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Sunday Star Times

Written By: - Date published: 10:28 am, December 14th, 2008 - 28 comments
Categories: activism - Tags:

My niece Rochelle Rees has uncovered some unsavory practices operated by element of the NZ Police directed at peaceful protest groups.

You can read them either by buying the paper, or by these links to articles from Nicky Hager.
Police anti-terror squad spies on protest groups
Who the police were spying on
The activist who turned police informer
How Gilchrist was found out

The police have some explaining to do. I will be doing a number of other posts on the subject for a while. It is time that the structure and control of the police was examined so that peaceable activist citizens can feel safe.

Lynn

Update: there is a good SST editorial in the paper, but I can’t find it online. Does anyone have a link?

28 comments on “Sunday Star Times”

  1. George 1

    This is all pretty old news? i remember reading about all this ages ago when the eco-terrorists came out yapping about a spy in their midst. bored me then as it bored me now.

    If you aim to cause trouble and mayhem, i.e greenpeace, save happy valley, wouldn’t it be irresponsible of the police not to keep an eye on you?

    undercovers are used in all aspects of policing, everyone applauds when drug dealers and people intent on violent attacks are caught. it’s been seen in other countries that people who do great damage to society can often appear from the surrounds of such groups, both right and left. so the use of UC’s becomes justified.

    the stories are another Nicky Hager and Anthony Hubbard attempt to whip up controversy, and as usual, like the authors are tiresome.

  2. lprent 2

    George: For the main anti-terrorism unit to ask details on who was screwing whom?

    Don’t you think that that is stepping a little over the bounds. Unless the police are avid womans weekly readers with a different market, that seems unusual to say the least.That is the stuff that even shortland street writers would throw out as being too far fetched.

    Have you read the articles?

    I’d also like you to define ‘damage to society’. As far as I’m aware these are not terrorist groups. They don’t kill or maim people. They seldom cause damage. Mostly what they do is cause inconvenience or make things public that other people would prefer wasn’t public. I suppose you have special knowledge of other ‘damage’?

    If you define that as ‘damage to society’, then I’d suggest that you leave and go to North Korea for your ideal society.

  3. George 3

    lprent,

    yes i read them, and yes i think it should probably not have been the SIG, it probably should have CIB directed at a national level and if any threat was found then SIG should have been alerted.

    But im fairly certain there would be more to what the police were doing than just investigating who was bumping uglies on a regular basis. not a massive fan of police, but somebody has to do an unpleasant job.

    hmm, damage to society, my definition is obviously going to different than yours, though i doubt N. Korea would have me based on that.

    I don’t like how solid energy and greenpeace attempt to achieve their aims. I think it is destructive as it does not encourage dialogue. just an enforcement of views.

    Killing and maiming people are not the only ways of causing damage, and you know that. I never accused the activists of such extreme behaviour, only that it is possible that the type of people who would, could emerge from their midst.
    the articles were a poor attempt at sensationalism by an out-of-date hack and his little snooper trooper.

  4. I can hardly wait for the Minister of Police to come out and berate the department for spending $30k a year for a long period of time to frustrate the infliction of the occasional bit of graffiti.

  5. TBA 5

    Personally I would be more concerned if the Police weren’t monitoring groups like these.

  6. lprent 6

    G: I don’t think that the police actually have much to justify the efforts that they have been making. Almost every activist protester I know has had numerous charges laid, and very few convictions. Of the convictions, almost all of them would have been overturned if it’d gone to a higher court.

    For instance Rochelle got convicted of “intimidation by loitering” under the crimes act  – in my opinion, largely so the TAU could obtain a search warrant.

    I helped Rochelle take that to the high court because use of that kind of charge could have been used against ANY protest. It was overturned because “protesting is not loitering”.

    That was something that I could have told the police without the $30,000 I expended in lawyers fees. Most activists cannot afford the type of money that is required to overturn these abuses of police authority.

