Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009: Spying on MPs - bad; spying - good

Recently, Keith Locke - the long-time dissident, former (I assume) Maoist and now Green MP - requested his own surveillance file from the SIS. He was rather disturbed to discover not only that he had been watched and commented on since he was a child, but that the surveillance had continued for a time after he had been elected to parliament. John Key, along with other MPs, were right(eous)ly shocked by this discovery. Today the Herald reports that, following a report from the Gestapo-reminiscent "Inspector General of Intelligence and Security", Key has endorsed the recommendations that surveillance of sitting MPs be placed under much stricter guidelines. Which is all very well. Locke himself says that:
"MPs must be free to criticise the government of the day without being viewed as a security risk, as was the case with me."
Now here is what Keith Locke, John Key or the Herald - or, apparently, anyone that reporter Claire Trevett has talked to - does not say:
"New Zealanders must be free to criticise the government of the day without being viewed as a security risk, as was the case with me."
That's not totally fair - Locke is reported as calling for an inquiry into why so many files are kept on "legitimate dissenters" - oh yes, Trevett was sure to put that in scare quotes. Am I the only crazy person who things that it was scary that Locke was watched from childhood for being a dissident? It's not like this is totally new - it was only recently that the police were exposed for infiltrating such radical revolutionary groups as Greenpeace. Obviously I'm not claiming that no one ought to be monitored at all, but it seems like the way things are working is out of wack with any concept of proportionality or probable cause. Was Keith Locke or Greenpeace ever likely to try and violently overthrow the government or, I don't know, launch a terrorist attack? It seems pretty implausible. Quite why it should matter in a democracy that Locke became part of the structure of government is beyond me.


  1. Keith Locke part of the structure of government...oh my fuckin god you're right...I've never looked at it in those terms. Now that is a scary thought...

    That aside your wry comment about "the former (I ASSUME) Maoist" is telling....if someone like Locke (circa 1970's version) had been in a position of influence in Cold War times I'd have no qualms with him being watched. Whilst not wanting to appear as a tin foil hat wearing nut job I must draw your attention to the experience of the British Labour Party from that period...certainly there were a few nut jobs who you would want anywhere near areas of National Security. If George Galloway or someone with his views with his famous:

    "I am on the anti-imperialist left... If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life."

    was anywhere near national security the SIS would be positively failing in its duty by not investigating them..."legitimate dissenters" or not. Locke supported the Khmer Rouge and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Despite the former already engaging in atrocities along the way to capturing Phnom Penh (no doubt overlooked as the necessary acts of a vanguard group?) and as for the latter...well yeah...human rights record needs no discussion.

    In my heart of hearts I like to think (and do genuinely believe) Locke would be 100% behind the "NZ" cause rather than his discredited ideology..however when you look at his past and one's likely propensity to alter such deeply held "adult life" views it does make you wonder.

    Not sure if becoming a member of "the structure of government" should accord him such immunity. And is democracy impeded when he can request his own file?

    With hindsight given the nature of Locke's latter "legitimate dissenter" career the SIS were spot on with investigating him from childhood. The apple does not fall far from the tree it appears!

    p.s. Right(eous)ly...nice!

  2. nothing like soviet paranoia