SIS Spied On CAFCA For Quarter Of A Century
SIS Spied On CAFCA For Quarter Of A Century
- by Murray Horton
This is a story that was a very long time in the making. Let’s go back to the beginning, which was detailed in Watchdog 49, May 1985, “We’ve Got A File On You (Present)” – to distinguish it from an accompanying historical article entitled “We’ve Got A File On You (Past)”. In those bygone days Watchdog was much smaller – that issue is only 20 something pages – and so were individual articles. This one was only one page, so I’ll quote it in full (I think I’m quoting myself; writers of articles weren’t identified then).
“One of the more reprehensible actions of the Marginal Electorates Re-election Strategy (also known as the 1981 Springbok tour) was Piggy’s use of the Security Intelligence Service as his personal private detective agency (not for the first time, mind you). At the height of it all, he got his pet sewerage sifters to release a report naming a First XV of ‘radicals and subversives’, involved in the anti-tour movement. As usual in matters involving the SIS, the term Intelligence was sadly misapplied. In more than one case, their information turned out to be wrong and had to be retracted, at the taxpayers’ expense. One person so libelled was Don Carson. Not content to take it lying down, he went through the proper channels and appealed to the Commissioner of Security Appeals. He won. He then decided to sue the Crown for damages. In 1985 it was settled out of court.
“What was particularly fascinating about the case was what the SIS had to produce under a writ of discovery, and what it refused to produce. Carson is a leading local spokesman for the Palestinian cause – the SIS refused to produce correspondence between it and the Israeli Embassy about him. This raises very disturbing questions about the surveillance of New Zealanders by the SIS on behalf of foreign governments. The SIS also refused to produce material covering several other aspects of Carson’s life, under its surveillance. What the SIS did deign to produce (even its solicitor cannot be named) was intriguing. Its newspaper clipping file on Carson started when he was elected to the Executive of Victoria University’s Students’ Association (as Sports Officer!). Clippings also covered his involvement with the Committee on Vietnam, HART, Campaign Against Nuclear Warships, Friends of Palestine. And CAFCINZ.
“Thus armed with the knowledge that persons involved with CAFCINZ can become the subject of SIS files, we decided to write and ask for the SIS file on CAFCINZ. This is the reply we received from SIS Director John Smith (24/4/85). ‘I regret that I cannot meet the request, I neither confirm nor deny the existence of any information concerning the above organisation (CAFCINZ). This answer is given pursuant to Section 10 of the Official Information Act 1982. I am convinced that meeting any such request is likely to damage security by making the Service vulnerable to a systematic collection plan. Even the supply of apparently innocuous or negative information could place the integrity and efficacy of the Service at risk by revealing the extent and quality of its activities’. Judging from the Carson case, the SIS has good grounds to want the quality of its activities. He was accused of procuring chloropicrin for use by the protest movement; the Commissioner of Security Appeals accepted his explanation that he had got it to fumigate glasshouses, his father being a market gardener. And so on. We intend to take this matter further. Stay tuned”.
24 Years Later We’ve Finally Got Something To Report
For those of you who did faithfully stay tuned, we apologise that it’s taken 24 years but we finally do have something to report. We have actually received the SIS file on CAFCINZ/CAFCA, which includes a report on our above 1985 request for it. Even with whole documents withheld and cuts in virtually every one they released to us, it still comes to 400+ documents. And, yes, just as John Smith feared (what a wonderful name for a spy boss) we have every intention of encouraging as many individuals and organisations as possible to make “the Service vulnerable to a systematic collection plan” (nor did tangling with the SIS and the Crown do Don Carson any harm in the intervening decades. He’s had a long and distinguished radio career, specialising in farmers’ programmes and has most recently been seen in the media as the Communications Manager for the Hutt City Council).
The roots of how we came to get our SIS file actually goes back a decade earlier than our 1985 request for it, to the greatest defeat (and there have been plenty to choose from) of the SIS’s shadowy institutional existence, namely the acquittal of the late Bill Sutch on espionage charges laid against him under the former Official Secrets Act, the only such case in New Zealand’s history. Bill Sutch, a top public servant, prolific writer, leading intellectual and nationalist, died just months after his acquittal. But his death wasn’t enough for the SIS, they have done their level best to smear him ever since, to posthumously retry him in the court of public opinion and “prove” that he really was a Soviet spy (for details on this see my article “Speaking Ill Of The Dead : The Vicious Smear Campaign Against Bill Sutch & Jack Lewin”, in Watchdog 113, December 2006, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/13/12.htm). In turn this led to George Rosenberg, a former Wellington lawyer who had been involved with the Sutch defence (and Bill Rosenberg’s older brother), applying for and receiving his Personal File from the SIS - that included the fact that the SIS had a file on Bill. So Bill got his (which detailed SIS spying on him from 1968-98) and alerted all the other people named in it, many of whom, in turn, got their files.
CAFCA decided to get the file held on us as an organisation. Initially, fearing that we could be hit with a bill for thousands of dollars in copying and handling (we still have vivid memories of our first several years of Official Information Act dealings with the former Overseas Investment Commission), we simply asked the SIS for a list of the contents of our file. Somewhat to our surprise, we received a reply from Warren Tucker, the SIS Director (22/9/08) saying :” I think we can do better than that…I suggest that rather than provide you with a list of documents that we hold about CAFCA/CAFCINZ we instead copy for you the actual documents”. And that’s exactly what we received. To the best of my knowledge CAFCA is the only organisation to have received its file (as opposed to individuals – such as Bill - who have received their SIS Personal Files). One possible reason is that, for the past 20 years, CAFCA has been an incorporated society and thus a “legal person”. Most other committees, including the likes of the Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC), for whom I also work, have no such legal status. One of my closest colleagues wrote to the SIS asking for the organisational file of one such Christchurch-based group (we are both on that committee) but was rebuffed by Tucker, who asked for proof of authority for that person to make such a request. A lot of groups who would like to get their SIS files will find themselves in the same situation. But, in CAFCA’s case, when we are asked : “Why did you apply for your file?” we can truthfully answer : “Because the SIS Director asked us to”!
SIS Director Salutes CAFCA’s Longevity
The accompanying letters that we (and others) have received from Warren Tucker are fascinating enough by themself and could easily justify an article of their own. To quote from one of them (30/10/08) : “… the ‘CAFCINZ/CAFCA’ file is not completely dedicated to CAFCINZ and CAFCA. The actual title of the file is : PROTESTS MISCELLANEOUS : INFLUENCE ON BY SUBVERSIVE ORGANISATIONS : CAMPAIGN AGAINST FOREIGN CONTROL IN NZ (CAFCINZ). The file was opened in 1965 and consists of 10 parts. Parts 1-4 are mainly concerned with protest against foreign military bases in New Zealand and is therefore about the the activities of the Campaign Against Foreign Military Activities in New Zealand (CAFMANZ). Most of the remaining six parts are about CAFCINZ, thus the addition of CAFCINZ to the file’s title. The early interest taken in CAFCINZ after its formation in 1974 was primarily by the Police rather than the NZSIS, starting with the South Island Resistance Ride of 1975 (although the NZSIS was initially involved in identifying the members of CAFCINZ).
“The demonstrations against PBEC in May 1977 and the allegations of sabotage* (oil tankers being shot at) didn’t do CAFCINZ’s PR image with the Police and NZSIS much good in the early days but it is probably fair to say that there might have been less subsequent NZSIS interest in CAFCINZ if it had not continued with protests against US bases and visiting naval vessels and taken up an active ‘abolish the SIS’ stance” *I’ll deal with the Christchurch protest against the Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC) when detailing the file’s contents. And rest assured that we, individually or organisationally, have never been involved in “sabotage (oil tankers being shot at)” The mind boggles. MH.
“The passage of time has shown however that CAFCINZ’s wider appeal (over CAFMANZ), to popular suspicions about the intentions of overseas business interests in New Zealand rather than just to the left-wing causes of the day, has ensured your organisation’s longevity. In any case, it is a new experience for me to be writing, as the Director of one still flourishing organisation, to the Secretary of another – which is also noteworthy from our perspective as the only one that called for the liquidation of the NZSIS that has not joined the others dedicated to that cause on (to use the late VI Lenin’s term), ‘the rubbish-heap of history’!”. See what I mean. Following our receipt of this letter, Bill Rosenberg was rather surprised to be contacted at work by somebody else from the SIS (it is an offence to identify any SIS member other than the Director) saying that Tucker had quoted the wrong dead Communist icon and that he had meant Leon Trotsky rather than Lenin, and was most anxious to get these things right. These guys must have too much time on their hands and too much taxpayers’ money at their disposal.
Summary Of File
So what is in CAFCA’s SIS file? It includes :
• Extremely detailed reports from meetings held in private homes. Mostly these were meetings of third party groups at which CAFCA itself or its members (such as me and/or Bill Rosenberg) were discussed. Obviously the SIS had a spy or spies in those other groups.
• Reports from year after year of CAFCA Annual General Meetings and various public meetings we organised, including making “covert” calls to one of our speakers to check out who he was and to get him to inadvertently report on the meeting for the SIS. I should stress that these were meetings on subjects like West Coast coal exports and other innocuous topics, such as opposition to the Bluff aluminium smelter.
• Copious analyses of articles on all manner of topics in Watchdog. This went on for many years.
• Intercepted private letters.
• In the case of myself, evidence of dealings between my former employer (the Railways) and the SIS. One report included me on a “troublemakers in the union” list and included evidence of my employer asking the SIS for any evidence that I was connected to the then Socialist Unity Party (I never was, nor any other party). Also reports of my international travels in those years.
• SIS conclusions that CAFCA was involved in historic “terrorist” acts (we weren’t) and endless speculation as to whether we (collectively and/or individually) were “Communists” (we weren’t).
• CAFCA was the subject of reports of various SIS Directors to various Prime Ministers.
• CAFCA, and me, was the subject of SIS correspondence with foreign intelligence agencies.
