cameron Slater, a ‘journalist’ according to the High Court, starts writing a series of attack posts on businessman Matthew Blomfield. They are based on personal information stolen from a hard disk and documents owned by Matthew Blomfield. These objects have been passed to Cameron Slater by person(s) currently unknown, copied by Cameron Slater, and then used as the basis of his posts.
A complaint is laid with the police in Auckland in 2012 about the theft and misuse of this information, the hard disk and the documents. The police appear to fail to even attempt to find out who supplied the information to Cameron Slater. Matthew Blomfield facing a almost complete police indifference, starts a civil case of defamation against Cameron Slater which so far has almost exclusively focused on discovering who supplied Cameron Slater with that information.
What is different between the two cases? On the face of it – nothing.
Both involve journalists (albeit at the opposite ends of the quality spectrum of that profession) receiving information stolen from the owners of the information and used in publishing material detrimental to the owner of the information.
However one case gets the fullest attention of the police involving the expenditure more than 50 hours of police time just to bag all of the possible information as evidence. This evidence will presumably be pored over by computer forensics to find the person who broke into Cameron Slaters poorly secured systems.
The other case gets a few minimal phone calls to a few people and then the complaint getting flagged as being not worth the police pursuing.
The difference is that Cameron Slater is a well known tory arselicker of John Key and former Police Minister Judith Collins. The information was embarrassing to the both. John Key lost a very long-standing member of his office who ‘resigned’ after the election. John Key was forced to lose Judith Collins as a minister.
John Key also has a well established reputation using the police force as a weapon of intimidation. In 2011, during the teapot taping episode, his complaint to the police caused searches of a number of media organisations searching for an accidental recording that was embarrassing to John Key.
Nominally, the police are independent of the politicians of the day. The Police Act says so. However it appears that John Key has corrupted the police force to such an extent that this is more of a farce than reality.
Now I’ll bet that the police will probably start doing a few token gestures on the still outstanding Blomfield complaint just for PR reasons. But really their heart won’t be in it. They won’t have been told to intimidate John Key’s journalist friends, just the journalists John Key doesn’t like.
To help Nicky Hager get back his equipment and documents, there has been a fund established to go through the courts.
The reason is that when police grab ‘evidence’, they will typically hold it for periods of between 6 months and many years. One of the police’s favourite extra-legal punitive punishments against activists is to seize the computers, cameras, and anything else available (like video tapes of Coronation Street) and hold them as evidence for as long as possible.
Typically when computers are finally returned as obsolete devices, they come back laden with viruses and other malware. It appears that police use them to investigate porn sites after they turn off antiviral protection. At least this was my experience after looking at my activist niece’s computer on its return.
Click here for current details. In less than 15 hours after its establishment, it was already up to $14,645.