Category Archives: Spooks & Maori

Operation 8: The Truth, the Whole Truth & Nothing but the Truth?

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Yeah right!

A blanket has been thrown over the process by which Cabinet authorised the anti-terrorism raids on 15th October 2007. This post and previous posts lift a corner of that blanket and the whole high level process doesn’t pass the smell test.

Although there is some visible evidence of the intelligence process at the working level (in affidavits, warrants, indictments and police evidence provided to the lawyers of the accused) there is no visibility or transparency above that. The intelligence process intimately involved the decision-makers from the analyst Detective Sergeant Pascoe’s immediate superior Detective Inspector Good, to Assistant Commissioner White, to Deputy Commissioner Pope, Commissioner Broad, to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC), and to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

We know that the SIS at least knew of the ongoing operation. We do not know if the SIS and GCSB were actively involved in Operation 8. It is reasonable to assume that the minister in charge of the SIS, Prime Minister Helen Clark, would have known in advance about the operation even if Annette King then Minister of Police, by her own testimony, did not know until the night before.

We know from public statements after the event that Commissioner Broad and the Prime Minister were both involved in the decision-making that launched the Operation 8 raids on 15th October 2007. What is not transparent is the advice presumably based on intelligence product that informed those decisions. What is also not transparent is the substance of those decisions.

Without that information there can be no full analysis of the professionalism and competence of the intelligence process. Operation 8 was not just a failure of intelligence at the working level but a failure of intelligence all the way up the chain of command and in the Cabinet itself. Intelligence failure at that high level level is not uncommon. Indeed in the world of Intelligence it is the most common level of failure.

This series has analysed in some detail the intelligence failure at the working level. The failures at the Police command level, at the senior officials and advisors level (ODESC) and at the political level remain hidden under the blanket; covered up.

The original intent of the investigators, presumably sanctioned and approved by the chain of command and Cabinet, was to prosecute under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. That was disallowed by the Solicitor General. Then the charges changed.

  • What was it that the legal advisors, the chain of command, ODESC and Cabinet believed at the time that convinced them to mount a full scale anti-terrorism operation?
  • Or was the use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act just an excuse to employ the wider surveillance powers allowed under that act?
  • And were they all just hoping that the seizure of computers around the country would provide sufficient evidence to allow them to proceed and use evidence secured under the Suppression of Terrorism Act?
  • If so, was the use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act to obtain the warrants and to mount a full scale anti-terrrorism operation totally unlawful like so much of the operation?

Given the lack of transparency of that higher level of decision-making it may only be discovered through a formal inquiry process by subpoena of witnesses, instructions and written orders, reports, assessments and minutes. And if that were to happen how might that evidence reflect on the outcome of the trial of the Urewera Four accused?

  • What was the chain of command and what were they telling each other?
  • Who did Detective Inspector Good and Detective Sergeant Pascoe report to? What did they report? Is there a written record of that report? Who reviewed and evaluated their analysis? Is there a written record of that review and evaluation?
  • What were Detective Inspector Good’s and Detective Sergeant Pascoe’s orders from their immediate superior? Were they written orders? Or were they just freewheeling on their own without formal intelligence management oversight? The scapegoat question I fear.
  • What was the complete chain of command from Detective Sergeant Pascoe to Commissioner Broad? What advice was given to Commissioner Broad and by whom? Is there a written record of that advice?
  • Was legal advice sought and given prior to the October 15th armed paramilitary anti-terrorist operation? Who gave the advice? Was it the Solicitor General? Was it prosecutor Ross Burns? Was it written advice?
  • Was Deputy Commissioner Pope involved in the decision to launch an anti-terrorism operation? What was his exact involvement?
  • What advice if any did Commissioner Broad give to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC)? Who was present at that meeting? Were the professional security and intelligence agencies present? Did they offer their professional assistance? Is it true that Commissioner Broad declined such assistance? Are there minutes of that meeting?
  • What advice if any did ODESC give to Commissioner Broad? Is there a record of that advice? If not, why not?
  • What advice if any did ODESC give to the Prime Minister and Cabinet? Is there a record of that advice? If not, why not?
  • Did the NZ Police ever call upon the superior intelligence gathering and assessment skill and experience of the dedicated security and intelligence agencies? If not why not? Was SIS or GCSB involved?
  • When did Commissioner Broad meet with the Prime Minister and Cabinet? Who was present at that meeting? What advice did he give to Cabinet?  Was it written or verbal or both? Are there minutes of that meeting, including authorisation to proceed with a full-scale anti-terrorism operation?
  • Is it true that Commissioner Broad was asked several times at that Cabinet meeting to confirm that there was a plot to overthrow government, and did he so confirm? We have this one public account only.
  • What orders were given to the operational units that carried out the Operation 8 paramilitary operation? Were they written or verbal orders or both?
  • What reports were submitted after the paramilitary operation? Are they written reports?
  • Was the Solicitor General formally asked to authorise prosecution under the Suppression of Terrorism Act by written request? Did he write a formal rejection of the request stating his full reasons for that decision? Apart from those he publicly stated?
  • Why were the contracts of Commissioner Broad and Deputy Commissioner Pope not renewed? Was it because new brooms were needed to bring in a new culture in the police, as was publicly stated? Or was it really because of incomptence and because they had misled Cabinet in seeking authorisation for the armed anti-terrorism paramilitary operation?
  • Is the real reason for the non-renewal of their contracts part of a cover up?

The final questions are raised in the wake of the GCSB scandal and cover up legislation, and the revelations about the extent of the 5-Eyes global population level electronic surveillance.

  • Was Operation 8 initiated as a result of GCSB eavesdropping on the nation’s communications?
  • If so, was the police evidential trail manufactured in the process known in law enforcement as “parallel construction” to disguise the actual trail of evidence leading from GCSB? This would be another instance of unlawful behaviour by the police.
  • Were GCSB and SIS involved in Operation 8 surveillance?
  • Were GCSB and SIS involved in the analysis of information including data mining, traffic analysis and social network analysis?
  • If GCSB was involved was it at the request of NZ Police and what was the lawful (or unlawful) basis of that request?

In a post on 23 October 2013 Jeremy Bioletti, the trial lawyer for Rangi Kemara, infers that these are very important questions:

“The issue of possible GCSB surveillance in operation 8 is important. Why? Because if there was illegality involved it may have tipped the balance in the Supreme Court and resulted in the exclusion of the evidence which allowed the Urewera Four to be put on trial and convicted for the firearms offences and subsequently imprisoned. I am certain that there was involvement because from memory there were personnel involved in the police operation which counsel were not allowed to ask questions about”. 

The incompetence and ineptitude of the intelligence operation, and the evidential  inconsistencies that would have been revealed by a much more thorough analysis of that process may also have tipped the balance in the Supreme Court and resulted in the exclusion of the evidence which allowed the Urewera Four to be put on trial and convicted and sentenced.

I am saying that none of the Operation 8 evidence should have survived beyond the Supreme Court hearing in May 2011, and the Supreme Court ruling a few months later in September, and that had justice been done the Urewera Four would not have gone to trial.

The only way to fully assess the Operation 8 intelligence management and analysis process is to discover all or most of the above information, through a formal inquiry. That formal inquiry is also required to discover which police officers breached their constables’ oath and broke the law in using unlawful means to acquire information, and which commissioned officers also breached the terms of their commissioning by the Queen of New Zealand. These are serious legal and ethical issues. The rule of law in a democratic society ought to apply equally to every citizen and the NZ Police must be seen to scrupuloulsy uphold the rule of law.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the suppression of all that information and the refusal of both the Labour and National Parties to support an inquiry is that there is a cover up and that what is being covered up is political and bureaucratic incompetence and embarrassment, and a degree of illegality.

Smelly indeed.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: The Four Year Battle in the Courts

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

On 15th October 2007 seventeen were arrested, than another two, then another one. Twenty in all. First it was to be terrorism and arms charges, then just arms charges, then the arms charges plus a criminal group charge against some of them. Back and forth it went in the courts until on 2nd September 2011 the Supreme Court disallowed vital evidence against all but four. On 6th December 2011 the Police dropped all charges against everyone but those four. The “Urewera Four” went to trial in February 2012. It all happened mostly suppressed and out of the public eye. This is the story of those four years.

The trial of the Urewera Four will be covered in the next post.

The Auckland Special Intelligence Group of the NZ Police began gathering information about Jamie Lockett and his alleged terrorist leanings in May 2006. Their attention shifted to Taame Iti and his wananga in the Urewera in September 2006. The Police paramilitary operation, known as the Urewera Raids, went down on 15th October 2007.

That was just the beginning. A legal battle was fought in the District Courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court for more than another four years before four of the original twenty accused finally went to trial in February 2012. Two of the four received prison sentences and two received home detention. The whole thing lasted for nearly six years not including the time the “Urewera Four” spent serving out their sentences.

In this post I detail and explain that battle through the courts. I followed it closely as it happened. The public was not able to do that because most of the court hearings and judgements were suppressed.

Throughout this time there were bail hearings and bail variation hearings concerning the twenty original accused, too numerous to follow, and I mention just a few of them. There were quite a few more court hearings than the ones I describe as well. These are the significant ones.

This is how it unfolded.

15th October 2007

The day of the “raids” and the day 17 people were arrested and detained.

20th October 2007 – Sunday Star Times

Just five days after the arrests and in the midst of much media speculation this article appeared in the Sunday News. In itself it was not part of the legal process, which is the subject of this post. However it shows how the Police were attempting to drive public perceptions and opinion, which is an abuse of justice and legal process.

The source for this sensationalised and completely false interpretation of the information collected by the Police could only have been someone closely connected to the operation. I am 98% sure that I know the identity of the source.

A highly-placed source said police launched last week’s anti-terror raids after recording secret video footage of splinter groups carrying out combined military-style training and talking of “wreaking havoc” throughout New Zealand in imminent attacks.

“If this got off the ground, it would have been a multi-pronged campaign launched simultaneously against a number of individuals and targets. It would have been crippling,?” the source revealed.

“But it is the information provided by Sunday News’ source within the operation which is most shocking.

 “Each different splinter group was training under the one umbrella and they were going to carry out attacks on targets and infrastructure,” said our source.

“You would have had Tuhoe carrying out attacks on their selected targets, animal rights groups targeting their lot and the so-called `peace freaks’ carrying out their acts.

“There were a number of different groups at the table. They were going to wreak havoc according to their own agendas. They were going after a broad spectrum and broad range of targets.

“There were prominent Maori who they’d call Uncle Toms including heads of government departments and those who’d used the system to get ahead.”

The police source scoffed at claims the raids, by about 300 officers, were racially motivated.

“Half those arrested are Pakeha,” he said.

Our source said activist groups’ terror-attack plans were firmly in place.

“They were pretty well advanced in what they were planning to do,” he said.

“They were not of the sophistication of the IRA or Bader Meinhoff (German Red Army) but they were technologically more aware than the likes of the terrorists in Rhodesia Zebra and Zanu.”

Police footage of the groups training in the backblocks of the Bay of Plenty, going through military-style manoeuvring, showed their deadly intent.

“The training is the stuff soldiers spend weeks of build-up on before they use live rounds,” he said. “There is also footage of the group patrolling in military formation through the bush, wearing camouflage and balaclavas.

“There is no mistaking what they were doing.”

That was the extreme version of the Police terrorism narrative.

6th November 2007

Rangi Kemara and Tuhoe Lambert fail in their attempt in the Court of Appeal to have name suppression after earlier attempts in the District and High Courts.

8th November 2007

The Solicitor General declined to allow prosecutions to proceed under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002.

9th November 2007

Taame Iti released on bail. Other accused also bailed shortly after.

14th November 2007

The Police affidavit seeking warrants for the 15th October operation was leaked to the media. This could only have come from the Police or someone close to the Police.

27th November 2007

The US Embassy in Wellington sent a cable to Washington that included this:

“New Zealand Police have told post that they expect those charged to escape incarceration and likely to pay only a fine”.

The Police knew, even at that early stage and months before the defence lawyers began to challenge the legality of the operation and despite what they were saying in the media, that their case was built on shaky ground. They had needed to use the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002 to legalise their otherwise illegal surveillance.

4th December 2007

The accused were remanded on bail until March 2008. The bail conditions were very restrictive and included non-association orders and orders to prevent travel to Ruatoki.

20th December 2007

Solicitor General advises a defence lawyer of his intent to bring charges of contempt against Fairfax Media for publishing leaked Police affidavit.

8th February 2008

An application made to the High Court for suppression of photos of two defendants. Not successful.

10th April 2008

Contempt charges laid against Fairfax Media. Not successful.

17th April 2008

Two more arrests in relation to attendance at wananga.

May 2008

Taame Iti granted permission by High Court to travel to Europe to perform in “Tempest” production, after he had been denied by District Court. This was an indication that the High Court perception of the seriousness of the charges was changing.

14th August 2008

Another arrest. Total now 20. Police still pursuing their original narrative despite knowing that it was unravelling.

22nd August 2008

High Court ordered Police to hand over to the defence all of the intercept warrants for the operation. Police fought very hard not to hand them over, for the warrants were later shown to be illegal.

4th September 2008

Depositions hearings for 18 of the accused in the High Court. Hearings lasted for over a month. All were charged with multiple offences under the Arms Act.

17th September 2008

Prosecution indicates new charges of participation in a criminal group likely.

3rd October 2008

Last submissions made in depositions hearing.

17th October 2008

After two weeks deliberation High Court delivers decisions from depositions hearing. 17 of the accused to face trial on arms charges. Some of the charges were disallowed but most allowed. Accused remanded until “callover” on 17th February 2009.

30th October 2008

Prosecution announces that 5 of the accused would be charged with participation in a criminal group (Taame Iti, Tuhoe Lambert, Rangi Kemara, Urs Signer & Emily Bailey). The depositions hearing had showed up defects in the prosecution case.

This charge was the beginning of the legal strategy to ensure that at least those five would eventually face trial. In September 2011 the Supreme Court declared much of the evidence inadmissible but allowed it to be produced in support of the criminal group charge against the remaining four accused, the “Urewera Four”. That was the express purpose of the criminal group charge; a legal manoeuvre.

The Police and prosecution had known that their case was not on solid ground since the terrorism charges were disallowed in November 2007. They indicated as much to the US Embassy in that month.

All 18 of the accused were still charged under the Arms Act.

15th May 2009

Another bail hearing at which restrictions were relaxed and the accused was required to report to Police just three times a year. This decision indicated that the courts no longer subscribed to the extreme claims of the Police narrative.

June 2009

Applications drawn up by defence lawyers to be filed at the High Court in August to have case thrown out.

June 2009

Rodney Harrison QC prepares case challenging the legality of the Operation 8 warrants.

9th September 2009

High Court declares a number of the warrants illegal and evidence obtained under those warrants inadmissible. Some warrants and evidence allowed to stand. This was a defining moment in the defence case.

During this hearing the Police admitted that they knew that the warrants were not lawful, yet proceeded anyway.

16th September 2009

Harrison QC makes new submission to High Court challenging remaining warrants and evidence.

19th October 2009

Applications made in High Court for a stay of proceedings. Not successful.

27th October 2009

Further stay applications to High Court, Not successful.

28th October 2009

Harrison QC indicates he will take his application to rule evidence inadmissible as far as Supreme Court if necessary.

29th and 30th October 2009

High Court hearings continue.

14th December 2009

Prosecution application to High Court to allow certain evidence.

15th December 2009

High Court ruling on additional challenge to warrants by Harrison QC. Not allowed.

18th December 2009

Another bail rollover hearing.

22nd December 2009

Prosecution’s application to High Court to readmit inadmissible evidence refused.

28th May 2010

Harrison QC submits application to Court of Appeal.

9th June 2010

Court of Appeal hearing re warrants and inadmissible evidence. Two day hearing. Decision reserved.

24th June 2010

Court of Appeal disallows Harrison QC’s application re admissibility of evidence.

7th January 2011

Application to Court of Appeal to overturn High Court ruling (after prosecution application) that trial to be by judge alone.

28th March 2011

An appeal to Supreme Court re admissibility of evidence allowed.

April 2011

Court of Appeal confirm trial by judge alone.

6th May 2011

Supreme Court hearing into admissibility of evidence. Three day hearing.

8th July 2011

Defendant Tuhoe Lambert dies.

22nd August 2011

A hearing by the Supreme Court re judge alone trial delayed until 14th September 2011.

2nd September 2011

Supreme Court rules on evidence. Evidence ruled inadmissable for all accused except the remaining four on the criminal group charge. This was the decision that the prosecution expected and had prepared for by bringing the criminal group charge, originally against five of the accused.

6th September 2011

Prosecution drops charges against all (13) except the four on criminal group charge.

12th and 13th September 2011

Prosecution application to High Court to have suppressed evidence, including the leaked affidavit, released to the media. Affidavit suppressed but video evidence released. Partial lifting of suppression orders.

