Gordon Campbell raises a good question in his latest Scoop column – are the Police also using paid informants to spy on mosques?
According to the original Sunday Star-Times article, the Police informant Rob Gilchrist was getting $600 a week for his information. This is a substantial amount, and more than enough to entice anyone to manufacture information to keep the money coming in and no surprise then that Gilchrist seems to have been active in promoting activities he could then inform on.
The incident raises an additional concern. A fee of $600 a week could well find takers among refugee communities and mosques in New Zealand, and any information manufactured in this context would have an extra dimension. Most social activists are New Zealand citizens, and so their immigration status is not at risk. That is not the case with many refugees and among some ethnic minorities. Recent arrivals from Islamic countries who may be attending mosques in New Zealand do not enjoy the protection of citizenship.
Therefore, there is genuine potential for dubious, paid information to be used secretly in decisions that affect immigration status. To date, there has been no more evidence of security risks emanating from mosques in New Zealand than there is from the environmental or social activist groups spied on by Rob Gilchrist. If the Police anti-terrorism unit is willing to spy on people exercising their right to freedom of protest, what is it doing to infringe on those exercising freedom of worship ?
I’ve had similar thoughts myself. After all, it’s hard to believe that the spying activity revealed by Rochelle Rees was limited to one paid informant. If they’re investigating Greenpeace and Auckland Animal Action for potential terrorist activity there’s a good chance there are paid Police informants in the Muslim community and elsewhere.
So, who else are the Police spying on? And why don’t the Prime Minister, the Minister of Police or the media appear at all interested in finding out?