    I hate to think how much the police wasted on that malicious charge. To date I’ve seen a number of similar cases taken throughout the country – including the current ‘terrorist’ gun charges.

    ms: And the rest…..

    As far as I can tell most of the SIG and TAU efforts appear to be focused on these protest groups. Probably because there is nothing much else for them to look at in NZ. Their legal bills alone must be enormous.

  7. lprent 7

    TBA: Monitoring would be fine. Active harassment and involvement in incitement really is not.

    If the police actually liaised with most of these groups, then they’d probably tell them most of their activities. As it is the police are starting to drive them into adopting cell structures and tactics of the classic resistance movements.

    Of course that is probably good for these groups in the  police – it allows them to go for increased budgets. A egg/chicken problem in the making.

  8. George 8

    lprent,

    the original post was meant to convey my belief that this is a complete waste of newspaper space. I digressed in the middle to back up the secondary point, that the some activist groups, rightly or wrongly, warrant surveillance. the main point was that nicky hager and anthony hubbard are boring and this is not exactly front page news.

    on the subject of arrests, don’t get me started. i really do not agree with what seems to be the current front line police policy of arrest first, questions later. I understand your frustration at Rochelle being arrested for loitering with intent, as i believe that law was made to prevent bank robberies and theives casing places. i have spent much time in front of judges on a number of minor charges, usually placed so that police can be seen to be doing something. i have beaten all except one. At great cost, both financially in terms of time and legal fees, and mentally. going through the justice system is far too protracted and exhausting.

  9. lprent 9

    The intimidation by loitering was originally put in place in 1981. It was put in place to cope with the possible problem of protection rackets, where there was no action, just people loitering at act as intimidation by presence. The origional Hansard debate was worried about police carrying it over to union and protest activities. The minister of the time was adamant that would not happen.

    As far as we could tell, it’d never been used in NZ (and rarely offshore for similarly worded laws). So in effect the police were running a test case, which is why our fees were so high.

    Over the years I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the lack of feedback to the police for their habit of putting up charges. They are starting to use them as an extra-legal punishment. Even if the charge fails or is dropped at the last minute, then they have hung over the recipient for up to 14 months and entailed considerable expenditure of time and money.

    The number of young people (in particular) who hit this tactic is rather large. It is doing more to damage the support for the police in the long term than anything else.

    There needs to be one of two things done. Either the right to lay charges should be removed from the police and put in the hands of a separate prosecutors office. Or failure to get to even a minimal level of proof by the police (or dropped charges) should automatically result in the police having to pay at least the costs to the recipient.

    At present the police have no feedback mechanism about their performance in an important part of their job.

  10. coge 10

    Lprent, I bet you’re glad this didn’t come out a few short months ago. “Police infiltrate Greenpeace” etc. Interesting read nonetheless. Wonder what kind of remuneration Gilchrist received?

  11. lprent 11

    Yeah, but the problem for me is that the police operations are outside political control (as they should be at policy level). The only real control that appears to operate on them is internal, what the judges decide to say, and what the police minister decides to ask. I’ve slammed Judith Collins about her remarks, but that is because she does not appear to understand that a large part of her role is to ask questions of the police on behalf of the public.

    I’d have done the same for a labour minister doing the same thing.

    You’d have to ask Rochelle or Rob (oe the police) about the finances. But I understand that it was significant in terms of money and other supports.

  12. Jesus LP, I knew I had heard that name somewhere and now it suddenly clicked.

  13. Westminster 13

    I don’t get this. The police’s mandate extends to criminal activity. The NZSIS is the agency in this country that monitors terrorist activity. The police are exceeding their mandate. Some might not understand the issue, but there is a fundamental difference between illegal activity and terrorist activity. This fundamental difference colours the whole approach of how, who and why you choose targets, conduct surveillance, gather evidence and thresholds for taking action. They’re two different approaches. No wonder we keep getting bungles. The police are simply not the appropriate people to take the lead. The police should be involved to tidy up criminal matters (such as illegal arms and explosives) but not to conduct the lead on intel. gathering.

