Category Archives: Other

All Purpose Dressing

I eat a lot of salads. For most salads I will just use olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing. light and tasty.

But this is my favourite dressing, used in a potato salad, or just poured over steamed vegetables.

Equal measures of olive oil and lemon juice.
Couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
Handful of fresh basil leaves.

Whizz, blend, pour.

Silly Bugger Kiwi

A few days ago I watched a You Tube video of the 2015 Kea World Class New Zealander Awards where Helen Clark won the supreme award. Right from the beginning some of these “world class” New Zealanders were calling themselves “Kiwis”, over and over and over again. To me it sounded absolutely ridiculous. World class silly buggers more like it.

And at a wedding recently an Australian guest thought he had offended me when I told him I was a New Zealander, not a Kiwi. It was a conversation stopper but he was just being friendly. I suppose I ought to be kinder to Australians who don’t know better. New Zealanders though, world class or otherwise, deserve my opprobrium.

I’ve been doing it for years now. I do it all the time, regardless, just a gentle rebuke to those who compare me to a nocturnal, flightless and fat-arsed dumb little bird with a sticky beak. Or perhaps to an egg-shaped furry little greeny-brown fruit that used to be called a Chinese gooseberry back in the dark ages when I was a child.

I’m an oddity. One of a minority it seems who doesn’t appreciate being likened to a ridiculous bird, or to a minor ingredient in my breakfast smoothie (fruit, greenery, herbs, nuts, flaxseed oil, coconut yoghurt, spirulina, turmeric, ginger, lecithin, water and ice cubes – in case you’re interested). I’m a Maori vegan oddity as well. Or a vegan Maori oddity.

It’s probably the Maori heritage in me that gets me going on about being called Kiwi. I’m not so vegan that I object to being called Kiwi out of political correctness.

For me it’s about whakapapa or genealogy. You see, I’m tangata Maori, a Maori person. I’m not manu Maori, a Maori bird. Nowhere in my extensive whakapapa going back over thirty generations and across multiple lines into multiple hapu or tribes can I find a single bird let alone a kiwi bird. Try as I might, not one. There are a lot of distinguished rangatira or chiefs in that whakapapa and not one of them is a bird. Or even a foreign fruit. Strictly speaking my early ancestors were indeed foreigners who migrated here from Eastern Polynesia. But colloquially they would have been called coconuts perhaps, rather than Chinese gooseberries.

But I can see why most New Zealanders don’t mind being called Kiwi, and even describe themselves as Kiwi. It’s easy to understand. There’s a simple explanation. They’re silly buggers. New Zealanders are silly buggers. Except for me. And my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

On the other hand, in this highly urbanised society more and more divorced from the natural world where heaps of people don’t know that milk comes from a cow’s tit and bacon is pig’s bum, maybe they just don’t realise any more that a Kiwi is actually a flightless, nocturnal, fat-arsed and dumb little bird with a sticky beak. Mind you there seem to be a lot more fat-arsed dumb New Zealanders with sticky beaks around these days. Maybe the distinction between New Zealanders and Kiwis is not as great as when I was growing up and being taught the difference. Maybe there’s a genetic evolution in New Zealanders towards fat-arsed dumb bird-persons. I think I’d rather my descendants became intelligent fruit.

Nah. I agree with you. That’s all a bit far-fetched. I think I’ll stick with the silly bugger explanation.

Which sort of leads me to the inevitable conclusion that my forebears in the New Zealand military were silly buggers. Don’t get me wrong they were soldiers not bears, and there were a lot more than four of them (in case you’re getting confused) but they did originate this silly Kiwi stuff. In the Boer War and then in World War I a New Zealand regiment and then all New Zealand forces adopted the kiwi as their regimental then national logo.

Don’t ask me why. It defies logic. Who in their right mind would choose a nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed and dumb little bird with a sticky beak to represent New Zealand’s finest? Some stupid bloody staff officer for sure. Or perhaps it just started as a joke in the workshops and a vehicle mechanic or a sign writer with a sense of humour painted a kiwi on the staff officer’s car. In these more liberal days it would be a likeness of the officer’s head shaped like another part of his anatomy.

Now I can vouch for the fact that military vehicle mechanics and sign writers have a sense of humour. All of the Australian vehicles in Vietnam had a small red kangaroo painted on the door. Overnight they all had white kiwis painted on them, mounted on the red kangaroo, in flagrante delicto. True story.

And you never know, that staff officer might have had style and a sense of humour himself. He might have turned a soldier’s mockery into a national symbol and had the last laugh. He’d still be laughing in his grave. Maybe the whole bloody New Zealand Expeditionary Force was in on the joke. Surely the flower of New Zealand’s manhood didn’t seriously compare themselves to nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed and dumb little birds with sticky beaks. Or to a Chinese gooseberry.

Anyway, New Zealand soldiers used to be called Maorilanders, EnZedders, Fernleavers (after a badge they wore), Diggers and Pig Islanders, but by about 1917 they were being called Kiwis and were calling themselves Kiwis. The original silly buggers were our WW1 heroes. It didn’t take long to catch on and by the time the war ended in 1918 all New Zealand soldiers were being called Kiwis. I suppose it was better than Pig Islanders.

By the way did you notice that we used to be called “Diggers” too, until the Aussies stole it, like Pavlova and Phar Lap and Crowded House and Jo Bjelke-Petersen.

Then sports teams picked up on it and pretty soon all those silly New Zealanders were calling themselves Kiwis. Except for my grandfather, and my father, and me. In fact, growing up in Ngati Whatuiapiti I never once heard anyone refer to themselves as Kiwi. I guess we all knew we were tangata persons not manu birds. Either that or there were no silly buggers in Ngati Whatuiapiti. Which is stretching credulity a little. Believe me.

For me it’s about mana – dignity, self-respect, mutual respect, prestige even. In Ngati Whatuiapiti we all descend from our illustrious tipuna (ancestor) Te Whatuiapiti; the red-haired one who won many military and economic battles, regained the lands stolen from his father and grandfather, and held off marauders from the North trying to take them again, without doubt Hawke’s Bay’s most outstanding leader, warrior and statesman, ever. We bask in the inherited glow of his mana. None of us descend from Kiwi. Ours is mana tangata not mana manu. Ngati Kiwi is some other tribe, a tribe for silly buggers who think of themselves as nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed dumb little birds with sticky beaks. Or Chinese gooseberries.

I didn’t get called Kiwi until I left school, took leave of Ngati Whatuiapiti, joined Ngati Tumatauenga (NZ Army), and went off to Australia for officer training. There we were called Kiwi and Pig Islander and a whole lot more besides, including “Shaky Islander” which I didn’t mind. We were also called “Sheepshagger” which I did mind of course, although I did quietly admire the sheer audacity of the pot calling the kettle black. The inventiveness of Australian nomenclature has never ceased to amaze me. Yet somehow they have avoided being called Kangaroos or Wallabies or Dingos or Wombats or Galahs or Cockatoos or Dingbats. Except for their sports teams and their politicians of course. “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” seems to satisfy their sense of nationality. “Oi, oi, oi” their finely tuned sense of the ridiculous.

Aussie. I suppose if I had to choose between “Newzie” and “Kiwi” I’d have to go with “Kiwi”, much as I hate to say it. “Newzie, Newzie, Newzie”? Nah. The bloody Australians would laugh us out of the stadium.

I served in the New Zealand Army for twenty years “Under the Kiwi” as it were. I have to admit it. I wore a hat badge with a kiwi on it for most of those twenty years, and I’ve still got my cravat that we wore when we deployed to Vietnam in 1967; a black cravat with a small white kiwi that I never wear any more, not for decades. And I’ve still got a very artistic kiwi lapel pin that I never wear any more, not for decades. I used to wear them once upon a while ago.

A sense of humour goes a long way in the military. A joke in the form of a nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed dumb little bird with a sticky beak is the legacy of my military forebears.

What does it say about the Royal New Zealand Air Force that they still sport a kiwi in the middle of their RNZAF badge and in the middle of the roundels on their aircraft. Silly buggers. Or are they just perpetuating the joke. My beloved Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment still sports the kiwi in the badge. That’s OK though because they’re not silly buggers; they’re good jokers.

That’s all behind me now. But I suppose a film about my own life might be called “Once Were Silly Bugger”. Ah well. I’m definitely a New Zealander now; Ngati Whatuiapiti and New Zealander. I’ve returned to my roots and there ain’t no kiwi there. Just a few stray pukeko running across the road into the swamp.

So don’t you dare call me “Kiwi” you silly bugger you. Or “Pukeko”.

New Zealand's Quiet War in Malaya & Borneo 1964 -1966

Did the British and Americans start Confrontation?

Book Review: “The Genesis of Konfrontasi, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia 1945-1965
By Greg Poulgrain, published by the Strategic Research & Development Centre (SIRD), Malaysia, 2014.

In this essay I try to cover the main points of Dr Poulgrain’s thesis with some reference to other sources. It is a book packed with detail and the essay is therefore detailed and quite long.

Konfrontasi or Confrontation was the war that New Zealand’s armed forces were committed to from 1964 to 1966 as part of Commonwealth military assistance to the Federation of Malaya and the British Borneo states. At the time Malaya was enmeshed in the process of federating with Singapore, and with the Borneo states of North Borneo (Sabah), Brunei and Sarawak, to form the Federation of Malaysia. Indonesia was opposed to that and engaged in political and military Konfrontasi.

The main NZ units in Konfrontasi were 1st Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR), detachments of NZ Special Air Service Squadron (NZSAS), 41 Squadron RNZAF (troop and supply carrying), 14 Squadron RNZAF (Canberra bombers), HMNZS Otago, HMNZS Taranaki and HMNZS Royalist. 1 RNZIR was at the time permanently stationed in Malaya as part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade. Parts of the British response to Konfrontasi especially its “Claret” cross border operations in Borneo were very secret. It was also a war that was mostly beneath the radar of public awareness in New Zealand.

The reviewer served in 1 RNZIR for part of that period from November 1965 to December 1967 and deployed with the battalion to Sarawak on operations in 1966.

Retired NZ Army officer and military historian Christopher Pugsley states in his book “From Emergency to Confrontation, the New Zealand Armed Forces in Malaya and Borneo 1949 – 1966”:

    “The principal trigger for the Confrontation between the Republic of Indonesia and the United Kingdom and the Federation of Malaya was the outbreak of a rebellion in Brunei.”

      2003, Oxford University Press, Ch 7 Confronting Intruders.

To this day that has been the orthodox official and historical line from the time of the rebellion (also called the Brunei Revolt) on 8th December 1962 and it is true to an extent. However Dr Poulgrain, an Australian political historian specialising in South East Asia, has unearthed compelling new evidence to suggest that the Brunei Revolt was started by British Intelligence and that the CIA was also complicit in fomenting unrest in Sarawak, condoned by British Intelligence. It that was so then it could be said that Konfrontasi was started by British Intelligence and not, as history records, by Indonesian President Sukarno.

This new evidence contradicts the orthodox historical version stated by Pugsley:

    “… it was the attempted coup d’etat in Brunei by Inche A.A.Azahari Mahmud [sic] and his Patai Ra’ayat on 8 December 1962 which prompted the Indonesian action against Malaysia’s formation that was known as Konfrontasi (Confrontation)”.

That contradiction is explored in detail later in this essay.

The Genesis of Konfrontasi” traces the relationship of Indonesia and British Colonialism in South East Asia from the end of World War II through to the events leading up to the outbreak of Konfrontasi. To gain a fuller appreciation one should also read Dr Pougrain’s companion book “The Incubus of Intervention, conflicting Indonesia strategies of John F Kennedy and Allen Dulles” (SIRD, Malaysia, 2015).

Post war decolonisation in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia), Philippines, Indonesia. Malaya, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak provides the broad background in which Britain and the USA generally cooperated but also had conflicting interests and goals.

The USA was also internally conflicted in that the CIA under Allen Dulles was conducting a covert programme in Indonesia at odds with President Kennedy’s own policy. The CIA programme aimed at regime change by unseating President Sukarno and replacing him with a USA-friendly military led government. President Kennedy on the other hand befriended President Sukarno and wanted to provide economic assistance to bring Indonesia into the USA’s sphere of influence. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 and the CIA prevailed. To implement their own programme the CIA had first to unify Indonesia’s various military commands into a single powerful national force and also to ensure it was trained and equipped to assume its new role. As part of that programme the CIA fomented rebellion in various outer islands in Indonesia, covertly supplied the rebels with arms, and also provided Intelligence to Indonesia’s armed forces to ensure they put down the rebellions, thus building themselves into a legitimate national force.

That CIA programme is documented in “Incubus of Intervention” and it provides information vital to understanding the CIAs role in Konfrontasi.

Whereas the USA aimed to decolonise South East Asia as soon as possible after WW2 Britain was less enthusiastic. Undoubtedly the USA wanted to establish its own military and economic hegemony over the region, in its own interests and also as a Cold War strategy to restrict the influence of China and the USSR. Britain was reluctant to give up the last vestiges of empire and its access to strategic assets notably Brunei’s oilfields.

The Philippines gained its independence from the USA in 1945. Indonesia declared independence in 1945, fought the Dutch and gained UN recognition in 1949. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fought the French and gained their independence in 1954. Britain granted independence to the Federation of Malaya in 1957 but continued to maintain its military and economic influence. The territories of Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak remained British until the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the Federation of Malaysia to become an independent nation in 1965.

