A couple of articles in the Age today reveal once again what many of us already knew: that police have been routinely posing as activists to covertly infiltrate campaigns to gather intelligence. Even the Palm Sunday peace march for crying out loud. Maybe that means the government finally gets the seditious nature of Palm Sunday?
VICTORIA Police’s secret intelligence unit has infiltrated Melbourne’s activist and community groups for two years to gather information on protests against the Iraq War, Japanese whaling and a weapons exhibition.
Reigniting civil liberties concerns about police spying, an officer from the police Security Intelligence Group has infiltrated groups such as Animal Liberation Victoria, Stop the War Coalition, Unity for Peace and Socialist Alternative.
The officer, who posed as a vegan, left-wing activist, has also had close contact with representatives of church and student groups involved in anti-war demonstrations. So successful was his operation that the organising committee for this year’s Palm Sunday peace march in Melbourne appointed him its minute-taker at meetings.
IT WAS a simple mistake. The quiet, polite young activist who had been working every Tuesday as a volunteer in Animal Liberation Victoria’s Melbourne office did not shut down his computer properly before leaving.
Andrew* had left his personal email account open. For those in the group who had nagging doubts about the bona fides of the eager young man who had turned up out of nowhere in February 2007, it was an opportunity too good to resist.
But the scan of Andrew’s email account raised more questions than answers. He had very few email contacts; no friends, family or work colleagues. It appeared the only email addresses he had belonged to the people sneaking a look at his email account – the animal rights folk – plus maybe a few others in Melbourne’s activist community.
Who was this guy who wanted the crappy job of taking notes at meetings? Why was he always so keen to know when the next animal rescue or protest was on? How come this vegan appeared to have no knowledge of Melbourne’s vegetarian restaurants?
The empire is alive and well.
People sometimes think I’m paranoid, but I always assume there’s at least one member of the police force at any meeting or phone hookup or email network…rarely is there any need for secrecy anyway. But this shows the immoral lengths government is willing to go to to minimise dissent under the pretense of ‘public safety’. If you’re a concerned police officer, go to the meetings in uniform and explain why you’re there. Who knows, we might even get along.