The Gilchrist saga gets yucky

December 21st, 2008 at 1:09 pm by David Farrar

Rochelle Rees has put out a release:

Further in the emails sent by Rob Gilchrist to the police counter-terrorism units, was an email sent on 30/07/2005, containing naked photographs of a female and then teenage activist, sent with the subject line “needs a shave….”.

Now Gilchrist was not a police officer, and I suspect he sent a lot of unsolicited e-mails to his police handlers, but nevertheless you would at a minimum expect the Police to have told him not to send such material ando/or reconsider his value to them, if his judgement is this flawed. Any person who circulates naked photos of someone they have been intimate with is a scumbag.

There is no evidence that the police objected to the “needs a shave….” email, and clearly Rob Gilchrist had reason to believe that police would want to receive such an email. On the contrary, the fact that the police continued paying Rob Gilchrist $600 per week for over another 3 years, shows they did not view his conduct as grossly inappropriate.

Maybe they did, maybe they did not. But this is just another reason why the Police Complaints Authority (or another suitable body) should be asked to investigate the activities of the Police with regards to Gilchrist.

Also discovered on Rob Gilchrist’s computer were naked photos of a then 16 year old activist, which look to have been taken while she was sleeping. Naturally, I am left wondering if those were forwarded to the police, and whether any photographs of a similar nature were taken of me and sent to the police.

An understandable concern.

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The Gilchrist case gets murkier

December 18th, 2008 at 11:19 am by David Farrar

The Greens are understandably upset that Rob Gilchrist also spied on them for the Police. Not to be fair to the Police, I very much doubt they asked him to do so. He probably just sends them any stuff he thinks is useful. But there are real issues of judgement for the Police involved. They should have made very clear that he should only report on activities where people planned to break the law, not all sorts of protest action. If they are paying him $600 a week, they do have some responsibility for his actions.

If a group of protesters are planning to break the law by breaking into private property, and digging up GE potatoes (something that elements of the Greens have done in the past), then the Police are acting properly in monitoring this and trying to prevent this.

But if a group are just planning to hold a public protest against say the Police having tazers, then the Police have no legitimate role in collecting information about that protest.

This issue is posing some dilemmas for the Government, even though it all actually happened under the previous Government.

On the one hand the new Minister of Police doesn’t want to start the job, by undermining the Commissioner. They need to have a healthy working relationship. And also generally Police Ministers should stay as far away as possible from operational issues. Of course this rule is not absolute as we saw with the Commission of Inquiry into police conduct in the 80s.

But the element of possibly spying on a political party makes it a problem for the Government, especially as Rochelles Rees has scores of e-mails, documents and phone calls between Gilchrist and the Police. I imagine these documents will be revealed to the public a bit at a time over the next few months. And that means every few days the Government will be asked what is it doing about the issue. And the Greens will try and portray National as endorsing or being unconcerned about Police spying on protesters and even other political parties. The irony is of course it happened under Labour, and National has been victim of spying, leaked e-mails and secret taping more than any other political party. But perception is more important than reality, sometimes.

So is there a solution for the Government? Well, yes, a simple one occurs to me. Why not refer the issue to the Police Complaints Authority. This wipes the issue off the front page, and will ensure that some independent scrutiny is given to the issue. This is ideal for the PCA and is much better than having a formal external inquiry by a QC.

And here’s the clincher for me. I am 99% sure that after two months of released emails, documents and phone calls, Mr Hager or Ms Rees (or someone from the activist community) will themselves complain to the PCA. So why let it drag out in the media for weeks, and months. Just refer it to the PCA now.

Interestingly Garth George is also supportive of the Greens criticism.

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Rochelle hits back

December 16th, 2008 at 9:34 pm by David Farrar

Lyn Prentice at The Standard blogs on what Rochelle Rees (his niece) did after she discovered her boyfriend (Rob Gilchrist was spying on her and others for the Police):

I flew down to Christchurch and installed spyware on Rob Gilchrist’s phone to monitor his phone calls and text messages, and a script on his computer to continue sending his emails to me. I also downloaded the past 12 months of his phone bills from telecom, and managed to decrypt documents in his emails that had been encrypted.

I did say it was monumentally stupid of Gilchrist to ask his geek girlfriend to fix his computer when he has been using it to file spy reports on her. And I think morally she has every right to snoop through his stuff, considering the huge betrayal of trust Gilchrist did to her, and others.

Lyn notes:

In effect she had access to a large amount of the ongoing and past dialogue between Rob and his police handlers. This makes some of the statements made by Howard Broad in the last few days somewhat hilarious. He badly needs to get on top of what his officers are doing, if only because otherwise Rochelle can tell him.

It sounds like the Police should be somewhat concerned.

There is an arguable case that Rochelle may have broken the law as it relates to unauthorised computer access. But the Police would be foolish to even consider charging her, as the double standard would be immense. And personally I’d actually donate to her defence.

The big question I am still fascinated by, is why Gilchrist did it, and did he offer his services to the Police, or did they actively try to enlist him?

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The SST Police spying story

December 14th, 2008 at 3:26 pm by David Farrar

The SST has a collection of fascinating stories on how the Police have been spying on various protest groups for many years, through a paid informant who was active in the groups.

The informant, Rob Gilchrist, was exposed by his (presumably ex) girlfriend Rochelle Rees. Rochelle is an animal rights activist and also got well known for her Google Bomb against John Key.