15th September 2011

Amended indictment against “Urewera Four” presented in High Court.

September 2011

At about the same time as all of this activity the Police and prosecution dropped their efforts to have a trial by judge alone and agreed to trial by jury.

24th November 2011

Further applications by defence lawyers to High Court to stay proceedings denied.

February 2012

Trial of “Urewera Four” proceeds.

This is not a complete record of court hearings. I have noted several attempts by defence lawyers to have proceedings stayed and the cases thrown out. There were many more throughout the four year period, all of them unsuccessful. There were also other court hearings initiated by the prosecution as the two sides battled over evidence and procedure.

I have listed the main hearings and legal manoeuvres to demonstrate the intensity of the legal battle. Most of the proceedings and decisions were suppressed at the time and this legal battle was fought out of the public eye.

The trial of the “Urewera Four” will be analysed in a later post.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: Preface to an Analysis of a Police Operation

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

An Analysis of a NZ Police Intelligence Operation into Alleged Terrorism in the Urewera, 2006-2007.

This complete series of analyses is based on a detailed affidavit I prepared for the defence of the Urewera Four at their trial in February 2012.  Almost all of material in this series was covered in that affidavit but in lesser detail. For reasons that will be explored in a separate anaylsis of that trial very little of it was used by the defence.

Apart from helping to prepare a trial defence I came to this analysis for a variety of reasons.

The first I suppose was personal. About midday on Monday 15th October 2007 my business premises in Parnell got locked down as part of a nationwide search and seizure operation aiming to discover information to vindicate a Police terrorism narrative. I took the Police to court that afternoon and stopped them from taking away my computers and documents. They agreed to pay $2,000 towards my legal fees. I was pissed off but I got over it quite quickly. A rare win in the High Court against the coercive power of the State helped me to move on.

The second reason was also personal. Rangi Kemara, one of those arrested that morning, was my IT Manager and a loyal, trusted and valuable employee and friend and I knew he was no terrorist. I supported him as best I could throughout his long battles through the courts, at his eventual trial as part of the “Urewera Four” in February 2012, and in the years since.

The third reason and the one that drove most of this analysis was purely professional. The Police intelligence operation crossed into three of the main areas of my own expertise; military operations, intelligence analysis, and Maori development and activism. I switched out of the personal into the professional. It’s what professionals do. It’s what I was trained to do.

For I had been a commissioned officer in the NZ Army for twenty years. With extensive training in all aspects of warfare, as a trainer myself in counter-revolutionary warfare, and with active service in Borneo and Vietnam I knew a bit about the military stuff the Police were alleging. I had also been involved at HQ staff level in the establishment of a counter terrorism capability in the NZ Army. I knew a bit about terrorism. With training and employment as an intelligence analyst in my Army days I knew a bit about intelligence analysis. Quite a bit.

By 2007, after twenty years a soldier, I had spent twenty five years involved in many aspects of Maori advancement and Maori development. I was aware that many of those activities had from time to time been thought to be subversive by an ignorant, racist and paranoid fringe in New Zealand society, including some in the NZ Police. In the 1980s, twenty years before Operation 8, some Maori activists had been labelled “Maori terrorists” in Police intelligence reports. They were wrong then and I instinctively knew that they would be wrong again. But instinct is not enough and I determined to objectively analyse the Police intelligence operation to prove my point. Or not.

I knew and respected many in the activist networks, both Maori and Pakeha. Of those arrested I knew Taame Iti and Rangi Kemara. I also knew some of those who had attended Taame’s wananga in the Urewera who had not been caught up and arrested in the “raids” on that day. I knew none of them were terrorists. I suppose in my own way I was a minor activist myself, having chosen in 1988 to use the power of my writing to support Maori political, economic and social aspirations. “Te Putatara” was the vehicle then, and is still.

I remain the proud holder of the Queen’s Commission I received when I was commissioned as a junior infantry officer in the 1960s. A commission is granted for life and it is one of my most valued possessions, three decades after I retired from active duty. To me it signifies that I was then and remain still a “trusty and well beloved” servant of my country. My commission says so. It reads in part:

“Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith – To Our Trusty and Well beloved Roslyn Nepia Himona, Greeting: We reposing special Trust and Confidence in your Loyalty, Courage, and Good Conduct, do by these Presents constitute and appoint you to be an Officer in the Regular Force of our New Zealand Army ….”

It embodies for me the code of honour, the ethical values and the belief in democracy that underpinned my commitment to complete this analysis. For I was professionally offended by what I saw at the time as a cavalier Police attitude to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, liberty, freedom, and justice; the things I value as a citizen of a democratic New Zealand.

Would that the commissioned Police officers involved in Operation 8 thought the same way about the obligations imposed upon them by their parchment commissions.

My fourth reason for embarking upon this project was to make sure that a complete analysis was laid down for future reference in the hope that one day an official public inquiry would be commissioned. There have been inquiries by the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Human Rights Commission but they were both quite shallow and did not get to the core problems of Police conduct and ineptitude in Operation 8. The Parliament refused to allow a full public inquiry. The suspicion is that Parliament did not want to lift the lid to reveal some fundamental flaws in our New Zealand version of democracy and a failure of democratic process. For this operation was signed off by the Prime Minister herself.

My final reason is to lay down a platform for the children of the late Tuhoe Lambert to clear his name. Tuhoe was a fellow Vietnam veteran; a patriot. He was arrested on that fateful day, and was included in the final five to go to trial but did not live to see the day. His name remains sullied, at least in the public record. As part of this analysis I have written a tribute to Tuhoe Lambert in which I declare his innocence. As a direct response to Operation 8 two of Tuhoe’s children have studied law and I hope that one day they will be able to clear his name.

While they’re at it they might clear the names of their father’s friends Rangi Kemara and Taame Iti, and Emily Bailey and Urs Signer; the “Urewera Four”.

Having said I was determined to objectively analyse the Police intelligence operation I readily concede that in places I venture into subjectivity and opinion. My opinions are those of an expert and I think I have made it abundantly clear where I have been subjective and personal. It was deliberate and not an unconscious slip of the pen, or malfunction of the keyboard. Unlike the detectives whose work I was analysing I know when I’m being objective and when I’m being subjective. Long ago during my training as an intelligence analyst the difference was drummed into me.

I was partly motivated to conduct this analysis by the outpouring of anger, opinion and commentary immediately following the paramilitary operations in October 2007. Whilst I understood the anger I did not agree with much of the opinion and commentary. It seemed to me to be situated in academic and activist intellectual frameworks that were remote from the reality of the events. People had situated their analyses of Operation 8 within their own frames of reference and political understandings instead of within the actual events.

I resolved to correct, or at least to balance the record. In doing so I have had the advantage of access to information that was not available at the time and I have not had to speculate about what Police were thinking. They wrote a lot of it down. The information includes:

  • Multiple Police affidavits;
  • Police evidence;
  • Court records (many of them originally suppressed);
  • Indictments;
  • Court summaries; and
  • Many other documents.

I have also been able to interview some of the key accused over a period of time. That has not been easy as I have had to treat what I was told with a degree of scepticism until I could verify what I was told. It took some persistent questioning and checking before I was able to piece together what I thought was actually going on in the Urewera.

Without that access to information in the period immediately after the paramilitary operation there was much comment in the media and some commentary was circulated in the networks. Probably the most permanent and representative record of that commentary is in “Terror in our Midst, Searching for Terror in Aotearoa New Zealand”, edited by academic and historian Danny Keenan (Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2008).

The book contains eighteen commentaries (including editorial) mostly by academics with many of them, in my opinion, somewhat wide of the mark. They situated the events of October 2007 within discourse on colonialism, early settler history, Ngai Tuhoe history, and legal “suppression” history. I think the real reasons for the events of October 2007 are far more prosaic; ordinary and everyday. It was a simple Police cock up. Fuelled, I agree, by ongoing ignorance, paranoia and racism, but mostly by simple incompetence and ineptitude. Fuelled also by a troubling disregard for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, liberty, freedom, and justice.

Anyway, that is the major conclusion of my study based mainly on the evidence presented by the Police themselves, and on my own investigations into what was really going on at those wananga in the Urewera. I have mostly put aside theory and tried to focus on fact.

Having said that I don’t disagree with all of the commentary. From “Terror in our Midst” I have quoted extensively from the essay by Luke Crawford, “Ruatoki, the Police and Maori Responsiveness” (p.79). I was entertained by the Epigraph by Pou Temara, “Terrorist in our Midst?” (p.15) in which he humorously and correctly debunks the notion of Taame Iti as terrorist.

I was inspired by the essay and poetry of Alice Te Punga Somerville in “Poetic Justice: Writing (as) the Struggle” (p.223) to add my own account to the public record. And I was heartened by a comment by law lecturer Mamari Stephens after she had analysed in “Beware the Hollow ‘Calabash’ Narrative, Analogy and the Acts of Suppression” (p.181) some of the legal analogies used by some commentators:

“But I would suggest the 2007 raids should be best understood on their own terms and that we, as commentators, might seek to avoid collapsing histories and time to make rhetorical comparisons unless the points to be gleaned are so compelling and enlightening of both situations as to make the risk worth it”.

I hope I haven’t quoted her out of context to serve my own ends! I have tried to understand the 2007 raids on their own terms.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Rangi Kemara Remembers "15 October 2007 The Day the Raids Came"

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

This series of tweets posted by Rangi Kemara on 15th October 2015

The story of the paramilitary assault on the house and caravan at Manurewa where Rangi lived with the late Tuhoe Lambert and his whanau. An innovative and powerful use of Twitter to tell the story of his gunpoint arrest.

https://twitter.com/Te_Taipo/status/654341472561532928 …
https://www.hashfav.com/page/1015/1525

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo15 October, 2007, The day the raids came. My recollections of that morning: Early morning, still dark. I’m awake

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Loud noises outside, cops yelling at neighbours, doesn’t sound good, remembers yesterday’s domestic dispute

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Im thinking, must’ve boiled over into something serious cuz theres a crap load of cops piling up outside

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Lots more vehicles, racing engines, squeeling tires, loud noise as front left fence is demolished

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@Te_Taipo_taipo I edge back curtains for better look, holy shit there’s fucking armed cops everywhere! W-T-F!!!

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Loud hailer: You in the caravan, come out with your hands up! This repeats. It occurs to me, I’m in a fucken caravan!

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo I can see many gunmen up high on vehicles aiming down, this is a kill zone if I step into it…

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo I step out to hear the shooter on point yell in quick succession “gun-gun-gun” meaning, I had a gun, shoot me dead…

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo I yell back, “no gun, no gun, no gun!” Step out into the glow-worm lights of many assault rifle torches

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo How many can I quickly count, 10, 15, 20, lost count, dam! Too many, my kung-fu will not save me.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Loud hailer now screaming for me to raise my hands, 4 gunmen rush me, barrels to my head, all 4 sides???

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Thoughts cross my mind, who trained these idiots, I could bend over to touch my toes, crossfire, 4 dead cops

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Armed escort to the street, I can see fear in their eyes. One is yelling “dont look at me!!! Eyes Front!!!”

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo That accent, fuck me he’s a Maori! Better work stories aye? Fucken lickplate!

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo I can see plastic stock assault rifles, so my reply, “eyes front? or what???”

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Forced to the ground, plasticuffs, barrels against back of my head, frightened gunmen, the worst kind…

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo 2nd wave of police soldiers head in to drag the whanau out in the main house. First out is Tuhoe Lambert.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo They’re lined up against the wall like a firing squad. Whaea Ada is yelling to the kids that it’s going to be ok.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Cops yelling at her to shut the fuck up! She replies, “or what you going to do”. Keeps talking.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo They drag her across the road & try to force her into a vehicle unsuccessfully. Wahine toa! They give up.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Kemara! Do you have any weapons on you, yeah, there’s a fucken 105 howitzer in my top pocket! Idiots!

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Tuhoe & I are lifted by the plasticuffed arms and dragged around the corner away from the whanau.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Forced to ground again face down in water. Pissing down. STG gunman: “Kemara, where are the guns?”

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Me: “In car boot, my keys are in caravan right next to my fucken firearms license”

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo STG Gunman: “Bullshit! you don’t have a license”, Me: “Pointless debate, go have a look for yourself”, he sends a runner.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo So we wait, face down for arresting detectives to arrive. Half hour, still nothing. Shit, I’m going to be so late for work.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Finally hear the dullards voice, allowed to kneel facing the fence as Det Hamish McDonald formerly arrests me.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Charged with what feels like 1.21 Gigacounts of unlawful possession of firearms, fuck, I’m sure they’ve found my license by now.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo Tells me he wants to talk to me about terrorism, I reply, na get me a lawyer. We’re off to Wiri cop shop for parakuihi.

Rangi Kemara @Te_Taipo
@te_taipo 15 October, 2007, the day the raids came.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Remembering 15th October 2007 and the Police Paramilitary Assault on Human Rights

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

The Cowboys in Black Fancy Dress and Operation “Hi Ho Silver”

Today is the eighth anniversary of the New Zealand Police paramilitary operation carried out in the Urewera and elsewhere by a bunch of over-hyped, poorly led, poorly trained and poorly disciplined cowboys.

To date in this series on Operation 8 I have concentrated on a critical analysis of the Intelligence process leading up to the paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007. I have done that from the perspective of a retired Intelligence analyst with twenty years military experience and over thirty years experience in community and Maori development.

In this post I am looking at the paramilitary operation itself, euphemistically called the “Urewera Raids”.

I claim superior expertise to critically analyse that operation as well. In my twenty years in the NZ Army my primary specialty  was as a combat arms commander. I was experienced in planning and conducting operations of the type on display on 15th October 2007 . During my deployment to Vietnam in 1967 I commanded an infantry platoon that took part in the “cordon and search” of several towns and villages. They were towns and villages where it was 100% certain that any enemy in hiding would fight fiercely if discovered, and there usually were enemy combatants hiding out in the villages. Additionally in my final posting in the Army 1980-82 I was involved at HQ staff level in the establishment of a counter-terrorism capability.

For a long time after 15th October 2007 I had assumed that the paramilitary police Special Tactics Group (STG) must have had very little time to plan and rehearse their paramilitary operation. It was obviously way over the top and has since been found by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) to have been illegal in many respects (he says unlawful, I say illegal). That would seem to indicate a lack of time to prepare a plan that met all legal requirements. However the IPCA Report of 22nd May 2013 reveals that on 27th September 2007 the Operation 8 team briefed the Police Commissioner and senior staff at Police National Headquarters and on 10th October 2007 the Commissioner authorised the “termination” operation. Warrants for the paramilitary operation were obtained that day.

The Police National HQ and STG leadership had at least five days and up to 18 days to prepare for their paramilitary operation. There was therefore no excuse for the illegal aspects of the plan. There was however some justification for the ferocity of the plan because of the flawed information they were given to base that plan upon. The planning process for the operation was the standard military and police operational process and the IPCA states that it was followed. However that process was only as good as the people who conducted it and the Intelligence on which it was based. The summary of that Intelligence is shown in this extract from the IPCA Report:

“93. The information which STG relied upon in formulating the plan included the following:

  • “the targets possessed numerous weapons including “heavy calibre military style semi-­ automatic weapons” and were part of a group actively training in military tactics;
  • “they had received training in the use of rudimentary explosives and incendiary devices;
  • “intelligence suggested they were prepared to “die for their cause” and use lethal force to achieve their purpose, including sleeping with weapons under their beds to be better prepared for any attack on them;
  • “the intention of this group was to achieve “an independent Tūhoe nation within the Urewera area”;
  • “the area where the training camps were situated was rural and some distance from comprehensive medical facilities;
  • “not all attendees at the training camps had been identified by Police;
  • “intelligence suggested there was an unknown “local group” in the area who could pose a threat to Police; and
  • “the feelings of the community towards the participants in the training camps were largely unknown and thus it was stated that “the existence of sympathisers and supporters for their cause cannot be discounted””.

Having analysed the Intelligence process in detail I have absolutely no doubt that the last two of those bullet points were wild assumptions for which there was no Intelligence or evidence either way. They were however critical elements in the planning of the paramilitary operation. The third and fourth bullet points were not supported by corroborated and verified evidence.

It was a way-over-the-top intelligence assessment that led to the way-over-the-top paramilitary operation. In several previous analyses of the Intelligence process I have shown why it was unprofessional, incompetent, lacking in depth, unverified and wrong. To that I now add way over the top. That briefing to the STG also shows that the Police were proceeding into New Zealand’s first major counter-terrorist operation with insufficient and incomplete information, and on the basis of some wild assumptions about the “terrorists”, their capabilities and their intentions. That was a command failure at the highest level.

In several of my previous analyses I have referred to Commissioner Broad’s statements after the event. It is appropriate to do so again. He admitted that he had no indication of an imminent terrorist event and that he authorised the operation only to “nip it in the bud”. With a full on assault on an innocent community?

