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(en) Australia, Sydney, anarchist zine Mutiny #32 - Surveillance & spies: Undercover police in Melbourne by DumpsteredTwin

Date Sun, 23 Nov 2008 11:10:34 +0200



On October 16, The Age published a series of investigative reports on the state
surveillance of Melbourne activist and community groups, with the latest
incident occurring for the last two years. It was revealed that under the
guidance of Victoria Police's intelligence division, Security Intelligence
Group, a man had "infiltrated" obviously open collectives and organisations.
This was coupled with an article on a corporate hired undercover conducting
surveillance on environmental groups. Not only do these raise questions of civil
liberties, but they also beg the question of the functions and historical roles
of the organisations/ units that monitor "internal security" and subversives.

The police undercover was known to activists as "Setha Sann". With the skill
of walking into a room and saying `Hi', Setha had "infiltrated" into several
lefty groups in Melbourne, including a collective organsing to protest the
(cancelled) Adelaide arms fair, enthusiastically manoeuvring himself into the
role of taking minutes. As far as Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV) was
concerned, this "vegan" 007 had dropped his spy cred in his spritzer - "he had
not done his research very well, and had absolutely no thoughts, ideas or
opinions about any of the issues ALV represents". ALV also allege ALV that one
of their previous "members," "Nicky Jansen," was Setha's immediate predecessor.
It is believed that she was also connected with SIG as she had been involved in
the exact same groups as Setha, was seen into a police helicopter, and
disappeared from the groups once questions were being asked. Nicky also attended
a post-G20 debriefing session in Sydney.

The Age also reported that a former police undercover, known as "Memet", was
employed by a mining company in order to keep tabs on protestors opposing it.
This strongly points to the implicit relationship between the state and capital.
It is not as if spying can be found in the classifieds; somehow not only did
the mining company hear about Memet's expertise, but they also learnt that his
undercover profile was still intact and unknown to the targeted anti-uranium
community groups. The company, formerly North Ltd and now taken over by Rio
Tinto, had also engaged two other corporate spying companies - one of which was
also headed by another former police undercover.

In looking a bit closer into another case that SIG was involved in, perhaps it
might give light as to how they function. It has been revealed that SIG was
instrumental in the arrests of the Barwon/Benbrika 13 (whose case has been
labelled as Australia's biggest terrorism trial so far). One of their
undercovers known as SIO 39, operating under the name "Akmet Sonmez", had
demonstrated a home-made bomb (acquired through police operation collegues) by
exploding it in the middle of the bush. It was the only bomb and weapon (as far
as was reported) that the "terrorist" organisation ever had. The Australian is
notably indecisive on their charges, stating that "in most cases [the submitted
surveillance was] open to interpretation". The actions of SIG in the
Barwon/Benbrika 13 case, which were akin to the work of an agent provocateur,
signifies that their operational mentality is one of pushing the targeted group
a bit further along the path of extremism in order to get "concrete evidence".
It is quite common for the state to see terrorism as synonymous with political
dissent. The SIG, its predecessors Special Branch and Operation Intelligence
Unit, as well as any "intelligence" organisation the world over has always had
a penchant to spy on and maliciously interfere in the Left (look up FBI's
COINTELPRO, or even just do a search on "spy activist"). However, "the
infiltration of the animal liberation group in order to prevent them from
releasing half a dozen chickens from a battery hen farm seem to me to be quite
disproportionate," JulianBurnside QC told IPS News.
This seems especially true when ALV engages in Open Rescue. Open Rescue involves
freeing ill-treated animals conspicuously and informing the police afterwards.
In their interview with Mutiny ALV stated: "We hide neither our faces nor the
fact that we have been into properties to expose [legislative] breaches... and
to rescue sick and dying animals that have illegally been denied vet care." That
raises the question: Why would police infiltrate an organisation that is openly
publishing their rescues (including the one with which Setha Sann was a part
of), and providing links to video footage of the action?
No charges have been laid so far, so it is still
unclear why the activities of such groupings
would be under the scrutiny (and resources)
of the police, especially in such a round
about way of gathering seemingly innocuous
information. Dale Mills, in his assessment
for Green Left Weekly of the APEC excluded
list assembled by the police, made the astute
observation that "perhaps in an attempt
by police analysts to keep themselves in
a job, some of the reports use intelligence
jargon and cloak-and-dagger melodrama".
The Age backs up this sentiment by stating
that intelligence reports were "sometimes
manipulated by senior police figures to
exaggerate the threat they posed". This is
also quite common in other parts of this
industry - police often lie and exaggerate their
Statement of Arrests (documentation on why
one had been charged with an offense), to
increase the possibility of a conviction.
The same is true in the exaggeration of intelligence reports - they hope to void
being scrutinised as a waste of money. In monetary terms, the danger of these
state apparatuses is that they are resource heavy, and require ever-ballooning
expenditures. The Hilton bombing in 1978 was alleged to have been organised by
ASIO in an attempt to both increase their budget and justify why they needed to
exist. Not much has changed since with the Victorian Police budget for 2008-2009
at a record $1.75 billion. Over a third of it ($657 million) will be spent to
ensure that they are "at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and
organised crime" (ie ethnically profiling Muslims, non-white immigrants, ethnic
youths/"gangs", and those resisting everyday life under capitalism). Further,
$4.8 million of this budget will be spent on specialist equipment including
"state-of-the-art covert listening devices to improve intelligence gathering
during undercover operations".
This record budget is most likely tied directly with their "performance" with
the Barwon/Benbrika 13 case.
It should be mentioned that the police have rely upon "open-source" monitoring
when it comes to protest - this has lead them to conduct raids, or issue court
orders to requisition whole photographic archives from both sympathetic and
unsympathetic sources, on the internet and mainstream media, in order to further
their information gathering and lead-ups to arrests. These repercussions have
spurred on discussion of issues that affect our communities, by forcing us to
address on the one hand the safety and security (and not paranoid security) of
our friends and loved-ones when it comes to resistance (arrestable or not); and
the other, requiring us to place active engagement in community outreach at the
forefront of our resistance, rather than remaining in our personal enclaves. It
needs to be about ensuring that the "protestor" is not demonised and capegoated,
and that the issues that people take action about are widely known.
All in all though, perhaps the whole spy fiasco is simply an indicator that
we're doing something right... and that's captured the curiosity of the state.
These incidents have the power to sow suspicion, to sow mistrust, but it is
important not to make a witch-hunt out of this. We have to stay focused, to
remind ourselves why we are resisting. As ALV said in their interview, "no spy
or infiltrator or informer is going to stop us from doing that".
----------------------------------------------------------------

Do you like the Mutiny zine?
We do too! We have our hands full making the zine every month and we
would like your help with distribution - we can't possibly cover all the places
the zine should go by ourselves.
Is there somewhere you know of that would be a good place to put
some zines each month? Great places for people to pick up zines include
libraries, bookshops, music stores, cafes, pamphlet racks - and probably
more places we haven't even thought of.
If you can distribute we can send you extra copies.
If you can photocopy some - let us know & we'll send you a master copy.
(Nerds can also print from www.jura.org.au/mutiny ).
Contact us on mutineers@graffiti.net
or PO box 4, Enmore, NSW, 2042, Australia
Thanks!
As well as the satisfaction of helping spread radical independent literature,
if you can help spread zines in your home-town or suburb, we promise to
buy you a beer if we ever meet. (Non-drinkers get their choice of softdrink.)
_________________________________________
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