In terms of covert police surveillance of civil society and its political participation, the New Zealand left often displays extremes of either naivety or paranoia, and unfortunately little in between. In the contemporary case of "leftwing activist" police informant Rob Gilchrist, the left appears to have been incredibly naive. [Read more below]
The state in New Zealand has always taken a strong interest in the surveillance of leftwing political activity. The Security Intelligence Service, in particular, has a long history of spying on leftwing activist groups and individuals. And in recent years the power of the SIS has been extended, with the help of MPs from Labour, National, the Maori Party etc. There has even sometimes been some slight 'innovations' to the spying configurations - with state owned corporations using private investigators to do the spying on political activists.
The latest revelation of state spying on political activity involves Christchurch man Rob Gilchrist (also known by other anarchist type codes such as Balaclava). Details of the expose can be read in the following links:
The Standard's analysis
But you have to wonder why it took so long for this all to unravel. Surely the signs were apparent well before now? Not all ex-Army personal are suspect, but this element of his background in conjunction with some other dodgy elements must surely have created cause for concern?
In fact, one leftwing activist raised alarm bells about Gilchrist three years. I received the following email that was sent to a number of people, suggesting that Gilchrist (known as Balaclava) was a 'nark'. The email was marked "NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION THANKS", but I assume that enough time and events have occurred since August 2005 when I received it, to make this of public interest:
Prior to this, Gilchrist had been a police informer for seven years. During this time he joined a number of leftwing organisations, who seemed to have welcomed him aboard and let him have all the information he required. Even the Workers Party added Gilchrist to their internal strategic email discussion group - and Gilchrist forwarded the emails onto the police.
And then there's been all the long term relationships that Gilchrist has had with leftwing activists. It seems hard to believe that he was suspected or exposed well before now.
So, are we all too naive?