• All details identifying SIS agents or informers have been removed.
Let’s look at some of the details. The file shows no evidence of there ever having been an SIS spy on the CAFCINZ or CAFCA committee during the quarter of a century covered by the file (from our birth in the mid 1970s to the late 90s. Tucker told us that the SIS stopped spying on CAFCA in 2001, but 1998 is the latest year included in the file). Nor is there any evidence of our committee meetings or individual members having been spied upon by means of bugs or phone taps. That’s not to say that other agencies of the State weren’t trying to penetrate our committee, particularly in our early years – in the late 1970s the CAFCINZ committee included an individual who perfectly fitted the classic profile of a spy. He came from nowhere, nobody knew anything about him, he had no apparent context and he had no politics. But he assiduously attended all our meetings, activities and protests and, being the classic helpful spy, offered to look after things like our mailing list (which in those days was a manual one, on index cards). He duly vanished and was next spotted by Bill, in a provincial newspaper photo, taking part in a Police fundraising run! He went on to a long career as a cop, retiring just a few years ago as a senior Christchurch detective (for the record, when we confronted him, by phone, he denied having been a spy when he was on the committee, saying that he only became a cop after leaving us. You be the judge). We wrote about it in the April 1980 Watchdog (without ever naming him) and that article was duly entered into our SIS file, with a note reading : "On page 3 under the heading of ‘Spying’ there is a valuable lesson here for Intelligence Officers in trying to arrange penetration of a target"! I’m glad that we were able to help the SIS with its spycraft training!
Much more recently, we were able to apply the lesson we learned from that 1970s’ episode with a Police spy to Rob Gilchrist, who was publicly outed in December 2008 as having been a Police informer and agent provocateur for the previous decade, operating in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. I’m pleased to report that all of the Christchurch groups with whom I’m involved picked him for a spy from Day One – if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck – and he was never able to cause the damage to us that, unfortunately, he inflicted on various groups and individuals in the North Island. Of course the technology had moved along in the ensuing 20-30 years – instead of offering to look after an index card membership list, Rob set up and moderated an activist e-mail list to which all manner of groups (including CAFCA and ABC) posted notices of upcoming (and completely public) activities. As he was in sole control of that list, it has had to be shut down.
There Was At Least One Spy In Our Ranks
But if there weren’t any spies on our actual committee, there was certainly at least one in our membership. The evidence is that the file contains regular and detailed reports from our Annual General Meetings, which are, by definition, only open to members. Of course, we don’t vet people who join CAFCA, we are not a secret society and we have nothing to hide. So it’s not a “breach of security” that somebody was regularly reporting to the SIS about our AGMs – after all, we do publish the minutes in Watchdog! To give you the flavour, here is an extract about me, from a detailed four page SIS report on CAFCINZ’s 1978 AGM : “Murray Donald HORTON. Horton stated that he was leaving Chch during the first week of May 1978. When asked where he was going, he replied ‘It doesn’t matter’. HORTON was one of the main speakers during the meeting and appeared to ‘like the sound of his own voice’. His mode of speech was coarse throughout, and he continually used obscene language whilst speaking, despite the presence of (our then female Chairperson). HORTON interjected continually whilst other speakers had the floor, and at one point spoke out strongly against both capitalism and imperialism, stating that ‘if you support one you end up with the other’. So there you have it – I’m a blabbermouth blowhard who’s up himself, talks over other people and swears in the presence of ladies. I’m mortally offended! Actually that could have been written by any of my colleagues or by either of the two women with whom I have lived during the past 40 years.
One of the last documents in the file is a first hand report from CAFCA’s 1998 AGM :”Source described the balance of those attending as being elderly (i.e.over 45) and apparently non-active members. Notwithstanding this, the group seemed well run and boasted a membership of over 500”. I love the SIS definition of elderly. “Murray HORTON chaired the meeting and spoke of CAFCA's plans for the next year. He stated that the APEC summit was one of the organisation's key campaigns for 1999… HORTON took the opportunity to warn about 'police spies' within protest organisations. He said that as far as he was aware none were in CAFCA but he was aware of undercover agents at work in associated organisations over the years and gave an alleged example dating back to the 1970's…” (there’s another example of the SIS monitoring what we knew about spies in our ranks).
The 1999 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Auckland was the trigger for greatly increased State surveillance of activist groups. It was the reason why Rob Gilchrist suddenly appeared on the Christchurch scene in 1998, at the start of his decade long lucrative career as a Police spy (also in 1998 a female Police spy appeared, out of nowhere, on the Christchurch scene. As the APEC Summit grew closer and it was obvious that nothing exciting was going to happen in Christchurch, she vanished, doubtless redeployed to Auckland). And there was overt Police surveillance too – I was interviewed by the local detective charged with “liaising’ with likely APEC protest groups. That was my last such Police interview and I think about it every time I see that same cop on the TV sports news, in his current role as the All Blacks’ scrum doctor.
So we had at least one spy in our membership from the 1970s to the late 90s, inclusive. Indeed, the very earliest batch of reports in the file, relating to the period leading up to and including our foundation activity, the 1975 South Island Resistance Ride, indicates that there may have been more than one, as those earliest reports include features such as complete reproduction of minutes of our meetings (held at the former Resistance Bookshop and Action Centre) and the full two page list of names, addresses and phone numbers of all Resistance Ride participants (including Australians). At the bottom it reads : “Please note : This list has been compiled from the original addresses given to CAFCINZ for the Resistance Ride….” The Resistance Ride was the subject of extensive State surveillance. The most recent material we have received from the SIS is a collection of Police surveillance photos taken during it and supplied to the SIS for identification purposes. It’s a bit hard to tell who’s who in them, as they are inky black photocopies of 34 year old photos, and the accompanying list of captions is not much help in picking anyone out. All I can say is that we all seemed to have a lot more hair in those days.
Spying On Communist Party
The great bulk of material in the SIS’s CAFCA file comes not from spying on us at all, but from spying on another organisation at whose meetings we (organisationally or individually) were the subject of discussion. That organisation, not surprisingly, was the Christchurch branch of the former Communist Party of New Zealand (CPNZ), now the Socialist Workers’ Organisation. There was at least one spy within the Christchurch CP and he was very busy filing detailed reports about every single one of their meetings for many years. These reports (and there are dozens and dozens of them in our file) list everybody present at those meetings and everything said by everybody at them. They make for absolutely fascinating reading but I’m going to quote from very few of them. Why? Because they are, quite literally, not our business. They record the personalities and activities of a completely separate organisation and CAFCA only appears in them by dint of being an agenda item or because individual members of CAFCA (such as myself and/or Bill) attended their various social functions and thus appeared on the list of attendees.
Communism and Communists were the obsessions of the SIS during the decades of the Cold War, so they went to inordinate lengths to identify “fellow travellers” and allies of the CPNZ. The Personal Files that the SIS kept on who knows how many people had a Personal Particulars Form as its title page. Section 13 was headed “Whether Publicly Known As CP Member”. At the time of writing that Personal Particulars Form is one of only three documents that the SIS has released to me from my Personal File (which spans 1969-2002). I am listed as not being publicly known as a CP member (nor, indeed, was I privately known as one, because I never was one). Section 14, Political History And Significance, includes this : “Subject is not believed to be a member of the CPNZ at Christchurch but is a very active member of the PYM (Progressive Youth Movement). 1969 : Attended PYM/CPNZ Meeting…1970 : Referred to by JG Locke* as possible CPNZ recruit 1970 : Attended CPNZ Marxist Study Evening 1971 : Attended CPNZ Meeting at home of RC Blacklock*”. *Jack Locke and Ralph Blacklock, both now long dead, were the veteran leading figures in the Christchurch branch of the CPNZ for many decades. My obituaries for Jack and Ralph are in Watchdogs 84 (May 1997) and 93 (April 2000) respectively, the latter being online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/93/10memor.htm.
I have never been a member of any political party, whether parliamentary or extra-parliamentary. If I had been a CP member I would have happily publicised it. Both I and CAFCA have had a long and productive working relationship with the former CP and individuals within it, some of whom were CAFCA founders and remain members today (not just members, but also personal friends of long standing). But we have had also had political differences with them, which come under the heading of agreeing to disagree (in the past I have been labelled a “bourgeois individualist” and CAFCA a “bourgeois nationalist” organisation by some in the CP – we wear those as badges of honour). In fact the SIS reports on these numerous CP meetings serve the very useful function of spelling out the differences between us and the former CP. For example, here is an extract from a Christchurch branch meeting of April 15 th, 1987 : “A lengthy discussion then ensued on CAFCA. As reported previously, the CPNZ is angry that CAFCA has, in its view, misinterpreted the meaning of internal monopoly and is choosing not to highlight any such instances (don’t ask me what this dispute was about, it’s long forgotten. MH.). A decision has been made to write to CAFCA expressing its dismay. Howver, after more discussion it was felt that the personal approach might prove more successful. BLACKLOCK and (another leading CP figure) are to attend the next CAFCA meeting, whenever that may be, and present a letter from the CPNZ outlining its views. (The leading CP figure) felt that the party had to be careful not to build a wall between it and CAFCA, but he felt CAFCA at the moment was leaning towards the position of pre-war Italy with a strong nationalistic outlook. LOCKE mentioned that it was possible to re-direct CAFCA as they had done so in the past. BLACKLOCK went on for a long time about how Murray Donald HORTON would not listen to reason, and how it was very hard to argue with him…”. So there, it’s official, you’ve got it from the spies – we pissed off the Commos. I have no idea what the reference to “pre-war Italy” was all about, nor do I recall CAFCA being ”redirected” by the CP on any occasion.