Despite there being some justification for the style of operation they mounted based on faulty Intelligence and a failure of command, the STG and Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) teams committed some egregiously unlawful behaviour involving innocent whanau and communities. This extract from the executive summary of the IPCA Report describes that behaviour:

“10. … the planning and preparation for the establishment of the road blocks in Ruatoki and Taneatua was deficient. The Authority has found there was no lawful basis for those road blocks being established or maintained. There was no lawful power or justification for Police to detain, stop and search the vehicles, take details from or photograph the drivers or passengers.

 “11. There was no assessment of the substantial and adverse impact of such road blocks on the local community. The road block at Ruatoki was intimidating to innocent members of that community, particularly in view of the use of armed Police officers in full operational uniform.

 “12. The majority of complaints received by the Authority in relation to property searches were not from target individuals but rather from other occupants at these properties complaining about the way they were treated by Police. Some felt they were being treated as suspects. A number of occupants were informed by Police that they were being detained while a search of the property occurred, despite there being no lawful basis for such detention. Police had no legal basis for conducting personal searches of these occupants.

 The behaviour of the Police that day has been publicly documented. It included:

  • Detaining at gunpoint several innocents, including women and children still in their night attire, and sometimes in stressful positions; some were made to kneel on concrete paths with guns at their heads;
  • Conducting intrusive body searches of women who were not suspects;
  • Forcefully separating children from their carers;
  • Detaining a woman and her children in a shed for hours without food and water and toilet facilities, and laughing when she asked for relief.

The IPCA Report states:

“Police actions led occupants at five properties to have reasonable cause to believe that they were being detained while the search was conducted. The detention of occupants at these properties was contrary to law, unjustified and unreasonable”.

There were other stupid behaviours including:

  • Chain-sawing through a fence when a gate was wide open a few metres away; and
  • Smashing doors that weren’t locked.

The most egregious behaviour related to the callous and intimidatory attitude of several “black role” Police officers towards innocents and to the disregard for their human rights and their dignity. It was an assault on human rights.

That behaviour displayed to the discerning eye of someone who has trained and commanded combat troops:

  • a culture of arrogance;
  • that they were over-hyped;
  • that the recruitment and selection process is poorly designed;
  • that they were poorly trained;
  • that they were poorly disciplined;
  • that they were poorly led; and
  • at the command and policy level they were poorly governed.

I am not alone in my assessment. And it is why I have called them “cowboys in black fancy dress”. They deserve the opprobrium. I am aware that some in the Defence community call them “The Keystones”.

In Vietnam we were on active service against an armed and very dangerous adversary. Yet in our “cordon and search” operations we never treated innocents with such arrogance and disregard for their rights. We did search them at roadblocks but with as much respect as was possible in the circumstances. We did remove them from the houses we searched but as respectfully as we could and never with the same shouting and pointing of weapons. People will do what you ask if you treat them with respect. It was a disciplined approach. We were never masked. Nothing is more calculated to instil fear than the mask, despite the Police’s claim that it is an operational necessity. We tried to minimise the fear. The innate empathy and friendliness  of the New Zealand soldier went a long way towards that.

There was no empathy or friendliness shown to innocents in the Police paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007. Just arrogance and hostility and intimidation. There’s a fucked up mentality behind that attitude. A serious culturally ingrained fucked up mentality.

It was reported that the cowboys in black fancy dress were given their operation orders as late as 3am on the morning of the operation. They were fed the over-the-top terrorism story almost immediately before they went into action. They went out fired up and ready to combat terrorists. Their superior officers hyped them up and set the adrenaline surging. But that is no excuse whatsoever for their arrogant and hostile treatment of innocents.

That was a function of poor policy and governance, poor leadership, poor selection, poor training, poor discipline and a serious culturally ingrained fucked up mentality.

Before the Special Tactics Group (STG) can be deployed a formal STG Request for Assistance has to be submitted.

  • Who wrote that request?
  • Who submitted it?
  • When was it submitted”
  • To whom?
  • Who approved it? The Commissioner? Deputy Commissioner? Assistant Commissioner Operations?
  • Who conducted the “appreciation” to assess the risks posed by an STG paramilitary operation to “terminate” Operation8?
  • What were the identified risks, if any?
  • Who conducted the after action debriefing?
  • Is there a written record of that debriefing?

These questions need to be asked.

The IPCA again:

“13. The Authority has concluded that a number of aspects of the Police termination of Operation Eight were contrary to law and unreasonable. In a complex operation of the type that was undertaken here, there are always a number of important lessons to be learned about future Police policy and practices. The Police internal debrief following the termination of Operation Eight has already identified a number of those lessons and necessary changes to Police training, policy and operational instructions have been made. The Authority has made a number of other recommendations in light of its own findings. This includes the need to re-­engage, and build bridges, with the Ruatoki community”.

The Police debrief and resulting recommendations did not address the real failures of Operation 8 and did not address the real shortcomings of their paramilitary policy, structure, culture, training, leadership and discipline. It glossed over all of that and seemed to focus on what they needed to do to recover from their disastrous operation, including what they needed to do to repair their relationship with Ngai Tuhoe. A major part of its deliberations were about the paramilitary uniform and concluded that the “black role” and Nomex hoods were still necessary.

It recommended that the Commissioner engage with Ruatoki and it dumped most of the responsibility for repairing the relationship on the National Manager Māori & Pacific Ethnic Services. The same Superintendent Wally Haumaha who had been deliberately excluded from Operation 8 and would surely have moderated its excesses was now responsible for cleaning up the mess.

No-one has been held publicly accountable for all of that illegal and unprofessional behaviour.

The Police have since paid compensation and have apologised to some whanau. They have apologised to Ruatoki and Ngai Tuhoe. They’ve got a long way to go yet. A new generation of Ngai Tuhoe have been given renewed reason to distrust the Police and 15th October 2007 will live on in tribal memory, forever.

Stupidity, paranoia and incompetence know no bounds. It could all have been avoided.

Me maumahara tonu matou.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: Police Informants

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Covert informant identified

From an analysis of Operation 8 documents there were, as far as I can determine, just three or four registered and casual informants who provided information to the Police about the wananga in the Urewera in 2006 and 2007. So far just one of those informants has definitely been identified and in this article his identity is revealed. Work continues to discover the identities of the others.

The Importance of HUMINT (Human Intelligence)
Undercover agents, spies and informants

The Police stated in their affidavits seeking search warrants and interception warrants that they were not able to infiltrate an undercover agent into the wananga.

Given the extent of the information gathering operation, and the huge resources allocated to it, the number of informants and the quantity of informant information was quite small. They got some HUMINT from the small number of informants in Wellington and Auckland and virtually nothing from within Ngai Tuhoe. One of the main reasons for the incompleteness of their information and the deeply flawed analysis of that information, apart from Police incompetence, was their lack of reliable HUMINT.

Despite the mass of electronic and other information they produced they had absolutely no way of knowing what Taame Iti and the others were thinking, what was in their minds, what they were planning, and whether or not they intended to act as the Police thought they would, despite all of their intercepted revolutionary korero. In trying to predict human intentions HUMINT is absolutely necessary.

The problem is that the less we know about the minds of others the more we use our own minds to fill in the blanks. As the context in which you’re trying to understand another mind becomes more ambiguous the influence of your own perspective increases.

The HUMINT they had from their informants was sparse and unreliable. If they had not deliberately excluded Superintendent Wallace Haumaha and his network of Maori liaison officers from Operation 8 the HUMINT available to them would have totally altered their perceptions and conclusions. I have reached my own conclusion that they didn’t want their perceptions and conclusions altered by the facts.

Information gathering phases

In analysing the so called intelligence operation that eventually led to the armed paramilitary assault on Ruatoki I have divided it into four phases. The phases are convenient for determining when various police informants were active, and in an ongoing investigation to discover their identities. The phases are:

Phase 1 – From February to May 2006, during which the Police followed serial Police antagonist Jamie Lockett and his sometime employer, associate and millionaire businessman John Murphy to Waitangi, noted their new found sympathy with Maori aspirations and that they had talked with Taame Iti, monitored them at Murphy’s home in Remuera in Auckland, came to believe that Lockett at least was involved in some sort of revolutionary plot, conducted surveillance on them and a number of right wing Pakeha individuals, then switched their attention to Taame Iti and his wananga in the Urewera.

Phase 2 – From June to August 2006. Early in June two police officers travelled to the Urewera to try to locate training camps. During this time the police conducted intensive surveillance on Jamie Lockett and John Murphy in Auckland and some surveillance on Taame Iti at Taneatua and Ruatoki.

Phase 3 – From September 2006 to January 2007. On 6 September 2006 the Police watched Lockett buying bush gear and boots in Auckland and on 8 September they followed him as far as Taneatua as he made his way to the first of several wananga he attended. This triggered on 15 September the first of numerous call data warrants which were used by the Police to obtain telephone metadata and text messages dating back to 1 March 2006. In the first place they focused on Taame Iti, John Murphy and Jamie Lockett. Over the next few months they obtained call data warrants to obtain telephone information on most of the people that those three called. This was the start of a massive network building and profiling exercise. 15 September was effectively the date when the nationwide search for a terrorist network began.

Phase 4 – From February 2007 onwards. 22 February saw the first of multiple interception warrants used to place bugs in houses and cars, to video people at the wananga and elsewhere, and to place interception devices on computer servers (with the assistance of internet providers). Telephone call data warrants continued. Having built the basis of their terrorist network through network analysis the Police then concentrated on finding evidence of their guilt. Search and seizure and arrest warrants were not used until 15 October 2007. Those “termination” warrants were also used to try to find computer and documentary evidence of a nationwide terrorist plot.

As the information gathering moved through from Phase 1 to Phase 4 emphasis shifted from physical surveillance and informant information to more and more electronic surveillance. However physical surveillance by following people on foot and in cars continued throughout all four phases.

An Interview

Sometime in Phase 1 or Phase 2 a person was interviewed about activists and their attitudes and beliefs. That took place early in the Operation and does not appear to have greatly influenced the outcome although it was used consistently in affidavits used to obtain multiple warrants from the District Court.

Urewera Informant(s)

In Phase 2 and/or Phase 3 an informant provided some information about Taame Iti and another provided the dates of wananga at the end of 2006. They may well have been the same person. In both cases the information seemed to stop by about January 2007. That person may have been someone who attended just a few wananga, or who was close to someone who attended a few wananga.

Wellington Informant(s)

In Phase 3 some information was provided by an informant (or informants) in Wellington. That information related specifically to the Wellington activists who attended the wananga in 2006 and 2007. The most likely person was Rob Gilchrist who was exposed as a Police informant in December 2008.  However his handler was Detective Peter Gilroy of Christchurch and although Gilchrist did spy extensively on activists in Wellington and Auckland he was probably not working directly to Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe who headed up the Operation 8 team at Harlech House in Auckland. He was not noticed by any of the accused to be particularly interested in their activities in the Urewera.

Pascoe would have had access to the Police intelligence database of information about the Wellington activists built up over many years. That database would have included a large trove provided by Gilchrist during his many years as an informant. In the High Court in February 2012 Pascoe obfuscated when asked about any relationship he might have had with Gilchrist or whether he had access to Gilchrist’s information. He didn’t say “No” and tried not to say “Yes”.

The Wellington activists have not been able to identify anyone else who might have been informing on them. Yet.

An Auckland Informant – Keith Madden

Throughout all four phases the Police used at least one informant in Auckland, his usefulness declining as the information gathering exercise became more focused on technological information, and ceasing after he was uncovered as an informant. He was Keith Madden. He has also been known by a number of aliases. This is his story.

Madden was a long-time associate of both John Murphy and Jamie Lockett but was closer to Murphy. He spent quite a bit of time at Murphy’s house in Remuera. Lockett was also often there and lived there for a while. Madden is an intelligent man who was always in the money and had cars and houses. Until the bad times including some failed deals. In early 2006 he had serious criminal charges hanging over him and that was probably the lever the Police used to turn him into an informant.

That immediately made him an unreliable source of information. Informants, just as much as intelligence officers, need to be vetted and verified as honest and reliable, and objective observers. An informant under duress, or seeking to minimise a possible prison term, will tend to tell his handlers what they want to hear.

Whereas Jamie Lockett is extremely wary of sharing information after years of Police surveillance John Murphy tends to run off at the mouth, to elaborate, embellish and exaggerate. Lockett told Madden nothing and recalls that Madden never really tried to get any information out of him. Murphy was an easier mark and Madden almost certainly got most of his information from Murphy.

That made the Police “Informant Information” doubly unreliable. Yet it was that information that set Operation 8 in motion.

By late May 2006 the Police had heard the story about terrorism in the Urewera and sent two officers off to the Urewera early in June 2006 looking for a training camp.

Lockett went to the Urewera to the first of a few wananga he attended three months later in September 2006. He invited Madden to go with him to another wananga but didn’t tell him what it was about other than he should bring a gun for a bit of a shoot up. Madden said he would go. Lockett waited at the agreed rendezvous for three hours but Madden didn’t show and he went on his own. Whether Madden got cold feet or was warned off by the Police is not known.

Early in 2007, probably in February or March, Madden approached Rangi Kemara through Lockett. He offered to sell Kemara a fully automatic shotgun. It was probably a Police “sting” because automatic shotguns are illegal. The offer set off alarm bells and Lockett and Kemara both became suspicious. Coincidentally and shortly after the shotgun episode Lockett came into possession of a copy of a letter Madden had sent to his Police handler. He gave a copy to Kemara who told Taame Iti about it. He took it show Taame Iti on 3 June 2007, the same day that Iti received text messages telling him that the activities in the Urewera were mentioned at Police HQ in Wellington.

The letter was probably written a few months before it was discovered. It confirmed that Madden was a Police informant and that his handler had told him to get more information from Lockett rather than Murphy. The letter stated:

Look there are several big issues looming here and I am sailing through a bloody troubled straight”.

“Jm is now obviously a much larger figure potentially involved in multiple criminal pursuits than any to which I was aware”.

You were correct to steer me to continue plying jl a much safer more transparent source than jm will ever be”.

At the end of the day if this is or has the potential to be a politically opposed challenge to current or any government in NZ, or is seditious behaviour period, or some form of subversive movement based as another highly charged radical group of disgruntled Maori (using their contacts with pakeha or other ethnics or non maori and all of whom jm and jl included are ultimately one by one or if timely all become expendable) then within the pursuit of your operational objectives a goal must include discovery of defined theme agenda’s or motive I guess in detective speech”.

But more you need as explained to me to link probable multiple individual agendas with the commonality of a mutually shared proven criminal theme of agenda. A hard ask albeit even with the affront to operate a terrorist training facility in our summer playground backyard, the Bay of Plenty”.

Those extracts from the letter, in their convoluted way, show exactly what Detective Sergeant Pascoe was trying to discover and prove, almost certainly based on earlier information provided to him by Madden. It showed also that Pascoe didn’t have the evidence he needed to prove his terrorism narrative. He never did get it. The Solicitor General’s refusal to allow terrorism charges to proceed proved that.

Throughout the letter Madden raised his personal concerns about being discovered and about his belief that John Murphy was onto him and was having him tailed. He was obviously worried about it, or said he was.

Sometime after Madden’s role was discovered Lockett met Murphy in a café and told him about Madden. Neither of them told Madden what they knew. The very next day the Police whisked Madden away and stashed him in a motel in Orewa for a month, presumably to protect him from any retaliatory action. The Police often followed Lockett into cafés and eavesdropped on him and that may be how they knew. Or Murphy himself may have told them? Lockett didn’t.

That was probably the end of Madden’s usefulness. Lockett didn’t go to any wananga after June 2007 and Murphy never went. Lockett has stated publicly that he was not impressed by Taame Iti and didn’t think the wananga were his thing.

Quite some time later, after the October 2007 paramilitary operation and after Lockett’s arrest and release on bail, Lockett “hunted Madden down” and they met on Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill to the uneducated). It was a typical American TV standoff as they both stayed in their own cars for the meeting. Madden was apparently “shitting his pants” but was desperate to find out how they knew he was a Police informant. Lockett didn’t tell him and to this day he doesn’t know. Madden didn’t know either how the Police found out that he had been identified.

And that, e hoa ma, was the unreliable informant who told a fanciful tale to Aaron Pascoe, who fell for it and convinced his bosses, and over the next year or so they spun it into a nationwide terrorist plot, and convinced Commissioner Howard Broad and Prime Minister Helen Clark to sanction an armed “black role” paramilitary assault on the sleepy Ngai Tuhoe village of Ruatoki, and a few other places as well.

Operation Hi Ho Silver. And as Tonto might have said to Lone Ranger, “What you mean ‘terrorism’ Paleface?”

The Solicitor General said something similar.

Links:
Madden Letter v2
The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: Tuhoe Lambert – Lead Scout

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Tuhoe Lambert

Tuhoe Francis Lambert was not a terrorist, or part of a criminal group, as alleged by the NZ Police after the paramilitary operation in which he was arrested and charged on 15th October 2007. He was war veteran, a patriot who had served his country on active service, a loyal New Zealander, staunchly Ngai Tuhoe, and a devoted family man.