Gilchrist, in one of the more stupid acts known to mankind, asked Rochelle to help fix his computer. Now if you are spying for the Police, and communicating with them via e-mail, asking your girlfriend (one of those you are reporting on) to fix your computer is monumentally stupid. He also gets stupid marks for not using a Gmail or web based mail account for his spying, so that there is little trace on the computer.

So who were the Police spying on. According to the SST, it was:

  1. Anti-Bases Campaign
  2. Auckland Animal Action
  3. Beneficiaries Action Collective
  4. GE-Free NZ
  5. Peace Action Wellington
  6. Greenpeace
  7. People’s Moratorium Enforcement Agency (GE Free)
  8. Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE)
  9. Save Happy Valley
  10. Wellington Animal Rights Network

I do wonder how much overlap of membership there is – some people may belong to all 10 groups :-)

So should the Police be spying on these groups, if they are protest groups. Well the answer is, it depends.

If they never set out to break the law, and organise legal protests, then the Police should be taking no interest in them. Presumably that is what Forest & Bird are not there or the World Wildlife Fund.

If however the groups have a deliberate strategy of breaking the law, of commiting damage, of theft etc – then the mere fact they are a protest group doesn’t make them immune from the law, and doesn’t mean the Police can’t use informants to find out what illegal activities are planned.

So do the ten groups above all take part in organised law breaking activities? I’m not sure they do. Save Happy Valley certainly does and I have no problem with the Police monitoring them, if done within the law. But I suspect in some of the cases, the Police would be stretching it to justify their surveilance through an informant. The question I would ask is whether the use of Gilchrist as an informant actually prevented any crimes? I not, then they should not be spying n the groups. If however they were planning illegal activities, some surveillance can be argued as justified

There are a number of interesting questions, especially about Gilchrist himself who is profiled here.

  1. How did he become a Police informant – did they turn him, or did he offer? If he offered out of the blue, then no surprise the Police said yes.
  2. Was he informing just for the money of $600 a week, or did he disagree with what these groups did?
  3. He is reported to have been a ringleader is advocating some of the illegal protests. Could this not be entrapment if he promotes some form of illegal direction action to the others, and then gets them arrested?
  4. Did anyone ever wonder how he managed to live for so many years without working? Did they just assume it was the generous welfare state?
  5. Did he pay tax on his informant income?
  6. How many other spies are there in these protest groups?
  7. Does anyone else find it ironic that it was under a Labour Government, that all the leftie groups were spied on?
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Dirty politics in cyberspace

September 21st, 2008 at 6:42 am by David Farrar

Anthony Hubbard in the SST has written an interesting and well balanced article on dirty politics in cyberspace. Has quotes from Cameron Slater, Rochelle Rees, Lynn Pretnice and Rob Salmond.

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“Not affiliated to any party”

September 14th, 2008 at 7:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports on how Rochelle Rees has google bombed John Key so a search of NZ sites on “clueless” will bring up his website.

This isn’t terribly difficult to do, especially if it is for .nz sites only. It is far far harder to do it for all searches.

Anyway I found it interesting that the HoS reported:

Auckland computer programmer Rochelle Rees told the Herald on Sunday she emailed friends a year ago, asking them to put links on their websites to Key’s site with the word “clueless” as the link text.

“More than anything, it’s fun,” said Rees, who said she was interested in politics but not affiliated to any party.

I found that interesting. For I could recall two things about Rochelle. One is that she is involved in Auckland Animal Action. The other is I was sure she was a member of Young Labour. And sure enough a quick Google search, and I find the answer on my own blog!

So Rochelle just last year was not just a member of Young Labour, but was elected onto its National Executive. So how is that not affiliated to any party?

I also found it amusing that that they are trying to suggest with their Google bombing that John Key is clueless. The bombing works better if it is an attribute that many people will agree with. They should have gone with “swallowing dead rats” or something. Because look at Key’s achievements:

  • Hugely successful career in the private sector
  • Rose to the top job in his area (global head of foreign exchange) in a company with 60,000 staff, $100 billion a year turnover and assets in excess of $1 trillion.
  • So popular with his staff, colleagues and competitors than the SST couldn’t find a single person to speak badly of him, despite the fact he was in an industry with legendary rivalry
  • Appointed to the Foreign Exchange Committee of the New York Federal Reserve
  • Successfully challenged an incumbent MP for the Helensville 2002 nomination
  • Made Opposition Finance Spokesperson after just two years in Parliament
  • Unanimously elected National Party Leader after just four years in Parliament
  • Within six months of being elected Opposition Leader, overtook Helen Clark as Preferred Prime Minister
  • Has consistently polled as the most popular Leader of the Opposition since records began over 20 years ago

Need I go on?

UPDATE: Rochelle, far from being someone just interested in politics, was a candidate for City Vision in the local body elections. Also she was endorsed by the Labour affiliated EPMU as a preferred candidate. And her e-mail address is @primary.geek.nz which is mainatined by Labour Party member and The Standard owner – Lynn Prentice.

I have no problems with Rochelle having some fun Google bombing. Good on her. But once again we see the traditional pattern of behaviour where someone is portrayed as just “interested in politics but not affiliated to any party”, when the reality is quite different.

UPDATE2: The Herald on Sunday have updated their story and Rochelle has commented below. She says she told the reporter she wasn’t currently affiliated. And Lynn Prentice happens to be her uncle!

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