Full Of Indiscreet Personal Tittle Tattle
There is another major reason why I’m not going to quote from many of the reports of CPNZ meetings and that is because they have been released containing unexpurgated and extremely indiscreet tittle tattle about named and still living people’s personal and private business. There is stuff in them about drinking habits, drink driving convictions, marriage bustups, domestic arguments, etc, etc. That is nobody else’s business and that includes CAFCA (we didn’t ask the SIS for that sort of stuff. I have three theories about why they have included it, not only in the CAFCA file, but in all the Personal Files released thus far – they are naïve, not used to dealing with The World; they are malicious, hoping that we would spread it far and wide and stir up trouble; and/or, they couldn’t care less. Personally, I’d go for the last two).
I’ll give just one (expurgated) quote, from another 1987 CPNZ meeting, so that you can get the flavour. “(Party member) gave a report on (his place of employment) and said that were to be redundancies. (Party member) himself admitted that he had applied for voluntary severance from (his place of employment) but did not say what he was going to do afterwards. Source comment : You could have heard a pin drop when (Party member) said this and comrades were obviously very shocked. (Party member) complained that he was about to become a grandfather, as his son had made a local girl pregnant…”. You get the picture. I have the impression that some of this salacious gossip was classic spycraft, to seek out human frailties (one report goes into some detail as to who could and couldn’t “hold their drink” at a social function) for possible use for blackmail and/or recruitment as spies. Although it’s not as salacious as the contemporary secret files found on Rob Gilchrist’s computer when he was outed as a Police spy, in December 2008. Encrypted files included the sexual orientation of named activists and a whole lot of other similar stuff to do with personal and sexual relationships within the targeted group. Not to mention covertly taken nude photos of young women on whom he was spying, which were sent, complete with derogatory headings, to his Police Intelligence handlers for their titillation.
Who Was The Spy Inside ChCh CP?
Do we know who was the spy (or spies) within the CP? We have at least one strong suspect, who was also quite likely the SIS informer at the CAFCA AGMs (he was simultaneously a member of both organisations). We have no definitive proof, no confession, but in the case of the CP meetings, it was a process of deduction – his name never appeared on the list of attendees in the SIS reports, yet he was at those meetings. Are we going to name him? No. He died quite recently, we know who he is and he can do no further harm. Most interestingly, he left behind unpublished memoirs which detail a period in the 1950s when he was an SIS informer in Christchurch for several years, spying on Communists and trade unionists. Several pages of his memoirs are devoted to his SIS work, including how much he was paid per week. He quit and instead plunged into the Christchurch progressive movement, becoming a well known figure (I worked with him for several years in the 90s on various campaigns and committees). He did not fit the profile of the likes of Rob Gilchrist and CAFCINZ’s 1970s’ Police spy, but all indications are that he returned to his previous role as a spy. His memoirs offer possible motivations, including regular mentions of an alcohol problem, poverty, loneliness, lowpaid and transient jobs, a personal sense of resentment coupled with anti-Communism and an oversimplified version of patriotism. In normal circumstances I would use those memoirs (which are a fascinating read) as the basis of his Watchdog obituary. But I won’t be writing one. We won’t name him as a suspected spy, but equally we won’t publicly acknowledge his undoubted years of work as a Christchurch activist. That’s the trade-off, meaning that many people who worked with him won’t know that he is dead, let alone that we suspect him of having been a spy (we’ve told a handful of people and some reacted with shock, meaning that our man had done his job well and was never suspected by them).
The former Communist Party was a major target of SIS spying, to a degree that was obsessive and quite absurd, considering the small size of the organisation. This is borne out by the Personal File of one former CP member who has kindly given a copy to CAFCA (we are archiving as many of these as people are prepared to give us). In his case, he was also a founder member of CAFCA (but is no longer a member). It is amusing to see that on his Personal Particulars Form, the Section headed “Whether Publicly Known AS CP Member” has been amended by crossing out “CP” and typing in “CAFMANZ and CAFCINZ”. This was dated 1974, when he was a CAFCINZ founder and years before he joined the CP. I wonder if it means that the SIS regarded us as more of a bogeyman than the Commos in those days. The most fascinating report from his CP days is the one detailing intensive SIS surveillance, including following cars bearing Christchurch CP members, and spying on a Party National Conference in Auckland. And his Personal File is full of extremely personal material about his former marriage and his finances, not to mention all sorts of indiscreet and extraneous personal material about third parties. His file spans 19 years, from 1974-93.
Spying On SUP Still Hush Hush
The CP was one of two rival Communist parties, from the 1960s until the 90s, the other one being the former Socialist Unity Party (SUP) which was aligned with the former Soviet Union – the CP was aligned with, firstly China, secondly Albania, then finally it ceased to align itself with any foreign country. Warren Tucker’s letter to us (30/10/08) said : “CAFCINZ was occasionally mentioned at meetings of the SUP. The SUP was a secretive organisation and the methods NZSIS employed to find out what it was up to were also secret. The NZSIS files on the SUP are still sensitive for both security and privacy records and for the time being we are not releasing documents from these records” (he sent us a brief summary of SIS reports on the SUP where CAFCINZ was mentioned). You can take this as meaning that the SIS spied on the SUP (which was prominently represented in the trade union movement, including at the highest level) by means of phone taps and hidden microphones, and doesn’t wish to divulge those details.
The SIS is inconsistent in its approach to this subject, as it is to so many others. It is not prepared to send CAFCA anything about us gleaned from its spying on the SUP. But it was prepared to do so when it released his Personal File to Paul Corliss, who was happy to give a copy to us, and happy for it to be reported in the media when this story broke. Paul is a veteran Christchurch unionist and activist, as well as being a current Roger Award judge and writer ( Jeremy Agar’s review of his book on Samuel Parnell, the 19 th Century father of NZ’s eight hour day, appears elsewhere in this issue). His file contained a couple of reports where his name was mentioned at Christchurch SUP meetings – plus, most intriguingly, the agenda for a 1980s’ SUP Central Executive meeting in Wellington with no mention whatsoever of Paul or any apparent relevance to him. Paul received his Personal File in December 2008, which raises the question of whether the SIS had changed its policy on the “sensitivity” of its files on the SUP in the month since Tucker wrote to us saying that everything involving the SUP must remain secret. We notified the Ombudsman of this inconsistency and appealed the SIS’ withholding of SUP-related material from us. As a result Warren Tucker sent us the mentions of CAFCINZ from four previously withheld reports of its spying on the SUP but continued to withhold the CAFCINZ material from a further four reports on the SUP, on the grounds that they would lead to sources being able to be identified (the standard reason for virtually all deletions from all SIS reports released). The Ombudsman upheld the SIS’ decision.
Of course, not all of the SIS file on CAFCA is made up of material on us gleaned from its spying on other organisations. It also spied on us directly and in some considerable degree of detail for more than a quarter of a century. I’ve already said that our file betrays no indication that there was a spy within our committee. Not in the 80s and 90s anyway, but some of the stuff on the file from the very, very beginnings in the early to mid 1970s indicate that there certainly could have been someone within the ranks at the former Resistance Bookshop and Action Centre where we held all our meetings and from where the 1975 South Island Resistance Ride was organised. This would not have the person I have already mentioned as a suspected spy, as he wasn’t around then. I’ve already mentioned things like the complete list of Resistance Ride participants’ names, addresses and phone numbers turning up in our SIS file – we most certainly did not publish that, so the SIS can only have obtained it by either stealing and copying it, or by having a spy within our ranks supply them with a copy.
Also among the very earliest material in our file are copies of private letters (handwritten and typed) that CAFCA members, such as Bill Rosenberg, sent to people in other parts of the country. Now, there are only two ways that they could have come into the possession of the SIS : either the recipient gave it to them (possible but very improbable) or, much more likely, the SIS was intercepting, opening and copying our mail, authorised by an interception warrant. The SIS has offered no clue as to how it came into possession of our private mail but you can draw your own conclusions. One report details surveillance of Bill Rosenberg’s then home by an actual SIS agent (as opposed to an informer), sitting outside and recording all the people and their cars who visited his place (with no explanation as to why).
Spies In The Workplace
And one other (1980) report offers a tantalising clue as to the use of SIS informers in the workplace. It records that (name withheld) from the Railways had rung the Christchurch office of the SIS “to enquire about certain individuals who are all employed in the Traffic Branch of the Christchurch railways and who belong to the National Union of Railwaymen. These individuals were described as causing trouble to the Christchurch railways management”. Four people are listed, including me and Paul Corliss (I don’t recognise one name and the fourth is Clive Mundy, who is dead; you can Paul Corliss’ obituary of him in Watchdog 101, December 2002, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/01/09.htm). The fascinating thing about this otherwise unremarkable SIS report, unique among the 400+ released to CAFCA, is that there is a name in it which has no apparent context. The name doesn’t mean anything to me or Paul (it was nearly 30 years ago in what was then a very large work force). The SIS report goes on to say “I (SIS Officer, name deleted) told (name withheld by MH) that some of these people were known to us in the context of CAFCINZ but that none of them were members of or associated directly with the SUPNZ” (the report is entitled “SUPNZ- ACTIVITY IN INDUSTRY”). I think that the SIS may have inadvertently released to CAFCA the name of one of its informers. My hunch grew even stronger when Paul Corliss received his SIS Personal File, weeks after CAFCA got ours. Six documents have been withheld from Paul and, according to the summary provided by Tucker, this is one of them. Why would they give us a file, which includes Paul Corliss, but withhold it from him? I’ve written to Tucker to clarify who is the mysterious individual named in that report? As the SIS has a policy of never identifying its agents and informers, alive or dead, I shall be interested in his explanation.
That report concluded : “(name withheld by SIS, presumably the Railways caller)‘s conclusion had been that the above named had SUPNZ connections”. No, I didn’t and I have written to Tucker to have that corrected (his accompanying letter to every recipient of an SIS file invites corrections, “factual, not political”). My only connection to the SUP was to know a couple of people in it, and I was no great fan of that party or its policies. My only contact with the former Soviet Union was to cross it on the Trans Siberian Express in 1978 as a tourist and I was none too impressed with what I experienced.
