Rob Gilchrist, a former activist, had spied on 9 different peaceful environment and animal welfare groups over the past 10 years before his girlfriend discovered suspicious emails, New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times reported in a 3,200-word expose today.
“Protests are part of a healthy democracy,” said Rochelle Rees, Gilchrist’s girlfriend. “The police are supposed to be protecting that but instead they are inhibiting it. It’s foolish of them since stomping on peaceful protest is the best way to make people more extreme and push them underground.”
Gilchrist, 40, was paid $600 a week and fed instructions through email. The Star-Times gives an excerpt from an email in 2007 regarding Greenpeace’s Climate Day of Action in 2007:
“Climate Change Groups: What is happening with climate change groups in Auckland? Who is involved? What actions might they be considering for the future? What specific plans are in place for Climate Day of Action 07/07?”
Other groups he spied on include Peace Action Wellington and the Vegan Balaclava Pixies, who were targeted after spray-painting an anti-meat slogan onto a billboard advertising for the beef industry.
New Zealand police say the spying was necessary after September 11th, yet Gilchrist was spying for them long before 2001. They recovered no evidence to show that any of the protest groups ever planned any type of violent attack.
The revelation rings similar to the news from Maryland earlier this year, where police spied on activists who posed no national security threat for nearly 14 months.