Spooks spy on environmentalists, how to respond?

The Age reveals that AFP, ASIO and private subcontractors spy on environmentalists, protesters and left wing organisations opposed to a variety of environmentally destructive commercial developments.

Surprise surprise.

There is nothing abnormal about this. Create a secret intelligence gathering agency, and they’ll act like a secret intelligence agency. If a government has a secret intelligence gathering agency, it will try to use it. If it doesn’t have one, it will seek to create one.

The pursuit and maintenance of power demands information about threats and opponents. The state, business, political parties, it doesn’t matter. Once created, the agency has it’s own self-perpetuating interest. Their job is to to identify and gather intelligence about threats, so threats will be identified, intelligence will be gathered.

Whether it’s the dirt unit within the office of a political power broker, the state’s official intelligence agency, a de facto political unit in a Police force, or private consulting firm; it exists and if you’re being effective, it’s trying to spy on you*.

These tools of power are not your friend, they are not a-political, and they are not legitimate. And we cannot simply hope to bring security agencies to heal by electing the right government, or appointing the right overseer.

Environmental groups involved in opposing coal seem gas, coal mining and coal power need to recognise they are opposing something fundamental our present political system. They are opposing the relentless pursuit of profit in favour of a sustainable future.

They have to expect that effective action will demand a state response, and as such, they can expect to be spied on, just as they can expect to be beaten, arrested and imprisoned.

The Green movement as a whole needs to come out against police violence, state surveillance and intimidation. Everyone from The Greens, the corporate NGOs, to the various community coalitions, would do well to adopt the default position of most far left groups in opposing the work of intelligence agencies and political Police.

1. Anyone exposed as an ASIO agent, police informer against activists, or ABCC informer in the workplace should be publicly identified and completely ostracised. By everyone, forever.

2. Work on construction or supply for security organisations should be subject to a permanent and unremitting black ban.

3. Any and all channels used by ASIO and friends to gather “intelligence” from the public should be jammed.

And we should issue a warning.

To anyone working or informing for ASIO, the ABCC, or a politically motivated Police investigation anywhere: when we finally gather on the streets and storm the headquarters of your organisations, we will identify you.

On that day, you will find no comfort anywhere, for as long as you live.

If that day seems distant, remember that as a file turns thirty, it’s contents become publicly available, and even though your name might be blacked out, we’ll sure as hell work out who you are and act accordingly.

We will not forget.

A Caution…

The revelation that elements of the state are spying on a movement, can see people respond with fear and secrecy. I think the following advice from Gene Sharpe’s From Dictatorship to Democracy is pertinent:

secrecy is not only rooted in fear but contributes to fear, which dampens the spirit of resistance and reduces the number of people who can participate in a given action. It also can contribute to suspicions and accusations, often unjustified, within the movement, concerning who is an informer or agent for the opponents. Secrecy may also affect the ability of a movement to remain nonviolent.

In contrast, openness regarding intentions and plans will not only have the opposite effects, but will contribute to an image that the resistance movement is in fact extremely powerful.

* Most people who think they have ASIO files don’t, because most people who think they have ASIO files are completely and totally ineffective. I include myself in that.

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