Malaya was an important producer of tin, rubber and palm oil. Brunei was a major source of oil. Singapore was a centre of regional power and control with its port and trade facilities. Those facilities were also used in the export and import trade with the resource rich Indonesian archipelago. British companies controlled most of that economic activity. To ensure that the cash continued to flow from those assets Britain had to ensure that Indonesian influence in the British sphere of economic interest was eliminated or that the leadership in Jakarta was not anti-British. To this end Britain engaged in a series of covert provocations towards Indonesia. President Sukarno’s firm stance of anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and non-alignment meant that he had to be removed and replaced. In this respect, and from an Indonesian viewpoint, Konfrontasi is seen not as a premeditated act or as a policy by design but partly as a response to British provocation.

Dr Poulgrain writes extensively about the post-WW2 relationship difficulties between Britain and Indonesia leading to Britain’s determination to oust President Sukarno.

Konfrontasi may also have been a ploy in the presidential ambitions of Indonesia’s foreign minister Dr Subandrio who might have been Britain’s preference as president.

British Intelligence

Singapore was important not just as a transit port for South East Asian imports and exports but as the centre of British control and power over the region.

Much of that control and power was exerted through its Intelligence operations commanded and coordinated from Singapore. Hong Kong and Singapore were major spy bases in the region. During the Malayan Emergency High Commissioner Sir Gerald Templer who had served in Military Intelligence overhauled British Intelligence in Malaya and from that time it became a potent coordinated force. His innovations were repeated in the other British territories. The Police Special Branches were primarily responsible for Intelligence operations in the British colonies and former colonies. They were supported and virtually controlled by MI5 officers who were often appointed to senior positions in Special Branch.

MI5 was the lead agency for Intelligence within the colonies and former colonies, although in Malaya, Singapore, and the British Borneo states Special Branch was the lead agency for internal security and Intelligence. The Joint Intelligence Committee Far East (JICFE) was located in Singapore as was Security Intelligence Far East (SIFE) which was a joint Intelligence assessment agency (MI5, MI6, Military and Police Special Branch). MI6 had had a station in Singapore since the 1920s and eventually took over the lead role in Singapore from MI5 after British withdrawal from the region. The CIA had had a station in Singapore since the 1930s and was represented at JICFE and SIFE.

In 1954 MI6 and the CIA concluded the “Four Square Agreement” in which the CIA retained intelligence responsibility for the Phillipines and British intelligence services looked after Malaya, Singapore and Burma. Both the CIA and MI6 agreed to cooperate in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.

Intelligence operations throughout the region included covert MI6 operations in Indonesia aiming to undermine President Sukarno.

GCHQ, the British signals intelligence agency now known to be part of the Five Eyes network, had a major listening post in Singapore until well into the 1970s (and one in Hong Kong). It was of crucial importance in the Malayan Emergency and leading up to and during Konfrontasi. In the mid-1970s it was revealed in the Australian media that it had operated as a joint British/Australian intercept station for some time. The Australian signals intercept station in Darwin was also an important source of Intelligence.

    See Calder Waldron, “Empire of Secrets, British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the twilight of Empire”, William Collins Publishers, London, 2013.

    For details of the Intelligence structure and responsibilities see also Leon Comber, “Malaya’s Secret Police, The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency“, Monash University Press Melbourne and Institute of SE Asian Studies Singapore, 2008.

This coordinated Intelligence network was to play a major role in the genesis of Konfrontasi.

By 1960 the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) under the leadership of Ralph Harry had created independent stations in Jakarta, Tokyo and Dili and had several officers working with allies in Hong Kong and Singapore. The ASIS officer in Singapore worked on the staff of the Head of MI6.

In the early 1960’s ASIS had mounted six covert operations in Indonesia including propaganda campaigns, medical assistance to President Sukarno’s opponents, and ‘more direct’ attempts to engineer President Sukarno’s political demise. These would have been in conjunction with Britain’s MI6 and probably the CIA.

    See Robert Macklin, “Warrior Elite”, Hachette, Sydney, 2015.

In the book Dr Poulgrain refers simply to SIFE as the main agency involved in the genesis of Konfrontasi but the Intelligence apparatus was much greater than SIFE which was a coordinating agency.

Indonesia’s Anti-Colonial Campaigns

Following its successful fight to gain independence from the Dutch from 1945, Indonesia engaged in two anti-colonial campaigns in the 1960s. The first was against Dutch control of Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua and West Papua). Indonesia invaded in 1962 and gained control in 1963. It was a simple matter of ejecting a colonial power and gaining territory and control of its economic potential. The second campaign against the formation of Malaysia erupted about three months before the May 1963 assumption of sovereignty in New Guinea.

Dr Subandrio was prominent in both campaigns and it was he who declared Konfrontasi.
Although many British government and other commentators have declared that the simple aim was territorial expansion the actual aims of Konfrontasi were never clearly delineated, remained unclear throughout the three years it lasted, and remain unclear to this day unless Dr Poulgrain’s thesis is correct.

The Research

His research has been painstaking. In the extensive bibliography he lists over 120 Colonial Office records, and records from the Foreign Office, War Office and India Office. He lists 62 interviews across all sides of the conflict. Some of the main interviews were A.M.Azahari who it was widely claimed started the Brunei Revolt, Oei Tju Tat a Chinese lawyer appointed by President Sukarno as the leading civilian coordinator for Konfrontasi, General Soehario former head of the Indonesian Army in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and General Nasution former Indonesian Chief of Staff. On the other side he interviewed Sir Alexander Waddell former Governor of Sarawak, Roy Henry former head of Special Branch in Sarawak and Brunei and a number of former oil company employees of British Malayan Petroleum (BMP, later Brunei Shell).

The late Roy Henry provided crucial new verbal evidence for this book concerning his time as Head of Sarawak Special Branch, which made him the head of British Intelligence in Sarawak and Brunei before and during Konfrontasi. He was a very credible witness for after Special Branch he was appointed Commissioner of Sarawak Police, Commissioner of Police Fiji, then Commissioner of Police Hong Kong.

BMP had been exploring for oil in the region since the 1950s and operated the known very lucrative oilfields. In 1963 BMP discovered, or announced the discovery of the giant offshore oilfield known as South West Ampa just off the coast of Brunei. BMP built its own Intelligence capability and was covertly active in combating threats to its vested economic interest. So close was BMP’s relationship with British Intelligence that Chinese speaking members of the BMP intelligence network were made available to Special Branch. BMP also had close relations and influence with the Colonial Office in London.

The history of Konfrontasi would not be complete without an examination of the role of BMP.

The Colonial Office Agenda

Public Office records reveal that the Colonial Office had two aims in the decolonisation programme. Firstly to ensure that the new political leaders were those amenable to continued British investment and secondly to ensure that the political environment of the region did not include Sukarno as President of Indonesia.

The Colonial Office drew up the format for decolonisation and the formation of Malaysia as early as 1953 but had a number of political and security hurdles to overcome before it could be implemented. Foremost among those was the large number of Chinese resident in Malaya, Singapore and the Borneo states. All Chinese were thought to be potential communists. The solution in Malaya was a constitution that gave most political power to the Malays and diminished the political influence of significant Chinese and Indian populations, and a military and Intelligence campaign (Malayan Emergency) against Chinese communists. By about 1960 many Chinese communist leaders had been eliminated or driven north into Southern Thailand. Malaysia would continue to combat that threat until about 1989.

Singapore was mainly Chinese and in the mid-1950s there were large scale riots blamed on communist led unions. But British Public Office Records reveal that the largest of those riots in October 1956 was deliberately provoked by British Intelligence to enable the arrest of prominent anti-British activists. British Intelligence was also active in supporting the political rise of Britain-friendly Lee Kuan Yew who later became Prime Minister of Singapore and who probably had close links to British Intelligence.

In Sarawak the Chinese dominated commercial and political activity and comprised one third of the population. The Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) was the most prominent political party and was Chinese dominated with some underground communist support. The political direction in Sarawak was changed by Konfrontasi by reducing the influence of the Chinese and causing Sarawak to seek greater security in the Federation rather than statehood in its own right. British interests were furthered by Konfrontasi in that it made the British decolonisation plan possible.

On 15th August 1991 Dr Poulgrain interviewed Roy Henry the former head of Special Branch in Sarawak and Brunei and he admitted that he had a direct hand in starting the Brunei Revolt. At the time Henry was the overall head of British Intelligence in Sarawak and Brunei. He also admitted that the CIA had a hand in supplying arms and fomenting rebellion in Sarawak prior to Konfrontasi thus allowing the British to reduce Chinese influence through Special Branch operations whilst blaming it on Indonesia. British Intelligence was well aware of what the CIA was doing.

The Brunei Revolt

Brunei and its oil was vital to British (and BMP) interests and Britain tried to include it in the Federation of Malaysia, with the Sultan of Brunei given a governance role much as the ruling sultans in the Malayan states had been given roles in the Federation of Malaya.

However political leader Sheikh Azahari bin Sheikh Mahmud better known as A.M.Azahari was opposed to the British plan and proposed a Kalimantan Utara (North Kalimantan) federation of Brunei, British North Borneo and Sarawak with the Sultan of Brunei as titular head. He and his Partai Rakyat Brunei (PRB – Brunei Peoples Party) favoured joining the Federation of Malaysia but as a unified North Kalimantan grouping. They thought that would shield them from the dominating influence of Malay administrators and Chinese merchants.

In fact Azahari had promoted his version of federation as early as 1955 before he formed the PRB. By 1962 he had gained support for Kalimantan Utara across all three Borneo states and had become the most likely politician to lead the proposed new state. Azahari was then and is still depicted as being opposed to the Federation of Malaysia but in fact he supported it, just not in the form proposed by Britain. Just as he was not anti-Malaysia he was not anti-British and not anti-Sultan although that was the British propaganda of the time and the most common historical version to date.

Azahari was actually close to the Sultan and trusted by him. The sultan supported Azahari’s Kalimantan Utara alternative. That was anathema to the British who had to get rid of Azahari in order to defeat it. In fact British Intelligence working hand in glove with the oil company’s (BMP) managing director had been trying to destroy Azahari’s influence since at least 1957.

Legislative Council elections were held in Brunei in August 1962 and Azahari’s PRB won a sweeping victory with 54 of the 55 seats. The independent 55th member promptly joined the PRB. The PRB then announced that a motion would be tabled requesting the British Government to return sovereignty of Sarawak and North Borneo to the Sultan of Brunei, and to federate the three British Borneo Territories. Azahari was determined to avoid violence and maintained a commitment by PRB to achieve power by constitutional means.

While he was in the Philippines in December 1962 one of his PRB executives, H.M.Salleh, instigated armed rebellion. He did it in response to a predicament engineered by Roy Henry and Special Branch. Henry created the situation by arresting several PRB members in Sarawak and then “leaking” information that he had threatened similar arrests in Brunei. He led them to believe they had only limited time to act. His message was relayed to the PRB by a magistrate (Jaya Latif) whose uncle became one of the eight executive members who panicked and started the Brunei Revolt.

While in the Philippines Azahari had obtained a document proclaiming the official agreement of the Philippines Government to forego all claims to North Borneo and recognising the claim of the Sultan of Brunei. It was the first international recognition of Azahari’s Kalimantan Utara concept with the Sultan of Brunei as constitutional monarch. It was an important document and Azahari had intended to produce it at the United Nations. On the morning of the revolt the PRB officials bearing the document were physically prevented from reaching the Sultan’s palace.

    “Shaken by the tumult and commotion, and believing the explanation given him by British intelligence the he would have been kidnapped, the Sultan turned against the PRB rebels, and against Azahari”.
    “British Intelligence succeeded in turning the Sultan away from the concept of Kalimantan Utara, and Brunei subsequently became an isolated oil enclave under British protection”.

That isolation also robbed the new Federation of Malaysia of much needed oil revenues and preserved them in British hands. Had Azahari’s plan been successful Malaysia would have shared in the benefits.

In his interview Roy Henry stated that all of the political organisations in Brunei and Sarawak including Azahari’s PRB were well penetrated by Special Branch, the PRB at executive level. That being so his manipulation of events would have been relatively easy.

After the Brunei Revolt

The aftermath across all of the proposed Malaysian states was diabolical. In Singapore Lee Kuan Yew accused Lim Chin Siong of being complicit in the Brunei revolt because Siong had met Azahari (on another matter entirely). Nevertheless in Operation Cold Store on the night of 2nd February 1963 Lee Kuan Yew arrested Siong and 112 political activists. It was almost his entire left wing opposition. Evidence in the British Archives and provided to Dr Poulgrain in interviews with British government and security service officials clearly show that this was a political contrivance.

In Malaya a dozen of the top left wing opponents of Federation were arrested on 13th February 1963. As a result of the Brunei Revolt the leading figures in the left wing political parties in Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak were detained prior to the formation of Malaysia. Azahari and Siong were probably the two most influential opponents of the British plan and both were removed.


So far in this review I have dealt (at great length) with the first Colonial Office objective in decolonisation: to ensure that the new political leaders were those amenable to continued British investment. Intelligence operations towards achieving that objective included the Brunei Revolt which helped lead to the achievement of the second objective, to ensure that the political environment of the region did not include Sukarno as President of Indonesia. In other words to Konfrontasi, although it should always be remembered that the CIA was primarily responsible for the removal of Sukarno and that the British Commonwealth response to Konfrontasi was a sideshow in that programme. It is probable that Britain’s MI6 (SIS) and perhaps its branch office (Australia’s ASIS) were involved with the CIA in Indonesia.