CIA & ASIO Were Kept Informed About Us
So what does the SIS file on CAFCA contain? Nothing very exciting, nothing clandestine or criminal. Indeed I have it in writing from Tucker, in a letter to me personally (4/2/09) that “…you have never encouraged unlawful activity such as sabotage, subversion or terrorism. We do not believe you would ever consciously act against the security of New Zealand and New Zealanders. You are therefore not a person of ‘security interest’ to the NZSIS”. Be that as it may, the SIS devoted an awful lot of time, effort and taxpayers’ money into spying on us. So much so that it felt the need to inform foreign Intelligence agencies about us. Warren Tucker wrote to us (6/1/09), releasing ten SIS memos to “the US Government (meaning the Central Intelligence Agency officer at the US Embassy. MH) about CAFCINZ. These date between March 1975 and April 1980, covering the Resistance Ride - anti-nuclear ship visit period of CAFCINZ’s history. The ten documents represent the entire correspondence between the NZSIS and the US Government about CAFCINZ/CAFCA (there are no documents of US government authorship on file either requesting information about CAFCINZ or responding to the NZSIS memoranda)”. The poor old SIS was so eager to please its CIA Big Brother that it was unsolicitedly sending it memos on the dangerous local Communist troublemakers and it didn’t even get a reply or acknowledgement.
So far I have only received three documents from my Personal File and two of those are 1977 letters between the Directors, no less, of the SIS and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) about me, relating to the fact that I had been recently living in Sydney and had been politically active with Australian progressive groups during a particularly turbulent time in Australian political history, following the bloodless “constitutional coup” which overthrew the Whitlam Labor government (once again the spies were obsessed with the Communist connections of those groups).
Allegations Of “Sabotage”
Tucker’s confirmation that I have never encouraged “sabotage” is interesting because, once again, it contradicts something that he previously wrote to us, namely “…the allegations of sabotage (oil tankers being shot at) didn’t do CAFCINZ’s PR image with the Police and NZSIS much good in the early days…” (letter to CAFCA, 30/10/08). Tucker’s use of the words ”oil tankers” conjures up images of some sort of al Qaeda suicide bomber attack on a gigantic ship bearing vital fuel supplies to little old NZ. The reality was rather more mundane. There is material in the CAFCA file relating to the mysterious 1970s’ incident of a couple of bullet holes being found in a Christchurch petrol tanker (i.e. a truck) owned by an American oil transnational and the suggestion that this was some sort of protest against NZ port visits by US nuclear warships during the Muldoon era. Neither I nor CAFCA had anything to do with any such incident nor do we know anything about it to this day (nobody was ever charged in connection with it). Likewise, during that same decade, US military communications aerials situated at the disused Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Weedons base, near Christchurch, were dropped as explicit acts of protest against those warship visits and NZ’s close military alliance with the US, including hosting the US Navy and Air Force at Christchurch Airport (the Weedons aerials were part of that base). Once again, neither I nor CAFCA had anything to do with it and have no idea, to this day, who did (nobody ever publicly claimed credit for it and nobody was ever charged with it). In my case I had a cast iron alibi, of which the Aussie spies were well aware, namely that I was living in Sydney for more than a year when it happened (my Dear Old Dad told me later that the cops came looking for me in connection with it, which was just one more thing that pissed him off about being related to his notorious son).
The SIS and the Police were determined to pin it on CAFCINZ if they could – I’ve read the SIS Personal File of someone who had a peripheral connection with us in the 70s and it contained reports implying that he and another named individual were likely suspects, as they didn’t have alibis at the time that the aerials were dropped. Tucker wrote to us (10/11/08) : “Regarding the Weedons aerial, you may be interested to read the NZSIS report of 21 July 1980 about a meeting (undated) of the CPNZ Christchurch branch. A comarade claims that CAFCINZ, directed by the CPNZ, was responsible for the previous successful attack on the aerial. But he also says that the SIS had William Ball Sutch ‘terminated with extreme prejudice’, so perhaps he was not so well informed after all”. I can only reiterate that CAFCINZ didn’t take directions from the CPNZ about anything, let alone sabotaging US military aerials, so the suggestion is preposterous. I am happy to publicly own up (and have done so in the media) to the odd act of historic sabotage that I have committed in my 40 year long career as a political activist, such as the 1970 sawing down of goal posts at the former Lancaster Park, as a protest against that year’s All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa. But I know nothing about shooting up petrol tankers or dropping US military aerials (the only time that I’ve ever fired a rifle, in high school cadets, my aim was so bad that I doubt that I could have hit a petrol tanker, even from close range). CAFCINZ/CAFCA has never been involved in sabotage in any way, shape or form.
Of course, I also work for the Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) and it has campaigned against the Waihopai spybase for 22 years now, including a sustained campaign in the first decade of non-violent direct action and property damage at the base (ABC was not involved in the 2008 deflation of one of the base’s two radomes, carried out by three Ploughshares activists – who are awaiting trial – but was happy to declare support for them after the event). ABC grew directly out of CAFCA in the 1980s. It is very interesting that there is virtually no mention of either ABC or Waihopai in the SIS file on CAFCA, indicating to me that those files are kept by another agency (most definitely Police Intelligence, and also the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau, which operates Waihopai, and whose immediate past Director was none other than Warren Tucker). Obviously there is a whole other story to be told there.
Tucker’s letter to CAFCA (30/10/08) claimed that our having organised the May 1977 protest against the Christchurch meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC, a sort of smaller version of what is now APEC) also put us in the bad books of both the Police and SIS. We make no apology for having organised what the Christchurch media of the time described as the most militant local protest since those against the Vietnam War. There were a number of arrests, including of CAFCINZ activists (one of whom was my then partner, a fellow founder of the organisation, and who went on to be come Chairperson, before permanently moving to Australia in the late 1980s. She was also the subject of an SIS Personal File. And, for the record, she was acquitted of the charge). In our first decade it was common for CAFCINZ to organise protests and pickets, hardly surprising for a protest group which grew directly out of the turbulence of the late 60s and early 70s, and these were all obsessively reported upon by SIS informers and agents. For instance, in alliance with the then Seamen’s Union, we used to regularly picket the ships taking West Coast coal to Asia. And on one memorable occasion in Lyttelton we picketed a Soviet fishing boat, which was operating in NZ waters on a joint venture. This definitely threw the SIS. What were we up to? Weren’t we Communists and, ipso facto, supporters of the Soviet Union? Several reports were devoted to analysing what our possible motives might have been. One suggestion was that we were out to win the support of “middle New Zealand” and, bugger me days, the SIS concluded that we were succeeding. Groups such as commercial fishermen’s associations came out in support of our action.But the SIS concluded that there was a bright side to our unexpected deviation from the Communist Conspiracy, namely that we would piss off the pro-Soviet SUP and “split the Left”. Sure enough, the file gleefully includes aggrieved letters to the Press from SUP loyalists attacking our action and defending the presence of Soviet fishing boats in NZ waters. So, there you have it – the SIS has officially recorded that CAFCA pissed off both rival NZ Communist parties.
There was one particular campaign that the SIS monitored with particular attention to detail, namely that of any group or coalition of groups to abolish the SIS. CAFCINZ was in the thick of that throughout the years and it is still our view that the SIS serves no useful purpose, that it should be scrapped and that any of its functions deemed necessary could easily be done by the Police who are, theoretically at least, accountable to the rules of evidence and accountable for their behaviour in a court of law. Tucker’s letter to CAFCA (30/10/08) says “…it is probably fair to say that there might have been less subsequent NZSIS interest in CAFCINZ if it had not continued with protests against US bases and visiting naval vessels and taken up an active ‘abolish the SIS’ stance”. So it makes no bones about the fact that it maintains a literal enemies list. This was made extremely explicit in Tucker’s letter to me (4/2/09) : “You ask if you are still ‘a person of interest’ to the NZSIS. The answer is that you are only of interest to us as long as you are interested in us. You have campaigned publicly for the abolition of this Service but you have never encouraged unlawful activity such as sabotage, subversion or terrorism…”. So that’s a relief that campaigning publicly for the abolition of the SIS is not equated with sabotage, subversion or terrorism.
This enemies list was maintained right down to the level of finding out who were the writers of critical letters to the editor. For example, Anti-Bases Campaign founder, Warren Thomson, had one such letter published in the Press in 1990. This was duly clipped and filed, along with Warren’s address, phone number and occupation (as gleaned from the electoral roll and phone book). The accompanying report described him as “probably being the author of a derogatory letter about the NZSIS”. For the record, Warren’s letter cited an Australian Prime Minister who had called his spies a “bunch of stumblebums” and said that the description applied to the SIS.
Most of the SIS file on CAFCA consists on reports of our various meetings, whether public ones or Annual General Meetings for our members only. For quarter of a century the spies were keenly interested in everything we said, wrote, did and organised. In the case of some of the meetings detailed in the file, we had long since forgotten about them or had no awareness that they had ever happened. This was certainly the case in relation to a whole series of 1970s’ Auckland meetings at which a proposal to establish an Auckland branch of CAFCINZ was discussed (the proposal was defeated). Because those meetings involved leading Auckland members of the CP (who, for the record, were opposed to the proposal) they were reported on by way of a spy in their ranks. Those SIS reports make fascinating reading, precisely because we had no knowledge of them (and neither Bill nor I can remember any such proposal to establish an Auckland CAFCINZ) and it was news to us. The SIS was always alert to the potential for splits within the CPNZ and/or between the CPNZ and friendly groups. For example, one 1976 report on an Auckland discussion about whether to set up a branch of CAFCINZ there concludes : “Handling Officer’s Comment : Despite a relatively unsophisticated grasp of Leftwing ideologies, the positions described above were clear to (name withheld). If this potential dispute develops it could divide the CPNZ-PYM (Progressive Youth Movement) elements from other activist groups with whom they presently cooperate…” There was a Wellington CAFCINZ for a few years in the mid to late 70s and their meetings and activities were all carefully spied upon, including having their mail intercepted and copied.
