These latest revelations about a whole raft of Government agencies contracting Thompson & Clark to spy on New Zealanders on their behalf are just the latest in a long, sordid history of the State spying on the people. Go back a decade and you’ll find:
• Thompson & Clark exposed as spying on environmental activists on behalf of the since gone bust Solid Energy
• Thompson & Clark exposed as spying on animal rights activists on behalf of the State
• Police spy/infiltrator/agent provocateur Rob Gilchrist exposed as having spied, for money, on a whole raft of activist groups for a decade
• The release of Security Intelligence Service files on many people (including me) that revealed a long history of obsessive spying on activists. In the case of the only organisation to receive its file – the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa – the file revealed that the SIS had spied on CAFCA for a quarter of a century.
The State, in the form of the Police and the SIS, has always spied on activists. I have been a political activist for not quite 50 years and have documentary evidence that I’ve been spied upon by both.
What is different about these latest revelations is the State contracting out its spying to private enterprise (thus providing itself with the all-important “plausible deniability”).
Plus, the fact that spying net has now been spread much wider than the usual suspects – Communists, protesters, activists, unionists, “eco-terrorists”, etc – right down into the ranks of the Mum and Dad homeowners who were unfortunate enough to be among the victims of the Christchurch quakes and to have an unresolved claim with the singularly unhelpful Southern Response. This is what happens when spies – authorised and unauthorised/privatised – operate in a bubble of arrogance, secrecy and impunity. First, they came for the activists; then they came for the insurance policy holders.
But this stuff is only the tip of the spyberg. It involves “humint” (human intelligence): infiltration, surveillance, covert recording of meetings, that sort of thing. The vast bulk of modern spying involves “elint” (electronic intelligence) and it is carried out 24/7/365, silently and covertly monitoring all manner of communications. In this country it is carried out by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), whose key tool is the Waihopai spy base.
The GCSB and Waihopai is used not only to spy on foreigners, as directed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) as part of the Five Eyes spy alliance with the US, UK, Canada and Australia. It is also used to spy on New Zealanders. When it was caught doing so illegally (take a bow, Kim Dotcom), the Key government did not punish the criminals but legalised the crime. Despite a massive campaign against it, the Key government amended the GCSB Act to allow the Bureau to spy on New Zealanders.
That’s the bigger picture here. Let’s have an inquiry into the whole covert world of State spying – the GCSB, SIS, Police and the contractors such as Thompson and Clark – and the cloak of anti-democratic impunity in which it operates.
In the meantime, Anti-Bases Campaign, which has been campaigning on this issue since the 1980s, is doing our small bit. We’ll be back at the Waihopai spy base on Saturday January 26th calling for it to be closed and for the GCSB to be abolished.