Just how the Brunei revolt led to Konfrontasi, or even if it did, is still shrouded in mystery.
The British immediately sent troops to quell the revolt. That reaction may or may not have been pre-planned. The Intelligence hierarchy in Singapore would certainly have known about Roy Henry’s manipulation of events in Brunei. Historians have written that the Sultan himself asked for military assistance “yet, according to The Straits Times, the request came from W.J.Parks, the aide-de-camp of the High Commissioner Sir Dennis White, who was then on sick leave in London”. The Brunei constitution at the time allowed the Colonial Office to bypass the wish of the Sultan.

    “Soon after the rebellion started British troops from Singapore went straight to Sarawak, causing the exodus of many Chinese youths into neighbouring Indonesian territory. Whilst these youths were regarded by Indonesia as part of a clandestine communist organisation engaged in a righteous anti-colonial struggle, what Indonesia did not realise is that they were armed with weapons only because they had been supplied by William Andreas Brown and Frank C. Starr, both linked to the CIA”.

The involvement of those two Americans was revealed by Roy Henry during his interview.

    “The absence of any real communist threat in Sarawak in the days before Konfrontasi was precisely what necessitated the CIA supply of weapons, in order to boost the political profile which previously the ‘underground group’ in Sarawak did not have”.
    “This exodus caught the attention of Indonesia and, after some bitter recrimination between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta (with some crucial addition by Subandrio) the argument expanded into Konfrontasi. The threat of Indonesian incursion into Sarawak now ensured that the previous reluctance to join Malaysia suddenly evaporated”.

After the Brunei Revolt and the exodus of Chinese from Sarawak hostilities in Sarawak between Indonesia and Britain and Malaysia gradually escalated. The rhetoric on both sides became so offensive that armed Konfrontasi became inevitable. It began on 12 April 1963, when about 30 armed raiders from Indonesian Kalimantan overran a police border post in Sarawak.

Dr Poulgrain explains in detail how those hostilities were started by British and American Intelligence. He also details the role of Indonesian foreign minister Dr Subandrio in increasing the tension between Indonesia and Malaysia/Britain, thus providing fertile ground for Konfrontasi.

The three rival power factions in Jakarta were all involved in Konfrontasi; the political elite led by Dr Subandrio, the military, and the PKI (Communist Party). President Sukarno did not initiate it but moved to try to take control after it started in 1963. Whilst Konfrontasi suited the agenda of the CIA President Kennedy wanted it to stop. In 1963 he arranged to visit Indonesia early in 1964 to join with President Sukarno to bring it to an end using their considerable combined personal charisma to achieve it through popular support of the Indonesian people.

According to the USA ambassador in Jakarta at the time President Sukarno was in accord with President Kennedy. However Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963. Konfrontasi continued.

On 17th August 1964 Indonesia landed a small military force on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. On 2nd September 1964 Indonesian paratroopers dropped into the same general area. That incursion drew into Konfrontasi the Australian and New Zealand battalions based in Terendak Camp near Malacca. The Indonesians were quickly killed or captured.

Attention then focused entirely on operations in Borneo rising to a peak in 1965 and gradually decreasing through the early part of 1966. Konfrontasi formally ended on 11th August 1966.

Konfrontasi was largely a political action rather than a concerted military one. It was started by Indonesia’s foreign minister. The Indonesian military initially welcomed it for it enabled them to gain more manpower and resources to build their own power base compared to the other two powers, the political elite (and President Sukarno) and the PKI (Communist Party). The military did not however commit to Konfrontasi with any enthusiasm for the PKI was its main concern. Its best and most loyal units were retained in Java where they were held in preparation to put down any communist uprising.

General Suharto (later President Suharto) who at the time was commander of the army’s strategic command (KOSTRAD) was deputed by his pro-American anti-communist superiors to effectively sabotage Konfrontasi. He initiated secret negotiations with British officials in 1964 even before the landings in Peninsula Malaysia. The landings themselves, being extremely limited in manpower and especially in logistic support, cannot be construed as a serious military invasion but as an act of political provocation (i.e. Konfrontasi).

In 1965 (before 1 RNZIR’s first deployment to Borneo) Suharto had his envoys in Singapore assure the British that the Indonesian Armed Forces did not intend to invade Malaysia. He was also responsible for the operational aspects on Konfrontasi in Borneo and elsewhere. He deliberately starved Indonesia’s units deployed along its border with Sarawak of manpower and resources. Units in Sumatra were denied the naval assets they needed to invade across the Malacca Straits to West Malaysia. However British Intelligence and military action in Borneo, including its cross border “Claret” operations ensured a high level of operational activity throughout most of 1965.

Given that Britain’s primary concern was to drive the Sultan of Brunei into the British camp, and to drive Sarawak into federation with Malaya, and given that Indonesia’s military didn’t actually intend to invade Malaysia, Konfrontasi was to all intents and purposes a phoney war. It was a phoney war on both sides.

After the tumultuous Gerakan-30 September Movement (G-30-S) in 1965, in which six pro-American anti-communist generals were killed by a joint PKI-military action and after which General Suharto assumed command of the armed forces and effective control of President Sukarno, formal negotiations with Britain and Malaysia began, ending in the agreement in August 1966 that recognised the nation of Malaysia.

The Genesis of Konfrontasi” describes the events leading up to Konfrontasi and does not cover any of the subsequent hostilities and operations described above.

The Role of Dr Subandrio

“So important was the role of Subandrio in Konfrontasi, in the preparation and instigation, that the acrimony between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta would not have reached combustion point without his collaboration”.

Foreign Minister Dr Subandrio was the leader of Jakarta’s political elite and regarded himself as the president-in-waiting. He had some influence in Britain having been ambassador in London from 1950 to 1954. After the “G-30-S” 1965 bloodbath in Indonesia when several generals were killed he was accused of complicity and sentenced to death. He refused to ask General Suharto for clemency and it was the British Foreign Office that arranged a plea for clemency in the names of Queen Elizabeth II and US President Lyndon B. Johnson. He then spent 20 years in prison and lived for another nine years. Dr Subandrio was the main agitator for Konfrontasi against Malaysia and therefore against Britain and he was the man who declared it. That was an extraordinary plea on behalf of a former enemy unless there was a deeper connection, perhaps an Intelligence connection.

    “Subandrio was instrumental in creating conditions that led to the Brunei rebellion and the start of Konfrontasi, and that his motivation and also SIFE’s [British Intelligence] motivation was that, as the acknowledged deputy, he would soon replace President Sukarno whose health was deteriorating”.

Dr Subandrio used his leading involvement in the first anti-colonial campaign against the Netherlands and his lead role in the second campaign against Malaysia to promote his own credentials as the replacement for President Sukarno. And Sukarno’s replacement was the second item on the Colonial Office agenda. The CIA had other ideas and their preference for a military government came to pass.

In the last chapter of the book Dr Poulgrain explores the evidence for collusion between Subandrio and British Intelligence to start Konfrontasi and to promote Dr Subandrio’s cause. He presents considerable circumstantial evidence.

The Review

In reviewing this book “The Genesis of Konfrontasi” I have drawn on other sources including Dr Poulgrain’s companion book “The Incubus of Intervention” about CIA involvement in Indonesia. Christopher Pugsley’s “From Emergency to Confrontation” was valuable in sourcing information about New Zealand’s involvement in Konfrontasi. “Empire of Secrets, British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the twilight of Empire” by Calder Waldron has been used specifically to fill out information about British Intelligence in the region at the time.

Intelligence is the missing dimension in most geopolitical and military history and it is not until archives are opened 30 or 50 years after the events that the true history is revealed. A case in point is ULTRA, the breaking of the German Enigma codes during WW2, a coup that significantly aided allied victories. That secret was not revealed until 1974 just over 30 years later. In 2012 some Intelligence archives in London were declassified. They covered the period up to the early 1960s but not, it would seem, the machinations behind Konfrontasi.

Hopefully this investigation into the secret history of Konfrontasi some 50 years after the event is just the first. Dr Poulgrain presents an extremely well researched history of the genesis of Konfrontasi not at all consistent with the official history. It is a compelling and very believable version. It will however need to be corroborated by other historians in the years ahead. I hope it is.

For those of us in the military who were involved and who have lived with what may well have been official lies for the last 50 years we need to know the truth. It is somewhat disconcerting to find out that perhaps we were not simply fighting to protect Malaysia from Indonesia, but mainly to ensure that British economic interests in the region were preserved under the control of their preferred political leaders, in the form of nationhood preferred by Britain, regardless of what the people of the region might have wanted for themselves, such as a Kalimantan Utara federation in Borneo under the rule of the Sultan of Brunei.

Much of the evidence of British Intelligence involvement in the genesis of Konfrontasi is conclusive, based on historical archives and first hand accounts. Some is circumstantial, especially the relationship between Dr Subandrio and British Intelligence. It is that aspect that will need further research, and hopefully more Intelligence archives will eventually be declassified. What is certain is that the genesis is murky and nothing like the official version.

The book is so at odds with the official version that I am sure that many in the Establishment, if they ever come across a book published in Malaysia, will label it a crank theory. It deserves more serious consideration than that.

In this review I have related the highlights but there is much more in the detail. The book is packed with the detail of decades of research and is not a quick read. It is however rewarding for those with an interest in the events of that time.

The book is not in ready stock, not even at Amazon, and takes time to be sourced. I heard about it from Dr Poulgrain himself (on Skype) during a presentation on his later (2015) book “The Incubus of Intervention” about the involvement of the CIA in Indonesia. I bought the last copy of “The Genesis of Konfrontasi” online from Amazon and it is currently unavailable.

It is also advertised by a Singapore bookseller, $US17.51 plus postage.
Select Books, Singapore

Operation 8: A Failure of Command in the NZ Police

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Incompetence. Unlawful and unprofessional behaviour. An assault on human rights by the NZ Police. It was failure of command on public display.

In the matter of the information gathering about activities in the Urewera in 2006 and 2007 that the NZ Police tried to label as terrorism, Police behaviour was found to be unlawful by the High Court and again by the Supreme Court. It was  found to be unlawful in a report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and in a report by the Human Rights Commission. During the information gathering phase of Operation 8 the Police were guilty of unlawful trespass and unlawful surveillance. In the “termination” paramilitary phase they were guilty of unlawful detention, unlawful search and unlawful roadblocks. An awful lot of unlawfulness from the beginning to the awful end.

Many of those unlawful actions were shown in the courts not just to be unlawful, but knowingly and deliberately unlawful. In its ruling the Supreme Court found that almost all of the evidence gathered against the original 17 defendants was unlawfully and improperly obtained. 

In writing this series on Operation 8 I have examined in considerable detail the progress of their intelligence gathering and analysis, and I have concluded beyond doubt that it was unprofessional and incompetent. Essentially there was no professional analysis whatsoever. Intelligence is an intellectual activity and I have concluded that the “intelligence” operation was devoid of intellectual engagement.

That includes the oversight and review of the so called “intelligence” at the highest level of command before approval was given to launch the paramilitary operations on 15th October 2007. There was no effective oversight and review. Imagination substituted for intellect. And lacking the expertise and intellect to properly evaluate the advice given to them the chain of command was captured by the tunnel vision and groupthink originating in the Auckland team of the Special Intelligence Group.

Before the final operation Commissioner Broad briefed ODESC (Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination).  He also briefed a small group of Cabinet ministers before the raids. His assertions must have passed through ODESC without review. One cabinet minister was sceptical and asked him several times to confirm his assertions. He prevailed.

I have also concluded that the paramilitary operation itself showed that the Special Tactics Group and Armed Offenders Squads used in the operations were poorly governed, poorly led, poorly trained and poorly disciplined.

Taken together, all of those failures constitute a failure of command at the highest level. Someone ought to be responsible to ensure that police officers are properly trained for their allocated duties, that they obey the law, and that the police paramilitary force is properly led, trained and disciplined.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad’s desk was where the buck stopped. So he must bear prime responsibility for that failure. But he was not without assistance. Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope was responsible for operations and he must be equally culpable. Assistant Commissioner Jon White was responsible for all intelligence operations and it was his responsibility to ensure the professionalism of those operations. He didn’t.

The record clearly shows that none of them had any real expertise in intelligence. It wasn’t until R. Mark Evans was recruited in October 2007 that the NZ Police had a real intelligence professional who over the next few years set about developing a professional intelligence capability. Prior to that the so called intelligence units set up after 9/11 as a counter terrorist measure focused entirely on ham-fisted heavy-handed gathering of political intelligence about political activism mainly in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

Those new special intelligence teams (SIG) in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch spent about two years casting around for non-existent terrorists before the Auckland team trumped the others. Based on the unverified ramblings of a totally unreliable Auckland informant they found something they could finally label as terrorism. They were an under-employed counter terrorism unit looking for terrorism anywhere they could find it; and looking for counter terrorism kudos.

An untrained, unsupervised, out of control counter terrorism unit. A failure of command.

There is also evidence that they found their sought-after terrorism in the first instance in the obsessive feud between some Auckland police officers and serial police antagonist Jamie Lockett. Operation 8 was focused almost entirely on Lockett and some of his Pakeha associates until a link was made with Taame Iti and the Urewera.

Those counter terrorism teams, part of the Special Intelligence Group (SIG), were manned by untrained amateurs; mere detectives instead of professional intelligence analysts. The lack of professional oversight and the lack of professionalism within those powerful teams reflected a failure of command at the highest level.

When Operation 8 was launched as a counter terrorism operation there was some disquiet within the NZ Police. There were those at the working level who knew that it was flawed from the beginning. At Police National HQ level there was also some dissent. Yet despite that Commissioner Broad went ahead, as he said, “to nip it in the bud” with a massive armed response despite knowing that no imminent terrorist or criminal activity was planned by the suspects.