Worried About Our Influence On Public Opinion
But the great bulk of the file is about CAFCINZ/CAFCA in Christchurch. The SIS was very interested in what impact we had on public opinion. To quote from a 1976 report from the Christchurch District Officer to HQ, titled : “CAFCINZ-CHRISTCHURCH. As general information concerning CAFCINZ you may be interested in the attached cutting of an item which was prominently featured in the Christchurch Press on 8/11/76. The item concerns CAFCINZ’s criticism of a Press article and an Editorial concerning COMALCO. The prominence given this criticism and to the Press replies is indicative of the fact that CAFCINZ, at least in Christchurch and the South Island, is regarded in some quarters as being a knowledgeable body on the subject of COMALCO and competent in expressing its views. It is also somewhat significant that when matters relating to COMALCO and Mt Davy coal and other such disputes are in issue attention is focused by the news media on statements from CAFCINZ, and their spokesmen are not infrequently interviewed on radio and television. Many of the principals in the organisation are young men of intelligence and education with high academic degrees in the sciences”. An accompanying report, dated the next day, lists the degrees of some of those “principal activists” to demonstrate their “academic calibre” (I’m afraid I’m not on the list, having only a measly BA and an incomplete MA, definitely not in the sciences. MH.).
And the SIS was very interested in any respectable academics and scientists who spoke at our public meetings. For instance, one 1980 report includes a Press public notice advertising that Dr John Peete (sic) would be speaking on “Growth and Multinationals”, following a screening of a film on multinationals. The SIS report says : “This meeing was organised by CAFCINZ. The Dr John PEETE shown as speaking is Dr N. John PEET (not in records), a senior lecturer in Chemical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, and the University calendar shows him as BSc (Hons) (Edin.), PhD, MIChemE, FNZIC. A pretext call to the University revealed it was this Dr Peet who sounds as though he is an Englishman who spoke to the CAFCINZ meeting. He said there were not many at the meeting and he was told that this was the smallest turnout for any CAFCINZ meeting to date”. It goes to list his address and phone number. Note the reference to a “pretext” call.
Most Assiduous Readers Of Watchdog
The SIS was quite possibly the most assiduous analyst of every issue of Watchdog. Our file is full of reports drawing the attention of people such as the Director, the Prime Minister and the CIA’s man at the US Embassy to details contained in individual articles in each issue. Particularly when I look back at the tatty old gestetnered Watchdogs of the early years, it is both amusing and flattering that the spies were taking it so seriously and reading it with such close attention. For example, in 1980, the SIS sent the latest Watchdog to the CIA with a memo saying : “Page 4 of the magazine refers to the recently published allegations of a CIA presence in Wellington”. Watchdog articles on the issues of the day, be it the Comalco smelter, coal exports, etc, etc were all carefully logged and analysed for details of what we were doing, and what we were saying about the issue of foreign control. These are all economic issues, matters of economic and political sovereignty. It is fascinating that the SIS was so anxious to play its part in defending the likes of Comalco. When the SIS Act was amended in 1996 to widen its scope to those who “threaten New Zealand’s economic well being” there was public disquiet about the implications. But CAFCA’s file clearly establishes that the SIS was spying on critics of the established economic and political orthodoxy at least 20 years earlier than that law change gave them the mandate to do so.Watchdog, of course, is available by subscription, with very few public outlets (apart from libraries). The SIS was so keen to read it that it got its spies to join up so that they could receive it. We used to joke at mailouts in the 70s and 80s that the mysterious Mr Smith at Box XYZ, Christchurch, must be our resident SIS agent. Turns out we were right – the file is full of references to issues of Watchdog being received at “covert PO box”.
And this obsessive analysis of Watchdog articles (albeit historic ones) continues until the present. Quite the most bizarre quote from Warren Tucker’s several letters to us (this one is from his of 30/10/08) is a reference to Watchdog 19, April 1979, which says, a propos of nothing “… (the same Watchdog, on page 5, also moots that it was the guerrilla warfare of the Chinese Communists, not the Americans at the Battle of the Coral Sea, that saved New Zealand from Japanese invasion in WW2 …a somewhat revisionist view of modern history!)”. Has this man got too much time on his hands? But if we’d known that the SIS was our most attentive reader and getting so much use out of Watchdog, we would have charged them a higher sub.
Clippings & “Unprofessional Notations”
A lot of the file is made up of clippings which mention CAFCA. Some of them are from the likes of the former People’s Voice, which was the newspaper of the former Communist Party. But the great bulk of them are from the mainstream media, namely the Press (plus the odd letter to the editor that I’ve written to the Listener). In other words, freely available material discussing legitimate public issues of the day (some of which, such as the Bluff smelter, are equally valid today). So, in that respect, the spies were like all the other public servants of the day, methodically clipping the paper for stories of interest about their various “clients” (my late father was a veteran public servant and he told me that when he started as a junior his first job every day was to read the paper and to send off any stories of relevance up the food chain all the way to his Minister so that the latter could be prepared for any Questions arising in Parliament. Of course, the SIS wasn’t clipping the paper for any public purpose, let alone of political accountability). I had one moment of creepy realisation when I recognised my handwriting on one clipping (just listing its date and year), which meant either that the SIS had gained covert access to my own files or, more likely, somebody had asked to borrow one of my fileboxes (the article was a 1980s’ one about intelligence), copied it and supplied it to the SIS.
And the SIS boys couldn’t help themselves. Rather like the nuisances who write notes or their opinions (usually in capital letters, with exclamation marks) in library books, they couldn’t resist the temptation to write comments on the clippings. For example, in 1974, we publicised a personal donation and letter from support from Jack Lewin, the Secretary of Trade and Industry. It received considerable media coverage. On one page of photocopied clippings (headed MD Horton and JP Lewin, Personal Files) there is a handwritten note from someone in the Christchurch SIS office : “Horton is really getting the most propaganda he can out of this $5 donation from Lewin” (in those days $5 was more than half of what I was paying in weekly rent. For details of the SIS and Jack Lewin, see my article “Speaking Ill Of The Dead : The Vicious Smear Campaign Against Bill Sutch & Jack Lewin”, in Watchdog 113, December 2006, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/13/12.htm).
This opinionated note making is not merely historical either. One of the last entries in the Personal File of Keith Locke MP is the handwritten word “Eeeexcellent!” accompanying a selection of letters critical of Keith published in various papers in very recent years. Paul Neazor, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, wrote, in his March 2009 report on Keith’s complaint about the SIS spying on him as an MP : “Mr Locke suggested that some at least of this material might have been gathered because of his critical stance in Parliament on intelligence issues. All I can say is that one notation which could have given that impression was certainly unprofessional and ought not to have appeared on a file of a neutral intelligence service”. I would like to hear the SIS’ definition of neutrality.
There is another lovely quote about us in a 1980 memo from the Christchurch SIS office to HQ : “You will know from studying CAFCINZ material the group, which is mainly motivated and activated by Murray Donald Horton (Personal File), has a potential for destructive activity against American and/or multinational interests. However, they are more talkers than doers” (sounds fascinating, but as there is no context provided in the released report I have no idea what it is referring to). So, although the SIS kept a file on us from the mid 1970s until the late 90s, it had assessed us by the mid 80s and earlier as being of “minimal security interest” and “talkers rather than doers”. But that minor detail didn’t stop them spying on us for all those years.
The SIS file on CAFCA is an invaluable historical record of a completely paranoid “intelligence” agency, one that was only a matter of degree removed from its secret police counterparts in the former Communist countries that “our side” in the Cold War expended so much propaganda effort in denouncing. But we are not going to make it public, either in hard copy or electronic form. Not because we have anything to hide, organisationally or individually, but because it includes all manner of highly indiscreet and irrelevant personal material about third parties who were not the subject of the various SIS reports. We see no reason why we should play any role in recycling and widely broadcasting spies’ tittle tattle which still has the capacity to hurt and embarrass people.
Of course, the SIS file on CAFCA was only one small part in a much bigger picture. We became aware of its existence because Bill got his Personal File. And the spinoff from that was that we became aware of Personal Files on a large number of other people. We have informed as many of those as we could contact, including some former members who are now definitely on the other side of the argument, and plenty of them have applied for or actually received their files. I have been contacted by phone and e-mail by any number of people, some known and some strangers, wanting to know how to apply for their files. I have given such advice at a chance meeting in an airport café and I have shouted it out in response to a shouted query from amidst central city traffic. Warren Tucker wrote to me, in connection with my Personal File (4/2/09) : “Thanks partly to the publicity you and Bill Rosenberg have provided, information from the NZSIS is in great demand and the now frequent requests must be dealt with in the order they arrive” (translation : you can bloody well wait).
Spying On Unionists…
As I’ve already said, to the best of our knowledge, CAFCA is the only organisation to have received its file. But the release of even a small number of Personal Files soon revealed evidence of SIS spying on all sorts of other organisations. I’ve already mentioned the two rival Communist parties. Most of Keith Locke’s Personal File (which spanned 1955-2006) involved detailed spying on the former Socialist Action League, of which he had been a leading figure for years (long before he became a Green MP). There is, as yet, no evidence of spying on any Parliamentary parties. Tucker has told an inquirer that the SIS did not have a file on either the Alliance or the former New Labour Party.
Paul Corliss is a veteran Christchurch trade union leader (and current Roger Award judge). His Personal File reveals that the SIS closely monitored not only him and the unions that he headed (rail and maritime workers) but that it had Personal Files on a number of other leading Christchurch trade unionists during the 1980s. Doubtless that was repeated elsewhere in the country. Paul wrote, in the March 2009 Transport Worker (the publication of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, RMTU) : “ Apparently the SIS have not just taken a cloak-and-dagger, and boring, interest in my activity within the wider trade union movement (e. g. the former Federation of Labour and the NZ Council of Trade Unions) and in my political protest activity (e. g. opposition to foreign ownership in NZ or the 1981 Springbok Tour anti-apartheid arrests) but have closely followed my alleged ‘career’ with the constituent unions of the later RMTU – over some two decades from 1974 to the 1990s…. Much of the declassified material (most stamped ‘Secret’) relates to union activities, all of which were publicly discoverable to anyone with a subscription to the daily papers or an ear on the radio.