The NZ Police Operation 8 team compiled shallow profiles on all who were suspects. Had they been real intelligence analysts they would have done a lot more research into their targets and could have come to different conclusions. They didn’t bother. But then, they were just amateurs in the profession of intelligence analysis.

Tuhoe Lambert remained a suspect until the day he died. He was one of five primary suspects and after he died four went to trial; the Urewera Four. I’m going to tell you something about Tuhoe Lambert that only a Vietnam Veteran can. This is the deep profile the police didn’t bother to find out.

I’m going to tell you about a lead scout in Vietnam, and about the damage that war did to those who came home. About the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that afflicted so many and does still to this day. And about Tuhoe Lambert’s struggle with that affliction. It was one thing for him to be at war for a short time in the flower of youth, and yet another to live with that war for the rest of his life. This then is a tribute to Tuhoe Lambert.

In the aftermath of his arrest he was condemned by quite a few in the Vietnam veterans’ community. At the time I urged them to suspend judgement until they knew the facts. One of the facts was that the Solicitor General did not agree with the police that terrorism charges were warranted and declined to allow prosecution. Over the long battle through the courts many other false assumptions and transgressions by the police were brought to light. This tribute should also remind us – the veterans – of the loyalty we owe each other in good times and bad.

In one sense it is also a tribute to all of the lead scouts and cover scouts who served us so well, the nine rifle companies of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment that rotated through Vietnam from May 1967 to November 1971 as part of the ANZAC battalions. A tribute to those who died, and a tribute to all of those who came home afflicted by their war in body and mind.

Tuhoe and Taame Iti had two different versions about how they met. Tuhoe said that after Vietnam he became a bit anti-war and went to the odd anti-Vietnam rally. That’s how he first met Taame Iti in the 1970s and when asked by Taame what he would do if he met Taame in the bush, fighting on the side of the Viet Cong, he told Taame he would blow his head off. There was probably an ‘f” word in there somewhere. According to Tuhoe they became firm friends from that day.

According to Taame Iti they met in Christchurch before Tuhoe embarked to join 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment in Malaysia, and to go from there to Vietnam. Taame was living in Christchurch and some of the Maori soldiers from Burnham Camp ended up at his place at a party. Taame was anti-Vietnam and they had a debate about the war. He says that after Tuhoe came back home from Vietnam Taame worked with him for a few years to help him process the mental stuff he brought home with him.

I prefer Tuhoe’s version but it’s probably a bit of an elaboration and is probably based on an actual conversation. However they did become firm friends, the soldier and the anti-war protestor. That’s not unusual. Many Maori veterans went on to forge friendships and close working relationships with those who had protested against the Vietnam War. We found common cause in working together for the advancement of Maori. They were also both Ngai Tuhoe.

The Operation 8 NZ Police Intelligence team didn’t think to do a full profile on Tuhoe Lambert about his war service other than to establish that he was a Vietnam Veteran and that he was in league with Taame Iti in the Urewera. They didn’t think to do one of their background checks with Veterans Affairs.

A proper profiling by a professional team would have quickly established that like so many among our veterans’ community Tuhoe Lambert was a lingering casualty of the Vietnam War. He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), badly, and had suffered from it from 1971 when he returned from Vietnam until the day he died in Auckland Hospital in July 2011. Forty years. Vietnam and thoughts about Vietnam lingered on in his mind, forever. They lay just below the surface and in the bad moments they rose to dominate his life. He didn’t have many good nights in that forty years.

Tuhoe Lambert was a lead scout in an infantry platoon. And young. Very young.

Scouts were selected for their skill in the field and for their skill at arms. Good deerstalkers usually made good scouts. Their skills were fine-tuned by intense training. They were a combination of hunter, stalker, tracker and marksman with lightning fast reactions. Outwardly they were calm and assured and they had a wonderful to behold swagger, born of total confidence in their abilities. But in the quieter moments of reflection after we came home some of them would talk of the fear.

As platoon commanders and platoon sergeants we had three infantry sections each of 9 or 10 infantrymen led by an experienced corporal, and including two scouts, a lead scout and a cover scout operating as a team. The scouts were our eyes and ears and we trusted them totally. Our lives were in their eyes and ears, and in their hands, trusting that they would shoot fast, shoot first and shoot straight.

Mines killed more than half of all Australians and New Zealanders who died in Phuoc Tuy Province in Vietnam where we fought together. Stepping on a mine was even more likely than running into an enemy force. The scout’s job was also to scan the ground and jungle ahead looking for any sign of mines, knowing that if he missed sign either he or someone behind him would get his legs and other pieces blown off.

It was the most stressful and dangerous job in a platoon in which every job was stressful and dangerous, just one step away from death, day after day, week after week, month after month. We rotated the sections and their scouts so that they didn’t spend too much continuous time at the front of the patrol but they nevertheless did that job for days on end, sometimes weeks on end, and they did it for the whole of their tour, usually for twelve months. Tuhoe Lambert’s V5 Company spent 270 days on operations out of the 365 days they were in theatre. 270 days when their very next step might have been their last. 270 days when their next breath might have been their last.

I often say, quietly in private conversation with my fellow infantry veterans, that we all died up there, one way or another. And I often reflect that of all of us it was our scouts who were truly the walking dead.

As master samurai strategist Miyamoto Musashi said, “The way of the warrior is the resolute acceptance of death”.

Or to paraphrase that, “The warrior first dies, then fights”.

And having survived you are never the same person again. Tuhoe Lambert survived and brought his war home with him as many if not all of us did.

PTSD is so prevalent in the Veteran community across New Zealand and Australia that it is the new normality. Many of my comrades are actively involved in welfare and support services for fellow veterans. Many of the soldiers I served with and the officers I trained with are stricken with it. It ranges from mild to severe and has no respect for age, rank and status.

There have been suicides, not many but some. Some of my friends and comrades have been and are still self-medicating with alcohol. A few of those drank themselves into an early grave. PTSD didn’t necessarily strike immediately after Vietnam. I have friends who like me were career soldiers for another ten, twenty or thirty years. The Army provided a structured environment in which war service was understood and valued. Some of my friends didn’t fall apart until they retired and lost that structure and support. Some found structure and support in their church. The NZ RSA and the Australian RSL provide more support. Quite a few veterans find their structure and support in golfing fraternities or veterans’ motorcycle clubs.

Community service especially for Maori veterans involved in the many aspects of Maori advancement provides a purpose in life that helps alleviate or distract from the symptoms of PTSD.

I have friends who are receiving psychological or psychiatric therapy usually paid for by Veterans Affairs in New Zealand or Australia, and who expect to remain in therapy until the day they die. Some of the treatment involves both therapy and drugs. With that professional support they lead full and productive, and almost normal lives. Writing is also therapeutic; keeping a journal of an examined life has long been common in the literary world as a form of self-examination and therapy, as well as creativity. Writing poetry is therapy although there are only a few warrior poets. Some find solace and outlet in painting or sculpture. Music is wonderful therapy.

Then there are the many who struggle through life untreated and often unsupported. For some of them the only support is the family and it is very tough on the families. There have been countless family breakdowns but in many cases the wives in particular soldier on living through their own version of hell supporting a war damaged husband with little more than love and tolerance. They are the true heroes. Family violence is not uncommon. I have a small number of friends who are virtual hermits, who have never returned from Vietnam in their minds and are living in a state of mental siege, some surrounded by improvised defences around their usually remote huts or cabins. One or two still carry out the standard dawn and dusk clearing patrols around their homes.

All of that is to describe the mental landscape we have lived in since Vietnam; the mindscape that Tuhoe Lambert lived in. PTSD is not a stigma. It is our normal in the mindscape we collectively live in. PTSD is not the only debilitating condition Vietnam Veterans live with for there are a wide range of medical conditions as well and Tuhoe Lambert’s health problems may well have been related to other aspects of his service, specifically exposure to Agent Orange. But PTSD is what I am concerned with in this profile.

For a long time Tuhoe Lambert had nightmares every night that would have him waking and screaming. After a time the screaming subsided but the nightmares remained. In later life he would go to sleep in front of the TV with the sound turned full on, something that usually indicates someone who is drowning out the chatterbox in the mind with the noise of the TV. A friend recalls watching him sleeping in front of the TV and said, “It was like watching someone having a fist fight with their eyes closed and hog tied”.

He had an incredibly loving, tolerant and supportive wife and whanau. He found purpose working for Tuhoe Hauora as a social worker. But for the most part his PTSD was untreated until Taame Iti took him under his wing and helped him process the bad stuff. It still didn’t go away though.

Rangi Kemara who came to know him well from 2005 onwards has commented about his good friend:

“When I was with him his thoughts were constantly on Vietnam during the day, reasoning over some of the activities they got up to and were ordered to do while he was there, and was constantly trying to retell the more humorous events that took place. His dreams seemed to revisit the place almost every night. He was a tortured soul who rarely spent a night sleeping in peace”. 

“One of his methods of dealing with it was to talk shit constantly, and for hours on end. One of the finest shit stirrers you’ll ever meet… He was funny as hell much of the time, even when we were in prison together, but when we were locked up together for 26 days, being cellmates for most of that time, it almost drove me completely batshit because I couldn’t get a reprieve from it, heh”.

“That was our good mate Tuhoe”.

Interestingly Rangi and Taame Iti were perhaps the only people outside of the veterans’ community with whom Tuhoe shared his war experiences. Veterans rarely speak of it to others, not even to family.

After Vietnam and after a couple of short adventures overseas Tuhoe came back to New Zealand and fell on hard times, mentally and financially. He married, started a family, joined a church and eventually became a pastor. As we do in the veterans’ community he stayed in touch with his comrades in arms who are another pillar of support in the sometimes turbulent mental world of the war veteran.

In the early 1990s he did some courses in psychology partly to comprehend his own condition but also to gain some qualifications. He was eventually employed in the late 1990s by Tuhoe Hauora as a social worker. He worked with Taame Iti at Tuhoe Hauora after Taame moved from Auckland back to the Urewera.

Tuhoe had a massive heart attack in 2004, the first of a series of heart attacks that led to his eventual death on 8th July 2011. He had to give up his job at Tuhoe Hauora and in 2005 moved up to Kaitaia with several members of his extended family in tow. He also had family up there. He was a dedicated family man and his extended whanau followed him wherever he went.

In this profile by Joseph Barratt in Scoop News on 12 November 2007 his eldest son Neuton reflected on his father after he had been arrested:

“Lambert is a pensioner forced into retirement due to ailing health, according to his son, 32-year-old Neuton Lambert. He described his father as someone who was “really giving and had a really big heart.”

“The family was very shocked by the arrests, said Neuton. “He was always there for his friends and family. All the cousins treat him like a dad, if they are in trouble they come and stay for months and he lends them money.”

“Tuhoe was a social worker until he got too sick to continue. He suffered ongoing illnesses and heart problems. These included a heart failure that led to a recent bypass operation. Tuhoe also suffers from diabetes.

“Neuton describes a father who used to watch rugby with him every weekend. “It doesn’t even matter what team is playing, he loved it.”

“Tuhoe is also a real movie buff and buys a new DVD every week. “He’s also pretty onto it, he reads a lot and watches documentaries on the discovery channel.”

“Support from the whanau had been great with family members traveling from as far as Kaitaia and Gisborne to support him.

“A lot of us saw him as a leader, said Neuton. “We miss him.”

“But we are a strong family and we will support him.”

Rangi Kemara met him in Auckland in 2005 shortly before Taame Iti’s flag shooting episode. Tuhoe invited him to Kaitaia to meet the whanau. They became friends to the extent that Tuhoe regarded Rangi as part of his own whanau.

From Kaitaia he would travel back to the Urewera to participate in hui about the Ngai Tuhoe claims. Rangi would drive up to Kaitaia and drive him down to the Urewera. His health was failing and he became less and less mobile. In 2006 his wife got a teaching job at Manurewa in Auckland and they moved there. It was also closer to Auckland Hospital. Rangi Kemara moved into a caravan on the property as an adopted member of Tuhoe’s whanau and to help pay the rent.

They became regular faces at the wananga Taame Iti was facilitating in the Urewera. They travelled there together and after a while the cops bugged the car and listened in to the trash talk as they travelled to and fro. Tuhoe became one of the leaders of the wananga. His specialty of course was infantry minor tactics. Just what that was about is shown in “The Probability Space – Part 5, Unravelling the Paradox”.

The best way to say what I want to say about Tuhoe Lambert’s part in the war games in the Urewera is to start with this poem I wrote a few years ago.

Vietnam Paradox

Stalking the enemy
in far off lands, steaming jungles
so far from home and safety –
month after month
in the shadow of death
and ever present fear
of punji pits, mine-strewn tracks,
and death by tripwire, machine gun,
or AK47 in hidden bunkers.
Death waiting at every cautious step.

But can you feel my son,
how totally alive we were,
living fully in each moment,
engulfed in a purity
of all the senses,
focused only on Life itself
and Life’s true companion Death –
none of the extraneous distractions
of ordinariness and everyday being,
of ordinary people
living their ordinary everyday lives.

How utterly,
how completely,
exhilaratingly
Alive”.

Tuhoe Lambert wasn’t preparing to fight a new war, or a terrorist campaign. He was still as he had always been, and as he later proclaimed in an interview on TV3, a patriot and loyal soldier of his country.

He was living out his old war, the one he had been living for 36 years already. But this time he wasn’t living it in his mind in the troubled night. He was acting it out. Inwardly he was reliving part of the actual experience, and outwardly showing his audience of activists and Ngai Tuhoe nationalists just a small part of what it was that he was re-living.  Tuhoe Lambert – lead scout. His audience was interested in his operational service in Vietnam and asked him questions about it. At night he talked to them about some of it and in the day he showed them a bit.

Although reliving his old war it was wrapped in the rhetoric and trash talk of his political cause, the Ngai Tuhoe cause. But in his/our mindscape he was actually reliving the experience of being part of a tight close-knit team with total trust in each other and totally reliant on each other for their lives. Brothers in arms.

And despite the ever present fear, and the shadow of death being constantly upon them, the feeling of being utterly, completely, exhilaratingly alive. If you haven’t been there you can have no idea how close it is to the very essence of existence.

In 2006 and 2007 with his heart problems, diabetes and fast failing health Tuhoe was once again living in the shadow of impending death. Tuhoe Lambert – lead scout. Out there in the Urewera bush though he would have been totally alive. They say that out there in the bush he moved again lightly with vigour and with purpose whereas at home in the city he hardly moved at all weighed down by his ill health.

The bush or the jungle is the spiritual home of the infantrymen of our era, the overhead “thwok, thwok, thwok” of the Huey helicopter its unnatural throbbing heartbeat. For most of the time though it is completely silent except for the birds and the beetles and we too lived and moved in harmony with it in total silence, communicating only through hand signals. You come to know the jungle and the bush as a world of its own and a place apart that is your place too and a part of you. If I were Tuhoe Lambert I would have been happy to die out there in the Urewera on one last patrol.

Tuhoe vented his depression, exhilaration, frustration and anger through his trash talk. That’s what he always did. Part of his mamae was about the way Vietnam veterans were treated after they came home from the war. Part of it was about the never ending struggle for justice by Ngai Tuhoe. He was staunchly Ngai Tuhoe and he followed the Ngai Tuhoe claim and settlement process closely. Tuhoe often expressed his feelings in extravagant and exaggerated ways, sometimes absurd or bizarre. That was his way. He vented. Other veterans became so withdrawn that they were almost mute, some shut themselves off becoming virtual hermits, and some found solace at the bottom of a bottle. Tuhoe Lambert ran off at the mouth. To his family, friends and comrades that was just Tuhoe the Vietnam Veteran.

NZ Police intelligence knew none of that. They took his trash talk at face value and said he was a terrorist. Perhaps because that’s what they really wanted to find, rather than a PTSD stricken and diabetic Vietnam War veteran, once again close to death.

The cowboys in black who conducted the paramilitary operation on the morning of 15th October 2007 knew none of that either, of the life of the real warrior. Unlike those cowboys who invaded his home in Manurewa in the early hours of 15th October 2007 and who then held at gunpoint him, his wife and 12 year old granddaughter, and the rest of his whanau, all of them unarmed, Tuhoe Lambert was a real warrior. He was a lead scout.

He got locked up for 26 days after being arrested. By dying before being brought to trial Tuhoe was spared the indignity of a longer time in prison alongside his two friends Taame Iti and Rangi Kemara who had supported him in his bad moments, rejoiced with him in the good, and put up with his incessant sometimes infuriating banter and trash talk. For behind the troubled mind and trash talking mouth was a heart of pure gold. The heart of a soldier, friend and comrade, loyal New Zealander, staunch Ngai Tuhoe nationalist, and a loving and much loved family man.

