Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you

Following a relaxation of its information-keeping procedures, the SIS has released files on individuals it has surveilled over the years.

Murray Horton of CAFCA is one such individual, and made the comment, "Some of it is laughable, like a report dedicated to the likely impact of feminism and different gender views on abortion on the marriages of named couples."

It's an interesting reflection on the mindset of the SIS that feminism is considered a threat to state security, alongside communism and terrorism. Go figure.


Brett Dale said...

I remember a Rowan Atkinson skit from the mid 80's, in the skit he was a top military man, advising other officers that they were about to face the biggest threat of their life's, "Feminist Peace protesters"

Anna said...

It's a bit like that. I've got a theory that every era has a bogeyman de jour: Salem had witches, the 70s had feminists, and now we've got the Urawera folks.

M-H said...

I think you could add Vietnam and anti-Springbok Tour protestors to the 70s 'villians'. Anyone who was left-wing, pretty much.

Julie said...

Does anyone know how to request your file? Not that I anticipate I would probably have one, or that it would contain anything interesting, but it might be fun for a lark to see. I had a look at the SIS website but couldn't quite work it out.

Anita said...

Oddly to me the release of the SIS files is very linked to thoughts of great feminist women.

For a start there's the fact that the trailblazer to get the files out was Helen Sutch (Bill Sutch's daughter). Then, of course, I think of Shirley Smith (Helen's mother, Bill's wife) an awesome feminist who achieved a lot.

Then there's the fact that it opened the way for me to find out the SIS hold a file on my great grandmother (another awesome feminist). The thing about my great grandmother is that it reminds me that there is a huge feminist legacy behind us current feminists.

Anita said...


You write them a letter and ask them for it (for some reason they don't want requests via email). You have to give them as much identifying information as you have about the person (which should be easy if it's you but harder if the file is from ages ago because they like addresses).

Quentin said...

Hi Julie

You can apply for it under the Official Information Act as Anita pointed out. I know of several people who have done this, only to be told that the SIS refuses to confirm or deny that they have a file on them - which is not a denial.

I'm on the CAFCA executive, so I've seen the complete CAFCA file and it is large. The comments made by the informants (spies) about meetings and individuals are just incredible. Every piece of heresay and bitter observation is listed.

The SIS even went so far as to intercept, open and copy personal letters.

As Anna rightly comments, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean that they are not after you.

Tye said...

i guess those with an opinion will always be targeted and watched closely.

Julie said...

Thanks for the info about applying, might give it a go!

So you can apply for files of other people? Presumably they have to be a relative, or dead, or both?

I remember being rather paranoid when I was a student activist and in the end I just figured it was best not to have too many secret things going on because really they were very hard to keep secret for long, even without deliberate SIS spying.

Anna said...

I'm not opposed to surveillance per se - if I was a nutbar planning to blow up an abortion clinic, the public has a right to be protected from me, and discreet surveillance would probably be least civil-liberty-violating way to do it.

Two major provisos, though - 1) the surveillance has to be warranted (ie there should be evidence of serious threat), and 2) the SIS should only record info directly relevant to the threat. Commenting on people's associates, their views on feminism, smacks of collecting stuff that could be used to tarnish someone's reputation rather than monitoring a threat. It paves the way for 'such-and-such is a closet homosexual - let's ruin his life' sort of activities.