Operation 8: The Probability Space – Part 2A

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Brief of Evidence Extract

 In relation to the video evidence presented by the NZ Police:

Acknowledging the limitations imposed by the lack of visual and audio context for the analysis of all of the video evidence I state:

  1. The January 2007 video evidence cannot be construed to conclusively depict military training or close protection training;
  2. The June 2007 video evidence can in no way be construed to depict military training or close protection training;
  3. On the balance of probabilities the September 2007 video evidence is consistent with close protection training rather than offensive military training; and
  4. On the balance of probabilities the October 2007 video evidence is consistent with close protection training rather than offensive military training.

Analysis of Police Surveillance Video Clips

Sometime in January 2012 counsel for Mr Kemara sent me a prosecution brief of expert evidence by Lieutenant Colonel **********, an expert military witness. He had viewed certain video surveillance evidence and commented on it. I was asked to comment. I advised counsel that in all probability I would substantially agree with the evidence of Lt Col **********.

However on 8th February 2012, Mr Kemara’s counsel sent me a large number of video clips relating to activities in January 2007, June 2007, September 2007 and October 2007. I understand that they were from cameras located in the Urewera as part of the surveillance of wananga in which Mr Kemara, Mr Iti and others participated.

I was asked to view those video clips that related particularly to alleged military activity and to analyse them as a military expert.

However as an intelligence analyst I have chosen to view all of the clips in their entirety in order to try to gain some overall context to the activities in question, for without context no interpretation can be certain.

As a result of that viewing I have changed my original opinion about Lt Col **********’s evidence, and present my own. I may have reached a different view because although we have both considerable military experience I also have expertise as an intelligence manager and analyst. It could also be that Lt Col ********** was shown selected video clips only, and not the whole body of video evidence.

Problems with context

The first problem with context is that in almost all cases much or even most of the activity seems to take place off camera, and the camera or cameras just show what is happening in front of them, or within their focus. What is happening off camera might (or might not) completely or partially alter any perceptions gained or inferences drawn from the on camera clips. Therefore much or most of the context of the activity is not observed and therefore no interpretation or inference can be considered certain.

To explain my point by analogy, if I were to view part of a tree trunk in one camera view, in a wider more inclusive view it might be obvious that it is not a tree trunk but an elephant. The same contextual problem exists with activities as it does with objects.

The second major problem is that there is no audio intercept and there can therefore be no possible indication of what is being said. What is being said by the people in the videos would provide the only completely reliable context. Without audio no interpretation or inference can be considered certain.


As requested by Mr Kemara’s counsel I first viewed the October 2007 video clips. Those clips indicated to me that there could be two or possibly more interpretations of the activities within the focus of the camera. Having realised that I then viewed all of the video clips, including looking at the October 2007 clips again, with the intention of identifying any indication as to which interpretation was the most likely, if that were possible.

Military drills and tactics

Infantry minor tactics are those drills and tactics used by small military sub-units such as infantry sections, infantry platoons and patrols to react when coming under fire. They involve the use of available firepower and the use of manoeuvre or movement to place the group in the best possible position to take further action, usually to either attack, break contact and withdraw, or call upon a larger group or supporting firepower such as artillery or mortars to assist.

Infantry minor tactics always include immediate action drills which soldiers instinctively employ when under fire. In most cases for instance the first immediate action drill is for every soldier to take cover in a position in which he or she is covered from view and from fire, and from which he or she can return fire. That usually means going to ground in the first instance to avoid being shot if possible, then crawling or rolling into suitable cover. After intensive training it is instinctive.

There are immediate action drills to take when fired upon from the front, side or rear, and when ambushed at close or longer range. There are also immediate action drills to take when travelling in vehicles, including what to do when fired upon.

Military patrolling

Patrolling is a specialist skill in which different formations such as single file, double file, arrowhead, box or diamond are employed depending on the terrain (bush, jungle, open country, urban) and on the expected level of threat. Patrolling involves the use of hand signals to pass orders and information, although on the modern battlefield each soldier usually has a personal radio and hand signals are not as important.

In a patrol each soldier is allocated a specific responsibility such as scout, commander, machine gunner, grenadier, or rifleman. Each member of a patrol has a specified arc to observe and search and in this task the weapon he or she carries is always pointed into the arc of responsibility. For instance the scout has to observe and search everything to his or her front and sides, and the “tail end charlie” has to make sure that no-one approaches from behind the patrol.

Professional soldiers will always have both hands on their weapons at all times, carried in a position ready to fire immediately a threat is observed. The weapon will always be pointing in the direction the soldier is looking. Professional soldiers do not carry their rifles by their slings or over their shoulders or in anything other than the ready position.

To the trained eye it is easy to determine the level of professionalism of the patrol.

