The story of how the Special Investigation Group utilised the services of Rob Gilchrist to spy on protest groups and political parties just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now, thanks to the Standard and No Right Turn, we know the SIG was also monitoring unions, including New Zealand’s biggest – with 50,000 members – the EPMU.
I wrote on this earlier that everyone should be concerned at the police surveilling groups on the basis of political beliefs rather than threat to public safety. And there are quite an array of people expressing concerns alongside the usual suspects (perhaps I need to watch my use of that word ;-). As frogblog points out, everyone from Garth George to David Farrar to Keith Locke.
As Indymedia reminds us, Mr Gilchrist’s help for the SIG included providing information on three of the alleged “terrorists” picked up in the October 15th raids in 2007. Does this make the court case against those accused any more political? Are we now not only putting tino rangatiratanga and other dissenting voices on trial, but the police?
There are some who see those arrests as vindicating the SIG payments to Rob Gilchrist to spy on protestors. We’ll just have to see what comes out in that court case I guess – but surely even the most apologist of commentators will find monitoring the Green Party and EPMU emails beyond acceptable police activity?
Are we really worried we have 50,000 terrorists setting up cell groups through the EPMU? That would make us perhaps the most terrorist-dense nation on earth.
Unfortunately, rather than taking up the opportunity to monitor the role of the police, new Minister Judith Collins has appeared slightly schizophrenic on the issue.
On Monday 15 December she said:
“I would be very concerned if law-abiding groups and activities were being spied on.”
“In a free society such as we have in New Zealand, it is important that the rights of groups to undertake legitimate and lawful activity is upheld”
“At our regular weekly meeting this morning, I asked the Commissioner to give me an assurance that the Police were working within their responsibilities in their operation of SIGs. The Commissioner gave me that assurance.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how these three statements, from the same day, are consistent. Which is a shame – quite apart from the morality of the issue of the politicisation of our police force, this was quite the chance for Ms Collins to show leadership and insist on accountability within the police.
I agree with Bill Ralston. Not only have the mainstream media shied away from this issue, but our new government are not living up to their promises either.
The police were patently out of line and yet nothing is to be done about it. It exposes the dangers inherent in John Key’s lack of real political principles. Key’s wimpish, tepid response shows how he and this government are most probably going to be snowed by the public service over the next three years.
Frankly, the media’s coverage of the fallout from the affair was equally tepid and wimpy. Few thundering editorials, fewer still hard probes of what else the SIG might have been up to.
So much for the Fourth Estate and its eagle-eyed guardianship of our civil rights.