584865 Lance Corporal Tuhoe Francis Lambert, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment – Lead Scout. He was not a terrorist or a participant in a criminal group. He was a patriot. A wounded patriot.

In February 2015 after a long struggle in the courts Tuhoe Lambert’s whanau finally received confidential financial compensation from the NZ Police in an out-of-court settlement. It was probably not a large amount. Whilst the police have never admitted that they got it wrong about Tuhoe, and probably never will, that settlement is an acknowledgement of the unwarranted, undeserved and arguably unlawful treatment meted out to his whanau – the collateral damage.

E kore ratou e koroheketia, penei i a tatou kua mahue nei
E kore hoki ratou e ngoikore, ahakoa pehea i nga ahuatanga o te wa.
I te hekenga atu o te ra tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata
Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Kei wareware tatau.
Lest we forget.

E Tuhoe haere te tamatoa haere,
No reira e te rangatira haere, haere atu ra.

He maimai aroha tenei na
Major (Retired) Ross Himona,
Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

Tuhoe Lambert – Collage

Links: The Operation 8 Series

“Te Karere” news clip – Annette Sykes and Taame Iti remember Tuhoe Lambert

Operation 8: The Probability Space – Part 5

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Military manoeuvres in the Urewera – unravelling the paradox, a paradox being a proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

But first, to recap a little about the Intelligence process.

Having gathered as much information as you can you then explore into the possibility space. What does or what could all that information mean about future intentions. There is rarely one single interpretation that can be drawn from the available information. What therefore are all the possibilities. I did this in “Operation 8: An exploration into the possibility space”.

Following that the Intelligence analyst should then explore into the probability space by examining the probability of each interpretation in order to verify or disprove assumptions drawn and conclusions made. That process will often show up gaps in information and may often show the need for further information gathering. At the end of it the most likely scenarios or interpretations are proposed by the analyst, most often qualified by probability ratings. That is, what is the relative likelihood of each interpretation. Total certainty is rare in the field of Intelligence analysis.

President Obama was given a range of probability ratings by various advisors on the assessment of Osama bin Laden’s location in Pakistan before he made the decision to launch an operation against him. A CIA team leader said 95% and others thought as low as 30%. He was offered such a wide range of probabilities that he could only conclude that there was perhaps a 50/50 chance that the analysis was correct. Fortunately the odds were with him. 

That’s what happens in the real world of Intelligence analysis. The decision maker needs to know the probability before he or she makes the decision. The decision maker needs to demand a probability analysis.

None of that exploration, analysis, verification and probability rating was done by the Police Intelligence team running Operation 8. Instead from an early point in the operation they made some assumptions, drew a single conclusion, and then set about trying to collect enough evidence to gain terrorism convictions based on those assumptions and conclusions. It became an investigation driven entirely by narrow minded tunnel vision rather than intellectual enquiry and analysis.

On the night before the paramilitary operation in the Urewera was launched Police Commissioner Howard Broad briefed a meeting of senior cabinet ministers including Helen Clark, Michael Cullen and Annette King. Dr David Collins the Solicitor General was also present and according to Annette King he assured them that the Terrorism Suppression Act could be used, presumably based on Commissioner Broad’s assurances about the quality of the evidence. There is anecdotal evidence that John Key was also present. At that meeting Michael Cullen was the only one who expressed any scepticism about the Commissioner’s assertions and he reportedly asked Howard Broad several times to affirm that there was planned terrorist activity. Each time Broad affirmed. He professed to be 100% certain.

Then he later said that he had no evidence of an immanent terrorist event and that he acted to “nip it in the bud”. There was no probability rating. None of them at that meeting lived up to their governance responsibilities.

This is the fifth in the series of explorations into the probability space. So far in my exploration I have looked:

  1. at the implications of the fact that the suspects knew they were under surveillance,
  2. at the shortcomings of the Police interpretation of their video evidence,
  3. at understandings of Ngai Tuhoe and their culture regarding firearms, and
  4. at the probability of the existence of a “Plan B” for an armed uprising as alleged by the Police.

All of these cast doubt on the Police terrorism narrative that they maintained throughout their Intelligence process (Operation 8).

It was a narrative that morphed from terrorism into a criminal group narrative as it wound its way through the long drawn out battle through the courts from 2007 until 2012. It was the narrative presented to the High Court in February and March 2012 as evidence to convict the “Urewera 4” on relatively minor arms charges, but not on the criminal group charge. The full-blown terrorism narrative that became the lesser criminal group narrative did not survive the court process, eliminated at the final hurdle – the High Court jury.

That the narrative did not survive the court process is a direct reflection of the quality of the Intelligence operation, the intellectual ability of the minds that produced it and those that subscribed to it.

The paradox

There still remains a body of evidence that shows that at least part of the activity at the “Rama” or wananga in the Urewera over about a twelve to eighteen month period involved firearms and military style manoeuvres. And associated with this activity was a lot of revolutionary korero. This episode of the exploration into the probability space looks at that activity and korero.

As we consider the “evidence” of military activity and revolutionary korero we should also remember that:

  1. this activity was not covert and often in full view of the Ruatoki community although some of the participants acted as though it was covert (by wearing balaclavas and using cover names);
  2. there was no attempt to hide the fact that people were travelling to the wananga in the Urewera from all around the North Island on a regular monthly basis;
  3. communications between the known participants were mostly by insecure means even though the leaders of the wananga knew they were under surveillance and even though Taame Iti had been told that the Police were watching the activity;
  4. there was no attempt to hide the presence of firearms by, for instance, conducting all of the military type activity far into the interior of the Urewera;
  5. a number of those firearms were acquired openly from licenced dealer with no attempt at all to conceal the purchases.

All of that leads to the paradox that became the terrorism narrative; a paradox being a proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

The role of the professional Intelligence analyst is to recognise the paradox when it arises and then to resolve it. If the paradox cannot be resolved then there can be no justification to act upon it. It was neither recognised nor resolved by the Operation 8 analysts. Perhaps the greatest failure of the Operation 8 Intelligence analysis was in not recognising the obvious paradox. Tunnel vision can do that.

My challenge here is to unravel the paradox. I’ll start by trying to put the whole thing into some sort of context. It is a context much wider than what the Police were able to comprehend through their very limited expertise and limited information gathering operation.

I discovered as I tried to unravel the paradox that all of that wananga activity wasn’t as coherent and coordinated as one might expect if it was really directed towards a definite plan of military, terrorist or criminal action. It became clear that the participants didn’t really have a clear idea what it was all about, and that some of them projected their own interpretations and expectations onto it. In fact all of that wananga activity was quite unfocused until about August 2007, throughout most of the Police Intelligence operation. The Police gave it a focus it just did not have because they wanted it to have a focus.

That didn’t help my own investigation at all. Pity the Police officers trying to make sense of it. Not. They didn’t even try.

The Ngai Tuhoe claim

The Ngai Tuhoe grievance and claim is well documented and does of course provide the historical context to the wananga in the Urewera but perhaps not in the way that the Police understood it.

Not everyone in Ngai Tuhoe supported the negotiating process led by Tamati Kruger and others. So one of the key drivers behind the negotiation process was to garner as much support as possible within Ngai Tuhoe and to maintain that support for as long as it took to negotiate a settlement. “Te Kotahi A Tuhoe” was the body mandated by a majority of Tuhoe to negotiate the settlement and it needed to retain that mandate for as long as it took. The inclusive structure and consultative process of Te Kotahi A Tuhoe was the main means.

The wananga would have been another, albeit minor by comparison. The wananga was not established by Taame Iti but by several of the kaumatua of Ngai Tuhoe quite some time before it came to the notice of the Police. One of the key figures was the late Te Hue Rangi. I understand that Tamati Kruger himself had attended the wananga on an occasional basis. It was not a rogue Taame Iti initiative. Whatever happened at the wananga had to be sanctioned by the kaumatua and when he took on a leading role in the wananga Taame Iti was not an entirely free agent. One thing is 100% certain and that is that the kaumatua were never going to sanction anything that might derail the negotiation process; including training for armed uprising or revolution.

Networking

It is obvious from all of the Police surveillance evidence that what Taame did was to widen the influence of the wananga by bringing in people from around the North Island.

In December 2006 for instance a support group called “Te Kotahi A Tuhoe Ki Poneke” was formed in Wellington. This new group gathered up some Ngai Tuhoe and quite a few of the Wellington activist community, some Pakeha. Many of them became regular participants at the wananga. They brought with them the Police surveillance that had been upon them since at least the formation of the Wellington Special Intelligence Group (SIG). They also brought with them into Operation 8, but not into the wananga, a Police informant who had been active amongst them.

Taame had quite a bit earlier invited Te Rangikaiwhiria “Rangi” Kemara who was the IT manager for my business in Parnell Auckland. Rangi was and is an IT expert who had been one of the early members of the Maori Internet Society that I formed in the 1990s. By the time he started going to the wananga he had become a collector of militaria, especially firearms. He had a current firearms licence. In fact my business partner was one of his referees when he applied for the licence.

He was buying from gun dealers mostly on lay-by and also buying other militaria from TradeMe. As his employer at the time I thought he was spending far too much of his salary on his new hobby but I didn’t say anything. I’m a twenty year soldier and a Borneo and Vietnam veteran myself so I understood his new found passion. He had joined a gun club and had started his bush weekends, partly to try to keep his weight down and partly to indulge his new hobby. When he was invited by Taame to join the wananga he took his hobby with him.

That’s how many of the firearms the Police identified actually joined the wananga. They labelled Rangi as the “armourer”. Based on the salary I paid him he wasn’t going to do much arming. The fact that some of the firearms used at the wananga belonged to him was coincidental; he had a licence and he owned a few and most of the others didn’t own any.

A lot of the intercepted korero was Rangi talking firearms and ammunition. On the one hand, the hand the Police preferred to play, that could have indicated that he was indeed the “armourer”. On the other hand it was definitely an indication of his collector’s obsession. Collectors tend to be obsessive. He used to talk to me all the time about his hobby.

Another of my employees went on all day every day about the “Warriors” (the league team not the revolution). I think I preferred the firearms korero.

Taame Iti collects people. He networks. He collected Rangi Kemara who is not Ngai Tuhoe. He also collected up John Murphy, an Auckland based millionaire used car salesman who had discovered a passion for supporting the Maori cause and had begun to fly the Tino Rangatiratanga flag over his house in Remuera. In collecting up Murphy Taame also collected Murphy’s bodyguard Jamie Lockett. It was a fateful invitation for Lockett had long been involved in a running feud with the Auckland Police and with Detective Sergeant Phil Le Compte in particular. Operation 8 began as an operation aimed at Lockett, Murphy and others and shifted to the Urewera after Police linked Lockett to Tame Iti. This time Taame collected a whole new and very dangerous group of covert Auckland based Police into his network.

Throughout 2006 and 2007 Taame Iti continued to bring in other people, mainly Ngai Tuhoe, from around the North Island. These travelling people were the ones the Police focused on because they identified few others. However over the years most of the wananga participants were locals. The Police saw very few of them.

The locals

For some years Taame Iti had been working as a social worker amongst Ngai Tuhoe, both paid and unpaid. His clientele were mostly male, quite often disconnected from community and disaffected. I remember once that he brought a van load of them to Auckland to get them out of the bush and to give them a taste of the outside world. We won’t discuss how tasty that was. The wananga would have been an ideal means of reconnecting those people to community.

A few of his clients were Vietnam War veterans, often afflicted by PTSD. Taame has related to me how he listened to their stories, some of them quite horrendous, as they unburdened their souls and as he helped them cope with the PTSD. Tuhoe Lambert who became a primary Police suspect was one of those. Tuhoe Lambert also collected people and one of those was Rangi Kemara who became part of his whanau, especially after Tuhoe moved from Kaitaia to Auckland. A few of those war veterans were taking part in the wananga during the time of the Police surveillance but Tuhoe Lambert was the only one positively identified by them.

My information suggests that there might have been a few hundred participants in the wananga over the years, most of them locals or from the surrounding district. There is no indication that the Police really knew how many had attended the wananga, who they were, what they did and what they said. The Police identified only a few of them in addition to their main suspects, the travelling out-of-towners.

So that’s who some of them were and how they got there. What were they doing?

Standing on a ladder and looking the Crown in the eye – asserting the Ngai Tuhoe right to bear arms on Tuhoe lands

Throughout almost all of the period of Operation 8 Taame Iti was entangled in the courts. In January 2005 he staged the fiery welcome to the Waitangi Tribunal and shot a flag on the marae. He was charged in February 2005, finally went to trial and was convicted in June 2006, and had his conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal in April 2007. That whole legal battle provides background context to the presence of firearms at the wananga.

Whilst for the judicial system the flag incident may have been about an alleged criminal offence, to Taame Iti and many others it was about the right of Ngai Tuhoe to bear arms on Ngai Tuhoe land, in this case on a traditional marae. I have written in detail about that in “Probability – Part 3”.  That prosecution was also in part about a Police belief that a marae is a public place in terms of the law. The Police later tried to argue in court after 15th October 2007 that multiply-owned Tuhoe land was also public land and not private land. Legislation is very clear about what the Police may or may not do on private land.

It was all about mana. In bringing firearms into the wananga at the same time he was fighting his legal battle about the use of a shotgun on a Ngai Tuhoe marae Taame was asserting his right, and the right of Ngai Tuhoe, to bear arms on Ngai Tuhoe lands. I wrote this in “Probability – Part 3”:

“So I put it to him that in the back of his mind during the 2006 and 2007 wananga he was still standing on his ladder; meaning that he was symbolically asserting Ngai Tuhoe mana and autonomy; their right to bear arms on Ngai Tuhoe lands.

“My question took him by surprise. After his mouth closed again and the sparkle returned to his eyes he nodded his head and said, “Yes!”

As unlikely as it may seem – private military contracting

I mentioned earlier that whatever was going on had to be sanctioned by Tuhoe kaumatua. I understand that there also had to be consensus among the participants and there was that consensus up until about September and October 2007. That was when it became known to them that Taame Iti was bringing in private military contractors (PMC) with Iraq experience to train and assess people to be employed as PMC. Prior to that the military activity had been conducted by Tuhoe Lambert and others and did not have that edge of reality.

In October 2007 when the professional PMC was brought in many of the travelling activists disassociated themselves from that aspect of the wananga. It is likely that they would have stopped attending because of that. Some or most of them were peace activists and totally opposed to any involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan. Taame Iti must have known that they would leave and perhaps he intended that they should.

The Police did not give any credence to the evidence that behind much of the military activity was Taame Iti’s hope that he could find employment for a few of his people as private military contractors in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Dhafur. It ran counter to their preferred terrorism narrative. It runs counter to what most people would expect. But Taame Iti is not most people. He thinks different. He thinks weird at times. He plucks ideas out of the ether. But the evidence was there. After talking with some of the wananga participants it became clear to me that most of them were not aware of that employment intention until late in the piece.

When Taame found out probably sometime in 2006 that two ex-servicemen brothers related to his partner Maria were private military contractors a weird idea found him. He started talking to them about employment for some of his people. Before anything came of it one of the brothers deployed back to Baghdad for a few months in the middle of 2007. In the meantime, while they were still talking and while one of them was in Iraq, Taame had Tuhoe Lambert and a few others start some basic military training in the wananga. For perhaps a year prior to August 2007 the training was just the general military skills applicable to many types of activity including private military contracting. It was intermittent training in that it was only a monthly activity, some monthly wananga were cancelled, and attendance was patchy. Hardly a programme for serious terrorism.

In August 2007 Taame Iti had Tuhoe Lambert take it up another level and introduce specific personal protection skills including the protection of vehicles. Because of Tuhoe’s general ill health the training was shifted to a flat area at Ruatoki. Prior to that wananga Tuhoe wrote out a lesson plan for the whole weekend. The Police recovered that and interpreted it as terrorism training.

Taame knew that Tuhoe might not make it to the wananga. Taame later told me about how he worked with Tuhoe at other times and how they would periodically park up in a secluded spot so that Tuhoe could have a power nap to recover some energy. He was not a well man.

So Taame had Urs Signer prepare some training scenarios just in case Tuhoe Lambert couldn’t make it to the August wananga. The Police recovered that and interpreted it as terrorism training.

“So we arrived Friday night, and the usual night wananga began cept this time it was with Tuhoe sharing his time in Vietnam, and people asking him why he went there, all that anti-war stuff. He was awesome, very patient with people who were asking him quite pointed questions. 

“His training was close quarters protection, spotting threats in a crowd, moving your VIP out of harm’s way.

“We were supposed to come dressed in our flashest clothes, bodyguards. Some did, me, all I had was a flash pair of jeans and an All Black teeshirt. The anarchists did a clothes bin raid and got themselves some even more drabby looking clothes, the Tuhoes came in their flashest oilskins…

“So that didn’t work.

