Close Waihopai! Abolish the SIS!

2 Aug

Treen at GCSB March









Mike Treen speaking to anti GCSB rally, Auckland, July 27

By Mike Treen

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The opposition to the GCSC bill and spying on journalists is creating a political dilemma for the government.

Opponents of the spy bill have an opportunity to deal a real blow to the government’s plans and are looking at ways of doing so.

Helping our cause has been a real split in the establishment. Opposition has even been expressed by Sir Bruce Ferguson (former chief of defence Force and head of the GCSB) who has spoken out strongly against passing the GCSB in a rushed manner and without public confidence.

The government will be desperately seeking a broader mandate for the spy laws from NZ First and Labour. But both parties risk a serious “own goal” to their credibility if they weaken their opposition. The most likely of the two to give the government what it needs is NZ first given Winston Peters strong pro-US alliance stance.

But their can be no compromise on this bill. The essence of the bill which cannot be amended away is to legalise the use of the GCSB against New Zealand citizens directly. We are already subject to surveillance in that amongst the communications being monitored by the Waihopai spy base are all forms of international communications from New Zealand.

Waihopai is part of a Anglo-Saxon spy club involving the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand known as the Five Eyes network. This secret network was established in 1946 and operated so secretly that governments of the day weren’t told of its existence until the 1970s. Former Labour Prime Minister David Lange, who authorised the construction of Waihopai, claimed not to know what it did until he read Kicky Hagar’s book on the subject after he left office!

By allowing the collection of so-called meta data on everyone in the country the government will be qualitatively increasing its powers of surveillance and control. As part of the same process they are passing laws to force companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to allow free back door access to all their data on people and what they are up to. This will allow the spys to create a picture of each individual – their likes and dislikes, political opinions, love life and movements. If they later want to access the data in more detail they can (maybe with an interception warrant) download a file going back years.

This information is already being shared with the US NSA through the Five Eyes network. So the need for a warrant is meaningless because the information can be accessed from the NSA in the US which collects and stores everything anyway.

Waihopai is part of a terrorist network – not protecting us from one. Data from Waihopai plays a role in selecting targets for drone strikes in Pakistan. It plays a role in the kidnapping, rendition and torture of opponents of the US empire who are not limited to Al Qaeda.

The US designates many organisations with strong popular support that are up against corrupt and authoritarian or dictatorial governments as terrorists. These include: the Tamil Liberation forces in Sri Lanka; The New Peoples Army in the Philippines; The Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey; Hezbollah in Lebanon; Hamas and the PFLP in Palestine; FARC and the National Liberation Army in Colombia.

All these groups are mass supported national liberation organisations that felt forced to conduct armed struggle because of the circumstances they faced. In this respect they are no different from the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela which also carried out armed struggle as part of the broader liberation struggle.

Today when the world celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life it is good to remember that he too was designated a terrorist by the governments of New Zealand, the US and UK. Mandela and the ANC remained on the US terrorist list until 2008! Other groups to come off the US list include the PLO, IRA and Kosovo Liberation Army (now a US ally). The cynical abuse of the designations are probably best exemplified by the fact the Khmer Rouge were not designated a terrorist group once they started fighting the Vietnamese and in fact kept their seat at the United Nations with US, NZ and Australian blessings after being overthrown by Vietnamese troops despite the fact they had slaughtered millions.

In New Zealand I have first hand experience of being designated a “subversive” and subjected to decades of spying. I got involved in a socialist group in the early 1970s as a high school student and an SIS agent confirmed to me I had been under observation from that time. I met the agent because I had to be “cleared” to work at Parliament for the Alliance in the late 1990s. I can confirm the observation of former Supreme Court Judge Edmund Thomas when he met an intelligence officer once that the “intelligence” agent wasn’t very intelligent and was very right wing.

At no time have I been an agent of a foreign power. Nor have any of my activities involved any illegal activities. What I did do was organise to oppose the Vietnam War and sporting contact with South Africa. I helped organise protests against nuclear ship visits. I joined the occupation of Bastion Point. At university I organised protests for student allowances. In my workplaces I pushed for better wages and conditions. But from the point of view of the ruling elite I was a “subversive”. During the time of Robert Muldoon as Prime Minister of this country he regularly used the police and SIS against his opponents and would reveal confidential files in an attempt to discredit them.

I and my friends and comrades lost jobs as a consequence of the SIS informing our employers of our political views. The US consulate refused me a visa to the USA in the mid-1980s because they said they had been told of my socialist views by the SIS. Last year I asked for my file and the SIS director wrote me a letter refusing my request but confirmed they had a file on me. He claimed to have stopped spying on me but it doesn’t really matter now since they will be spying on everyone.

At the same time the SIS were spying on legitimate political opposition they were blind to the few real acts of terrorism committed in the country that took someone’s life. The first was when a bomb was placed in the Wellington Trades Hall in 1984 killing the caretaker. The second was the Rainbow Warrior bombing that killed the photographer Fernando Pereira. The police did find some of those bombers from the French secret service but the government released the bombers early under French pressure. At the time the British government under Margaret Thatcher and the US government under President Reagan refused to condemn the bombing as a terrorist act.

Not noticing foreign spies seems to be a trait of the SIS because the police had to tell them that Israeli agents were illegally obtaining NZ passports in 2004.

Only one person has ever been charged in the country as a result of SIS investigation, Bill Sutch, and he was found not guilty of spying for the Russians. But dozens of people have had their lives harmed by the decades and decades of secret police operations. Ahmed Zaoui spent years in prison on the basis of the SIS’s false designation of him as a terrorist sympathiser. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been expended and wasted.

The secret police should be abolished and Waihopai closed down. Any genuinely terrorist threat is already covered by existing laws that are investigated and prosecuted by the Police. Their powers of search and seizure should be for actual crimes not thought crimes as determined by a secret and unaccountable agency.

Continued protests against the expansion of the secret police powers should be just a stage to eliminating them for the anti-democratic cancer they are.

(Unite National Director Mike Treen has a blog hosted on the TheDailyBlogwebsite. The site is sponsored by several unions and hosts some of New Zealand’s leading progressive commentators. Mike’s blog will be covering union news and general political comment but the views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of Unite Union.)

GCSB Protest Auckland, NZ Mike Treen 27 Jul 2013

GCSB Protest Auckland, NZ Mike Treen Part 2-2 27 Jul 2013


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