The result was a huge loss of trust in the Police within Maori communities. Trust is essential to successful policing. When trust in the Police takes a dive Police Commissioners lose their jobs.

Allegations of rape and sexual misconduct caused the Government to set up a Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct in 2004. Dame Margaret Bazley was a commissioner. That scandal caused a dramatic loss of trust. At the end of 2005 Police Commissioner Robinson resigned barely one year into his second term. Restoration of trust after such a loss can take ten years or more. Part of Howard Broad’s brief as the incoming Police Commissioner in April 2006 was to restore that lost trust. He in his turn lost the trust of Maori in October 2007.

In October 2012 Fairfax media reported a survey that indicated trust in the Police had hit a new low, having fallen 11.5% to 59.9% in the preceding five years. That included four of the five years Howard Broad held the appointment of police commissioner. The survey was of course disputed by the Police and their minister.

“Comments in the survey indicate that the fall in public trust centres on the police’s management of complaints against its officers, and actions considered heavy-handed, including the Urewera and Dotcom mansion raids”.

The sensational raids in the Urewera came just seven months after the release in March 2007 of Dame Margaret’s Commission of Inquiry report into Police misconduct. The Police launched their own inquiry into the same misconduct in 2004, called Operation Austin. The raids in October 2007 were launched at almost the same time as the release of the Operation Austin report.

However coincidental, Operation 8 accompanied by a professionally orchestrated media campaign certainly served to deflect media and public attention from those damning reports, and from the huge sexual misconduct scandal that had brought the NZ Police into disrepute, and had dogged them for the previous three years.

In the following years from 2008 to 2011 the Operation 8 accused and their lawyers uncovered and proved more unlawful conduct by the Police as they slowly battled their way through a series of court hearings culminating at the Supreme Court in September 2011. At the Supreme Court the main evidence against them was declared to be unlawful but allowed to be used in criminal group charges against four defendants only. Most of that process was suppressed by the courts until September 2011. Police misconduct throughout Operation 8 did not register with the public.

In late 2011, almost immediately after the Supreme Court finding of unlawful conduct, video evidence was released to the media under the pretext of “public interest”. It deflected that public interest away from the Supreme Court’s substantive findings of unlawful conduct by the Police.

It is certainly speculation to infer that Commissioner Howard Broad’s contract was not renewed at the end of his first term in 2011 because of Operation 8, but for some reason it wasn’t renewed. Deputy Commissioner Pope resigned in 2011 before his contract was not renewed. Assistant Commissioner White quietly moved on to Australia in 2010 and is now CEO of the Australia New Zealand Police Advisory Agency.

The three senior officers in the chain of command during Operation 8 all moved on, or were moved on. The next Commissioner seemed to do little to restore trust. He didn’t have his contract renewed. The present Commissioner seems to be working hard to have his contract renewed.

In the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours Howard Broad was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit. He has since been appointed to the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet as Deputy Chief Executive Security & Intelligence. He is now responsible for policy and coordination for the whole security and intelligence community. His career has been resurrected.

Not everyone shares Government’s confidence in Howard Broad.

The resurrection of Broad’s career shows that he was not really held accountable for the failure of command and loss of trust. So, if not Broad, who in the Police hierarchy should have been made publicly accountable for that failure of command? Or was all quietly forgiven and forgotten?

Business as usual.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The genesis of a bogus free trade agreement

This TPP agreement has its origins in and after World War II. The war realigned global power relationships and those new relationships persist into these times, seventy years later.

The war marked the end of the old European empires and the beginning of the American Empire. In rapid succession in our region the Philippines gained independence from the USA, Indonesia from the Dutch, Indochina from the French and India, the present Malaysian states and Singapore from the British. Africa decolonised.

British influence worldwide was much reduced and by the end of the war Britain was hugely in debt to the USA for loans it had used to fund its war effort. The debt wasn’t paid off until the time of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Britain was firmly locked into the American Empire while pretending to still be an independent world power.

In the Anglo-American world the USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand entered into a number of parallel military and intelligence agreements signifying that the USA was now the undisputed leader of that world. These included the Signals Intelligence UKUSA Agreement now known as the Five Eyes Agreement, the ABCA which was a military standardisation agreement, and others.

The USA led in the Cold War against the USSR and China. That gave rise to other military agreements such as SEATO or the Manila Pact, signed in 1954 and designed to prevent the fall of domino states in Asia into the Communist sphere of influence. SEATO included the old colonial powers in the region, Britain and France. ANZUS, signed in 1951, was the US, Australian and New Zealand security pact. NATO signed much earlier in 1949 became the USA-led military relationship in Europe. The USA was the dominant partner in all of them.

Throughout the Cold War the USA was also trying to bring the former European colonies under its own umbrella. For instance with the rise of President Suharto and the Indonesian military after 1965 Indonesia fell into the American sphere of geopolitical, military and economic influence. Malaysia and Singapore remained aligned through Britain and their membership of the Commonwealth. The Philippines remained allied to the USA. India and Vietnam were two that got away.

US economic dominance went unchallenged, even by the behemoth that was the Russian Empire – the USSR. Japan became a major world economy within the ambit of US influence.  As other Asian economies such as South Korea and Taiwan developed they too aligned with the US. The US also embarked with mixed success on numerous covert operations in Central and South America to lock those countries into the new American Empire.

It was an undeclared American Empire and it effectively ruled the world until China adopted state capitalism and embarked on its rapid rise as an economic powerhouse. China now challenges the might of the Anglo / European / American economic bloc.

What has changed in recent times is the ability of the USA to project its military power across the globe. It still dominates the oceans, the air and space but it no longer has the ability to dominate on land, or indeed in the South China Sea. That started with the American defeat in Vietnam but was driven home by the recent defeats in the Middle East and Afghanistan. They are not acknowledged as military defeats but they are. The USA won some battles where it could concentrate and focus its military power but it has lost the wars it started.

America’s economy still dominates, for the moment.

From World War II onwards America’s corporate might has increased inexorably and in recent decades has spread its grasp over the whole globe; globalisation. In the 2008 Global Financial Crisis caused by corporates, the corporates were still the main beneficiaries of the recovery process through massive financial bailouts. Corporates have taken control of the US political process with the billionaire Koch brothers preparing to pour over a billion into the next elections. Both main political parties are beholden to their corporate donors.

Hollywood is trying to restore its dominance in entertainment through its political connections. Jeremy Malcolm writing at the Electronic Frontier Foundation has stated that in relation to the IP provisions in the TPPA the US Trade Representative is “utterly captured by Hollywood“. The drug companies are involved in negotiating the TPPA to their own benefit, as are many others. Corporates now go to war with the military, performing many logistic and even operational functions.

The USA has become a corporatist state in which corporations now have more power and influence than citizens (who are now called taxpayers) in both domestic and foreign affairs.

The rise of the corporatist state has been greatly assisted in recent times by judicial decisions in the United States, beginning over 100 years ago, in which corporations have been granted increasing corporate personhood and the ability to assume the rights of individual persons. This has been disputed, the argument against revolving around whether or not corporations qualify as “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Even though the original decision extending corporate personhood was highly questionable (Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886)) the precedent was set, is now fait accompli, and corporations are making increasing use of their “personhood”.

That American notion of corporate personhood is embodied in the TPPA and is behind much of the agreement including one of its contentious elements allowing corporations to sue sovereign governments.

Having lost its total military dominance and become a corporatist state, and facing the possibility of China becoming the premier world economic and therefore military superpower, America has few options. Its last weapon in the geopolitical power struggle with China is its corporate power.

And that is what the TPPA is about. The projection of American power through corporate power and through building that corporate power in “free trade” agreements that have nothing to do with free trade.

The choice for New Zealand is not about how much NZ will benfit from “free trade”. The choice is geopolitical and about sovereignty. Should NZ remain within the American sphere of influence? And what should the terms of that relationship be? Should New Zealand allow itself to become subject to American corporate rule? And what should be NZs relationship with its present major trading and investment partner China.

New Zealand’s political and business elites have made choices for us in secrecy without any democratic debate, and disguised it within their free trade rhetoric.

Regardless of whether we should or should not be part of TTPA we should first debate its real purpose. It seems that democracy is only about the small stuff.

So why is the USA now making a few concessions on trade when for decades it has maintained high trade barriers against its allies, and why were the negotiations so hard fought? Because it needs to lock 40% of the global economy into its geopolitical strategy at the least cost to its own economy.

The primary consideration in all geopolitical relationships is, and has always been, self interest. Since the end of World War II the primary beneficiary of all partnership agreements with the USA has been the USA.

Now, if you doubt my hypothesis about the USA’s grand geopolitical strategy through the medium of trade agreements consider this:

  • the TPPA includes USA, Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam (40% of the global economy); plus
  • the USA has existing agreements mostly concluded in the 2000’s with Israel, Canada, Mexico, Jordan, Australia, Chile, Singapore, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman, Peru, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Columbia and South Korea;
  • the USA is negotiating agreements with the European Union, Indonesia, Ghana, Kenya, Kuwait, Mauritius, Mozambique, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Ecuador and Qatar;
  • the agreement being negotiated between the USA and the European Union is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It is the equivalent of the TTPA; and
  • the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), still in negotiation and involving 50 countries, covers about 70% of the global services economy. Its aim is privatizing the worldwide trade of services such as banking, healthcare and transport.

The big BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are missing of course but are being counter-balanced if not surrounded by the USA “free trade” strategy. Of course the BRIC economies are also agressively pursuing their own “free trade” strategies with many if not all of the same countries as the USA.

It’s like the nuclear arms race of the Cold War only its now a “free trade” race that we might come to know as the Trade Cold War. Trade wars have long been the genesis of empires.

The European empires lasted from the 15th Century to the 20th Century and used chartered trading companies in the vanguard of the colonisation of the known world. There were scores of them including British East India Company, British East Africa Company, British North Borneo Company, British South Africa Company, New Zealand Company, South Australian Company, South Sea Company, French East India Company, Dutch East India Company and Dutch West India Company. Portuguese chartered companies included Companhia de Mozambique and Companhia de Niassa. The chartered companies controlled the global economy.

The nascent American Empire of the 21st Century  has simply borrowed and adapted an old idea to its own geopolitical strategy as it paves the way, through multiple bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, for its transnational corporations to control the global economy. This time around they are sovereign unto themselves.

Hikoi ki Afrika: A Maori in Mali

Birthplace of the Blues

In 2005 when UNESCO asked me to go to Mali of course I said “Yes”.

It was to a pan-Afrikan conference that was one of a series of regional UN conferences leading up the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) at Tunis in 2005. The first WSIS had been at Geneva in 2003. In May 2003 I had attended and spoken at the UN Asia Pacific WSIS Pre-Conference in Tokyo. I challenged the conference orthodoxy and got myself noticed.

It wasn’t that I was important at all. I’d been a member of the local NZ UNESCO Communications Sub-Commission and managed to be part of the NZ delegation to Tokyo where I’d spoken briefly as part of a panel discussion. Someone in UNESCO thought my korero might be relevant to the Afrikan conference. Right place at the right time. The UNESCO conference at Bamako, the capital of Mali, was themed “Multilingualism for Cultural Diversity and Participation of All in Cyberspace”. I spoke on “Fostering the Creation of Local and Indigenous Content”.

The conference was not the main event for me. It was very interesting and I met interesting people from all over the globe but it was my first (and only) time in Afrika and I saw it as a small pilgrimage to the birthplace of humanity. It was only a short visit confined to a single city in West Afrika but a visit that remains vivid in memory.

At The Travel Doctor in Auckland they treated me like a pin cushion with multiple vaccinations. It reminded me of our deployment to Vietnam in 1967 when they pumped into us every vaccination known to mankind; except the one that would prevent death by blast or bullet.

Getting there was a bit of a hassle. We had to get visas from the Embassy of Mali in Paris but because of the short lead time quite a few of us didn’t have time to go through the three month bureaucratic process. So UNESCO HQ put us on a plane from Paris hoping to sort it out on arrival in Bamako. A leading Afrikan academic involved in the conference got it sorted and we were all shepherded through border control sans visa and boarded a bus for the city.

Bamako is like a lot of the world’s cities. Impressive boulevards and buildings in the centre, leafy suburbs in the inner city, a market or markets located near the city centre, the rich and powerful living in the cooler hills, and most of the population living basic lives in basic houses and huts on the outskirts. My first impression of Afrika, apart from the airport, was driving through those outer less endowed suburbs.

The smell hit me first. I don’t mean a bad smell. A different smell. Well it probably smells bad to people who haven’t travelled much. Have you noticed that different countries and different cities have their own distinctive smells? Sometimes the smell changes as the country or city develops and modernises. A long time ago, the early 1960s was when I  first made the trip, the pungent smell of tanneries on Botany Road was the first smell of Sydney on the way from the Airport to the CBD. The tanneries have long since been banished. Singapore today smells nothing like it did in 1965 when I first went there. They’ve both been sanitised.

Driving into Bamako I was instantly reminded of the first time I arrived in Malaysia in 1965, forty years earlier. That was my first time in a different country other than New Zealand and Australia. We were driven by bus from Singapore to Melaka and our Commonwealth Brigade base at Terendak and it is the smell that I remember most from that night as we drove through the tropical countryside. Steaming decaying vegetation, steam rising from the road, the lingering scent of exotic fruits and flowers, muddy rice fields, mud wallowing buffalo, and the pigs, dogs and chickens ubiquitous in South East Asia and Oceania. The smell of diesel fuel from the trucks and buses and Mercedes taxis. And in the villages and towns the smoke from cooking fires and the strong aroma of strange new foods.

