Staff at Greenpeace’s Auckland offices have been left shocked at leaked information indicating oil companies have been using a controversial agency to spy on them at work and at home. Furthermore, the New Zealand Government has also been implicated in the operation.
Greenpeace was tipped off that oil companies, including Anadarko and Norwegian state-owned oil company Statoil, contracted Thompson & Clark Investigations to collect a broad range of information about Greenpeace staff and volunteers. The information received suggests the New Zealand Government has also been involved.
Since receiving the information, Greenpeace’s investigation unit has spent months confirming the accuracy of the information that was leaked.
Greenpeace has now launched legal action to protect the privacy of its staff and volunteers. This includes requesting an injunction to stop any ongoing surveillance, and launching a privacy claim.
Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says the documents Greenpeace has seen show dozens of employees and volunteers have been followed, photographed, and profiled by the spy agency.
“The material we have seen shows that there is an extensive, indiscriminate operation on Greenpeace. We believe our people have been watched almost every day, for years. They’ve been followed to their homes, they’ve been tailed in their personal time, they’ve had their privacy breached in completely unacceptable ways,” he says.
Thompson & Clark has previously been at the centre of controversy after using unethical methods to investigate several NGOs. These included planting moles within organisations who then formed romantic long-term relationships with employees and extracted information.
“I’ve got people in the office who are frightened,” says Norman. “Staff are feeling nervous on their way to work, and now have to check over their shoulder wherever they go. We’re talking about people being followed home at all hours of the day and night by spies creeping around in darkened cars with long lens cameras.
“This operation is disgusting. The team here work tirelessly because they want to make our world better. What leaves me feeling really sick is the allegation that our own Government has a hand in these dirty dealings.
“We’ve already seen them protect the oil industry at the expense of our climate and environment, but it would be the ultimate betrayal if they were knowingly helping oil companies gain information about private citizens in order to threaten peaceful and democratic protest.
“We have an important history of protest in New Zealand, marked by events such as the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, which was carried out at the behest of the French Government after it infiltrated Greenpeace with spies. Back then, the Government went to every end to fight for justice for us. Now it appears that they are the ones helping the spies.
“The New Zealand Government needs to categorically deny that any official has ever had a communication with the oil industry about Thompson & Clark and Greenpeace, because our information tells us that they have.”
Most recently, Greenpeace New Zealand has been campaigning against Statoil’s presence on the East Coast. In April, the organisation crowdfunded $100,000 for the boat, Taitu, which it used to peacefully confront the Amazon Warrior, a ship Statoil commissioned to search for deep sea oil.
Greenpeace and the activists involved were charged by the Government for the first time in history under the controversial amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, dubbed the ‘Anadarko Amendment’, which was put in place in 2013 by the Government to stop protests against oil exploration at sea.
The defendants will be in the Napier District Court to enter pleas on August 28.