Below is an op-ed I wrote and submitted to the Dominion Post, the local daily corporate newspaper. They didn’t accept it – they said they didn’t want something that contained the facts, but rather something which argued why spying was not a good thing. Also, they didn’t want to call Somali Young, the Wellington spy, as definately a spy, because she hasn’t admitted it publicly (because clearly, when confronted, 99% of spies admit what they do?!?!?). Anyway, enjoy it. Thanks to V & M for the edits.
Secretive Industries Must Be Exposed After Spying
The recent revelations of corporate spies paid to infiltrate the Wellington Animal Rights Network (WARN), Peace Action Wellington (PAW) and Save Happy Valley Christchurch (SHV) has made a significant splash in the media over the last week, something which the corporates who hired the spies traditionally like to avoid. In Wellington, law student Somali Young was spying on WARN for two years and PAW for eleven months, while in Christchurch, Ryan Paterson-Rouse reported on the activities of SHV for 7 months. Both were hired by Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd (TCIL), who in turn had contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with Solid Energy, NZ Bio and, most likely, the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA).
Solid Energy, New Zealand’s largest coal mining company, are also the most environmentally destructive state owned enterprise. They are responsible for mining coal which, when burnt, will result in carbon emissions equivalent to New Zealand’s entire domestic transport fleet each year.
NZ Bio, who advertise themselves as “representing the New Zealand biotechnology sector”, are an umbrella group covering a range of companies across the country that engage in vivisection and genetic engineering. Both industries have traditionally had large public opposition, and both have done their utmost to prevent information about their practices reaching the public. NZ Bio receive state funding for their work. They link to TCIL from their website, labelling them one of four “NZ Bio Partners” and the “Security Providers to the Biotech Industry”
The NZDIA are an umbrella group containing most of New Zealand’s weapons manufacturers. Working closely with the Ministry of Defence, the New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, they hold an annual conference which for several years has been a target of protest by PAW, who are opposed to the trade in arms and munitions. Andrew Gibson, owner of Gibson Security, has revealed that TCIL would contract the services of his company specifically for events such as these annual conferences.
TCIL paid Ryan Paterson-Rouse a base rate of $400/month, plus $30 an hour for the time spent spying on SHV and $300/day for any time spent in Happy Valley. For this, all emails he received were forwarded directly to Gavin Clark of TCIL, he provided a report on the 30th of each month and responded to any questions from Solid Energy via Gavin Clark. Topic of discussion ranged from who was coming to meetings, what people’s roles within SHV were and who was in a relationship with who through to legally privileged information on SHV’s defence strategies for the upcoming defamation hearing and the planning for the recent coal train blockade. In fact, the action planning meetings for the train blockade were held at Paterson-Rouse’s house!
One can imagine that the pay received, and information passed on, by Somali Young was of a similar nature. Additionally, her position as a law student enabled her to offer her services as a legal advisor to both WARN and PAW. Prior to the October 2006 protests against the defence industry conference held at Te Papa, Young provided a space for the planning meetings, meaning TCIL knew the entire plan for what would occur, which was then passed on to security present on the day, as revealed by Andrew Gibson of Gibson Security in the Sunday Star Times (June 3). In her role as legal adviser, Young collected names and phone numbers (including family contacts) of many of the participants. Lastly, Young also offered to be the collection point for all still photography and video footage taken during the demonstrations – footage that no doubt ended up with TCIL.
Solid Energy have rightly been subject to hard questions this past week, but the vivisection and arms industry have thus far managed to avoid public scrutiny. The three industries are some of the most destructive to people, animals and the planet, and all have spent state funding on spies to enable them to hide information and frame public debate in a way that is directly opposed to transparency and accountability.
In the late 1990’s, Timberlands West Coast Ltd, a state owned enterprise, was caught out using similar methods in its bid to shut down public debate over West Coast native logging. In this case, the conspiracy went straight to the top, with Jenny Shipley, then Prime Minister, and other National Party hierarchy fully enmeshed, as revealed in Nicky Hager’s book Secrets & Lies. While Helen Clark and Trevor Mallard have condemned Solid Energy’s hiring of Paterson-Rouse, it is still speculation just what the Labour Government’s involvement in the spying prior to its exposure was.
TCIL’s first foray into spying on political groups came through genetic engineering, an area with heavy involvement from Crown Research Institutes such as AgResearch and Crop & Food Research. It appears, then, that TCIL have a long history of spying on political groups for Government owned companies.
This kind of spying is, unfortunately, totally predictable. These corporations are involved in destroying the planet, torturing animals and manufacturing war material. Until our economic, political and social systems stop rewarding such activities, there will be plenty of people willing to sell their services to the highest bidder. Over the last week, we have seen what may be simply the tip of the iceberg – as the pieces fall into place more will become clear. Only then, perhaps, will we know how deep the well of deceit and subterfuge sinks.