Monday, May 13, 2013

A bureaucratic lynching

The Sunday Star-Times reported yesterday on the extraordinary case of Craig Lebamoff, a Fulbright scholar whose sabbatical with New Zealand customs to write a thesis on border security went very sour:

In an extraordinary series of allegations, he says he was threatened with an investigation by the Security Intelligence Service, locked out of his office at NZ Customs, had his computer hard drive and research materials seized while colleagues reported his rubbish bins being searched - he believes by the SIS.

Lebamoff was at one stage so concerned by the reaction of New Zealand authorities to his border security report he says he feared being stopped as he tried to leave the country.

In an even more bizarre twist, he says he was warned off by the director of New Zealand's Intelligence Co-ordination Group, Roy Ferguson, who is based in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC).


Lebamoff says after being summoned to the meeting at a building in Wellington's Pipitea St he was given a lecture on the importance of the New Zealand-US relationship.

"He [Ferguson] said he didn't want to damage that; there were things in my report that could potentially damage that. I had no idea what he was talking about. He gave me no specifics."

So what had Lebamoff done wrong? The official excuse is that he has used secret information. But that doesn't wash when everything he wrote was double-checked by customs to ensure it relied solely on publicly-available sources. Instead, it seems that he had criticised some of his host agencies, and worse, reached the natural conclusion that the chief threat to New Zealand's border security wasn't terrorism, but biosecurity. And for this, he's been hounded out of the country and his report has been suppressed. Meanwhile, the government has cut biosecurity funding, while pumping money into the spy agencies and granting them new powers.

This is a perfect example of why we cannot trust our spies: they're not interested in the real threats to New Zealand; instead they're obsessed with American fantasies. And they're quite happy to abuse their powers to crush anyone who challenges their budgets and their prestige.