“They then followed me onto the wharves at Lyttelton when I took up my job as secretary of the Harbour Workers Union, but don’t appear to have pursued my industrial officer activity with the Rail & Maritime Union from 1995 onward. Perhaps I had become ‘too establishment’, not making enough trouble?... As far as I am aware, I have never been a member of any organisation that has plotted to overthrow or terrorise New Zealand … though I must admit to having been occasionally tempted! I have been a member of several legal organisations that have attempted, sometimes successfully, to dissent with and change many aspects of the way New Zealand operates politically and industrially. Perhaps surprisingly, I am not, and have never been, a member of any political party. While there are surely one or two people who don’t particularly like me, I am not an ‘enemy of the state’. I can only just manage to spell ‘ Afghanistan’ and ‘Osama’. Are these sufficient reasons to make me subject to covert surveillance and monitoring as a “suspect” individual? Apparently so”.
And Peace Groups…
A leading peace activist (who was not the subject of a Personal File) got a January 2009 letter from Warren Tucker in which he said that the SIS had kept files on the following peace groups : the NZ Foundation for Peace Studies, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Women for Peace, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the NZ Nuclear Free Peacemaking Association. The small amount of SIS file material released to that person included a 1987 newspaper photo of peace educators newly appointed by the Ministry of Education and the SIS had helpfully gone through all the names in the caption and written their various classifications next to them (Personal File, In Records, Not In Records). Courtesy of reading various other people’s files and the CAFCA one, I know that the SIS had a Personal File on Larry Ross, veteran Christchurch peace activist, tireless campaigner for a nuclear free NZ in the 1980s and the leading figure in the NZ Nuclear Free Peacemaking Association. Larry is retired now and in his 80s but his appetite has been whetted and he has applied for both his Personal File and the one on the organisation which he founded and headed in his successful and historic campaign to have NZ declared a nuclear free country. Peace Movement Aotearoa is thinking of applying for its file.
And Owen Wilkes…
The late Owen Wilkes, NZ’s world famous peace researcher and CAFCA founder, appears right throughout the SIS file on CAFCA and he is recorded as being the subject of a Personal File. He is portrayed as being some sort of mastermind, for example the first SIS memo to the CIA about us (1975) says : “Owen R. WILKES is the main organiser and activist in both CAFMANZ and CAFCINZ”. When I went overseas in 1978 the SIS attached great significance to the fact that I (and my then partner) was going to visit Owen in Sweden (he spent six years working for Scandinavian peace research institutes).
The most fascinating report on Owen is a December 1985 one entitled “PROTEST ACTIVITY AGAINST THE SERVICE : ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT CAMPAIGNS”. In it they recognised Owen as a formidable foe. Some extracts : “CAFCINZ and its leading personalities have had a longstanding involvement in protest against this Service. Under the direction of Murray Donald HORTON (Personal File), CAFCINZ was responsible for coordinating protest and harassment activity against Service premises in Christchurch in the mid-to-late 1970s…The Service regained prominence in CAFCINZ”s interests in late 1983 with the acknowledgement by New Zealand Customs of its referral of WILKES’ incoming overseas mail to the NZSIS. CAFCINZ took up the cause of one of its founding members with gusto and apparently cooperated with WILKES in the formation of the Christchurch Peace Research Institute (PRI)… For a variety of reasons, the temperature appears to be rising in anti-SIS feeling over recent months. CAFCINZ appears to be taking the lead and this may be because of WILKES’ personal vendetta as much as CAFCINZ’s need to find a new issue on which to focus, now that the nuclear free and anti-ANZUS issues have become more widely popular and self-sustaining. WILKES brings a sophistication to anti-SIS activity that has not been much in evidence in the past. His Scandinavian experience has already been evident in CAFCINZ and PRI activity and there is, as yet, no reason to disbelieve that the type of information gathering techniques WILKES claimed were being used against Government Communications Security Bureau and Defence (irrespective of their success) were not in fact undertaken and could not be used against this Service. The failure, by CAFCINZ and others, to achieve any measure of success against the Service via the Official Information Act does not appear to have dampened their enthusiasm…A campaign to expose the activities of the NZSIS is being initiated. It is possible that a degree of sophistication and perseverance not previously seen may be employed by individuals involved. There is an apparent climate of support from the radical Left for such a campaign”. Owen’s family is applying for his Personal File. It will be a whopper and it will make fascinating reading. My obituary of Owen is in Watchdog 109, August 2005, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/09/09.htm.
And Philippines Solidarity Movement …
Of course, trade unions and peace groups (and the inviduals in them) were not the only organisations that the SIS spied on. In the 1980s it subjected the Philippines Solidarity movement to intense scrutiny (this was before I got involved with it). This is detailed in the Personal File of Maire Leadbeater, who was a leading figure in it at that time and whose brother, Keith Locke, was the 1986-91 National Coordinator of the Philippines Solidarity Network. Maire has written an article about this (which is only one part of her Personal File – the SIS was spying on her since she was 10). An extract :
“If you were around in the 1980s when New Zealand’s nuclear free stand was under vociferous attack, you would remember that there was a plethora of Rightwing think tanks, foundations and anti-Communist organisations that worked closely together. Their agenda was to sow fear of the dire consequences of the “ANZUS* crisis” which could leave us open to “Soviet political manipulation”. Naturally these institutions, like the Hoover Institute and Heritage Foundation, focused on the Communist threat in the Philippines, and so it was to be expected that this anti-Communist hysteria would not spare New Zealand-Philippines links. *The 1951 Australia New Zealand United States (ANZUS) Treaty was the bedrock of NZ’s defence alliance with the US. NZ’s membership did not survive the 1984-90 Labour government’s nuclear free law, which remains in effect today. The ANZUS Treaty continues, minus NZ, between the US and Australia. MH.
Red-baiting NZ Media Cooperated With SIS
“There had also been some rather lurid headlines in the New Zealand Sunday papers about New Zealanders spending time with the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army during their solidarity visits to the Philippines : “Guerrilla Thrill Trips : Kiwis pay to join Filipino jungle fighters”. When we returned from the Philippines (from the 1988/89 Peace Brigade, whose NZ delegation was headed by Maire and whose members included me. MH) journalist Bernard Moran, who was becoming a regular at Rightwing conferences on the Communist threat, gained some new ammunition to use in vitriolic articles in the former Catholic paper New Zealand Tablet. He had previously written of a Communist conspiracy that was driving church aid projects in the Philippines. The piece he wrote about our Auckland meeting to report back on the Brigade was a distorted account that zeroed in on the presence of ‘Trotskyites’ and their subversive literature in the sacred confines of the St Benedict’s Church crypt.
“It is clear from the SIS documents that the late John Kennedy, the editor of the Tablet, passed information to the SIS. One such report included detailed information about the finances, and the political affiliations of Philippine Solidarity Group (PSG) members in Auckland and Wellington. Bernard Moran also submitted an article in early 1987 to the Washington based journal National Interest in which he wrote (not very accurately) about me. Flatteringly he dubbed me a ‘pivotal person in the NZ peace movement’.
SIS Spies In Meetings In All Main Centres
“Hardened activist that I am, I confess to being shocked to discover the extent to which there were ‘sources’ or SIS spies present at many of the meetings of the Philippines Solidarity Groups in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Bear in mind the context that these were generally small, relatively informal meetings held frequently in the homes of activists. National meetings which were often held in a relaxed marae setting are also reported on in detail”.
To give just one example of SIS penetration of a Christchurch Philippines Solidarity Group meeting in a private home, Maire’s file included a three page detailed report on a meeting held in May 1990. It says : “Source borrowed the correspondence folder and copied its contents”. This means that the spy was in a position of trust. Since writing this article Maire has extensively researched the historic Philippines Solidarity minutes and correspondence which are archived at the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Library. As a result she is confident that she has identified the spy in Christchurch. We don’t plan to publish the name as it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone anyway. MH
“This of course raises the question about the extent to which our SIS was passing on information to counterparts in the Philippines, and perhaps using information gained from the Philippines to refine their surveillance of us. There is no direct proof of this as communications from or to other intelligence agencies have all been excluded from the released information. Every broad social justice movement, such as the anti-nuclear movement or the anti-apartheid movement, has participants from a range of Left parties. Most of us are glad to harness everyone’s energy for the common cause but that is not how the SIS sees the situation!
“The Left affiliations of those present at meetings and seminars were all carefully recorded. Tellingly, John Curnow* is recorded as warning at a Christchurch Philippines Solidarity meeting that people should not make jokes about supporting the New Peoples Army. ‘He, himself, had been interviewed a couple of times by the SIS, who tried to tell him he was being hoodwinked by the (former) Workers Communist League’. The late Father John Curnow of Christchurch was the founder of Philippines Solidarity in NZ. My obituary of him is in Watchdog 68, October 1991. MH.
Tracking Visitors To Both Countries
“The SIS also did its best to monitor all visits of New Zealanders to the Philippines – listing all the full names and dates of birth of members of the Peace Brigade after they had obtained their visas. My return flight times are also included in a much later handwritten note with the comment : ‘There is no trace of any travel during 1990’.
“SIS Headquarters also supplied a list of Filipino visitors to New Zealand since 1984. The names on the list have been withheld but the rationale is interesting : ‘It is as comprehensive as our records will allow. It was compiled because of the frequency of such travel, the number of visitors with National Democratic Front ( NDF*) or New Peoples Army (NPA) traces, and, lastly because of the growing links between anti-nuclear groups and indigenous peoples of both countries’. * The National Democratic Front is the political coalition of underground groups waging the armed struggle, including both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. MH.