The smells of Bamako were different but the impact was the same. Dust rising, it smelt a dry land, the base smell something like the smell of the Australian outback in summer but different. Dogs and chickens. We drove through ramshackle rows of shops. Open drains and uncollected rubbish. Old Mercedes and Toyotas and diesel fumes. Smell free handcarts. And a whole new and interesting assortment of cooking smells. This was an older smell than the smell of Asia and Oceania and Australasian cities. Like the smell of old people and their lived in houses but different. It said, “Welcome home pilgrim. This is what you will smell like 60,000 years from now when your new lands have grown old and dry. Don’t wrinkle your nose. Welcome home”.

That’s what happens when you let your nose hear for you. You hear unsaid things.

As if to counter the dryness and brownness of much of the landscape the women of Afrika set the place alive with colour. Strikingly rich colour. Their dresses and headscarves ablaze in reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigos and violets. The browns too are rich browns. The streets and shops and markets are set alight by the women of Afrika. And as if the lightness of colour creates a lightness of spirit the public spaces are alive with the beautiful smiling black faces, the cheerful chatter and gentle laughter of tall, sinuous, slender, graceful Afrikan women. The men are colourful too by the way.

How much richer we would be if our streets were alive with colour instead of the blacks and browns and dark blues of our streetscape.

I brought as much of that colour home with me as would fit in my suitcase. A pile of different Afrikan materials. My London domiciled daughter waylaid me in Paris on my way home and carried away as much as I could bear to part with. I still have it, my treasure trove of colourful cloth, taken out of the drawer in moments of reflection upon my hikoi ki Afrika. I hear still the chatter and the laughter. I hear too the music of Mali.

In modern musicology mythology West Afrika is said to be the birthplace of the Blues. It may well be true. The Malian bluesmen have indeed had an impact on modern world music but I think they got their new version of their ancient music from Amerika. I love the Blues and the music of Mali. Boubacar Traore and the late Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita and Toumani Diabate were already some of my favourite musicians before I went to Mali. I didn’t get to see them perform but I did manage to get to two concert performances, one modern and one traditional. It is one thing to listen to your collection of recorded Malian music but something else again to be at live performances in the place of origin. Quite magical.

The Jeli (French griot) of Mali are a traditional caste of professional orators and musicians and singers. Their kora is a stringed instrument usually accompanied by a variety of drums. It is from these instruments that it is said the Blues originated, and that the call and response Blues style of music originated in West Afrikan singing. Since the 1950s they have added the guitar, both acoustic and electric, to their repertoire. Modern Afro-pop is very popular in Europe. The men don’t have it all their own way for the Malian divas are also hugely popular.

There is deep sadness in this music as well as joy and exuberance. From here in West Afrika came a large number of the 12 million poor souls who were sold into slavery in the New World from the 15th to the 19th Century. They were robbed forever of their heritage, their languages and cultures and kept only the remembrance of their music. It became the Blues, the R&B and the Rock ‘n’ Roll of my youth that reached out to the world and travelled back again to Afrika.

In this former French colony French is the official language and Bambara the most widely spoken. There are about twelve other indigenous languages that are considered “official” languages. The modern songs are in both French and Bambara. Although only about 20-25% of the people speak French the music is also aimed at an appreciative audience in France. On the streets of Bamako the language is mostly Bambara but you can get by with your rudimentary French, and mine is indeed rudimentary. Communication is part of the delight of travel. In the market some speak English but not many.

After the people it is the sights, the sounds and the smells that set different places apart. I hadn’t really met any people yet.

Apart from hotel staff the first I got to know was a really nice guy. After a good night’s sleep the first thing I did was to hire a driver with an old Toyota to show me the city. He wanted to take me along the standard tourist route but I pointed to the highest hill overlooking the city and asked him if he could drive to the top. He didn’t know, so with much encouragement and financial inducement he set out to find out something new about his old city. Initially reluctant he soon got into the swing and became a willing participant in my adventure. He was still worried about his car’s suspension though. We eventually found a track and wound our rocky way to the top.

Bus Station & City

A view from the lower slopes. Bus depot in the foreground and the city centre far beyond in the hazy background

Far below our feet was the main bus depot with dozens of parked green buses and stretching away from us into the distance was the quite beautiful and relatively modern city of Bamako sitting astride the ancient Niger River. Down there was a teeming mass of modern humanity and up on the hill almost total silence and as I wrote in my journal the “remembrance of a timeless land”. Down there were just over 2 million people who had evolved from ancient hunter gatherering bands who had roamed across and lived lightly upon the ancient land beneath our feet.

These modern West Afrikans descended from the same people as the East Afrikans who were the ancestors of all of the rest of us on Earth.

Across the way on another hill was the luxurious abode of the President, surrounded by the buildings of government agencies. One could imagine the French colonists appropriating to themselves the best hill in town, to look down upon the seething masses. And on another hill a hospital in splendid isolation. I wondered how many of the people down there had access to that hospital or was it reserved for the wealthy, the great and the powerful. The Mosque, clearly visible in the middle of the city, was down on the flat among the people.

We watched as women slowly climbed their way around the cliffs and up the steep hill laden with the day’s shopping from the market. My guide didn’t know where they lived or where they were going and we couldn’t see any houses.

There were cows and goats foraging for food amongst the stunted straggly dry country trees clinging to life in the dust amongst the rocks. The country reminded me a bit of summer in the Canberra region of Australia, and of the dry country where we did our military manoeuvres when we were training at the Royal Military College so long ago. Australia too is an old land and the culture of its indigenous people is said to be the oldest living continuous culture on Earth. What then of these Afrikan cultures in this even older land, in human terms.

You can learn a lot about a city from its highest hill.

It was just a two day conference. Most of the speakers were from out of country telling us mostly about the latest linguistic and technological innovations in creating multilingual content for the Internet. The Afrikan delegations by comparison spoke mostly about their specific needs. Apart from the Afrikan korero I’d heard most of it before and I amused myself by trying to follow the French translator rather than the English. Until the leader of the French delegation spoke.

He was a French government minister and he started speaking in English because he said English was the most common language at the conference. Almost immediately one of his bureaucrats interrupted (in French) and roundly chastised him for breaking French government protocol by not speaking French at an international event. She was quite severe in her criticism. He told her to sit down and shut up and delivered the rest of his speech in English. I thought it was hilarious.

Later that day I met her in a workshop event. She greeted me in French and I responded in Te Reo Maori. She said “Je ne comprend pas”.

So I asked in broken French that as France had colonised East Polynesia perhaps she spoke Tahitian, a sister language to Maori. “Non”.

I then told her I was fluent in Bahasa Indonesia and asked if that was one of her languages. “Non”.

So I asked if English might be a language we had in common. “Let’s speak English” she replied.

We got on well and she was a nice person beneath the French chauvinism. She saw the humour in our initial exchange.

Many of the out of country speakers spoke to or at the Afrikan people or to each other. In my korero I tried to speak with them; Oceania and Afrika being similar continents in a way. You’ll have to read the speech to work that one out. It seemed to strike a chord and I was befriended by a senior Malian delegate, the professor who had smoothed our way into the country. He taught at a university in another Afrikan country but was obviously closely in touch with affairs in Mali. He was a gentleman in all respects, and an intellectual of mana in his own country. He was great company and it was he who directed me towards the musical performances I attended in the evenings.

I don’t know that the conference achieved anything or if the main World Summit (WSIS) in Tunis achieved anything either. I think many international conferences are for the benefit of the people that attend rather than the countries they represent. They flesh out resumes.

It was soon over and we had a day to spare and to explore the city. A multicultural and multilingual group of us led by a small but intrepid Malaysian professor with a big camera set off. We made sure we had enough fluent French speakers in the group to smooth our way. After a bus tour of the city we arrived at the market. It was alive with crowds of local people buying anything and everything they might need. Perhaps a thousand stalls. Wending our way through the many alleys we were immersed in a sea of colourfully clothed people and they seemed to have a heightened sense of respect for personal space despite the crowding.

In some places in the world people intrude into your personal space and in others no less crowded they don’t. Voiceless rudeness and politeness sort of.

A short walk took us to Marche des Artisans, the Artisans Market close to the Grand Mosque I had seen from the hill. This was less crowded and seemed to me to be a place mainly for tourists. Hundreds of stalls where artists created and sold jewellery, paintings, carvings, musical instruments, leatherwork, sculpture, ironwork and every other form of art to be found in Bamako. It was very interesting but touristy and I bought nothing. I went back instead to the main market to a fabric shop I had noticed and bought a large and stunning piece of fabric I had seen earlier. And a whole pile of different fabrics. My remembrance of the colours of Afrika.

My Malaysian professor friend got us into trouble with some of the locals by trying to photograph their Grand Mosque without permission and after a bit of a standoff the Police rescued us. That was the end of our excursion. He was from a Muslim country. He should have known better.

I would love to have visited and stayed at the legendary Muslim city of Timbuktu to the north. I would love to have met up there some of the nomadic Tuareg people of the Saharan and Sub-Saharan region. It is said that their skin has a blueish tinge from the indigo dyed clothing they wear. All I have instead is a piece of indigo dyed cloth.

In 2012 in three separate developments Tuareg rebels declared a new state, there was a coup d’etat in Bamako, and Timbuktu was overrun by Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, some of them pushed out of Libya and Tunisia after the Arab Spring. There was fighting between the Tuareg and the Islamists and in 2013 the Islamists were defeated by French armed forces. Peace was brokered with the Tuareg but life in Northern Mali is still fraught. Much sadness in a beautiful country.

I had trouble leaving Mali because I didn’t have a visa to be there in the first place. My new friend the professor came to the rescue again and saw me onto my plane.

Back home, from the sublime to the mundane.

The trip helped get rid of a bad case of sciatica. For months before I was in constant pain and there was no way I could travel like that. I found a very good physiotherapist and he gave me an exercise regime to realign and strengthen my core musculature. He told me that he couldn’t fix it but that I could. He also said that 90% of his clients were too exercise averse to fix their own problems. I got the point. I hit the Swiss Ball for a couple of hours every day and was soon in a fit state to travel. After the trip I continued with the regime and haven’t had any lower back problems since.

It’s amazing what the right incentive will do. Mali attended to my soul, and fixed my back. And ten years later I still haven’t decided what to do with all that fine cloth. Perhaps it’s time to deck out my granddaughters in the colours of Afrika.

Mud Cloth

A table cloth or bedspread perhaps. I still haven’t decided.

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

Government is Hiding the Truth Behind the Serco Debate

The State Operated Prisons are the Real Problem

The View from the Inside by Guest Blogger Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara

On 15th October 2007 I was one of the eighteen political activists arrested in the Urewera Terrorism Raids, or Operation 8. While waiting for the laying of terrorism charges, we were detained in various remand prisons around the country. Some of us spent up to 28 days inside before being released on bail awaiting trial.

Four of us, the so called Urewera Four, eventually went to trial. Taame Iti and I were convicted and sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison, while Emily Bailey and Urs Signer were sentenced to 9 months home detention.  On the grounds of exceptional behaviour Taame and I were both released after serving about ten months. I spent that ten months in the state run Spring Hill Corrections Facility while Taame was shifted to Waikeria Prison.

What I want to discuss here is my experience in Spring Hill and to some extent in the remand prisons in relation to the current public outcry about the standard of the Serco private run prison because the Serco debate is diverting attention from the atrocious standard of management in state run prisons.

Firstly some terminology

For the sake of this discussion, I will refer to the Mt Eden prison as Auckland Central Remand Centre (ACRP or A-Crap as it was known to us), and the privately operated Mt Eden Prison as Mount Eden Corrections Facility (MECF). I spent about three weeks in each of these prisons, not long, about six weeks in total, but long enough to see what was going on.

A Remand Prison is a prison where either people awaiting trial, or convicted and awaiting sentencing are held.

Sentenced Prison – once sentencing is completed, remand prisoners are sent off to any one of this country’s dozen or so prisons to begin their sentence. I spent ten months in one of these prisons called Spring Hill at the northern side of Waikato.

Prison Violence

Prior to my time in prison, I held a some views on the role of prisons, and on prison reform. Many of these views remain, but a few have changed – smashed and discarded due to my experience as a guest of the state.

  • Prisons are the way they are because the public is largely uninvolved, and is not actually interested in what goes on inside.
  • Most of the general public don’t actually care about what happens to prisoners – they get what they deserve … unless violence is put in the public face, as in the recent Serco revelations.
  • The Justice System is determined by politicians who are keener to get re-elected than fixing up a dysfunctional prison system.
  • Many of the groups that do engage with the Justice System to advocate for adjustments to the way prisons are run, are often self-serving and/or ideologically driven (i.e. Sensible Sentencing)

Prison violence has been around ever since there was a) violence, and b) prisons. These are the sources of violence that were observable during my time inside (from least to worst):

  1. Gang recruitment and on-going training (UV)
  2. Prison justice (UV)
  3. Understaffing (AV)
  4. Overcrowding (AV)

I also separate these into two categories in terms of what I believe prisons can do to stop violence – (AV) avoidable violence and (UV) unavoidable violence.

Unavoidable Violence. So for example, while there are ways for a society to mitigate the conditions that cause the proliferation of gangs and the black economy, for example through a fairer society and by undoing some of the prohibitions, these things cannot be solved by a prison system, so they constitute unavoidable violence (UV).

