Thursday, March 08, 2018

More government spying

Southern Response is a government agency responsible for settling claims arising from the Christchurch earthquakes. They've made a pretty shit job of it, but now they've done something even worse: instead of settling those claims, they've instead been using government money to hire New Zealand's most infamous private spy agency to spy on claimants:

A Newshub investigation has found Christchurch earthquake victims trying to settle insurance claims with the Government were spied on by private investigators, in operations paid for by the taxpayer.


The operation, running from February 2014 to April 2017, cost $177,349 of taxpayers' money. It's not known how many people were spied on, but hundreds of people were involved in protests following the Christchurch quakes.

Cam Preston, a father, chartered accountant, and victim of the Christchurch earthquake, was also deemed a "threat" who needed to be monitored.

Mr Preston was one of the main targets of an operation set up by Southern Response using "protection agency'' Thompson and Clark Investigations.

Yes, that Thompson and Clark Investigations. The ones who have previously been caught spying on Greenpeace and anti-coal activists, and which used illegal tracking devices on animal rights activists. You'd think that after all of these high-profile cases of democracy-suppression, no government agency would touch them with a barge pole. Instead, they're a recommended provider on MBIE's all-of-government procurement site.

Hundreds of people could have been spied on, because they quite rightly wanted what they were owed by their insurance company. The State Services Commission has already launched an inquiry into whether Southern Response breached government ethical standards, but I think we also need to be asking why we allow a company to provide democracy-suppression services in New Zealand, and why our government continues to hire it. We also need to ask who was spied on, what information was collected, and how many other people T&C falsely reported to the police in an effort to discredit them (which is what they did to Preston). Then, we need to hold Thompson & Clark accountable for those crimes.