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Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

What should we be more afraid of: possible harm from terrorists and anarchists who might or might not be real, or possible harm from draconian and unsupervised laws which are allegedly there to protect us?

It’s a difficult question and I suspect the answer might depend on the exact circumstances involved, but at this point I am far more concerned about repressive government laws specifically intended to inhibit citizen’s freedom rather than some uncertain threat which can just too conveniently be labelled as “terrorism”.

There have been a series of recent incidents in New Zealand which have prompted me to tackle this subject, but the issue goes beyond any single country because it exists in many western democracies (so-called) where governments are granting themselves similar powers.

The first incident is the new ability, now being introduced by our government, of New Zealand’s spy agency (the GCSB or Government Communications Security Bureau) to spy on New Zealand citizens. In the past they were (in most circumstances) only allowed to spy on alleged enemies of the country. But they illegally spied on innocent (no arrests resulted from their activity) citizens instead.

So what is the natural response of our government to this immoral and illegal action? Obviously not to hold the agency accountable, because in modern New Zealand the rich and powerful are very rarely held accountable for anything. No, the response was to make the illegal actions legal. Well they can do that if they want to, but they can’t make immoral actions moral.

There is little accountability from our increasingly untrustworthy police force either, even though they clearly broke many laws and acted in a truly outrageous and scandalous way during the 2007 Urewera raids.

Innocent people were terrorised by armed police in a totally unjustifiable way and yet this – which is really the only genuine act of terrorism I can recall happening in New Zealand (except perhaps the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by agents of the French Intelligence Service in 1985) – resulted in no legal punishment, resignations, or even really any real condemnation of police by those in authority.

Finally there is the Kim Dotcom case, another totally immoral over-use of brutal police violence. I have discussed this in previous blog entries but effectively Dotcom was illegally spied on, and was arrested in a violent armed attack by police purely at the request of American agencies acting on behalf of big business in the US.

So yet again terrorist tactics were used by the authorities for a totally unjustified purpose. Who is the good side and who is the bad in this conflict? I would suggest that we have far more to fear from armed police jumping out of helicopters and smashing down doors and stealing private property than from a single fat nerd running a file sharing site.

I’m not suggesting in any way that all New Zealand police are immoral, violent thugs, although I have no doubt that some of them are. What I am suggesting is that the police are being mis-used by those near the top of the hierarchy and especially by politicians (even though they cannot theoretically influence police operations). Actually, that sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory but I’m sticking with it anyway!

It is interesting that those who distrust the government the most seem to be the ones who are most supportive of these actions. Maybe it’s because these immoral police and spy agency activities will be most likely be directed against the political opponents of the right, and those who demand most freedom for themselves seem to be extremely enthusiastic about ensuring that no one else gets that same privilege.

I don’t want terrorism (whatever that actually is) or other forms of violence here, and it is something we need to guard against. But the question which we all need ask is this: who will guard the guards themselves?

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