Worldwide application

These military skills are similar wherever they are employed in the world whether by military, paramilitary, guerrilla or insurgency forces. They are universal skills and techniques.

Private military contractors

In the modern theatre of conflict such as in Iraq or Afghanistan many of the roles traditionally performed by the military have been “outsourced” to civilian contractors, called private military contractors. Among many others these roles include:

  • Logistic support including transport of supplies within the warzone;
  • Catering;
  • Convoy protection;
  • Building or installation security;
  • Security of infrastructure construction projects, such as road building;
  • Training local military and other security forces; and
  • Close protection of VIPs such as diplomats and politicians, and close protection of clients such as journalists and businessmen, sometimes called personal security details. The old term was bodyguard.

Training for private military contractors

The core entry level skills and training necessary for employment by a private military contractor are driving for high risk personnel, shooting, medicine, close quarter battle and rescues, and close protection (or executive protection).

Convoy protection

One of the main roles of private military contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan has been the protection of supply convoys. This manpower and resource intensive activity, traditionally performed by the military, has now been largely privatised.

An enormous quantity of supplies is required to sustain military and civil operations and large private logistics companies transport those supplies from neighbouring countries into the war zones. They contract other companies to provide convoy protection from ambush and from improvised explosive devices. The military do still provide some main supply route protection at critical points.

Contractors in this role are required to be well trained in standard infantry minor tactics, especially those drills and tactics to counter vehicle ambushes, whether by armed insurgents or militia on the ground, or by improvised explosive devices.

Close protection

Close protection or body-guarding is a specialist skill used by military and police forces worldwide, and by specialist non-military and non-police operators. In the military it is usually the special forces and military police who are responsible for close protection.

Close protection operators employ all or most of the minor tactics of the military (most of them are former military or police). These include military patrol formations when appropriate and military immediate action drills when needed.

The main difference is that close protection operators will almost always not engage in offensive action unless they have to. Their primary responsibility is to shield their VIP or client from harm, and to remove the VIP or client from harm as quickly as possible. This usually involves a break contact drill and a withdrawal to a safe place.

In vehicles the drill will often be to remove the VIP or client from the vehicle under attack and to place him or her in a second backup or escape vehicle, or in a safe place out of the line of fire.

Close protection operators in combat zones are usually armed with rifles (often AK47s of Russian or Chinese manufacture because they are widely available in all conflict zones). In other situations and in combat zones where rifles are not appropriate they are armed with hand guns, usually concealed. They may carry smoke grenades to cover a break contact drill and a withdrawal.

Close protection operators are usually proficient in close quarter battle techniques involving kicks, punches, heel strikes, palm strikes, head butts and the whole variety of unarmed combat skills. Close quarter battle techniques also include the use of hand guns and knives at close range. These skills are derived from the military but are widely practiced in society.

Both males and females are employed as close protection operators, with females in demand to protect female clients, particularly in the Middle East.

Analysing the video clips for military context

In my viewing and analysis of the surveillance video clips I have watched for any indication whether the activity on camera might be strictly military or whether it might be close protection or some other activity.

It should be noted that throughout these video clips there is no indication that live ammunition is fired, and every indication that the firing of weapons is simulated.

In all or most of the video clips some but not all of the participants have their faces concealed by balaclavas or scarves. I have visited the Urewera a number of times over the years and observe that the wearing of balaclavas in the Urewera seems to be quite commonplace, almost a bush dweller’s uniform.

Additionally on the modern battlefield where cameras are now commonplace, and where journalists seem to be part of the battlefield population, facial concealment is a widespread practice particularly by military special forces and also by private military contractors operating in the glare of publicity, with the ever present possibility that their images may appear on Facebook and other online sites.

Consequently I draw no inferences or conclusions as to whether the facial concealment by some arose from military training with criminality in mind, or from close protection training with employment in mind.

January 2007 video clips

The January clips show people moving along what looks like a track. At one point in the clips they are moving in single file which could be a military patrol or close protection formation. However there is no clear indication that it is not just a group of people moving along a track in a natural formation for that terrain.

Some of them make gestures that could be interpreted as military patrol hand signals but could also be interpreted just as gestures to indicate to each other something on the track that people might trip over, or some other meaning. Whilst the military do employ hand signals, the military does not have a monopoly on body language and gestures.

For the most part however, throughout the January 2007 clips I observed the people just ambling about, possibly moving to and from some destination.

June 2007 clip

In this clip a few men are seen moving along what is presumably a track.

Initially a small group of men walk past the camera in a non-military fashion, quite casual. The last person in that group turns when he reaches a position near the camera and seems to look around, pointing his rifle in the direction that he is looking.

That could be interpreted as observing and searching an arc of responsibility as on a military patrol, or it could just mean that he turned to look around. Given that no-one else appeared to be observing and searching arcs of responsibility the military patrol interpretation seems unlikely, unless he was a former soldier in which case he would instinctively point his weapon where he was looking, even if he were on a hunting trip.