“’We had hoped to carry out a similar study of New Zealanders travelling to the Philippines but owing to the volume of travel and the difficulty of keeping track of their movements, this has not proved to be feasible. Instead we have concentrated on a few individuals who have established good links with the Philippines and who appear to be regarded as valuable contacts by the Filipinos themselves’. Sometimes the sources were rebuffed : ‘We were unfortunately unable to have source coverage of the PSNA hui on 27-28 September 86’. So the SIS mounted surveillance to record some of the comings and goings but only three vehicles were seen to enter the venue and one female cyclist ‘aged about 35 with black hair’. The only other thing to note was that one of the participants came out on Sunday morning at 0900 hours ‘to purchase a newspaper from the local dairy and walk around the block for about 15 mins’. This man was ‘sporting a full beard and has had his hair permed. He was accompanied on his perambulations by a male aged about 25-30, dark hair, pale complexion’”… (note that in SISland men have their hair “permed” and they don’t walk, they go on “perambulations”. MH). Maire’s full article, entitled “The SIS And The Philippines Solidarity Movement In Aotearoa”, can be read online at Scoop http://scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0903/S00145.htm.
The great majority of files released are those that were held on individuals. CAFCA is archiving as many of these as people are prepared to entrust to us (quite often the subjects of the Personal Files do not want any publicity, which is fair enough). I have had the opportunity to read a number of those files and they all exhibit the same characteristics as the organisational file on CAFCA, namely being full of lists of names of attendees at meetings, protests and other activities; a lot of material having been secured by spying on organisations other than the one that the file’s subject belonged to, or was associated with; and an awful lot of indiscreet personal tittle tattle about named third parties.
Snide Personal Comments
And there is no pretence at objectivity or neutrality, the people that the SIS was spying on were the enemy as far as it was concerned and that mentality permeates right down to the physical descriptions of the people. One of the only three pages thus far released to me from my Personal File is the Personal Particulars Form (“Keep On Top Of File”). Under “Distinctive Features” it says : “Wispy beard, stoops in walk, often wears blue denim fatigues. Complexion – sallow” (note that in SISland, people don’t wear clothes but “fatigues”, with its connotations of military uniforms). If I put that up as my description on an Internet dating site I don’t think that women would be queuing up. A woman was described as being”very plump” and “looking like she suffers from a skin disease”. A man was variously described as “looking like Jesus Christ”, involved in the drug scene, and an epileptic. And these unflattering physical descriptions also contain mistakes – for example, Paul Corliss’ “Distinctive Features” includes a Nazi tattoo which he doesn’t have (and never has had). This bias goes beyond personal appearances and into the realm of the subject’s political abilities – one report on Bill described him as a “boring” speaker; another Personal File described its subject as delivering a “tedious diatribe”. I hope the poor spies got paid double rates for having to sit through such ordeals.
These Personal Particulars Forms (which are all headed by a lovely photo of the subject – Paul’s being a Police mugshot; Bill Rosenberg’s being a smiley early 70s one, complete with long hair and head band) also offer fascinating insights into what the SIS thought significant or otherwise at that time. Mine is dated 1971, by which time I’d been living with my then partner for a couple of years (she had her own Personal File) but the SIS obviously didn’t know what to do about de facto relationships. So I was listed as “Single”, with no mention of any “Spouse”. So a woman who lived with me didn’t rate a mention in those good old days but male friends were a different matter. On Paul Corliss’ Personal Particulars Form his “Political History And Significance” lists : “Associate of Murray Donald HORTON (Personal File)”. That is what first brought him to the attention of the SIS.
More and more people are applying for their Personal Files, including those of dead family members (Bill got those of his late mother and father; the Locke family got Elsie Locke’s. For my obituaries of Wolfgang and Ann Rosenberg and Elsie, see, respectively, Watchdog 114, May 2007, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/14/04.htm; 116, December 2007, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/16/09.htm; and 97, August 2001, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/97/13.htm). And as the list of inquiries and requests grows the SIS is getting slower and slower in responding. Early applicants got their files pretty quickly but the waiting time has got longer and longer. Most recently, the family of the late Owen Wilkes was told that they would have to wait 140 working days for a response (the usual period under the Official Information Act is 20 working days). But at least it is being provided, eventually, free of charge, although it seems that the SIS is now shutting up shop, so to speak, with regards to what it is prepared to include in Personal Files released most recently. Veteran political activist John Minto received his in April 2009. “ It seems to be particularly spartan. Lots of documents withheld and most names removed aside from my own - most is just media transcripts and newspaper articles with the odd assessment of the (1981) anti-tour movement thrown in. It may be that following the release of the Chch material they have been more conservative in holding onto material which could identify sources etc. Hardly anything of real interest to me - bloody boring in fact” (e-mail to CAFCA, 10/4/09).
The SIS has not been prepared to play ball with everyone. I am aware of several people who have received a “neither confirm nor deny” reply to a request for their file, confirming that they are the subject of a current SIS file. I have seen a letter from Warren Tucker to one applicant telling him that they have a file on him, that he is not a person of “security interest” but that he can’t have any of his file because it is too recent and would therefore divulge too much about the SIS’ current methods and operations. By contrast, Tucker described my Personal File (which spanned 1969-2002) as “moribund”.
Spying On MPs A Step Too Far
The most high profile and controversial Personal File to have been released is that of Keith Locke (as the children of Jack and Elsie Locke, veteran Communists and activists, Keith and his sister Maire Leadbeater had been the subject of SIS Personal Files since their childhood and onwards for 50 years). The most controversial aspect of Keith’s file was that the last entry was as recently as 2006, seven years after he was elected to Parliament as a Green MP. The SIS took a close interest in his meetings, as an MP, with members of NZ’s Tamil community and a factfinding trip that he made to wartorn Sri Lanka earlier this decade. Keith made the point that the SIS was spying on meetings that he was holding with his constituents. Unlike me, and others, Keith hasn’t received an assurance from Tucker that the SIS has stopped spying on him; nor (unlike me) has he received an assurance from Tucker that “…you have never encouraged unlawful activity such as sabotage, subversion or terrorism…”. Spying on “old Lefties” (Tucker’s phrase) is one thing, but spying on a sitting MP is quite another. The revelation led to uproar in Parliament, the media and among the public. John Key, as Minister in Charge of the SIS (it’s always the Prime Minister) ordered Paul Neazor, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, to investigate. He produced an unusually speedy report recommending that the SIS should not spy on MPs, but gave the spies a great big escape clause by saying that if they have to it should be cleared with the Speaker (a member of the governing party). Neazor also dipped his toe into the broader issue of the SIS files and said : “Historically, because of the extensive cross-referencing system, when a Personal File existed, information from any source about that person could find its way to the file. It could produce a vacuum cleaner approach to collecting” ( Press, 18/3/09; “Watchdog slates scale of SIS files”, Mike Houlahan). So that’s where all us “old Lefties” et al are – we’ve been sucked up into the dustbag of (the SIS version of) history.
CAFCA Of “Minimal Security Interest” 24 Years Ago But SIS Still Spied On Us
So what was the SIS’ conclusion about CAFCA, on which it spied for more than quarter of a century? Warren Tucker wrote to us (22/9/08) : “I have written recently to an old CAFCA comrade of yours ( Bill Rosenberg; note that as far as the SIS is concerned CAFCA has comrades rather than colleagues. MH) who asked why the NZSIS ceased surveillance of CAFCA in 1998? I replied that the NZSIS was not actually surveilling CAFCA then. The last full report the NZSIS produced about your organisation, when it was still called CAFCINZ, was in April 1985. There is no formal indication as to why the file has been dormant since December 1998, but the usual reason such files stop growing is because it is deemed that the subject organisation is engaged in lawful protest and is no longer of security interest, so it is therefore not the legitimate business of the NZSIS to continue to investigate it. Also, just over a month after the date of the latest CAFCA printout on the file the events of 11 September 2001 occurred in New York, which led to a hasty re-focussing of priorities in all security services. The April 1985 NZSIS report concludes : ‘The organisation does not espouse violence and is not subversive under the terms of the (SIS) Act. CAFCINZ is currently assessed as being of minimal security interest’”.
It seems to have taken the spies an awfully long time to have reached that blindingly obvious conclusion. Indeed it is not accurate (and hasn’t been for decades) to call CAFCA a “protest” group. The media routinely label us a “lobbying group” and that has been the status quo for a very long time. Very important questions need to be answered, about why the SIS spied for decades on CAFCA (and unions and peace groups and international solidarity groups) and large numbers of individuals, including me, who were active in one or more of those sorts of “protest” groups. Why was legitimate, not to mention perfectly legal and above board, dissent the subject of intense scrutiny by the covert arm of the State? Why is such dissent still the subject of State covert scrutiny (with a much more prominent role now being played by Police Intelligence and even the private contractors who have been recently exposed as spying on environmental activists)? The SIS may be regarded as a joke (they are their own worst enemies in that respect) but the damage that they can inflict (and have inflicted) on people’s lives is no laughing matter.
Oversight? What’s That?
The SIS has been a controversial and repeatedly incompetent agency throughout its more than 50 years of existence. That is a whole other article (book, more likely) in itself. Suffice to list three of their most spectacular cockups : the persecution of Bill Sutch case, the more recent persecution of Ahmed Zaoui, and the bungled break in at the Christchurch home of activist Aziz Choudry (see Peace Researcher 19/20, November/December 1999, online at http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/choudry.htm for the most succinct summary of this case). None of those three regarded the SIS as a joke. I haven’t even mentioned the legendary stuffups like the SIS agent who left his briefcase on a Wellington footpath, containing his ID card, a pie and a Penthouse (that one definitely was a joke). Is there any accountability? The far from reassuring answer is, bugger all. I’ve already mentioned the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security. Laurie Greig, the first one, had to resign because he made a fool of himself during the protracted Zaoui case (while Zaoui, of course, spent nearly two years in prison, half of that in maximum security, with no charge and no trial). His successor, Paul Neazor, could only be better but even if he was intent on exercising real oversight, he can’t. He has no staff, no resources, and is dependent on the spies to supply him with the information he needs to “investigate” them.
