The spies nobody's talking about
There appears to be widespread public antipathy to the spying campaign run by Clark and Thompson on behalf of state-owned enterprise Solid Energy, to the extent that the government has had to do some tut tutting. That won't be much comfort to activists in the Save Happy Valley campaign and in Peace Action Wellington, who have had private e mails stolen and private conversations reported. (If Clark and Thompson's mole was really on the ball, she may have snared a rather plodding outline of the history of East Timor which was emailed to PAW last week by yours truly. I hope that she read it to the end and felt really disappointed to learn about Australian atrocities during World War Two and cooperative farming in the seventies, rather than plans to plant dynamite under Te Papa or similar paranoid nonsense.)
If it's wrong to use public money to spy, though, where does this leave the Security Intelligence Service, which has resources Thompson and Clark can never match and answers directly to the Prime Minister? The SIS gets tens of millions a year from the taxpayer, operates in near-total secrecy, aside from the occasional embarrassing leak, and seems to spend a good chunk of its time spying on the activist left. In the the 1970s and '80s the SIS devoted thousands of hours to staking out Owen Wilkes. In 1996 they got caught breaking into the house of fair trade activist Aziz Choudry. A couple of years ago they were accused of spying on Maori nationalists. I haven't noticed anybody in the Beehive tut tutting these folk.
It'd be good see somebody like Keith Locke, or a group in the spotlight like Peace Action Wellington, try to deepen the debate about spying by bringing in the SIS. The Alliance used to call for the abolition of the organisation back in the '90s, but changed course after entering government. The Greens opposed the SIS Bill that was rushed through parliament in the aftermath of the Chaudry affair, but since then there's been almost no public debate about the SIS, despite the fact that its budget has increased markedly since the beginning of George Bush's War of Terror.