  14. AngryTory 14

    Oh whinge whinge whinge.

    Too right Helen had the special branch running a black op against the greens and their activist mates. What a fucking surprise. Did anyone for a moment think they didn’t?

    Change of government: on of the special branch guys goes to the police to wash a bit of dirty laundry in public. bo hoo hoo. get fucking used to it guys, there will be lots and lots and lots where this came from! Gee I wonder if the police will spill the beans on the last special branch op feeding stuff to Hager – the one that won labour the last election?

    Now the question is: what are our eco-terrorist mates going to do? Try this in Ulster or Basque country (like the anti-TGV protests there) and your life expectancy is measured in hours. Let’s see if our greenie friends are as good at maintaining their own security as they think we should be about our bio-security.

  15. sweeetdisorder 15

    What sort of computer problems requires the person fixing to go through individual emails?

    [lprent: Converting a system from XP to linux, where the e-mails were coming from outlook and going to thunderbird. If you haven’t done the exercise on literally tens of thousands of e-mails you can’t conceive of how much of a pain it can be. Old mail systems that are a decade or older have a lot of interesting issues.
    I remember having real fun converting my pmail (pegasus mails to IMAP) in 2003. Eventually it was simpliest to just write a baby RFC822 parser in c so I could replicate the directory structures. There were hundreds of thousands of e-mails going back to 1987]

  16. Felix 16

    FTA:

    Rees, who works as a computer programmer, reinstalled his email programme and then made a routine check that his old emails hadn’t been corrupted. She was puzzled to see hundreds of emails with the “sender” and “subject” lines blank.

    That would seem to be the point at which her suspicions were sufficiently roused to look at individual emails.

    The article continues:

    Checking them, she found they were all private political emails and all being forwarded to the same anonymous address. Something was very wrong. But she didn’t know what.
    She and a friend looked through the emails and found documents with titles such as “Intel Request”. From that first clue a picture gradually emerged of 10 years of police surveillance.

    I’ll be here for another ten minutes if you have any more plain English sentences you need de-coded.

  17. Theres a good comment by Ross Meurant (of all people!! part of it here http://blog.greens.org.nz/2007/10/19/ross-meurants-comments-on-the-raids/) on the NZ Police and intelligence gathering.

    Essentially when dealing with this kind of “black box” funded intelligence work it is up too the officer in charge’s judgment, sorry for the generalisation here but many police officers tend to be at the authoritarian end of right wing in their political beliefs, yet the officer in charge appears completely ignorant of the (for lack of a better phrase) constitutional significance and objective requirements of this and other such work. These officers see it fit for their personal prejudice and subjective opinion on who might be dangerous, or even just who they do and not like, to form the basis for decisions on what to commit large amounts of money and personal towards investigating.

    Many people are saying in defence of the police that it is important they keep an eye on these groups in case they do something illegal, well quite plainly, as pointed out here and in the article is just not the case, they may not like the message these groups spread, but none of them have been planning to harm people. Of the multitude of charges laid against left wing activists almost none result in conviction, and those that did, the conviction is spurilous too the act in question, more of a legal technicality than the person acting in a dangerous manner. Quite simply the justification for the behaviour of the SIG just does not add up, they must be brought to account.

    It would be nice for there to be a thorough investigation, looking at the way in which the police and other government agencies (SIS and GSCB, too a lesser extent, they seem to understand the significance of what they do slightly more) behave in regards for legitimate protest, the groups they look at, and the information they gather, too see whether it really stacks up, fat chance of that happening under National though. The Police also need to be taught that protestingis not illegal, it’s as simple as that, but you wouldn’t think so from their behaviour.

    Again Lynn, you must be extremely proud of Rochelle, amazing work she did uncovering this, I can‘t praise her highly enough.