Shortly after, two other men follow them with a gap between them and the men in the first group. The first of these two stops near the camera, puts his rifle over his shoulder, then moves down the track. The second person follows him.

These two men possibly provide context to the whole clip.

The placing of the rifle over the shoulder could indicate that he was tired. The gap between him and the leading group could indicate that he had fallen behind. He seemed to be rather heavy. When the last man in the leading group turned to look around he could have been checking to see where the following two men were.

That is of course conjecture but no more so than conjecturing that one man in this group was acting as though on patrol. For all we know from that clip they could have been hunters.

September 2007 video clips

This is a series of some 24 clips and it is this series of clips that provides the most contextual challenge to me as an intelligence analyst. It contains a great deal of activity on camera, but it seems obvious that most of the activity on this day in this area was off camera (see previous explanation of context). Therefore the complete context to this activity is missing.

In general people arrive by car, gather in a group, undertake a great deal of activity that could be interpreted as either military or close protection activity, do lots of walking around in a normal manner, and finish standing or sitting in discussion, and finally leave in their cars. At some point near the end of the clips they appear to be joined by a second group from somewhere else.

In relation to the military or close protection activity most of it seems to about breaking contact and withdrawing once engaged. There does not appear to be any offensive military action at all.

During most of the military or close protection activity the people remain standing or crouched and do not go to ground, take cover and return fire as one would expect from a military patrol. That did not happen on camera and one cannot speculate or introduce into evidence what might have happened off camera. They did seem to simulate returning fire but from a standing or crouched position, mostly standing. That tends to indicate that the activity was more likely to be close protection rather than military.

Some of the people on camera were carrying hand guns (or replica hand guns). That also tends to indicate that they were not training as participants in a military patrol, but perhaps as close protection operators.

Although most of the military or close protection (or other) activity was conducted in bush or reasonably close country the participants did not seem to be using the drills and procedures I would associate with close country. They seemed to be practicing drills unrelated to the terrain they were in. Whilst no certain conclusion can be drawn from that it could indicate that it might not have been military patrol activity.

During the afternoon some of the participants appeared to be throwing objects that might have been incendiary devices as alleged. Or they might have been simulated explosive grenades or simulated smoke grenades. The technique for all of them is the same. Without knowing what was in the minds of the participants it cannot be deduced from the video.

What can be said though from the intelligence analyst’s perspective is that the use of the term Molotov Cocktail is an incendiary use of language that a professional analyst would avoid.

October 2007 video clips

As with the September video clips the October clips suffer from a lack of context due to the narrow focus of the camera and the lack of audio. However the October clips do seem to contain more context and are somewhat easier to analyse.

Throughout the day there seems to be an instructor (with the bald head), two or three observers, and several people under instruction.

The instruction for the most part is focused on a vehicle. Initially it seems that the occupants of the vehicle are practicing an immediate action drill to extract themselves from an immobilised vehicle, under simulated covering fire from one or more of the occupants, followed by extraction to a presumably safe place off camera. The drill is practiced a number of times. There is nothing to indicate whether it is a military or close protection drill as they are both the same.

That is followed by a drill in which a person is brought from off camera into the vicinity of the vehicle and is bundled into the vehicle. This could fit a number of scenarios including kidnapping, the taking of a prisoner of war, the rescue of a hostage, or the extraction of a VIP or client to a second or escape vehicle during a close protection drill.

At one point the group practices a patrol formation that seems to be a diamond formation with an unarmed person freely moving in the centre of the formation. This is not consistent with a kidnapping or a prisoner of war scenario. The most likely context for that drill is the protection of a VIP or client in a dangerous environment.

During these drills some participants are armed with hand guns (or replica hand guns). That practice is not consistent with normal military practice and seems to indicate that the drills are close protection drills.

For a limited time some close quarter battle training was given. This is consistent with either military or close protection training.

As a general observation it seems obvious from the carriage of weapons and posture of the participants that they were not well trained at all.

At the end of the training session the participants hongi with the instructor and move off.

Whilst there can be no certain interpretation of the events covered by the October 2007 video surveillance due to the absence of much of the context, on the balance of probabilities the activity was more likely to be close protection training than offensive military training.

An overall analysis

Acknowledging the limitations imposed by the lack of visual and audio context for the analysis of all of the video evidence I state:

  1. The January 2007 video evidence cannot be construed to conclusively depict military training or close protection training;
  2. The June 2007 video evidence can in no way be construed to depict military training or close protection training;
  3. On the balance of probabilities the September 2007 video evidence is consistent with close protection training rather than offensive military training; and
  4. On the balance of probabilities the October 2007 video evidence is consistent with close protection training rather than offensive military training

Links: The Operation 8 Series