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Sludge Report #181 - Terror Comes To Godzone (2)

Sludge Report #181 - Terror Comes To Godzone (2)

By C. D. Sludge
See also… Sludge Report #180: Terror Comes To Godzone

In This Edition Of The Sludge Report:
The Day Terror Came To Godzone Again (This Time Cloaked In Irony)
Dominion Post Breaks Rules & Records
Solicitor General Dr David Collins Must Now Recuse Himself
"Oh So That's What Happened In The Urewera"
There is now no other manner, other than a specially constituted Royal Commission of Inquiry, for these people to have an adequate hearing of the case against them.
And Finally To The Leakers - Sometimes You Get What You Ask For

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Click for big version

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The Day Terror Came To Godzone Again (This Time Cloaked In Irony)

There is some irony that today Parliament is debating at length the Madeleine Setchell affair - and that only yesterday an urgent debate into the Decision of the Solicitor General not to charge 12 people with Terror offences was refused by the speaker.

While the Setchell affair is a fascinating (to the media) and somewhat sordid little affair, it has no punch compared to this morning's revelations in the Dominion Post, The Press - and doubtless several other publications over the next few days.

Thus it seems the Government has spent several million dollars - certainly in terms of officials time - into inquiring into the Setchell affair (which concerns the dismissal of a PR official) - but according to the Prime Minister on Monday (speaking in response to a question from Scoop) has not yet even "put any thought" into the numerous calls for an inquiry into the botched Police Terror "Operation 8:.

However all that has now changed.

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Dominion Post Breaks Rules & Records

The Dominion Post has almost certainly broken several laws this morning. It has certainly made legal history, and it will probably also set a new circulation record.

A barista of Scoop's acquaintance who is not inclined to regularly read the paper told Scoop she was unaware till today that there was a "terror" issue in New Zealand. She thought all the fuss was about something in America. However the headlines this morning were unavoidable. Now she is scared.

Press Play To Start Video… Scroll To End To See Relevant Bit

According to the Solicitor General speaking at the end of the Madeleine Setchell press conference this morning (Tip slide the bar in the video player above till very nearly the very end.) Even possessing the file that they published is arguably a criminal offence this morning.

Publishing it is certainly extremely prejudicial to the 16 so-called "Terror" arrestees who are no longer facing "Terror" charges.

The Dominion Editorial's claim that this is not the case, because their trial is a long way off and they haven't been named, is laughable and presumably included on the instructions of the lawyers.

These same lawyers doubtless also advised Dominion Chief Reporter Oskar Alley and Editor Tim Pankhurst that their bold publishing decision would quite possibly get them locked in a cell for a few days and/or result in some other novel (and expensive) punishment for contempt.

However its not everyday you get to change the course of political, legal, media and security history and also get so roundly slapped on the back for doing something that the entire country has been wanting you to do.

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Solicitor General Dr David Collins Must Now Recuse Himself

Meanwhile the Solicitor General - who on Saturday was accused in the very same Dominion Post of somewhat dubious conduct in relation to "contempt of court proceedings" over the publication of a book about a case he was involved in - must now recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into and consideration of action against the Dominion Post.

He must recuse himself because he is currently the subject of a an investigation by the same reporter whose byline was on the top of this morning's remarkable story - Phil Kitchin. Any prosecution of the Dominion (or not) - however well deserved (or not) - might appear to now be coloured by this conflict of interest.

In the circumstances it would be best if this mess were from here on out conducted as much as possible by the book.

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"Oh So That's What Happened In The Urewera"

Meanwhile from the top of Marjoribanks Street to the north end of Tinakori road the sighs of - "oh so that's what happened in the Urewera" - can be heard ringing around the skyscrapers today.

But for all those uttering such remarks, a note of caution.

What you read in the paper this morning is not what happened in the Urewera over the past 12 months.

Rather it is a highly abbreviated subset of a 156 page summary of a huge investigation designed to enable the police to get search warrants for a large number (the actual number is not known) of houses throughout the North Island.

If some commentators are to be believed this extravagant search operation - which included the alleged Human Rights abuses at Ruatoki - was needed precisely because the Police - even at that late stage - were short of "real" evidence against their targets. In other words it was a fishing expedition.

BUT VERY IMPORTANTLY (HENCE THE CAPITALS) this highly abbreviated summary has had the names of people removed from it. Consequently all 16 of those arrested under "Terrorism" warrants on October 15th have been tarred with all of its lurid contents.
Even assuming that the document it is based on is factual - and not largely fictional and opportunistic as some suspect - this is not very fair on all 16 named individuals - some of whom may not have even attended the camps in question.