  18. Robin Grieve 18

    Why are these groups so precious. Protestors or activists are all the same. Greenpeace to white supremists they are all activists. The police should monitor them all. What annoys me is the arrogence of these groups that they think they should be allowed to plot and plan their raids and other illegal activities. Who do they think they are? Good on the police I hope their intelligence activities carry on and keep these groups confined to legal activities.
    Was that Rochelle Rees the one who did the google bomb and conveniently forgot that she had links to the Labour Party?

  19. lprent 19

    Robin: Yeah and she is my niece as well (just to add to your conspiracy theory).

    Of course she mainly did the google bomb more as an exercise in looking at the new 2007 google algorithms to prevent google bombs. Key was just convenient. She obviously organised it well. JK’s site is still the target of the google bomb.

    Her main political focus is (and always has been) on animal rights. Young labour was another way of pursuing that.

    I think that most people would want the police to monitor people who are dangerous. The question is how far should the police go in monitoring activist groups. Infiltration, harrassment with unjustified charges, unjustified search warrants, provocation (ie getting infiltrators to incite action), training the activists, etc etc. Should they extend past the target people to examine all of the others who are involved in a activist group.

    The problem is that we have to trust the police to be balanced. Recently, from what I’ve seen they are not. The SIG and TAu appear to lack the discrimination to be trusted.

  20. Robin Grieve 20

    At least the police did not prosecute Labour and HC for all their legal transgressions. Question is was that a balanced judgement or was that not

  21. Anita 21

    Robin Grieve,

    Protestors or activists are all the same. Greenpeace to white supremists they are all activists. The police should monitor them all.

    How much should they monitor them?

    Are there any lines they shouldn’t cross? Or shouldn’t cross under some circumstances?

  22. mike 22

    The thing I like is that Aunty Helen and Uncle Phil and uncle tom cobbly and all (them lot down at the behive for the last 9 years) knew what was going on (I mean they must have – why else would they not have been prosecuted for forgery and speeding and all srts of other things that the police ignored).

    And these left wing activists thought the government was on their side………

    ALL governments watch ALL activist groups – doesnt matter if they are the mongrel mob or the Save the Plants from being Eaten group. They are all extremist of one form or another (they dont think they are – but they are) – just like extremist muslims or extremist christians or jews. They are all watched.

    [lprent: Who cares if they watch them. That is quite different from what has been happening here – there has recently been an active policy of harassment on the basis of faulty intel. That is the issue.]

  23. mike 23

    Oh – I shouldve added……………

    its must be just soooooooo bloody embarrasing that the informer was also the bonker……

    Hilarious

    IrishBill: I’m bored with your ignorant trolling. Take a fortnight off.

  24. mike 24

    Harassment my arse – if you want some real harassment then you try being a protest group in Zimbabwe or china or any socialist state or even the good old US of A. If the protestors needed some dickwit to encourage them to do things, then they arent really very serious protestors – just a group of idles waiting for someone to lead them into trouble.

    Oh – unless you mean harassment by the protest group. Certainly the attack on Keys site is harassment alright and the police should definately be watching anyone who attacks the countries leaders. Just a pity they werent more diligent in finding the trail of the emails which were stolen and given to Hager.

  25. TimeWarp 25

    Nice benchmarks Mike. I presume as long as our economy is better than Zimbabwe’s, then everything is hunky-dory on that front also?

  26. mike 26

    [lprent: IB gave you a ban on the SST post. Come back in two weeks]

  27. Neil 27

    How much credibility has this woman got?

    She found out about the emails before the election but being a good Labour Party activist, waited until National had won before spilling the beans.

    Would this have come out if Labour had been returned?

    Obviously her outrage was subservient to her desire to protect Labour – what sort of “activist” is that?

  28. Rich 28

    as they should be at policy level

    Firstly, is the policy clear enough as to what the police are permitted to do? Probably not.

    Secondly, the police clearly cannot be trusted to obey policy. There should be an independent body with the ability to not only investigate complaints, but to carry out proactive audits. And police misconduct should be a criminal offence that can be prosecuted even after a cop has retired.

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