Monday, July 23, 2007



NEW ZEALAND - Private investigators acting for a state-owned
enterprise have hired spies to infiltrate and undermine protest groups
in what's believed to be a New Zealand first. . . Last year a
parliamentary committee formally criticized the state power company
Mighty River Power for hiring Thompson & Clark for unspecified
activities against Greenpeace. It turns out this was the tip of an
iceberg. The private investigators are being used widely, a scale of
corporate spying against political groups never before seen in New
Zealand. Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson
describes it as repellent. "These are young people trying to act in
the public good on issues like climate change. They have a basic right
in a democracy to do this without interference.

"In the same way as it is undesirable to plant corporate spies in a
board room, it is equally undesirable to plant corporate spies in
community groups," he said. "Arguably, it is even more repellent and
unethical because the corporates have so much greater resources at
their disposal to ward off people challenging them."

Thompson & Clark describes itself as New Zealand's leading corporate
intelligence agency. It is part of a worldwide trend for companies to
use the techniques of police and intelligence services against groups
that oppose their activities. Thompson & Clark's public face is a
website that offers clients "highly specialized skills" and "on-call
tactical support, complemented by teams of covert surveillance
operatives and a consultant security-guard force".

An unseen part of the website -containing key words to attract
businesses searching the internet for private investigators - lists
"covert physical and electronic surveillance", "real-time
intelligence", "political activism" and "protesters" as specialties.

The agency has specialized in working for controversial companies
since forming in 2003 as "security providers to the biotech industry".
It is secretive, keeping even its office location secret. Gavin Clark,
who oversees the students undercover, is a former police officer,
armed offender's squad member and nationally competitive kayaker. . .

Solid Energy's first known use of Thompson & Clark was publicized in
the Star-Times in April last year. Save Happy Valley supporters
camping at the site of the planned Cypress open-cast coal mine north
of Westport discovered two men monitoring their camp from a hiding
place on a neighboring ridge. . .

Later that year, the surveillance was intensified. Visitors to the
West Coast protest camp discovered a hidden digital video camera, 100
meters of cable and electronic recording equipment being used to
monitor a public access road to the camp. . .



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