Gang Recruitment and on-going training (UV)

People might be surprised that I list this as the least of the sources of violence.  Firstly it is unavoidable violence that comes part and parcel with the society that generated the disparities that lead to the emergence and propagation of gangs.

While societies continue to create the conditions for street gangs, prisons will only perpetuate their longevity and ongoing recruitment. I saw this with my own eyes, to some extent in ACRP/MECF and in full bloom in Spring Hill Corrections Facility (SHCF).

In order for gangs to survive the onslaught of targeted policing decimating their numbers at large, they use your prison system and your tax money to recruit and train the next intake of manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and security (foot soldiers). The gangs regenerate themselves inside the prisons.

Whether by organised fight clubs to train foot soldiers to do the muscle work, or the more common method of one on one mentoring, your tax dollar is being put to good use by gangs for their objectives. Corrections in its history in this country has never been able to prevent this from occurring, whether under National or Labour, in either private or state run prisons.

This type of daily violence is what I would call Jail.

In prison it is normal, and works in some totally fucked way to make prison very uncomfortable for many, discouraging them from ever wanting to be there again. While I am not advocating for it, this is certainly one of the residuals from this constant level of physical biffo that goes on daily.

In most instances though, gang violence via recruiting and training was isolated to potential gang members, and to hardening the psyche of their current members while awaiting their inevitable release.

Prison Justice

People joke about it all the time. Yunno, ‘ha ha ha don’t slip on the soap’, in reference to the general public’s view of what is prison justice, i.e how easy it is to get raped in prison. But prison justice is a real component of all prisons around the world. And prison justice is no laughing matter. Prison justice = violence.

In this country it shows itself in that almost all child molesters end up in the segregated wings (Segs). As soon as it becomes known that someone is incarcerated for child related crimes, they are summarily beaten and that gives them grounds to complain and therefore be reassigned to Segs.

The general public are in two groups on this issue: Group 1 – those who have no clue and don’t really care anyway, and Group 2 – those that know and think it’s acceptable. So to some extent society tolerates prison violence. I myself also tolerated this without question when I saw it in prison.

Other ways prison justice is meted out though are not so palatable.

Prisoners who rat out one another or take a deal in some form or other, are also given the same treatment. Prisons actively encourage narking, so this form of violence is very common.

There is a third type of prison justice, and it is not well known until you have seen it or experienced it with your own eyes, and that is if a prisoner is rich, they will be tapped in every way shape or form for their resources. For the rich this is of course not justice, but to poorer prisoners who have no financial support outside of prison this is their form of prison justice to get one back on rich pricks.

Under staffing

Contrary to the popular misconception prison guards, or ‘Screws’ as they are known inside, cannot be everywhere all the time. This easily allows for what people saw in the so called ‘fight club’ videos that made sensational headlines in recent news.

These mock and semi controlled fights are usually over and done in a matter of minutes, the time it takes for the screws to do their rounds and come back around again. Sure some of the screws turn a blind eye, but mostly it’s just vigilant prisoners who learn the routines of these under staffed prisons.

Spring Hill prison is chronically understaffed by comparison to ACRP & MECF at Mt Eden, by a country mile!

This is in part due to overcrowding of prisons intended to have x amount of staff per y amount of prisoners. Most of the under staffing related violence rears its head during school holiday periods when prison staffing run at a skeleton level.

The only way Spring Hill prison coped with this during my time there was to employ long lockdown hours when staffing levels were low. In many wings this meant 23 hours a day locked down, and one hour outside. For lower security units this meant 20 hours locked down and 4 hours outside. Adding to the stress of these long lockdowns are the number one cause of violence in Spring Hill, and that being the following…


Spring Hill Corrections Facility was built by the Labour Government and completed in 2007 to house 650 sentenced prisoners. Its initial focus was on Pacific Island prisoners, hence it has a Pacific Island focus unit called Vaka, and a Pacific Island church.

With the change of the incoming National government in 2008, the government then embarked on putting more people in prison, 1000’s more than they had bed spaces for. The then Minister of Justice Judith Collins concocted this grand idea of replacing the single bed cells in Spring Hill (and other prisons to some extent) with bunk beds. I bet Collins thought this was a clever cost saving idea, but it however led to a massive and fatal rise in violence. Every prisoner I ever spoke to pointed without hesitation directly back to that one event as the principle catalyst – deliberate over crowding.

Spring Hill now has 1050 prisoners inside cells in facilities designed to be uncomfortable for 650 prisoners. This results directly in a new level of violence that is not isolated to the world of gangs and their training regime. Everyone is susceptible to the violence that ensues from Collins’ intentional overcrowding.

Whether waiting for the one unit telephone, or microwaves, or the two unit washing machines, the result is a daily high level of anxiety that is far above and beyond the intended stress levels prisoners were meant to be under while incarcerated. After weeks of these extended lockdowns, Spring Hill turns into a sort of war zone that makes those so called fight club videos look like child’s play.

In fact, for me, both Serco’s ACRP and MECF were holiday camps compared to the violence I saw daily in Spring Hill.

You have one hour outside, there are 88 of you in a unit, you have a pile of clothes that need washing, there’s two washing machines, which some of the time, at least one of them is broken. There are usually about 1 or 2 working microwaves if you want to cook some soup or porridge, and there is a single telephone for you to call loved ones. The 88 of you have one hour to bang your way to the front of the line to get your washing done.

Sound like fun?

Then once that one hour is over, you are back in your cell with another grown man for the next 23 hours, eating, showering and shitting together (the toilet is in your cell). This is the cause of the other overcrowding related violence where prisoners just get sick of seeing each other’s faces for 20-23 hours a day, and after a week or so of this even the best of mates are ready to scratch each other’s eyes out.

Further exacerbating this are weather conditions.

Spring Hill cells are not insulated and are mostly what you would call outside cells. So in winter temperatures drop to zero in cells overnight, and rise above 30 degrees during the day, over 40 degrees if the prison is on lockdown with 2 persons in a cell.

The air intake in each cell and air extraction were designed for a single prisoner in a cell where most of the daytime they would be outside. During summer’s long lockdowns we would be clawing at the air intake for fresh cooler air until temperatures dropped to a sleepable level at about 2am in the morning.

Winter was just as bad where the only place you could keep warm was on the floor in cells where the floor warmers actually worked. About half didn’t work so huddling under layers of clothes and blankets was the order of the day.

Overcrowding is also the cause of a lot of the medical mistreatment in Spring Hill. The medical centres are under staffed and struggling to cope with the extra 400 prisoners. Added to this is an attitude amongst some of the medical staff that providing crap medical is part of your punishment. This attitude extends to doctors as well who if they tried to pull that shit anywhere else would be had up for malpractice.

Medical do not attribute the stress they encounter in prisoners to overcrowding, but instead become immune to it, showing no concern for prisoners who sometimes have to wait for up to 3 months before receiving medical assistance. This leads to prisoners with preventable health issues ending up in hospitals with chronic health issues.

One such case was a young man in my unit who had breathing issues. His cell mate pressed the emergency button at about 2am to report this, and medical staff arrived at about 7am (as in, when they start in the morning) to find him in very bad shape.  He was taken away, like the others, in an ambulance.

He spent a few weeks in hospital then back into high risk/admin then back to our unit. The prison knew there had been a fuck up with him, so to buy his silence they offered him a room in the prison’s self-care unit. He took the deal, not realising that this broke an unspoken prison rule about taking prison deals. Prison justice kicked in and he was summarily beaten black and blue in self-care.

This is how overcrowding turned a simple asthma attack into black eyes and broken ribs. This was not the only case like this.

Life in these double bunked prison cells was so shit that some preferred to spend as much time as they could in the prison’s solitary confinement unit, or ‘The Pound’ as it is called, not because the pound is an easy place to spend your time, but rather because at least there during the long lock downs around the prison, you could have your own room, and did not have to endure the shit soaked air of another person’s excrement.

Now consider the conditions for which a prisoner is sent to the pound, this usually entails committing a serious violent action. Bash up a prisoner, knock out a screw, any form of violence will get you a spot in the pound. Because of this, the pound was usually full, and some of these prisoners ended up doing their pound time in their own double bunked cells.

From my talks with the long term prisoners in my unit, it was their opinion that the murder of one of Spring Hills prison guards in 2010 came from the extreme stress caused by these conditions.

There is no real means for prisoners to get the message out to the general public. They are forbidden internally from talking to journalists. The internal process of escalating these issues is nothing short of a whitewash and cover-up, and prisoners WILL experience prejudice for putting in official complaints.

For this reason, some prisoners in units higher up the hill from where I was began planning in January 2013 what is now known as the Spring Hill Riot which took place later that year. There haven’t been many full blown riots in NZ prisons. A couple of riots in the 1960s, one in 2004, and the one at Spring Hill in 2013.

Typically the cover up system kicked in with the then minister immediately calling it gang related, and the final report whitewashed the riot as being frivolous. But let me be clear, the initial report that this was gang related, and the final report putting the riot down to home-made alcohol was a total, utter, whitewash.

The intention of that riot was to raise the issue of overcrowding I have detailed, and a recent UN report confirmed.

This is the number one issue prisoners have in Spring Hill, it is the only issue they want fixed (even though I will provide what I believe are fixes for all of the above except prison justice), and I promised them that when I had completed my parole period, I would get this message out to you all.

Preventing Violence in Spring Hill and Other Prisons via the Justice System

Some of the violence is an inevitable part of being in prison. Prison Justice for example is case and point. There is not much that I can think of that can be done to reduce this. That aside lets tackle the other 3 issues I listed.

Gang recruitment and on-going training

A gang or club needs new members, and current members need up-skilling. What is no use to these clubs are members who receive prison sentences that exceed the sentences of trainers. These prisoners are looked upon as potential trainers, but they themselves are ignored in the training and recruiting.

Clubs are interested in new prisoners and prisoners with short sentences. Simply put, cut off the supply of this category of prisoner and you will severely impact on the gang related violence and regeneration using your tax dollars.

You won’t end gangs, because society, financial/ racial disparities, capitalism … creates that.

How to cut off the supply?

Well, two ways come to mind. Firstly, many of those poor and working class prisoners who are sentenced to short terms, especially the Maori prisoners, would probably not be in prison if they had proper representation. The government needs to provide a service for free to these and all prisoners actually, to have their cases reviewed with real representation, I’m talking Queens Council or similar level representational reviews.

From my own observation of the cases of the 88 men in the unit, I estimated that about 25% of them were wrongly imprisoned. Cases like cannabis possession – growing, driving without a license and more. Frivolous shit that should have resulted in a non-custodial sentence. These people should not be in a prison that subjects them to the onslaught of violence caused by gang recruiting, understaffing and overcrowding.

In this measure alone, you would see a massive drop in numbers of Maori prisoners in prison as well.

Secondly, find a non-custodial method of sentencing people who have been sentenced to 3 years or less for their crimes. If you take these people away from prison and successfully rehabilitate them without incarceration, then you cut the supply. No supply equals the end of the gang training regime on your tax dollars.

Under staffing (AV)

Self-explanatory. Provide a staffing level that meets the requirements and expectations the general public have for prisoner security in prisons.

Simple – up the staffing levels (and reduce the prison population).

Over-crowding (AV)

With 25% of your prison population now back out on the street due to the earlier discussed measures, you can then undo what National did to prisons around the country without even having to build another fucking prison. In fact you could take a bulldozer to at least one of the prisons by my estimate, as well as the following:

  • Single cells for all prisoners (get rid of the bunks!)
  • One telephone per unit for every 10 prisoners (imagine living in a house with 88 people and one phone)
  • Employ real medical staff rather than prison guards that know how to hand out pills

A note on Private Prisons

My one issue with Serco is that it is profiteering from misery. This in my view is almost as morally corrupt as purposeful overcrowding by government as a means of cost saving.


The UN Committee Against Torture actually identified these three areas I addressed in its latest report to the New Zealand Government, which the current minister of Corrections has soundly rejected.

Among other things, the report identified overcrowding, inadequate health services and over-representation of Maori in prisons.

Now you all have a better idea that all of that is true and have some ideas of how to fix this without building any new prisons.

These measures only address what the Justice System and Corrections can do to fix this issue.

You will always have high levels of crime and gangs while your society is so unfair to the less fortunate.

Get over it or do something about it.

Your call…

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara
Former political prisoner of Spring Hill Corrections Facility

My Analysis of the Rawshark Hack of Cameron Slater’s Communications

By Guest Blogger @Te_Taipo

What I want to discuss here is the attack on the WhaleOil communications network which resulted in a large cache of emails and attachments becoming the centrepiece of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics.

I hope that you the readers, bloggers and users of online services will learn from the mistakes Cameron Slater made, and harden your web applications to minimise the chances of this happening to you.

I will also try to keep this as non-techie and non-geeky as possible …


In January/February 2014 WhaleOil was hacked sometime after he posted a blog post with the headline Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour. We were later to find out that the hack was carried out by someone using the pseudonym Rawshark. What do we know about Rawshark from a technical perspective? He or she:

  • was very competent at secure, anonymous and private communications;
  • was very competent at protecting metadata that could lead to his or her identity being discovered;
  • understands the importance of good compartmentalisation of communications; and
  • does not show off, no hacking groups, no fanfare, just in and out.

The hack occurred around the same time that Slater’s website “Whale Oil Beef Hooked” was allegedly taken down by a denial-of-service (DoS) attack. It is not known if Rawshark carried out the alleged DoS attack, or if it was another group, or even if the attack took place, for it could well have been Slater taking his website down to fix it after being hacked by Rawshark. But for now we can only go by media reports that the site was indeed DoS attacked, and that Rawshark was somehow associated with it in some form.