“But that was the weekend. I don’t know if Tuhoe was aware of the bros [Taame’s] fuller plan, but he certainly fulfilled his part of it”.

The September wananga was to be a continuation of the August training.

“Typical of the bro, September which should have been part two of Tuhoe’s wananga, got interrupted because the bro [Taame] brought in a whole lot of newbies who barely knew how to hold a gun. 

“So the rama got split into two, newbies, and those that had been at August camp.

“Tuhoe took the August lot in stage one of a vehicle contact drill, exfilling a disabled waka.

“One of the other Tuhoe took the rest through basic whatever they did, I wasn’t with them, I’d guess it was safety, and seeing how they moved as a group, and how they could deal with difficulties, the stuff we went through the year before.

“Anyway, it was a wash, but those of us that did Tuhoe’s module were wrapped, even the anarchists, because at least Tuhoe had an activist’s bent along with his training stuff, and his patience with people. Good trainer”.

At that point the training took a different path as Rau Hunt arrived back from Iraq and was available to take the training or assessment to a new or different level.

“After the September wananga, it became clear as day, that the objectives of the wananga were starting to form, and that was employment for his people … “

Taame then planned to have a dual wananga in October with Tuhoe Lambert and Rau Hunt as trainers. He told Tuhoe by text message on 5th October 2007:

“gt some new t/o coming on board next rama”.

The Police reported that:

Mr Iti goes on to advise that the new t/o was apparently from Baghdad but confirms that Mr Lambert would still be in charge”.

In the same exchange of messages Taame Iti advises Tuhoe Lambert:

We may have mahi for them in Africa. Four of our guys”.

Indicating that four people might be employed as PMC in Africa. And:

Have hui with new t/o”.
“They coming this weekend with plan for Rama”.

As it happened Tuhoe Lambert was too ill to attend the October wananga. He was on his couch in Manurewa. His place was taken by another unidentified Vietnam veteran but Rau Hunt was the main trainer. His approach was totally different to Tuhoe Lambert’s as he was there only to present his version of PMC skills and to preselect people for further training. I have interviewed Rau Hunt and have no doubt whatsoever that his only purpose in attending that wananga was to see if anyone there would be suitable to join a PMC team with him. He was not even remotely involved in training anyone for terrorist or criminal purposes.

Tuhoe Lambert’s training had been less focused, was apparently a lot more activist friendly, and did not challenge the “anarchists” beliefs. Their beliefs were challenged by the obvious shift in emphasis and the new hard edge that Rau Hunt brought to the wananga in October.

There were two separate groups at that wananga because quite a few of the “anarchists” broke away and did not want to have anything to do with specific PMC employment training. Ironically one of those who broke away at that time was one of the “Urewera 4” who eventually faced trial. Had the Police not intervened with their 15th October 2007 paramilitary operation the split in the group would probably have brought that whole series of wananga to an end.

There was definitely not the unity of purpose that the Police alleged and maintained right through to the trial of the “Urewera 4” in 2012.

“The October rama was a challenge for me cause I wasn’t interested in working in that field either”.

The Police obtained warrants for their paramilitary termination operation on 10th October 2007. Annette King, then Minister of Police, said that cabinet ministers were briefed in the “days before the raids” but not about the manner they would be carried out. She later said that meeting took place the night before the raids. The final wananga took place on 12th and 13th October. That meeting took place on 14th October. The Police did not recover the video footage of that October wananga until after their paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007.

Even if they did recognise the significance of that October evidence, that it clearly indicated PMC training, they never admitted it but instead tied it into their original terrorism/criminal group narrative.

Why did the peace activists attend anyway?

For a long time I was somewhat perplexed as to why a group of anti-war and peace activists would spend so many months attending wananga involving firearms and military training. So I asked Wellington activist Valerie Morse that question and the answer made perfect sense although it was completely unexpected. She had been brought up around guns by her American father and had no problem with firearms themselves. It was war she had a problem with. I also got the impression that she enjoyed running around the bush doing that stuff. I can understand that.

The lesson there is not to project your own preconceptions and stereotypes onto other people.

And so to the revolutionary korero

The “compelling video evidence” might have been the centrepiece evidence presented to the courts (and the media) after the arrests but it was the voice intercepts that shaped the Police terrorism narrative during Operation 8. It was also the voice intercepts included in a leaked Police affidavit that excited the media. After the event when the Poilce had gained access to some logs from an encrypted chatroom they added those conversations as evidence but it was not available to them as they prepared the analyses that led to the paramilitary “termination phase” on 15th October 2007.

Taken at face value, and disregarding the contradictory evidence, a lot of the korero they intercepted truly did indicate serious intention to commit acts that could be classified as terrorism within the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002. Some of the original eighteen accused claimed the Police selectively “cherry picked” the korero they presented in affidavits to obtain warrants, and later as evidence. They most likely did but taken at face value that evidence was still alarming. One would expect however that the bulk of the korero they intercepted was boring chatter.

In the Crown indictment against the “Urewera 4” who were the only ones to eventually face trial they were charged with participation in a criminal group with objectives alleged to be one or more of the following:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Intentional damage
  • Endangering transport
  • Wounding with intent
  • Aggravated wounding
  • Discharging a firearm or doing a dangerous act with intent
  • Using a firearm against a law enforcement officer
  • Committing a crime with a firearm
  • Kidnapping

Most of those alleged objectives were gleaned from the voice intercepts and from chat room conversations, some supported by the Police interpretation of their video evidence.

The Police did take that revolutionary korero at face value, did not take note of the contradictory evidence they had collected, and didn’t bother to spend time verifying the conclusions they drew from that korero. Without the benefit of their expert Maori officers who would have known how to find out what was really going on they probably had no way to verify any of it.

In court the prosecution made a point of telling the jury that the korero was not just “pub talk” but expressed genuine intent. They were right in that it wasn’t just “pub talk” but wrong in not understanding what it did mean.

From my vantage point knowing what I knew at the time, being a military expert, knowing many of the participants, and having access to information unavailable to the Operation 8 analysts I have to start my own analysis from the point of view that what was alleged by the Police was nigh on impossible, despite the incriminating revolutionary korero. I have detailed in previous posts why that was so.

I am saying that the revolutionary korero had to have been bullshit, regardless of how incriminating it sounded and even if some of the participants believed it. There is too much contradictory evidence for it to have been real. I have been listening to it and reading it for decades now and to my ears it automatically registers as bullshit.

At the trial in 2012 defence witness and law professor Dr David Williams was much more diplomatic. He had been involved with indigenous people and indigenous issues in Aotearoa New Zealand and in East  Africa. The gist of part of his verbal evidence as he remembers it (1st September 2015) was that:

“I did say something in court to the effect that rhetoric that sounds “revolutionary” to most New Zealanders is really the standard narrative of colonised peoples campaigning for self-determination. This was a reflection  that goes back to my time living and teaching in Tanzania (East Africa) in the 1970s when I met and mingled with many involved in the peaceful transition to independence in Tanzania [then Tanganyika] and Uganda as well as some of the more militant members of African liberation movements. Such ‘revolutionary’ anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist language in my opinion, and my experience, did not and does not entail an option for armed struggle as the only or the preferred pathway to liberation”.

Fear

Then there’s the fear factor that noone talks about.

Behind racism lies deep seated fear. Fear of Maori. That in itself is a paradox. Maori are the losers. Maori are the marginalised, the poor, the unemployed and the imprisoned. The colonised. The dispossessed. The losers. But still we are feared.

Arising out of the colonisation and dispossession and our present staus in New Zealand society is our culture of resistance. Not acceptance but resistance. The so called Maori renaissance, the decades of land rights, language and cultural activism, Treaty activism and Treaty settlements; these are all expressions of resistance. In my schooldays in the 1940s and 1950s Maori resisted schooling and the bending of the mind to the Pakeha worldview. It was an expression of resistance and its effects are still being felt today in schooling under-achievement.  Even high levels of Maori offending and imprisonment are in their own way expressions of resistance.

Accompanying that resistance from the 1960s to the present day has been the revolutionary korero, the hyperbole. A couple of years ago I spent days on end in the library reading back through the newspapers of the period. At the height of the activism in the 1970s and 1980s the revolutionary korero was reported in the media almost every week, reported with alarm, reflecting Pakeha outrage. And fear. Despite relative powerlessness Maori possess the ability to strike fear in the hearts of men. Fear of the other, the different, and fear that we will surely one day regain all that was lost. Fear that somehow they will lose. The gains of the last three decades have been accompanied by mostly subdued but deep resentment. It’s a visceral subconscious fear.

In days of old the haka served to strike fear into the hearts of men.

These days the haka has become commonplace and no longer has the same impact. In these modern times from about the 1960s onwards revolutionary korero has taken its place. Revolutionary korero is an evolved form of the haka. It works as did the haka of old. It arouses the passions of the dispossessed. It strikes fear into the hearts of men. It’s meant to. Politicians, media, right wing bloggers, Police officers, judges.

The whole country witnessed fear in action on 15th October 2007. Armed, helmeted, masked, booted, black clad fear. Ka mate, ka mate , ka ora , ka ora.

Anger

A lot of the korero was just about anger. There was talk at various times of assassinating George Bush, Helen Clark and John Key. I would venture that millions of people in the Western world speculated about the desirability of President George W. Bush’s demise.

Helen Clark angered a great many Maori in 2004 when she legislated to extinguish any possible claim to the seabed and foreshore. It did after all lead to the formation of the Maori Party and the loss of some of the Maori electorates. That was the peaceful result but many Maori did at the time wish her a great deal of personal harm. She angered a few Tuhoe with her reluctance to engage over their principal claim and no doubt a few did wish her dead. That’s just how anger gets expressed. It indicates anger rather than intent.

I suppose assassinating John Key just sounded like a good idea at the time. I think the present mantra, “Don’t change the flag, change the Prime Minister” has more class.

A lot of angry, way over the top korero was directed towards the Police. There are good reasons for that and I will examine that later.

Distrust, antipathy and antagonism towards Police

Out here in Te Ao Maori there remains a great deal of distrust, antipathy and antagonism towards the Police. A lot of it has deep historical roots in events such as the invasion of Parihaka by the Armed Constabulary in 1881 and the invasion of Maungapohatu by armed police in 1916. Some of it relates to more recent events such as the use of Police to break up occupations and protests, the killing of Paul Chase in 1983, the killing of Terrence Thompson in 1996 in what some saw as an extra-judicial execution, and the killing of Steven Wallace in 2000. The arrest and charging of Taame Iti on arms charges in 2005 was the most recent.

This lingering antagonism, even hatred, remains despite attempts by the Police in these recent times to improve relationships with Maori and Maori communities with greater engagement through their iwi liaison officers, and through cultural training at the Police College. The training seems to have had only limited success.

The Ngawha prison protests and demonstrations in 2002 set all of that back at least in the activist community. At those legitimate demonstrations poorly led, out of control Police officers deliberately assaulted demonstrators, including those who were trying to video them carrying out the assaults. Some demonstrators were charged and there were further demonstrations at a later date outside the courthouse. The Police again assaulted several of those including a lawyer who was trying to enter the courthouse to represent her client.

Some of those who were present at Ngawha attended the wananga in the Urewera a few years later, their antagonism towards the Police undiminished.

That antagonism is also rooted in widely held perceptions of deeply entrenched racism in the New Zealand Police. Police racism is just part of the reality of the lives of many Maori. That’s the main reason for the establishment of the Iwi Liaison Officer network. The ongoing antagonism was evident in much of the revolutionary korero intercepted during Operation 8.

An aspect of policing that generates deep seated antagonism is the methodology they seem to be taught; intimidation, confrontation and domination. One can understand the need to dominate in situations where things could get out of hand or even dangerous but for many Police officers it becomes the standard way of dealing with people, especially Maori. Bullying.

In part it results from a misunderstanding or misreading of certain situations. These days the Police seem to regard every protest or demonstration as potentially dangerous and are heavy handed from the start. A recent instance was their openly wearing and displaying tasers at a peaceful demonstration. It also demonstrates a high degree of arrogance and that gets up many New Zealander’s noses.

Many Pakeha Police officers, notably the younger officers, seem to be fearful of Maori and act to dominate from the beginning of any encounter. Fear of Maori is a factor behind a lot of racism and a lot of inappropriate Police behaviour.

It has to do with mana and the need certainly in Maori culture to respect the mana of each and every person. Many Police officers do not seem to understand or have any regard for the mana of those they come into contact with. They trample on mana. Taame Iti expressed it in a piece he wrote for “The day the raids came, stories of survival and resistance to the state terror raids” (2010, ed Valerie Morse, Rebel Press, Wellington). This extract says it all:

“Koutou i haere mai nei
Koutou nei i haere mai nei
Ki Tuhoe”

“Ko wai koutou?
No hea koutou?
Kua haere mai ano koutou
Ki te takahi o te mana o Tuhoe”

In my experience anger generated by Police racism and by heavy handed policing and the trampling of mana is very often expressed in extreme language and I recognised it in the Operation 8 transcripts. Many of the participants including Taame Iti, Tuhoe Lambert, Rangi Kemara, the “anarchists” and others had little reason to love the Police.

Talking to the Police

A lot of the korero was about killing policemen. The question is, were they talking about the Police or talking to them. I think it was a bit of both.

Police surveillance of individuals was going on from about June 2006, mostly obtaining call records and text message records from telephone companies, with quite a bit of physical surveillance. It seems to have increased exponentially in April 2007 with voice intercepts mostly from bugs planted in cars; one car in particular.

From about May or June 2007 that car had a small note stuck to the sun visor on the passenger side warning that the car was probably bugged. I can verify that. Yet the flow of incriminating intercept continued. Why was that?

A lot of that korero to the Police was about the background antagonism towards the Police, anger about Police surveillance, venting, blowing off steam, up-you bastards korero. The Police obviously thought it was always about them, not sometimes to them.

Bullshit (or hyperbole)

There’s still a strong element of bullshit.

Operation 8 and the bullshit started with Jamie Lockett and his long running feud with the Police. From a distance the behaviour on both sides could only be seen as a mutual obsession. They were tailing him and intercepting him and harassing him and he was baiting them. He was known to have threatened Police. His linking up with Taame Iti led the Police to the Urewera.

A text message from Jamie Lockett to John Murphy on 31st December 2006 illustrates the level of obsession and antagonism:

“Just letmy daughter know Death is in the air. Fuk Nz & fuk the police. Some1 is going2 die”.

On 23rd March 2007 a conversation between Lockett and an unknown female was intercepted. Lockett said, in part:

“Ah well I’m training hard to take on six men very quickly. I’m training up in to be a very, very vicious dangerous commando”.

Really.

In November 2007 Lockett was reported in the media:

“Lockett said he could not recall making a “vicious commando” remark attributed, but had some recollection of the other comments. But he said those remarks were simply an angry reaction to an earlier arrest”.

Probably true given the record of his relationship with the Police.

However, given the mutual obsession between him and the Police that bullshit korero and more like it would have been enough for them to set out after him yet again.  I understand they’re still at it in 2015.

Networking through revolutionary korero

It is difficult to reconcile the volume of revolutionary korero with the lack of any capability to mount a revolution, and indeed the lack of serious intent to mount a revolution. That perhaps is at the core of the paradox.

The korero came from Taame Iti himself, Tuhoe Lambert, Rangi Kemara and others and was spread throughout the whole group over many months. New members seem to have been attracted to the “Rama” by that korero and many of them clearly believed it. In some cases I think that private fantasies were simply reinforced by the korero. I’ve been around long enough to know that the fantasy is alive and well in the minds of many wannabe revolutionaries. As I’ve written in an earlier post many of them mistakenly look to Taame Iti as the revolutionary leader. Mind you he hasn’t done much to dispel that belief even though he doesn’t subscribe to it himself.

So they seem to have collectively woven an aura of revolutionary mystique around a revolution that didn’t exist.

It reminded me of a technique I developed in the 1980s and 1990s to build a loyal and involved readership around my “Te Putatara” newsletter in its print version. I developed a fictional conspiracy of the “Kumara Vine” pitted against the Establishment including the Department of Maori Affairs. It was written to include my readership as co-conspirators, reinforced every month with snippets and reports from the frontline in Wellington, from the Maori Intelligence Agency and from the Dungeon Bar. It reported on real people and real events but the conspiracy was pure bullshit wrapped around fact; delightful and entertaining bullshit though. Both my Maori and Pakeha readers loved it; most of them.

The revolutionary korero building a revolutionary mystique around a revolution that didn’t exist is typical of Taame Iti’s own sense of bullshit; sorry Taame – hyperbole and theatricality. But it was a theatrical narrative built upon real history and real aspirations, real mamae and real anger, against a background of a real effort to finally achieve some sort of negotiated resolution. The revolution was the bullshit bit. We will explore the anger later.

