Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who else is spying?

Now that Solid Energy has been told in no uncertain terms that spying on and inflitrating protest groups is unacceptable, people have begun asking the natural question: who else is doing it? Other SOEs have problems with environmental groups and may have sunk to similar anti-democratic tactics. Greenpeace is already expressing concerns about Mighty River Power, and the Greens are casting the net wider to include TransPower and Genesis, as well as CRIs AgResearch and Crop & Food (both of which have had problems with anti-GE protestors in the past). Like Russel Norman, I think its clear that we need some blanket guidance from the government barring such practices. And if they don't, I think the select committees will be asking some pointy questions about who has been hiring spies during the annual financial reporting process.


YOu refer to the spying is undemocratic. But what if the protestors are acting illegally? Surely their actions if the spying is directed towards stopping illegal actions.

While there is some disdain towards the spying, there is also a public interest to prevent illegal action.

Democracy means equality before the law. If the actions are aimed to prevent illegal action then i have nothing wrong with that.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/29/2007 12:50:00 PM

The problem is that both sides can reasonably claim to be acting to prevent (or reduce the chances of) illegal actions by the other side. Where do you draw the line? Should I be able to get a job with Solid Energy then ignore my obligations to them on the basis that I'm trying to prevent them breaking the law? Should they be able to ignore my right to privacy to prevent me doing that? Where does it stop?

Posted by Moz : 5/29/2007 12:56:00 PM

How about Greenpeace and the others committing to stop their spying activities or are they allowed to?


Posted by Anonymous : 5/29/2007 01:15:00 PM

I wasn't aware greenpeace actually spied on anyone. My (limited) involvement has all been at the level of using publically available information and watching what people do in public, and I've seen no evidence that they've used other information. Do you have other evidence?

Remember that "spying" that involves only watching from a public place is entirely legal. If you don't want it known, don't do it in public. The problem for many corporate criminals is that an important part of their crime is that the result ends up in public. Things like illegal dumping obviously result in pollution of public places.

Posted by Moz : 5/29/2007 01:33:00 PM

The protesters aren't working for New Zealand - what they do is between themselves, their consciences and the law.

The SOEs are part of the state. As such they should not only break the law (by employing unlicensed people in a private investigation, allegedly), they should also make sure their actions are above reproach as to ethics and public responsibility.

If you're a manager for Gradgrind and Gradgrind Ltd, you are responsible to the Gradgrinds for what you do. If you work for the New Zealand government, you are equally responsible to the people of NZ.

Posted by Rich : 5/29/2007 03:18:00 PM

I'm not a lawyer, but is it possible for Greenpeace to ask protesters to sign statements that they are not spying? Would the statements have legal standing?

Posted by Anonymous : 5/29/2007 03:31:00 PM

The way companies get people to sign non-disclosure agreements? Presumably, but I'm not sure it would be worth the legal hassle. Of course, taking legal remedies is only possible if any spying is actually uncovered.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/29/2007 04:07:00 PM

Anon 1: Solid Energy clearly have had no interest whatsoever in stopping any illegal actions. They knew about the recent coal train blockade in advance - Ryan (the spy) attended planning meetings, was a lookout on the day and HELD ACTION PLANNING MEETINGS AT HIS HOUSE.

Their only interest was in minimizing the media/political fallout from the action - hence their press release 2 days earlier discussing the money that making Powelliphanta Augustus functionally extinct had cost them - after the action, they conveniently were able to link that in.

Posted by Asher : 5/29/2007 05:44:00 PM

Asher: which reinforces my impression that spies are not so important in terms of "lets keep our actions secret from each other", more in the "spies help corporates make up stories about us for the media". I've been in too many actions where the PTB response has been late and unco even when we publicised the action, but the PR flacks seemed to be quite on top of things. Makes me wonder just what their game is a lot of the time.

We're talking Reclaim The Streets level of publicising actions... posters all over town, ads on websites, mailing lists etc etc. But the PTB are still shocked (shocked! I tell you) that something happened.

Posted by Moz : 5/29/2007 05:55:00 PM

Well Moz, then Solid Energy did nothing wrong according to your definition of spying. Their source said all he did was provide information on public meetings.