According to Nicky Hager in his book Dirty Politics, some weeks after the hack Hager received an 8 gigabyte USB stick in the mail containing thousands of pages of emails hacked from Slater’s “website”. We have no clue about the extent of the data that came into Hager’s possession, but from all accounts, most of the leaked information was in the form of emails and file attachments, chat logs from GMAIL, and private chats from Facebook.

We do not know if there was other material in the leak, for example from Slater’s home or office computer, or to what extent his infrastructure was invaded. The only option then to form an analysis at any level is to go with what is publicly available and come to tentative conclusions by way of deduction.

The Herald has seen email records which appear to cover 2009 through to 2014

So if we start from the position that the bulk of the information was taken from Slater’s GMAIL account, and ‘possibly’ from his Facebook account, we can then start to discount a few of the possible attack vectors an attacker would use to pull off such an attack.

His Home or Office Computer as the Source of Documents

Firstly we should talk about the culture of bloggers to get a better idea about where potential repositories of private data might be stored. A good attacker would do this mental exercise before mounting any such attack.

Bloggers are not necessarily security experts when it comes to using the internet in a secure manner. Some security experts for all their talk are also crap at this. But what you will find with most bloggers are drafts of documents they might be working on. Drafts are stored on their home or office computers in Word docs, pdfs, and other formats; and drafts are on the website content management systems (CMS) they use, ready to go live (be published) at the appropriate time.

XSS Attack?

Well resourced attackers can take aim at their targets while they are surfing websites that do not enforce HTTPS. This can allow them to inject web browser exploits onto a user’s computer and essentially take over the computer by installing their stuff into hard drives and into the computer’s BIOS.

My guess is that Cameron Slater’s home or office computer at that time would have been a treasure trove of gathered dirt far beyond what was revealed in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics.

However there do not appear to be any local hard drive sourced disclosures in the released material either from Nicky Hager in Dirty Politics or from Rawshark via the @whaledump and @whaledump2 Twitter accounts. The releases are all chat logs, emails and attachments, and drafts of press releases in emails and attachments etc.

For an example of this, check out the @hackingteam hack in which attackers appear to have snatched what appears to be ab entire cache of their network fileserver via a hack of their webserver.

An attacker would typically get their hands on hundreds of gigabytes of info, and not just emails, attachments and chats from online services.

So we can tentatively rule out a phishing attack or XSS attack on a home or office computer …

Smart Phone Hacked?

We also do not see in the released material any cellphone messages from a phone’s text repository. A lost or stolen smartphone is a treasure trove for an attacker because of the widespread habit of having GMAIL accounts, chats, Facebook, Twitter and more all logged in on smart phones purely for the convenience of it all.

Surely with all the text messaging between Slater, Collins and Key we would have seen those come to light. Yet the only text messages we see following the Rawshark disclosures are from non-Rawshark sources.

Now this could mean that Hager chose not to release this material, but of all the material released, there appears to be not one single document that originated from Slater’s home or office computer and not one cellphone text message. We will never know, but the conclusion I come to is that it is most likely that this attack was not aimed at his home or office computer or at his cellphone, but rather was restricted to wherever it was he stored his emails. 

GMAIL Email Repository

GMAIL is a web based email service that used to actively encourage its users to never delete their emails …

A user can also forward a copy of their emails in their GMAIL account to any of a range of other email accounts. In fact a user could forward all emails and never store any in their actual GMAIL account.

So we should not just assume that an attacker broke into Slater’s GMAIL account, even though this appears to be the likely entry point.

So how does an attacker break into someone’s GMAIL account?

There are some really easy ways, and some really hard ways.

The easiest first, in which the target (in this case Slater) has left his GMAIL account logged in on someone else’s computer (we will call that person Attacker/Friend or AF). AF would then have access to that GMAIL account. Even if Slater had logged out of his GMAIL account on AF’s computer, if AF had had the ‘Save Passwords’ feature enabled in his or her web browser, AF could then re-log back into that GMAIL account and siphon off all the emails. And using the most extreme method, AF could use a keylogger to record the username and password as Slater typed them and then later gain access.

This would be a rookie mistake on the part of Slater. Even though I do not rate his security precautions at that time as being anything of substance, this attack method is also rather opportunistic and not at all common when an attacker has decided to directly target someone, as it appears was the case with Rawshark.

How about breaking into a GMAIL login, can that be done?

Password Cracking

Password cracking in GMAIL is difficult because of the flood controls GMAIL uses. Even if Slater used a rather easy to guess password, it would not be easy to break it using the GMAIL login form.

Slater would had to have used a really obvious password like Wh@l3oil for it to be possible for an attacker to guess a password without employing a password cracking rig … but of course this is quite a common type of password structure for most security unaware users of the internet.

After all, bloggers are often just average internet users who happen to be bloggers.

Often it takes an attack like this one before web administrators realise that it is not enough just to know how to administer a content management system, and that in fact you need to learn some security basics as well.

But I am going to tentatively rule out a super easy to guess password…for now, ’cause, well, that would just be too sad … 

Password Reset ‘Feature’

Another possible way into a GMAIL account is through the password reset feature. Even if you enter fake information into this feature, GMAIL has on the odd occasion, emailed a password reset to an attacker’s designated email account, thus allowing them to take over a target’s GMAIL account.

Password reset attacks are not stealth attacks, are rather hit and miss, and this method does not fit the modus operandi of Rawshark who appears to be someone who knows how to research and take down her or his target without them seeing the attack coming.

Remote Exploits

Then there are these little devils called 0days. You can buy them on the so called {{{Darkweb}}}. They are exploits of vulnerabilities found in popular web services that have not been disclosed to the web service developers, and therefore remain unfixed. I do not get the sense that this was how this attack went down, but let’s look at an example. Let’s say someone discovered a way to circumvent GMAIL’s login CAPTCHA (those letters and numbers you have to enter when you get your password wrong), and instead of notifying Google, they could then go to one of these Darkweb sites and sell their knowledge to the highest buyer. An attacker could then use this 0day to password crack easy to break passwords because there would be no flood controls to prevent this.

But again, I do not see this as the approach that Rawshark took, with nothing more than a gut feeling more than any evidence pointing to this conclusion.

Jeremy Hammond Level Attacker

Lastly there is this being called an extremely talented IT exponent. The world is now gifted with a few of these individuals. In my books Jeremy Hammond is one of these people, there are more. Love him or hate him, Hammond was one of the more talented computer attackers I have ever read about – Rawshark could well be such a character.

It is possible although not probable that Rawshark, using her or his own pure talent, found a way in through GMAIL’s security into Slater’s email accounts without the assistance of social trickery or by tricking GMAIL’s password reset procedure. It is a rare thing, but it has happened before.

What other ways are there to get into the repository of emails?

Conveniently enough a GMAIL user can forward all their emails to another email account. I for example have my old GMAIL email forwarded to my Riseup email. So a successful attack on my Riseup email account would net an attacker both sets of emails.

In Slater’s case we do not know if he used any other emails but we do know that he owns a web space where his website was hosted. He also has a domain name and with that we can assume like so many other bloggers at that time, that he had his website hosted on a shared hosting platform that gave out free email accounts in his domain name. For example, if you own the domain name then it is a trivial matter to set up an email address like

These shared webspace services also allow for emails to be held in an account on the webserver, so it is possible (but not probable) for Slater to forward a copy of his GMAILs to one of these email accounts as a backup or for whatever reason he deemed necessary.

Unlike breaking into GMAIL, it is much much easier for an attacker to break into a shared webspace.

On a number of occasions people that have dealt directly with Rawshark have referred to the attack as being an attack on Slater’s website although this could well be misdirection.

So this is one potential set of conditions where an attacker, aiming to break into a website for nefarious purposes, cracks the control panel login, and then has access to not only all the website files, but also to the email accounts which may have been preconfigured within the control panel. Then upon digging around , they find Solomon’s Mines of dirt in an email account.

This … is … possible, and happens thousands of times a day on the internet.

So how does an attacker break into a web space, or “website”?

Well the most common method is via insecure code within a website.

Bloggers like Slater use precompiled blog scripts like Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, phpBB or vBulletin. These content management systems (CMS) often have security weaknesses or vulnerabilities that an attacker can exploit between the time the weakness is made known and the time when a blogger/user updates their CMS.

All of the above allow users to add plugins/addons which some of whom have file upload ‘features’ that are incorrectly coded. Even the core CMS itself could also have a vulnerable file upload feature as has been the case.

The attacker using free tools like Joomscan, WPScan, etc, can poke around, find and exploit one of these weaknesses or vulnerabilities and upload a file called a shell which allows them to get full access not just to the website and other websites on a shared webserver, but also to the webserver itself.

An attacker can also get access to your website files via rather simple misconfigurations of webservers that allow them for example to view the contents of a backup directory which contains website database backups.

Slater himself is alleged to have made such an attack on the Labour Party website via a misconfiguration. In that case it was a missing default index file and a misconfigured Apache <Directory> directive setting causing the server to issue a directory listing and allowing the attacker to see all the files in the website directories, and download website and database backups.

By exploiting these vulnerabilities an attacker can get access to at least the database, and in some cases, the login credentials for the CMS.

But so what, that does not get us any emails.

Well yes and no.

We should return again to blogger culture, and common password culture or the lack of it, on the internet. As I said earlier, bloggers are often average internet users who just happen to also have a blog.

Most people know one really good password. And they use that password everywhere – their email accounts, Windows login, Twitter, Facebook, etc . There is a good chance that people reading this themselves use one hard password for everything. It is unbelievably common.

An attacker would assume this, so it would go without saying that if the attacker has been able to bypass security on a website she or he would get access to at least the database password. In the afore-mentioned CMSs the database password can be found unencrypted in the configuration files. The attacker would then try this password on everything, from the CPANEL control panel login, to the CMS admin login, and even to the target’s GMAIL and social media accounts.

It really would not surprise me if this is how the attack went down … attackers will poke around in your stuff using a wide variety of tools and a good nose for misconfigurations, and most of the time  there are always misconfigurations, out of date applications, badly coded addons and more.

Then Things Just Get Worse.

Symlink Bypass Attack

Even with the best security in place, if a blogger or anyone else uses a shared webspace service to host a website that site will probably be vulnerable to what is called a Symlink Bypass Attack. This can be launched from any website hosted on a shared webserver onto any other website hosted on the same server. An attacker for example could register their own website on the same webserver as the target’s website, and thereby gain access.

As an aside, try to avoid shared web services for this reason alone. This attack is still viable even today. Use a dedicated server or at least a VPS … to increase your security.

Via a Symlink Bypass Attack Rawshark would have eventually gained access to the blog admin logins, passwords, database password, database content and even into any active email accounts in the control panel (especially if GMAILs had been redirected into one of these accounts). In fact successful Symlink Bypass Attacks often give the attacker access to even the entire webserver.

Passwords are often stored in databases in the form of a cryptographic hash of the password. If these are not correctly salted, then an attacker can brute force these hashes to find the original passwords. In many cases an administrators easy to guess, short password could be brute forced from the database hashes in a matter of minutes. Then the attacker would now have the raw database password, and an admin user’s password to try out against your other webservices.

If the lazy admin had used one or two passwords for everything Rawshark would have then also had access to Slater’s GMAIL account.

End of Game …

Now, originally I thought this web based attack was unlikely for the following reason. Most attackers that I have witnessed in the past, who had access to their target’s administration login, have defaced the websites homepage with some smart arsed, usually lowercase, uppercase jumbled message.

d3f@c3d bY k0mp3r5t0mp3r

This appears not to have happened in the WhaleOil hack, and that to me was a clue that perhaps the attack did not originate from the website, or there was something really peculiar about this attacker that was outside the norm, or both.

Then something weird happened during the @Whaledump2 disclosures on Twitter that changed my mind a little on that.

Rawshark, or some associate, was posting disclosures on Twitter following the release of Nicky Hager’s book. A court judge ruled that Rawshark should stop disclosing Slater’s private information, and to my utter amazement Rawshark complied. On the day of the ruling Rawshark’s Twitter account ceased posting, and that was that.

See the Radio New Zealand report here.

That was an infosec moment for me. For one thing, for my own amusement I had a list of possible suspects as to who Rawshark could be, but because of this reaction by Rawshark, that list got ripped up.

Why? Well because I do not know or know of ANYONE in that position, using the best methods of anonymity and privacy, who would not have told that judge where to stick the ruling! It occurred to me that who we were dealing with here was a serially good normally law abiding person.

But we are not here to discuss the potential identity of Rawshark, but rather to look at the potential methods used to capture the email and chat repositories of one Cameron Slater. But in those clues alone, my deductions lead me to believe that access to the emails may not have originated from a direct attack on Slater’s website.

So, if you have managed to make it this far, we have these three possibilities:

  • Attacker Friend (AF) who goes feral on Slater and hands Hager the cache;
  • Hit and miss, or gifted attack on GMAIL itself to get access to GMAIL emails; or
  • Attack on the website of a lazy admin where one password is used for both web stuff and emails.

What about the Facebook conversations?

Facebook like any other social media service, depends on the user owning the email account attached to the username. Unless the user has activated 2-factor authentication, an attacker who has control of the primary email account of the target can trigger a password reset on, for instance, a Facebook account and take over a target’s account for a brief time until Facebook is notified.

This is of course a very visible attack and Slater would have seen that coming and possibly stopped it from happening.

Facebook also allows for third party applications, many of which at that time were very insecure. It might have been possible for an attacker to exploit Slater’s Facebook account if he used one of the many vulnerable applications available to Facebook users.

