By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor
Are the New Zealand Police prepared to use a new counter terrorism Act, soon to be law, to gain intelligence on the country’s peace movement and activist networks, and are Police under pressure from the United States Embassy to crush a straight talking leftist from Epsom, Auckland? Concerning events are transpiring.
Auckland based peace activist Bruce Hubbard is due to appear in the North Shore District Court on Monday after Police charged him under the Telecommunications Act for sending an email to the U.S. Embassy in Wellington.
Bruce Hubbard was taken on Thursday evening to the Takapuna Police Station. On the way there police inferred that more serious charges could follow and cited the Counter-Terrorism Act as a means to access intelligence held within his computer.
While in Police custody, Hubbard was presented with a copy of an email the Police say was sent to the U.S. Embassy in October. Hubbard denies having written the email and said it contains language that he would not and did not use. The email the Police hold contains the word “fuck”. Hubbard denies having written that.
Interestingly, it wasn’t the word “fuck” that drew charges against Hubbard last night, but references within an email he says was sent to the United States Embassy around March this year.
The charge of misuse of telecommunications resulted from a complaint made from a woman who works at the United States Embassy in Wellington. Police have told Hubbard, the woman, who remains nameless, had been offended by accusations that her country had napalmed children, had invaded 72 other countries, and was referred to as resembling Nazi Germany.
Scoop has obtained a copy of this email, it contains no threats, but honest opinion.
To follow is the relevant segment of Hubbard’s email:
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Email text is Unabridged)
“To the USA, Embassy.
“Fw: drop narparm on babys and kids in Afganistan and Iraq and have invaded 72 other nations since to install US backed military dictatorships to smash popular democratac freedom...”
Hubbard admits to making those claims in the above email but insists the email Police presented to him had been tampered with.
“There are parts of it that are in bold, other parts that are enlarged, text and structure is different to my emails, the content differs,” Hubbard told Scoop this evening.
And he insists: “I have not used the word fuck in my emails to the U.S. Embassy.”
It is all highly suspicious. Hubbard says his computer is often left unattended and is often used by others. Basically, his email client is insecure. Anyone could have tampered with it.
Today, Hubbard believes the Police are searching his Internet Provider records to gain intelligence on his electronic activity. At the time of writing this article, the Police had not confiscated his computer, which is a relief to him as he has University exams over this coming weekend.
Hubbard is a member of Global Peace and Justice Auckland (GPJA), Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Green Party. He has no previous serious convictions, only a minor for using obscene language (which he says was laid when he was shouting, not swearing, at a protest) and another minor trespass charge laid during a protest against a U.S. Nuclear Submarine visit to New Zealand in the early 1980s.
It is concerning that Police began searching for Hubbard less than a week after the Counter Terrorism Act passed in Parliament. Clearly heat has been laid on the New Zealand Police from the U.S. Embassy. One certainly would not expect this amount of Police time to be used on a complaint made from say, an offended person from Takanini, South Auckland.
No this is political heat.
Also, the impression is certainly that Police are preparing to use the new Act’s powers to gain intelligence on the New Zealand peace movement and other activist groups. They have indicated to Hubbard that they want to see his computer files and are prepared to use what laws are available to get them.
Other public interest and environment groups like Greenpeace are watching the case closely.
The specifications of offences in the new Counter Terrorism Act are broad, and groups are concerned that protest activities may now be deemed criminal – even terrorist activity – until information obtained by Police suggests otherwise.
There too appears to be a major public interest loophole in the new Act. Potentially Police appear to be able to ensnare those active, perhaps peacefully covert, but challenging to the establishment, and gain intelligence on networks of individuals, associates and group memberships.
Under the Counter Terrorism Act, this intelligence gathering exercise could be justified on suspicion. A judicial warrant obtained. On presentation of the warrant the Police could demand the ‘suspect’ open access to all information and equipment. Should he/she refuse, they find themselves in breach of the law only to face further charges for obstruction. Once the police have obtained the intelligence they seek, there would be no obligation for charges to be laid.
The result: one’s civil liberties, rights, freedoms eroded and left irrelevant.
Hubbard is due to appear in the North Shore District Court in Albany on Monday.