GP don’t miraculously find their way onto the top of Huntly Power station nor into the heart of exxon’s HQ just using public information. They watch and gather intelligence which they use to execute their plans.


Posted by Anonymous : 5/30/2007 11:00:00 AM


Actually I regard meetings in private homes as, well, private. To me, this is about honesty and being open about your intentions and motives. The spying that was done clearly breached the confidences of the groups involved, which is why they're upset.

I very much doubt any member of the spied-on groups ever asked the spies whether they were spies, but I think it's quite reasonable not to have to do so. Same way the company I work for has never actually got me to sign a NDA or even demanded I refrain from selling information about them to their competitors.

So instead we act as though most people around us are honest and legitimate, and we trust them based on what we see them do. Not doing that is paranoia.

There's also the question of why, if the "spying" was not a secret, it was concealed and one of the spies is currently denying that she has been spying? Surely she could just give the groups she's involved with copies of her reports and everyone would be happy? I mean, if she hasn't been dishonest there's no problem...

Posted by Moz : 5/30/2007 11:26:00 AM


My comment was premised on the ‘spy’ Ryan (?) saying all he did was provide information on ‘public’ meetings. You said that gathering publicly available information was not spying. If he was providing private info from private homes and private meetings as you say, then I agree it is a different issue.

I don’t see intelligence gathering using public sources as a problem. It is also done covertly, in terms of the subject not knowing you may be checking information on them. I’m always interested in competitor activity.

But the real point is it is hypocritical for groups like GP to shriek SE is being unethical when they use very similar tactics in pursuit of their ends.


Posted by Anonymous : 5/30/2007 12:54:00 PM

Insider: "Their source said all he did was provide information on public meetings."

He has since admitted to us (I am a member of the Save Happy Valley Coalition) that he provided much more than this, which we already knew - he passed on legally privedliged information about our legal defences for the defamation case Solid Energy is taking against us, he passed on details of who lived where, who was sleeping with who, who was coming to meetings, who was at our two occupations, everything discussed at meetings he attended etc etc.

Posted by Asher : 5/30/2007 03:15:00 PM

"They knew about the recent coal train blockade in advance"

This fellow you mention knew about it
so you claim
But he didn't work for Solid Energy
He worked for the investigative company and he may not have been able to contact them in time or whatever
Who really knows

Posted by Anonymous : 5/31/2007 12:24:00 AM

Theres nothing wrong with Solid Energy employing private investigators
There is something wrong with Labour politicians interfering because they believe the idiot protestors shouldnt be under investigation

Posted by Anonymous : 5/31/2007 12:25:00 AM

"Other SOEs have problems with environmental groups and may have sunk to similar anti-democratic tactics."

You dont know much about democracy going by your bleatings in the MMP thread
Solid Energy or any government agency employing investigators IS NOT ANTI DEMOCRATIC IN THE SLIGHTEST
So stop hiding behind your smokescreen.

Solid Energy is in business and is taking action against a group of criminals who have disrupted their business operations. Which they are conducting legally unlike the greenazis

Posted by Anonymous : 5/31/2007 12:32:00 AM

Oh by the way Sir Asher
I can tell you as one with knowledge of the rail industry, the rail unions and their supporters are extremely pissed off with your actions in endangering public safety and the lives of rail employees

Rail tracks are a dangerous place to be. There would have been most probably a train within 2 km of Heathcote at the time the idiots were setting up there, there was one only 7 km away when the protest at Templeton was undertaken. That is about five minutes travelling time in that instance. Since you would have had no way of reliably determining where the train exactly was or indeed any train in the area there was a considerable risk from the time that the idiots first stepped onto the rail tracks.

Although the public can eavesdrop on radio communications trains in the areas where the protests took place are not required to call in every move and so could not be accurately tracked to a specific location at a specific time. The train timetable is not accurate as a guide to where a train is at any one time. In both these areas untimetables shunts are in operation that come and go as they please. The length of time it takes to set up with the amount of work needed to tie these guys to the rail tracks carries a huge risk of a train arriving on the scene unexpectedly with serious consequences.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/31/2007 12:51:00 AM