But we need to also take into account the possibility that Slater used one password for all, so if an attacker had guessed the password to the GMAIL account, for example whal3oil or some other variant, then the attacker could have easily gotten into all of his stuff without being seen, and that to me is the clincher.


As it stands I am still not totally convinced about how Rawshark was able to gather Slater’s communications. What you see above are strong suspicions that do not pass the test in my view for me to form a solid conclusion without more information from either Rawshark or the journalists that interacted with him, or from Slater himself. None of those are likely to be forthcoming, nor should they be.

I said earlier “But I am going to tentatively rule out a super easy to guess password…for now, ’cause, well, that would just be too sad … “

But if Slater was using a master password for everything, then you now know with some certainty the various ways Rawshark could have obtained it. My best guess is that this is a master password issue and that Slater most likely used a really crappy password for his email, and social media, and that Rawshark simply guessed.

…and that really would just be too sad…

A word on Rawshark: Will the police catch Rawshark? Probably not. Most attackers do their attacks via another infected webspace, or VPS, and almost always over Tor.

Tips for Better Blog Security Check List

If you run a political service of any sort online, you may attract the ire of someone who disagrees with you. In Slater’s case he often offends people deliberately or otherwise. It would seem that he did not properly look after his security so that he could talk with impunity the big talk; and someone took offence and took his world apart.

Even if you are not a total prick online…it pays to use the best security methods available, that actually do not cost you the world, but do however take a little time to accomplish.

  1. Memorise at least two 7 word pass phrases using Diceware
  2.  Use a password manager (KeePass/KeePassX, Encryptr) for all your passwords. Use one of these 7 word pass phrases to lock the manager.
  3. Use the other as a pass phrase for your primary email account
  4. Using the password manager, generate a unique password of at least a 128bit password for EVERY web service you use (social media sites, email accounts, web admin logins, banking logins etc). When you use a password manager you are then able to use passwords that are the maximum length allowed. For example, I have tested Twitter passwords as long as 165 characters long.
  5. Host your website on a VPS or dedicated server and NEVER on shared web hosting.
  6. Install an SSL/TLS certificate on your website!
  7. Use 2-factor authentication on your web based services such as email and social media
  8. If you use WordPress, add Pareto Security plugin (since I wrote it), Wordfence and (if you do not have an SSL/TSL certificate) Chap Secure Login
  9. Keep all your web applications and plugins up to date
  10. Make sure there are no publicly accessible backups of your website
  11. Use as few plugins as necessary
  12. Install HTTPS Everywhere and NoScript Security Suite on your web browsers
  13. Encrypt and lock your cellphone.
  14. Encrypt your computer hard drive or use Veracrypt to create encrypted containers to store your files in
  15. Ditch GMAIL and go with secure email services such as Protonmail, Tutanota, and Openmailbox.
  16. For the more security conscious/tech advanced, use TAILS, Whonix or at the very least TorBrowser, as your means of accessing the internet



Kaati noa ra,


Reflections on ANZAC Day

This essay was republished in “Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2016” (Ed Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood, Auckland University Press, 2015).

A lot of money has been spent on commemoration, a lot of hype generated, mythology recycled, and there’s been a lot of criticism of the expenditure, the hype and the mythology on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. There have been calls by Maori and others for the dead of the New Zealand Wars to be mourned as well as the dead of foreign wars.

What does ANZAC really mean?

Grandfather Whana of Ngati Kere (Porangahau) and Ngati Hikarara (South Wairarapa) didn’t enlist for World War I. At that time enlistment was not a popular option for Maori so he was not one of the approximately 2227 Maori who did enlist. By 1914 he was 35 years old, a dairy farmer, and the father of four of his eventual nine children. He had responsibilities at home. We don’t know what his views were about the British Empire but as staunch Mormons who regularly hosted Mormon missionaries in their home in South Wairarapa both he and my grandmother were members of a congregation that drew their attention and allegiance more towards the USA than towards England.

On the other hand as a dairy farmer he would have known that he relied on a buoyant New Zealand economy for his livelihood and that depended heavily on continuing sales of primary produce into a stable British market.

Grandfather Fred of East Clive in Hawkes Bay did enlist. He was about the same age as Grandfather Whana and he was a first generation New Zealander born at Waipureku a.k.a. East Clive. His father was born in Cornwall and his mother in Devon. They came to New Zealand in 1872 as economic migrants and they were steadfastly British with an abiding loyalty to Mother England. That loyalty was shared by their many children, most of them born in New Zealand. At the start of the war Fred was a single man working as a bushman. He tried to enlist but was rejected because at 37 he was too old. Over two years later when the NZEF needed more recruits he was accepted, joined the Third Battalion of the NZ Rifle Brigade on the Western Front, was badly wounded at Passchendaele in October 1917, was invalided to London and after he recovered was sent on light duties to the NZ Rifle Brigade rear echelon at Brocton Camp in Staffordshire. There he remained for the rest of the war, met and married Grandmother Gertrude and eventually came back to New Zealand with his wife and daughter towards the end of 1919.

Grandfather Whana died young just a few years before World War II a victim of metabolic diseases brought on by the too rapid adoption of the European lifestyle and the European diet, especially sugar, flour and milk. Ironically it was the European diet that did for far more of our people than the European wars, and continues to do so to this day. The 1918 European influenza epidemic brought home from the war also did for many more Maori than the war itself. Grandfather Whana was involved in local efforts to treat the disease and to contain the epidemic.

My father didn’t enlist for World War II. A few of his wider whanau did but not many. Most of his whanau did not get caught up in the fervour of Sir Apirana Ngata’s drive to recruit and reinforce the 28th Maori Battalion. Our whanau was still not into other peoples’ wars. His best friend, my godfather, did enlist and served on Norfolk Island and then in Italy but in the Army Engineers not in the Maori Battalion. Twenty years on I broke the mould on my Maori side and served in the NZ Army for just over twenty years including active service in Borneo and in South Vietnam.

I march on ANZAC day. But I cringe at the myth making and hype surrounding ANZAC these days. I wonder about the tens of thousands who now turn out to dawn services across New Zealand and Australia. Are they there to mourn or are they there to bask in the hype and to celebrate the mythology fed to them by politicians and media. How many of them really know or fully understand why they are there. I march for simple and clear reasons.

I don’t march in remembrance of the dead of the New Zealand Wars for reasons I will explain later. However I do mourn the loss of land whether through war and confiscation or through questionable sale. But I’m not sure how we might memorialise that, or even if we should.

Grandfather Fred was like a great many men who went to war for New Zealand and Australia who were either born in Britain or were the children of British parents. He would have felt it his bounden duty to rise to the defence of the British Empire. His generation were becoming New Zealanders but still staunchly British. The evolutionary process of becoming New Zealanders actually took us a long time. We didn’t gain NZ citizenship until 1948, thirty years after World War I and three years after World War II. Up until then we were British subjects and from 1948 onwards until 1983 we were British subjects and NZ citizens. I remember as a child in the 1950s that most of my Pakeha schoolmates were still proud to be British subjects.

It is easy to look backwards 100 years after Gallipoli and decry the folly of going to the other side of the world to fight a war that in no way threatened New Zealand’s shores, in campaigns that senselessly slaughtered millions of young men; often badly conceived campaigns. But I see World War I through the perspective of Grandfather Fred and through the perspective of his times. He went out of duty and loyalty to England and to his British Empire. It was his war not someone else’s war. I honour him for that.

He may also have gone for the adventure and to visit the land of his forefathers. Having signed up for a bit of travel and adventure myself 45 years later I can understand that too.

Too many of today’s talking heads who comment about the relevance of ANZAC and the mythology of ANZAC are walking in their own comfortable shoes instead of in the boots of those World War I warriors. Not that I disagree with all of the commentary about ANZAC mythology but to be understood history has to be perceived through the eyes of its participants or observers, not just from the distance of 100 years and through the lens of modern ideology. I try to see World War I through the eyes of my grandfathers.

So in this second decade of the 21st Century what do I think of ANZAC?

I grew up with ANZAC. As a school cadet in the 1950s and early 1960s I was proud to be a uniformed member of catafalque parties at country memorials on ANZAC Day. When I was a teenager in uniform World War II was just ten years gone, the Korean War had just ended and the Malayan Emergency was still going. Grandfather Fred, veteran of World War I, died about that time well into his eighties. ANZAC Day was a funeral, not a celebration of anything except perhaps the lives of those who died. It was a mourning of the dead including the very recent dead by families, comrades and communities.

All of those war memorials in cities, towns and villages were not erected to glorify war or to glorify sacrifice or to celebrate the defence of freedom and liberty, or to promote militarism. They were erected as substitute tombstones for the thousands of soldiers who lie buried in foreign lands, some in unmarked graves. Lacking graves and headstones and the ability to travel to where the dead lay they became the focus of mourning. ANZAC Day was not about celebrating a failed campaign in the Dardanelles, or the mythical founding of a nation or a celebration of democratic values or the gallantry of the ANZAC soldier. All of that is legend or mythology. ANZAC Day was a service for the dead. Its ritual was and is still the solemn ritual of a military funeral.

It was also and remains an annual reunion for those whose incredibly strong bonds of trust, brotherhood and comradeship were forged in war. Only the veteran knows the power and the strength of that bond. In that sense everyone else is an onlooker or a bystander.

That remains for me the meaning of ANZAC Day. I remember and honour the dead and the physically and psychologically wounded of all wars. I honour too all who fought in those wars especially those whanau and friends who have since faded away. Regardless of the strategic, political and economic necessity or futility of those wars I honour the casualties of the wars, both the dead and the living. I remember and honour Grandfather Fred.

I honour also Grandfather Whana’s and my father’s decisions not to fight other peoples’ wars. Their loyalties rightly lay elsewhere.

For me the debate about the necessity or futility of war, past, present and future is for every other week of the year. Raising that debate in ANZAC week even in response to the maddening hype and mythology is just as inappropriate as the hype and mythology itself. Like the tangihanga itself ANZAC week is a time for restraint and respect.

However in that larger debate I do decry the political and commercial appropriation of ANZAC for base motives that dishonour the dead. We should read the academic military historians to learn the unadorned facts about ANZAC. But their work does not seep into popular consciousness. Not many are interested. What does pass as fact is the work of popular historians who perpetuate and reinforce the propaganda and mythology of ANZAC and who along with politicians and the media distort reality and so shape false perceptions for the next generations.

So what about mourning say, the dead of the New Zealand Wars, as well as the dead of the more recent wars.

Well, down our way Grandfather Whana’s father and grandfather didn’t go to war to try to keep their lands. They didn’t have a strong enough military base. They lost their lands mostly but not always by reluctant sale. The New Zealand Wars like the later World Wars were other peoples’ wars. Indeed some of the tribes who did fight actually fought on the side of the settler government. And some of those were also the tribes who made the greatest contributions to the Maori Battalion of World War II. No doubt they had their reasons but it might not be profitable to mine that seam too deep.

Some forty years before the New Zealand Wars our rohe was infested by marauding hapu during the Musket Wars attempting to dispossess our many hapu of our lands. They initially succeeded but were eventually repulsed as we acquired muskets and as the missionaries intervened. No doubt some of my tipuna would not have been at all inclined to mourn the dead of those invading hapu in the New Zealand Wars. We don’t all share a common history.

So I’m a bit ambivalent about commemorating other tribes’ wars whatever side they fought on. But if those tribes want to set aside their own day of mourning that’s OK by me. Mourning the loss of land might be something we could have in common. It would be a bit like mourning the loss of lives in war I suppose. It sounds like a good idea but it’s a bit more complex than it sounds.

Should we really set aside a day to mourn what divided my two grandfathers, or seek instead to celebrate what joins us. Much modern day ANZAC belief lies in the myth that New Zealand came of age, or achieved nationhood on the World War I battlefields, especially Gallipoli. Of course it’s pure rubbish. Grandfather Whana’s people were here in this land for some 700 hundred years before Gallipoli. Grandfather Fred’s people were here for about 150 years before Gallipoli. We try to celebrate the joining of these two strands of migration on Waitangi Day, not very successfully because we are still divided over what Waitangi means to the nation as a whole. Grandfather Whana seems to be pulling in one direction and Grandfather Fred in another.

They never met but as men of the land I’m sure they would have found much in common. A shared love of the land perhaps; the farmer and the bushman. Neither of them was much interested in politics. Grandfather Fred like most of his generation didn’t much like Maori. He did change his attitude a bit after he acquired a Maori son-in-law and Maori mokopuna. Incidentally he didn’t much like Catholics either and didn’t ever approve of his Pakeha Catholic son-in-law. Those were his times. Grandfather Whana didn’t go to war but I’m sure he would have understood and honoured Grandfather Fred’s decision. He did after all name one of his daughters Lemnos Mudros after the island and its harbour from where the Gallipoli campaign was launched. It’s a mystery. I’ve no idea why but he did.

I’ve no idea either how we might celebrate the real birth of this nation formed primarily from twin strands of migration through a clash of cultures, a short period of armed conflict in some parts, a long period of inter-cultural political and economic turmoil in most parts, and an even longer aftermath through which we are still finding our way. Perhaps if we’re patient the answer will in time reveal itself. Perhaps it will be in finally cutting the ties to monarchy and all it represents and in the birth of a new republic. Our day of celebration of nationhood might lie not in the past but in the future.

In the meantime let ANZAC Day remain simply a mourning for our dead in the conflicts where a lot of us fought on the same side, for whatever reason.

Lest we forget.