Repulsing another invasion

Throughout the whole body of intercepted texts and conversations there is a theme of needing to repulse an attack on Ngai Tuhoe by the Police, probably by the Special Tactics Group (STG) and possibly assisted by the Army’s Special Air Service (SAS). This korero has been around Ngai Tuhoe for generations; i.e. “they came for us before and they’ll be coming again”.

Presumably that scenario would be the result of failed negotiations and a declaration of secession by Ngai Tuhoe from the state of New Zealand. Most unlikely but I can think of no other scenario that might be thought to provoke an armed attack on Ngai Tuhoe. Other than the egregious boneheaded one that actually occurred on 15th October 2007. It was sad case of a self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps.

Regardless of its unreal potential that theme was definitely behind most of the revolutionary korero. It was a most unlikely even fanciful scenario and the leading figures in the wananga knew it. As I’ve written earlier however many of the participants did seem to believe it.

Maori police as trash talk interpreters

The Police and prosecution discounted any thought that all of the above might have been “pub talk”. They were 100% right. But it was “trash talk”; revolutionary trash talk. I’ve heard a lot of it in my time but not perhaps on the scale depicted in the Operation 8 intercepts. It is usually confined to the street, leaning over the fence at the marae, or in these modern times to text messaging, email lists and chat rooms. I’ve been watching it in its online version for about twenty years now.

In a future post, a tribute to Tuhoe Lambert, I’ll write about the master of trash talk and some of the reasons for it.

The sad thing about all of this revolutionary trash talk is that if the Police had brought in Superintendent Wallace Haumaha and his network of iwi liaison officers they would have suspected that it was trash talk and would easily have found out what was going on. The whole fiasco would have been averted. And it was a fiasco; a two sided fiasco.

Why were they not brought in at an early stage? Why were they not brought in at all? Why were they specifically and deliberately excluded and why was that exclusion endorsed and authorised by the Police Commissioner himself? Incompetence and ignorance definitely. Racism probably. Paranoia for sure. There’s been a lot of that around both before and after 9/11.

The paradox remains, only partly unravelled

Incompetence, ignorance, racism and paranoia can render one blind to the existence of a paradox, a paradox being a proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.

I’m sure that I’ve not fully unravelled the paradox. I’ve pulled out many of the threads and still there is ambiguity. But the analyst has to learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. The situation in the Urewera was ambiguous and uncertain and the paradox was real, unrecognised and unresolved by the Operation 8 team.

They reached instead for an interpretation that gave them a sense of unambiguous certainty despite contradictory information.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: The Probability Space – Part 4

Was there a Plan B for an armed uprising or revolution in the Urewera?

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

“One of their ways of furthering the interests of themselves and the Tuhoe people was at the point of a gun, and that is what they were planning, preparing and training for”.

Thus stated the Crown in its prosecution of Taame Iti and his co-accused. That was the whole thrust of its eighteen month “Intelligence” operation in 2006 and 2007, the raison d’être for the paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007, and for its four and a half year pursuit of the accused through the courts.

Plan A was said to be the peaceful Ngai Tuhoe negotiations towards a settlement of their grievances. Plan B was alleged by the Police to be an armed revolution or uprising or similar armed action if Plan A failed. Was it really? In any case the Police themselves did launch their version of a Plan B; the armed paramilitary operation against Ruatoki and Ngai Tuhoe, which was such an egregious disaster of boneheaded proportions that it did indeed help Tuhoe along the way to finally gaining a settlement agreement and a formal apology for the conduct of the Crown towards Ngai Tuhoe. It was another example of that conduct in a long list of transgressions against natural justice beginning in 1865.

In the interests of goodwill and in their new found respect for each other both the Crown and Ngai Tuhoe will distance themselves from that assertion. But I sincerely doubt that Tuhoe would have gained as much as they have as soon as they have without the Police’s accidental intervention on their behalf. Not forgetting of course that Prime Minister Helen Clark authorised that boneheaded accidental intervention.

Not even the alleged revolutionary mastermind Taame Iti could have strategized and orchestrated that eventual outcome of his wananga in the Urewera. And anyway I always lean towards the “cock up” interpretation of history rather than conspiracy.

So what was he up to? Did he really plan for armed revolution, or even a mini-revolution? Was there really a Plan B?

Most of the evidence could have been interpreted that way and the Police and prosecution did indeed reach for that interpretation. But they did not analyse and verify their assumptions and conclusions. They remained assumptions and conclusions and assertions of intent. In this series I have been showing firstly how their “Intelligence” process was deeply flawed in relation to standards and practices long established by the Intelligence profession and the New Zealand Intelligence Community, and secondly how their assumptions, conclusions and assertions were deeply flawed, or at least highly questionable.

I have shown in “The Probability Space – Part 1” that Taame and some of his co-accused knew that they were under surveillance and that under those circumstances it was unlikely that they were really planning armed action. In “The Probability Space – Part 2” I showed that the crucial video footage, described by the prosecution as its “most compelling evidence” was not compelling at all and had been wrongly interpreted by the police and prosecution. “The Probability Space – Part 3” then provided essential background on the relationship of Ngai Tuhoe to their firearms, a relationship that should have been known to the Operation 8 “analysts” but wasn’t.

Nevertheless there was a great deal of intercepted audio evidence that even I, in my disbelief, do label “war korero”. And I can see why the Police, without the benefit of professional Intelligence analysts and without the benefit of their most knowledgeable Maori experts, would have reached the conclusions they did. I have read through transcripts of that audio intercept dozens of times and there is no doubt that an awful lot of it was war korero. And an awful lot of it was from the alleged leaders – Taame Iti, Rangi Kemara and the late Tuhoe Lambert.

So I backed up and asked myself who could have successfully planned and organised an armed uprising or revolution, as opposed to just talking about it. Was it Taame Iti as the Police alleged?

That mastermind would among other things:

  • Be Maori, preferably but not necessarily Ngai Tuhoe;
  • Have a strong sense of the injustice of the treatment of Ngai Tuhoe by the Crown for over 100 years;
  • And a commitment to righting the wrongs of the colonial period;
  • Have a strong military or similar background;
  • Be strategically and tactically astute;
  • Be administratively and logistically astute;
  • Be expert in personal, physical and communications security;
  • Be capable of establishing information gathering and intelligence operations, including infiltrating the Police, armed forces, government departments and political parties;
  • Have access to funding, weapons and ammunition;
  • Be someone totally off the law enforcement, security and intelligence radar;
  • Have nevertheless strong connections into the activist community;
  • Have strong connections into a pool of trained former military people;
  • And preferably strong connections into the Establishment.
  • Be healthy and strong; physically and mentally.

It would take at least ten years of extraordinarily secret covert action. And even then, having evaded Police, Intelligence and Security detection, the people most likely to stop it in its tracks would be Ngai Tuhoe themselves. For all their activism they’re a very conservative and law abiding lot. So that planning and organising would have to be kept secret from most of Ngai Tuhoe. It would be organised in Auckland and Wellington rather than in the Urewera out in the middle of nowhere.

The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea“. – Mao Zedong.

That was quoted to me by my former Communist Party informant when explaining to me that they always knew that their activity had to centred in Auckland and Wellington; hidden amongst the people not the trees.

I know (and know of) a lot of people in Te Ao Maori and I reached a startling conclusion. I myself am one of the very few people who might even begin to approach that description. And I’m no Maori Che Guevara”. Although the Police did take a very close look at me for some months in 2006. And my favourite headwear is my black pure wool French beret.

But here’s the thing. Taame Iti doesn’t come anywhere near that description. And he’s no Maori Che Guevara either.

Taame and the late Syd Jackson are the two most prominent Maori upon whom the mantle of revolutionary leader has been laid since the 1960s, both of them in public perception at the forefront of the struggle for Maori independence. There have been many others, including many dedicated Maori women, but those two are the ones who have most worn the expectations of wannabe revolutionaries. There have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those revolutionary wannabes.

A few of them once asked me to train them in guerrilla warfare. I refused of course.

But Syd was not a revolutionary and Taame is not a revolutionary. Activists, radical activists, radical Maori activists, protesters, publicists and spin doctors for the cause, and a hundred other labels; but not revolutionaries.

Che Guevara was a real revolutionary. He abhorred the injustice he witnessed in South America, he talked about revolution, he wrote about revolution, he went to war, and he died young; he was tracked down by the CIA and executed by the Bolivians at the age of 39.

I put it straight to Taame Iti, “You’re no revolutionary; you’re not the Maori Che Guevara Taame”.

He came straight back at me, “Revolutionaries die. I’ve never wanted to end up dead!

My former Communist Party informant who in the 1970s worked with Taame on union issues, predominantly workplace safety issues, and on the many Maori activist campaigns of the time including the 1975 Land March told me of the revolutionary korero of those times. There were many hotheads both in the Party and in the general activist community who agitated for revolution including violent armed revolution. However the leaders including my informant kept a lid on it and defused the revolutionary korero whenever it broke out. They were well aware that revolution would be totally counter productive and would result only in the death or imprisonment of the revolutionaries themselves and in no political gain whatsoever. I’m told that Taame Iti also adhered to that whakaaro.

And so I believe Taame Iti when he says he’s never been a revolutionary. Nothing about Taame has even remotely suggested that he would go that far. Talking the talk is one thing, and he talks the talk; through korero, through protest, demonstration, protest theatre, and through his art. Some of that korero sure puts the wind up the Pakeha, and maybe some Maori too. It’s meant to.

In my experience immersed for years in the “tino rangatiratanga” environment and assailed on all sides by the war korero, the korero of revolution, a hell of a lot of Maori actually believed that korero.

But walking the walk into war and into almost certain death is something else again. It takes more than naïve belief. And at its head is a real revolutionary leader. Te Kooti springs to mind.

From the day I was born until the day he died my godfather called me “Te Kooti”. I’m afraid I never fulfilled the expectation. Except with the pen.

So what was the war korero about? What were Taame and Rangi and Tuhoe and some others going on about?

You can see how I’ve approached this conundrum. Instead of taking it at face value, I’ve backed off, looked at the big picture and looked at the context. Now I’ll go back and try to make some sense of it within that context. That’s how real Intelligence analysts are supposed to work. Wannabe analysts make assumptions and jump to conclusions.

Those assumptions and conclusions were what drove the Police ever onwards and into their armed paramilitary operation. I’ve read my way through all of the affidavits they filed on a monthly basis to obtain search and surveillance warrants. The war korero is the single most used justification for obtaining warrants from the District Court.

Based on my own experience over the decades I would say that many of the people who attended the wananga in the Urewera, whether on a regular or irregular basis, probably did believe that they were part of a revolutionary movement. Some of the intercepted korero clearly shows that. But that naïve belief doesn’t make it so. It never has – not in the forty or so years that I’ve been listening to it. On the other hand some of the intercepts show that some of them didn’t take it all that seriously.

Based on my own experience over the decades I would say that the war korero in the Urewera was meant to motivate and invigorate activism rather than to start a war. That’s how it’s always been. The Pakeha have a name for it – hyperbole, or exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Bullshit and bluster is an unkind way of saying it. It winds up the Pakeha though.

Remember all the activist rhetoric from the 1960s and 1970s? These days and post 9/11 that korero would have them thrown into prison. New Zealand society has become a lot less tolerant and a lot more paranoid. But in the 1960s and 1970s that sort of korero, verging on the extreme, did serve to rally the troops to the cause, to turn them out to protest and demonstrate, to get in the face of the Establishment and often in the faces of the Police.

I remember well in the 1990s a protest and demonstration on Lambton Quay outside the Maori Affairs office. Wira Gardiner was CEO at the time. Some idiot had burnt some tires symbolising a “South African Necklace” killing. It was a gross overstatement of their grievance and could have been taken as a serious threat to kill. One of the leaders of the protest, not involved in the necklace incident, asked me to intervene with Wira to get him to speak to a delegation. So I went upstairs, found him more than mildly outraged, and talked him into meeting with her and a small delegation. As a commissioned officer and Vietnam veteran Wira was personally offended and insulted, and rightly so. But he got over it and talked with them. The incident was just incredibly stupid.

That was indeed extreme but sometimes it would take a lot of rhetoric and encouragement to get people out in their hundreds and thousands to take on the Authority, and every now and then it would be taken to extremes. They were different times. We didn’t have terrorism legislation then; ipso facto, we didn’t have terrorism either.

Was there any Plan B?

No, I don’t think there was. Not a coherent, defined, ready-to-roll Plan B. Not even a nearly ready-to-roll Plan B.

We have first of all to remember that Taame was always in close contact with Tamati Kruger, the primary Tuhoe negotiator, and that Taame would have done nothing to jeopardise those negotiations. In fact Taame was not at all an entirely free agent within Ngai Tuhoe and there is ample evidence that he did indeed listen to and heed the wishes of tribal leaders. It is on public record that he was taken to task within Tuhoe after his infamous flag shooting episode and agreed to abide by rules concerning the use of firearms.

Taame Iti told me that he had hoped to come up with something “a lot cleverer” than the alleged Police Plan B if the negotiations with the Crown had fallen over. And after interviewing and talking to a number of the participants in those wananga in the Urewera it’s very clear that none of them knew of any Plan B either.

In fact the distinct impression I get is that none of them, including those closest to Taame, really understood the overall strategic purpose of the wananga or even if there was an overall strategic purpose. Other than of course the ongoing kaupapa to maintain support inside and outside Ngai Tuhoe for their continuing struggle to regain some sort of autonomy for Tuhoe.

In fact when they finally found out about one of Taame’s ideas very late in the piece, to try to gain employment in the private military contract (PMC) industry for some of Tuhoe’s unemployed, almost all of them were taken by surprise. Some of them were actually offended by that turn of events and withdrew to another area during the October 2007 PMC training.

So I think that the series of wananga had a somewhat organic kaupapa. It sort of accommodated some of what the participants wanted to do, and incorporated new things as Taame met new people who had something to contribute, and other new things as Taame came upon new ideas. In that sense they reflected the mind of Taame Iti; the questing creative mind of the artist rather than the totally focused mind of the strategic revolutionary. It is much more accurate to think of the series of “Rama” or wananga in the Urewera as a canvas upon which Taame Iti and others were in the process of creating an ever-changing work of art.

Take a trip to Taame’s art gallery in Taneatua to see what I mean.

Building support for possible protest and demonstration?

Remember that in 2006 and 2007 Helen Clark was still Prime Minister and she had told Ngai Tuhoe she would not negotiate over the return of the Urewera. And that the return of the whenua was the bottom line for Tuhoe.

If those negotiations had been canned because of her intransigence would Taame Iti have mobilised Tuhoe activists and as many supporters as he could to march on Parliament, set up a Tuhoe tent embassy there, protest and demonstrate for as long as it took. His strategy is always to stand on his ladder, look the Crown in the eye, and keep in the Crown’s face until it enters into meaningful conversation. It has worked for Maori for forty years now.

Would all of those who marched on Parliament in 2004 to protest Helen Clark’s seabed and foreshore legislation have been turned out as well. Was he preparing the way for that sort of activism? Was he reaching out to and motivating a new generation. To pass the baton. The old generation was getting rusty.

I haven’t found any evidence to suggest that this sort of Plan B was shared by the wananga participants, or even in the back of Taame’s mind, but it was always a possibility.

Now, I would have suggested to him that if the negoatiations failed he should organise a huge pageantry production; a mock ceremony at which Ngai Tuhoe formally seceeded from New Zealand, complete with a ceremonial guard just like the military guard of honour  for the Governor General at the opening of parliament.

Was he keeping a lid on the rhetoric of a bunch of hotheads?

Remember that in his Communist Party days Taame saw how CP leaders defused the revolutionary rhetoric of the hotheads. Perhaps that was part of the kaupapa of the wananga? To keep some of the hotheads contained.

One of the intriguing things to emerge from my scrutiny of the Police evidence is the obvious fact that the Police really had no idea how many people attended the wananga and who they all were. They had a good idea who was travelling from the main centres such as Auckland and Wellington to the wananga and they spent a huge amount of resources tracking that movement. From their various intercept activity they knew a few more names. But that’s all they had; about 18 suspects.

They obviously suspected a nationwide terrorist plot was being hatched because they mounted a nationwide search and seizure operation to collect up as many computers as they could in the hope that computer evidence would reveal the extent of the terrorist network. They found virtually nothing.

The big gap in the Police information was about who was attending from Ruatoki itself and other Tuhoe towns and settlements; and how many were there. How many from the surrounding district? Did any of them drive through from Waikaremoana undetected? There’s no evidence that the Police even tried to find out about any of that. My investigations have revealed a lot more participants than the Police knew about, mostly local.

It’s a matter of public knowledge (to Maori anyway) that the Tuhoe negotiation strategy was not universally supported within Ngai Tuhoe, and even that some were vehemently opposed to the negotiation strategy. Not a majority but some.  So were there some hotheads advocating more controntational strategies after Helen Clark’s seeming to oppose the Tuhoe claim.

Were some of those gathered up and contained by Taame to help give the negotiators some space? I think that is a distinct probability.