Then there is the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is not a Parliamentary Select Committee but a committee of Government, controlled by the Prime Minister. There are only five members – the PM, Leader of the Opposition and their respective appointees. Since the 2008 election, the three new appointees are : Act Leader Rodney Hide, Maori Party Leader Tariana Turia and Green Co-Leader Russel Norman. There has been some media comment that these three (two from the governing coalition and one from the Opposition) may spice things up a bit and start to turn the Committee into a proper oversight body, instead of a Government rubberstamp. But any would-be reformers face an uphill struggle – members are committed to secrecy about any proceedings of the Committee, which only meets a couple of times per year (and for less than an hour per meeting). Effective oversight is possible – for example, the US Congress held public hearings into CIA abuses as far back as the 1970s. In that same decade t he then Australian Attorney General, the late Lionel Murphy, feared that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was not giving him accurate information about the likelihood of Croatian fascist terrorists, resident in Australia, trying to assassinate the Yugoslav PM during a forthcoming State visit. So Murphy did something unheard of - he led a March 1973 police raid of ASIO’s HQ to inspect their files for himself. We look forward with eager anticipation to this happening in Wellington. Of course, nothing like those two examples has ever happened in NZ, where politicians of both major parties have always been willing accomplices of the code of silence that accompanies matters of “national security” in this country. Lazy, gutless cowards, is the phrase that comes to mind (with a few honourable exceptions, of course). Pardon the pun but there has definitely been an oversight about oversight, in that there isn’t any worthy of the name.
A major question is why the SIS has suddenly started dishing out these files willy nilly. I don’t intend to get into the speculation about that, ask the SIS. A lot of the credit is being given to Warren Tucker wielding a new broom as Director, with one commentator depicting him as some sort of Mikhail Gorbachev bringing glasnost to a hitherto secret society. Considering that Gorbachev played a major role in the demise of the Soviet Union, the State that he headed, here’s hoping that Tucker can do the same for the SIS. We can but dream.The SIS is still wedded to the obsolete culture of secrecy and an obsessive hunt for “enemies”. It used to be Communists and “Russian spies” (Sutch was their only attempt at nabbing one and they came a most spectacular gutser). Then it became “Muslim terrorists” (Zaoui paid the price for that). Latterly the covert State (with the Police taking the lead and a salivating tabloid media in tow) has focused on “Maori terrorists”, allied with a mishmash of pakeha anarchists and other odds and sods. That has yet to come to trial. I imagine that with the current global crisis of capitalism, Communists will come back into fashion as targets for the spies.
CAFCA Says Scrap The SIS
But the SIS still can’t justify its existence and it never could (the files released certainly don’t provide any evidence of its indispensability). CAFCA has consistently called for its abolition (and that of its bigger and much more secret brother, the Government Communications Security Bureau [GCSB]). To quote from a couple of 1990s’ submissions that we made, to a couple of the several Acts giving increased powers to the spies :
“The agencies at the centre of this Bill - the SIS and the GCSB - should not exist, full stop. In the evocative words of the lovely old song ‘Why Was He Born So Beautiful?’ – ‘He's no bloody good at anything; he's no bloody good at all’. That sums up exactly our feelings about the SIS and the GCSB. They are useless, dangerous, a waste of public money, and an anachronism in this day and age. The words ‘intelligence’ and ‘security’ are misapplied in the Bill's title - the New Zealand public has seen precious little evidence of either… Every other organ of the State has been restructured, corporatised, flogged off or closed down. So why not add the SIS to the list? What’s so special about it? This is one cut in Government spending which would be both fully justified and popular”. That is still our view. Pension them off and give them each a pair of binoculars so that they can spy on their neighbours (WINZ probably has plenty of vacancies for informants). If the State must have political spies, then let the cops do it and have to be (theoretically) accountable to the legal system.
It’s very nice that the SIS, for whatever reason, is now releasing censored versions of some of its files on the people and people and organisations that it spied on for decades. But that doesn’t justify the spying, not the existence of the SIS. And the bigger spy agency, the GCSB, is certainly not entering into the alleged new spirit of glasnost. There is no suggestion of it releasing any of its files nor even admitting that it keeps any files, let alone what they might be about. I find it fascinating that the word “Waihopai” is barely mentioned in the 400+ documents released to CAFCA, so obviously all that stuff on the movement to shut down that spy base is held by the GCSB. Tucker wrote to the subject of one Personal File that the GCSB refused to authorise the SIS to release some GCSB documents about the subject that the SIS had in that Personal File. And Police Intelligence (which is the source for so much of the material in the SIS files that I’ve read, particularly the CAFCA one) is not offering to throw open the archives either (it mistakenly did so once, back in the mid 80s, when it auctioned a Christchurch filing cabinet containing historic pre-computer index cards on 800 “criminals”, of which I was one). So it’s not quite the Age of Aquarius just yet. To test the water, I have written to both the GCSB and Police asking for all file material that they hold on me. The GCSB replied, saying that it does not have a file on me.
Big Media Coverage
There is one one final point to be made.You will be aware that this whole saga has already been the subject of considerable media coverage, starting with the Press devoting the top half of its front page to the CAFCA file (28/1/09, “SIS reveals secret files”, Martin van Beynen), illustrated by photos of Bill and I. In the same issue, virtually all of page 9 was devoted to Martin van Beynen’s analysis of the actual contents of that file and Paul Corliss’ Personal File (“SIS dossiers detail dalliances, dances and very little drama”). There were quite a number of follow up articles. For example, Maire Leadbeater’s Personal File featured on the front page of the next day’s Press (“Activist tracked from age 10”, Martin van Beynen). Keith Locke’s Personal File was a major story in the Sunday Star Times (8/2/09, “SIS file on MP ‘an affront to our parliamentary system’ – Locke”, Anthony Hubbard). The Press felt the need to put us in our place by way of an editorial (29/1/09, “Return of SIS files”) which lambasted Bill and I (‘the ageing Leftwing agitator, Murray Horton” who is given to a “wildly hyperbolic flourish”, etc). It took the opportunity to repeat the libellous lie that “the SIS caught William Ball Sutch passing material to the Soviet Union in the 1970s” (no they didn’t because he wasn’t caught passing anything to anyone and was acquitted at his subsequent trial, which never specified what he was supposed to have been “passing to the Soviet Union”). That angle alone led to a number of letters to the editor defending Sutch and setting the record straight. The whole issue of the SIS files, particularly the revelations that Keith Locke was spied on for seven years after he was elected as an MP (and that he and his sister Maire Leadbeater had each been spied on for 50 years) was a major media story. And even the Press felt compelled to make amends for its appalling editorial by devoting the first two pages of its weekend Mainlander section to a feature on me (14&15/2/09, “The last radical”, Martin van Beynen). It was very nice of them to write my obituary without me having to go through all the bother of dying. For someone who has been in the media since my teens even I felt over exposed.
The whole thing started with the front page Press “Exclusive” and the point to be made is that we did not go to the media, the media came to us. The reporter inadvertently found about our possession of the file from a personal conversation with a mutual friend and, having already rung the SIS Director to confirm it, promptly confronted me with that knowledge, begging for an “Exclusive”. The cat was out of the bag, so Bill and I felt that we had little choice but to play along. We had actually had the file for several months by that stage (and Bill had had his Personal File – which has not had any media coverage – for longer). We had deliberately sat on the whole lot for the reason I’ve already explained – they come strewn with gratuitous and indiscreet persoanal tittle tattle about named third parties, and we had not come up with a way of making them public while still protecting the privacy of those other people. We did have a media strategy, which involved offering the files to carefully selected journalists (none of whom were from the Press ) on condition of them protecting those other people. That strategy got blown out of the water once the Press got wind of the story and gave it the full monty treatment. Having said that, we are delighted at the amount of coverage that this issue got in the mainstream media (as did CAFCA – I can’t remember a previous occasion when it dominated the front page of the Press , along with photos of its two old warhorses). But, for the same reason that we held back from approaching the media, we won’t be making the CAFCA file publicly available. It won’t be going up on our Website; it won’t be reproduced in Watchdog ; those who are entitled to a copy have already got it; it won’t be made available to those merely curious to “see what is in an SIS file”.
Why Does SIS Spy On Legitimate Dissidents?
Quite deliberately, Watchdog has devoted very little attention to the SIS for a very long time; it has been left up to Peace Researcher (so check that out at www.converge.org.nz/abc). But, obviously, the fact that the SIS spied on CAFCA (and very assiduously read and analysed Watchdog ) for a quarter of a century, and that we now have the (censored version of) our file, demands our renewed attention. A couple of major questions arise, such as why a perfectly legitimate and transparent organisation such as CAFCA was spied on, along with numerous of its members, for quarter of a century? And is there any democratic control of the spies, any accountability? The first one can be dismissed as being of historic interest only, but if we don’t learn from the past then the mistakes and practices will continue to be repeated into the future. The second question is the vital one and needs to be properly addressed to prevent this happening again. New Zealand used to sneer at the secret police apparatus of our old Communist bloc enemies but what is revealed in the SIS files is a difference only in degree from what was practised in countries like the former East Germany. The SIS has never had police powers but they certainly put a lot of effort into spying on dissidents. If this had been exposed as having happened in one of those old enemy countries, our politicians and media would have made a meal of it, hailing the dissidents as heroes. Political spying on one’s own people is reprehensible no matter in what country, or under what system, it happens. There will be plenty more developments in this story as more and more files see the light of day. So, as we said in the original 1985 Watchdog article which marked our first attempt to get anything out of the SIS – stay tuned. Hopefully, this time, it won’t be another 24 years before you hear from us on the subject again.