The SST Police spying story

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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