Was there a plan to deliberately provoke the Police into some sort of reaction?

I don’t think so.

We do know however that they knew the Police were listening and I am certain from reading my way through those transcripts that a lot of the war korero was aimed at the eavesdropping Police. There was talk of how many Police they would be up against, of ambushing Police, of killing Police, and a lot of otherwise unflattering korero about the Police. It would be putting it mildly to say they had no love whatsoever for the Police.

And I think they might have been winding the Police up. Too tight by far.

There would be nothing more provocative than to talk about killing Police; nothing more likely to galvanise the Police into precipitate action.

That korero more than any other korero probably tipped the Police into action mode. It was a direct challenge to their own authority. It was a conscious challenge but more viscerally an unconscious threat. A bit like a South African necklace threat. The “compelling” video footage of September and October 2007 that they wrongly interpreted as training to kidnap and take hostages was the last straw. They let loose their own dogs of war.

As it turned out it was most unwise of the trash talkers to provoke them if that’s what happened. Some might say stupid. And I’m sure that I’m never going to get any of them to admit that it was done deliberately.

A perfect storm – the Police themselves provided Ngai Tuhoe with the perfect Plan B.

Then came the massive Police overreaction. The “termination phase” in which Ruatoki was locked down, women and children and others were illegally detained and terrorised, and a few people were arrested. The armed paramilitary operation was shown to be illegal by the Independent Police Conduct Authority and by the Human Rights Commission. The Courts established that the Police had acted illegally in both obtaining warrants and in executing those warrants. The Police ended up paying compensation to the affected whanau and Police Commissioner Bush personally apologised to those whanau.

It was a cock up of the first order.

But there was a silver lining to the big cloud of black-clad cowboys they cast over Ruatoki that day. It tipped the moral balance firmly into Ngai Tuhoe’s favour. It was a contemporary reenactment of the egregious behaviour that Ngai Tuhoe were accusing the Crown of down through their history of engagement. There can be no denying that the NZ Police provided just the impetus Ngai Tuhoe needed to get their claim on track.

Tamati Kruger very carefully kept the two issues entirely separate as he negotiated Tuhoe into getting their whenua back in 2014. But regardless of that it was in the back of everyone’s minds all of the time. It had to be.

No-one could have been strategic enough to orchestrate all that. It was an accidental Plan B and it worked.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: The Probability Space – Part 3

Ngai Tuhoe and their Firearms

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Now I don’t speak for Ngai Tuhoe. They speak for themselves. In this commentary I’m speaking about them.

So.

Part of the disconnect between what was actually happening in the Urewera in 2006 and 2007 and what the Police thought was happening was caused by a huge void in perceptions and understandings between city and country, between Maori and Pakeha, and especially between Ngai Tuhoe and the Police. As I have also frequently pointed out a large part of the disconnect was caused by the incompetence and unprofessionalism of the Police Intelligence process, including a failure to bring to that process expert Maori knowledge.

Indeed the Police involved in Operation 8, from the Commissioner downwards, deliberately excluded their senior Maori officers, the iwi liaison officers, and local cops.

It was especially important that the Intelligence analysis process should have proceeded through a thorough understanding of Ngai Tuhoe and their firearms.

City vs Country

For the most part the Police officers involved in Operation 8 were city based and in the analysis process they mostly did not involve country cops including those who best knew Ngai Tuhoe and Taame Iti. That was obvious from the evidence they presented.

I grew up in the country myself an hour or two south of the Urewera. Firearms were part of our everyday experience. Even as children we went hunting with the men, and as teenagers we went hunting on our own. Deer stalking, pig hunting, duck shooting, rabbit and possum shooting – we did it all. Almost every home out in the countryside in those days had at least one double barrelled shotgun, a .22 rifle and a war surplus .303 rifle. My cousin who as a teenager was a cut above the rest of us had .223 (5.56mm) and .308 (7.62mm) hunting rifles.

None of the firearms or their users were registered. And no-one was at all concerned when we wandered down the road or even into the shop with a rifle slung over the shoulder. Firearms were just part of life; tools just like the knives we all carried all of the time but are now illegal. I can’t remember any crime involving firearms or knives in our district.

Nowadays firearms are viewed only as weapons and are strictly regulated and controlled. It is illegal to wander around with one. It’s a city perspective.

But out in the country they are still tools rather than weapons. Country people still hunt, shoot and fish. Back in my hapu they still get out the shotguns and turn out for opening day of the duck shooting season on May 1st. Farmers still shoot rabbits, hares and possums and use their rifles to put down injured or fatally sick animals.

Now that is all controlled by licencing of firearms users. But I would think that out in the country there are shotguns and rifles that are still not legally owned. I would think that out in the Urewera there would be quite a few. My late brother lived, worked and hunted on the Lake Waikaremoana side of the Urewera and as far as I’m aware everyone over there was licenced but there are some stray firearms around. Nobody is bothered about it.

We country folk are just not freaked or spooked by firearms. City based cops are.

The Ngai Tuhoe Firing Party

At funerals for serving or former servicemen and women we farewell them with rifle volleys fired by a uniformed and well-drilled firing party. It is said to have originated in Europe when fighting stopped to allow the burial of the dead, then started again after the burial. The signal to go back to battle was the firing of three rifle volleys. Nowadays it’s just part of the ritual of the military funeral, and in some places the police funeral. A farewell befitting a warrior.

As far as I know Ngai Tuhoe is the only other group that fires the ritual farewell volley.

The first time you witness the Tuhoe volley it can be quite disconcerting if you are not expecting it. A group of shotgun and rifle toting men will just form up and fire off a ragged but impressive volley of shots, quite unlike the precision of the military firing party, but for exactly the same reason – a farewell to a fallen warrior.

And therein lies the key to understanding the relationship Ngai Tuhoe have with their firearms, a relationship that none of the rest of us have.

We must first understand that the Maori of bygone times, before becoming acquainted with European logic and reason and speech, spoke and acted symbolically and metaphorically. It was a form of communication based as much in movement and gesture as in speech, and in verbal imagery rather than direct speech. Although speech could be direct when appropriate. That’s pretty much the same as the rest of the old world before the Enlightenment.

That’s Ngai Tuhoe. Of all of us they remain the most symbolic and metaphorically inclined. The whole of their historic claim is couched in symbolic and metaphoric terms. That’s how they continue to think.

We all know that Ngai Tuhoe have always considered themselves a people apart, a people dispossessed, a people intent upon regaining their lands and having their mana recognised, and a people still engaged in active resistance to the Crown. A people still symbolically and metaphorically at war. A fallen Ngai Tuhoe is therefore, symbolically and metaphorically, a fallen warrior.

The Tuhoe volley is also an assertion of mana. Part of the rhetoric of the Ngai Tuhoe claim against the Crown has long focused on Te Mana Motuhake O Tuhoe, and the recognition of that mana by the Crown. In his TEDx 2015 Talk, reviewed here, Taame Iti talked at length about mana. New Zealand’s armed forces farewell their dead with the volley and so does Ngai Tuhoe. That is a statement of Tuhoe mana, an expression of mana equal to that of the Crown and its armed forces and fallen warriors. It is a statement that Ngai Tuhoe makes to itself and to the rest of us.

None of this amounts to actual warfare or revolution. But it is a quiet revolution and a symbolic continuation of its war with the Crown.

Here is how Taame Iti described the custom to the court during his flag shooting trial in 2006:

“Iti said in evidence yesterday that firing the gun was in accordance with Tuhoe custom and conveyed the tribe’s strong feelings about Crown confiscation of its land in the 1860s.

“Iti told the court that the Maori Battalion veteran, Moai Tihi, was one of the “high priests” who groomed him in the custom, saying that it had been around since Tuhoe was introduced to guns.

“Iti said under the tutelage of Mr Tihi and others, he had become well known for firing guns in displays of the custom and had done so at the tangi of Sir John Turei, which was attended by Prime Minister Helen Clark and Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright.

“The wearing of firearms on a marae [is] to invoke and to stir the emotions of people, of the home people,” he told the court. Iti said safety was always observed in such rituals … “

Sir John Turei’s Tangihanga 2003

Sir John Joseph Te Ahikaiata Turei died in January 2003. He was a veteran of the Maori Battalion and in later life became an advisor to Government agencies including NZ Police. As Taame stated above Prime Minister Helen Clark and Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright attended his tangihanga. Taame fired the traditional volley.

The incident was reported two years later but not the whole story.

What is not known is that Helen Clark was seriously challenged by Taame Iti before they were allowed to go onto the marae.

Helen Clark arrived at the marae accompanied by her two bodyguards from the Police diplomatic protection squad. Carrying his shotgun Taame moved out to them and noticed the bulges under the bodyguards’ jackets, indicating that they were armed. He went back onto the marae and spoke to the local police and to the Police iwi liaison officers, telling them that the bodyguards had to leave their weapons behind or Helen Clark had to leave her bodyguards behind. He said that he was the only one who was entitled to bear arms on the marae, not them.

It was of course a gross breach of kawa to try to take firearms onto the marae. And in tikanga terms an invitation to battle. The outcome was that Ngai Tuhoe asserted its mana and the bodyguards were left behind.

In 1998 Helen Clark, then leader of the opposition, was humbled and reduced to tears at Waitangi when Titewhai Harawira prevented her from speaking on the marae. In 2003 she was humbled again, this time as Prime Minister and by Taame Iti. One wonders whether both she and Commissioner Broad might have had this incident in the back of their minds subliminally influencing them when they decided to launch the paramilitary operation against Taame Iti and against Ruatoki on 15th October 2007.

She did clearly overreact in 2004 when she legislated to extinguish any Maori claim to the seabed and foreshore before any claim had actually been tested in the courts. That resulted in the formation of the Maori Party and in the eventual loss of parliamentary seats. It also resulted in much Maori antagonism and distrust towards Helen Clark and towards the Labour Party; the rending of a decades long compact between Maori and the Labour Party.

Helen Clark also made it clear to Ngai Tuhoe negotiators in the period before 2007 that she would not be going any way towards meeting their claim for the return of the Urewera. They were probably not amused.

Shooting the Flag 2005

Taame Iti staged a huge re-enactment to welcome the Waitangi Tribunal to Ngai Tuhoe on 16th January 2005. A minor part of the whole thing was when Taame used a shotgun to shoot a flag on the marae. It was reported that he had shot the NZ flag and that upset many people. However he said that he had just shot the Union Jack in the corner of the flag. I can vouch for that as I was earlier asked if I could find a Union Jack. I couldn’t. The whole thing was widely reported in the media.

After agitation in Parliament Taame was eventually arrested and charged on 3rd February 2005. MP Stephen Franks took most of the credit for the agitation. Minister of Police George Hawkins seemed out of his depth and it is not known if it was actually Helen Clark who instigated the arrest. Nothing ever happened without her knowledge and agreement so she was probably involved.

The local Police commander claimed to have been solely involved in deciding to press charges.

He went to trial in June 2006 and was convicted and fined. He appealed and the conviction was overturned on 4th April 2007.

Operation 8 was launched, so the Police said, in December 2005. However, based on the evidence tabled by the Police, it didn’t really focus on Taame Iti until June 2006, about the same time that he went to trial for shooting the flag. It may have been coincidence.

The Intelligence operation and this court action were running in parallel but the court case does not seem to have been considered in the investigation, or mentioned in evidence.

Te Hue Rangi’s Tangihanga 2007

Te Hue Rangi died early in 2007. He was a leader, kaumatua and learned man of Ngai Tuhoe. He also went to school with Taame Iti. He was one of the leaders of the wananga that the Police discovered in the Urewera in 2006 and 2007 although he was not involved in the bit with the firearms.

In January 2005 after the fiery Tuhoe welcome to the Waitangi Tribunal he was quoted in the Rotorua Daily Post:

“Tuhoe claimant Te Hue Rangi said the aggressiveness was not an act of violence towards tribunal members but a display of anger about grievances of the past.

“It’s pent-up anger that has been there for more than 100 years,” he said. “This was an enactment not an act of violence.

“We wanted the Crown and the tribunal to actually see the results of what has happened. I believe the stories that have been passed down for generations are true and many Tuhoe want [tribunal members] to feel just how our ancestors felt when our lands were taken.

“The written history by historians today does not reflect the truth of what happened during the land wars.”

“Once the land was taken the area was operated on “the scorched earth policy” that denied Maori their connection with the land and basic tools for survival, said Mr Rangi.

“The result of the policy was that our ancestors had no houses to live in, no food to eat and no clothes to wear,” he said. “Our people were slaughtered, not only men but women and children.”

“Tuhoe would never forget the grievances they believe were inflicted on them by the Crown, said Mr Rangi.

“We will ensure generations to come will know the truth. It is remembered in chants, in songs and it’s in these songs that we learn how our ancestors lived before the land was stolen from them,” he said.

The tribe was now looking for the return of their land or compensation for the grievances they claim they experienced at the hands of the Crown.

“We cannot let this event just melt away and not remember. We are a people that still remembers the atrocities that happened. Our ancestors never ceded the land. We will not give up the struggle for the return of our land or money,” he said. 

Te Hue Rangi and most others of his generation were as much Tuhoe activists as any of those arrested by the Police in October 2007.

At Te Hue’s tangihanga that took place while Police had the Urewera under surveillance there was a thirty-strong firing party armed with shotguns and rifles. Some of those rifles were the same ones the Police were convinced were to be used for terrorist activity. It was not however a well-armed and trained war party. Rangi Kemara anticipated that many of them would not have any ammunition for the volleys because it had happened before. So he stopped off at Whakatane and bought a few rounds and a few shells. The resulting volleys I’m told were quite impressive; a warrior’s farewell and a major event.

Police were present but this gathering of the shotguns and rifles and firing of volleys was not reported in the Operation 8 evidence. The Northern Special Intelligence Group from Auckland were so narrowly focused on the monthly wananga that they missed everything else that was happening and didn’t ever get to comprehend the broader context. And they didn’t consult with local police and with Police iwi liaison officers who were well aware of the total context.

On the one hand Auckland based detectives were covertly tracking firearms and their users, and on the other hand local police and Police iwi liaison officers, totally unconcerned, were watching them being fired. Well hello.

There were other tangihanga during the Operation 8 investigation where exactly the same thing was happening.

Ironically the Operation 8 evidence books produced for the trial in 2012 did contain some photos of armed “terrorists” who were by the time of the trial just armed “criminals”. The photos were seized from Taame Iti’s fridge during the lockdown of his house on 15th October 2007. But they were actually photos of the firing party at Te Hue Rangi’s tangihanga. Yep. That one. When other police officers were present and watching. Hello again.

Owhakatoro Marae August 2007

On 2nd August 2007 the then Leader of the Opposition John Key, accompanied by two National Party MPs Tau Henare and Georgina Te Heu Heu, visited Te Urewera. The Police diplomatic protection squad conducted a security assessment and advised that it was safe to visit. That was despite what Police Intelligence thought they knew about terrorists training in the Urewera, and despite what they believed about Taame Iti.  John Key went without Police bodyguards. He was met on Owhakatoro Marae by Taame Iti (without his shotgun).

Owhakatoro Marae is deep in the mountains in the Ruatoki rohe. It is difficult to reach and has no mobile phone coverage. Given the Operation 8 Intelligence analysis at the time, just two months before they launched their counter-terrorist operation, it couldn’t possibly have been considered safe. Could it? Surely a remote location like that could easily have been an ideal safe haven for even more armed terrorists that had not been detected by Operation 8?

Or was it then as it was two months later at the time of the armed paramilitary operation, and as Commissioner Hloward Broad later publiclhy admitted, that they had no evidence that any terrorist activity was immanent.

The Paramilitary Operation 2007

On 14th October 2007 Prime Minister Helen Clark authorised the operation that locked down Ruatoki. Early the next morning Police Commissioner Howard Broad launched it.

Looking Back 2015

It is a matter of public record that Taame is thoroughly immersed in the Ngai Tuhoe firearms custom. Knowing that, and being aware of all of the above, I recently put it to him that in the back of his mind during the 2006 and 2007 wananga when firearms were being used he was actually standing on his ladder.

This refers to the time he stood on a ladder at a hui with the Crown to raise himself to the same level as the main Crown representative, Minister Doug Graham; kanohi ki te kanohi, eye to eye. It was an expression of Ngai Tuhoe mana and an expression of his own mana vis-à-vis the Crown; an expression of equal mana.

So I put it to him that in the back of his mind during the 2006 and 2007 wananga he was still standing on his ladder; meaning that he was symbolically asserting Ngai Tuhoe mana and autonomy; their right to bear arms on Ngai Tuhoe lands.

My question took him by surprise. After his mouth closed again and the sparkle returned to his eyes he nodded his head and said, “Yes!”.

Unconsciously for certain, and probably consciously, he was standing on his ladder. He never really gets off it. And that has nothing to do with his being a shortarse.

Links: The Operation 8 Series