Relying only on the public remarks of the Solicitor General last week it is fair to conclude that of these 16 - around 6 were the core and are responsible for most of the colourful remarks reported in the paper.

On the basis of what Scoop's reporters have heard during the hearings of suppressed evidence at bail hearings over the past three weeks - it would be reasonable to suspect that two of the individuals are responsible for a large chunk of the "disturbing" things that have been reported.

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All this leads to a fairly clear - and Scoop thinks unarguable conclusion - there must now be a public inquiry into "Operation 8".

Sixteen named individuals have effectively been publicly indicted for Terrorism in the Dominion Post today.

These people are facing criminal charges under the Arms Act and the potential of four years in jail. *

The information published today not only seriously prejudices the possibility of a fair trial for the accused on those charges - but it possibly also places their personal security at peril (there are a large number of angry people discussing this on talkback radio already).

These 16 have been very publicly accused of very serious and dangerous activities. They have been accused of plotting violent treason.

They have been accused not via the legal system - but in the media - via the selective and illegal leaking of "secret" government information the very possession of which is illegal.

Time to say sorry to the "Rule of Law". We are now all in possession of it. Everybody who has a copy of the newspaper or an internet connection. In theory we are now all breaking the law. This is as absurd as it is disturbing.

Meanwhile these 16 people have no way through the legal process to respond to the accusations against them. If they make public statements to the media they can be used against them in court. If they say nothing the public will probably assume their guilt.

Even the very expensive option of defamation law is not an option as the Dominion is protected by qualified privilege to report the sworn statement of a police officer in a court affidavit.

And while these 16 named people have been held up as terrorists in the court of public opinion , the Solicitor General - highest legal prosecutor in the country - has concluded - after reading a great deal more than the single affidavit upon which the Dominion bases its report - decided that the evidence collected against these 16 at a cost of over $8 million (according to the police) is insufficient for them to face anything more than illegal possession of firearms charges *.

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There is now no other manner, other than a specially constituted Royal Commission of Inquiry, for these people to have an adequate hearing of the case against them.

At present it is not even clear whether these 16 accused are entitled to ask for and receive the intercept evidence used against them. Without this how can they be expected to defend themselves?

Some may argue that they deserve what they get. However if that is the case then we may as well really throw away the "Rule of Law" altogether - if the police are to be allowed to spy on people - discover they have no case - and then crucify them in public with impunity through the good offices of the Dominion Post.

It is vital therefore that the "Operation 8" inquiry when it comes be as far as is possible held in public.

The inquiry must be empowered to inquire into the intercept evidence collected by the police, and it must be empowered also to make statements about the extent of the involvement of the accused in any illegal or "disturbing" activities.

The 16 accused must be accorded the rights of natural justice through this process - and this will not be at all easy.

In the circumstances they may indeed have to be offered the option of not participating.

The bad news for Winston Peters and Peter Brown is that this is going to require expensive and extensive legal aid for all to adequately protect their interests. And lest you later become surprised, this affair is likely to make the Zaoui legal adventure look like a picnic in the park.

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And Finally To The Leakers - Sometimes You Get What You Ask For

And finally a piece of advice to the legal hotshots who leaked these police/court files.

If it was your intention to defend the institution of the police, democracy and the "rule of law" in these actions then you have failed abysmally.

The rules that were broken today exist for a reason. What has happened this week has done yet more damage to the concept of "freedom" from state oppression in New Zealand.

If this writer is correct then the publication today of this indictment of the Urewera "Terrorists" will likely mean that a full inquiry will now be conducted into whether these people really do pose a "credible" threat to New Zealand's national security as claimed by the Police Commissioner on October 15th.

Many of those who have read the allegations today will have already come to the conclusion that the dangerous elements in Tame's "Rama" Army are people who should have had the Mental Health Act thrown at them, not the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Meanwhile via the leak of this information the very same institution that is railed against by the alleged "terrorists" - the legal system or "Rule of Law" - has been deeply and dangerously undermined through your efforts to bring these people to account.

Sometimes you get what you ask for.

(* NOTE: Contrary to what the Prime Minister repeatedly says, the Arms Act 45(1)b charges faced by the accused are not particularly serious charges. They would in normal circumstances probably result only in community service and a slap on the wrist for a first-time criminal offender. However in light of this publication today they have suddenly become very very serious charges indeed.)

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