- Gordon Campbell - http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz -

Gordon Campbell on the Police harassment of Nicky Hager

So now we know. If you’ve done something to really annoy the Establishment – hello, Kim Dotcom, Heather Du Plessis Allen, Nicky Hager and teapot tapes photographer Bradley Ambrose – not only will you rocket to the top of the priority list for the Police and their scant resources, but chances are they’ll overstep their lawful authority while turning you over. Meanwhile the dodgy behaviours and payments documented in Hager’s book Dirty Politics will go un- investigated. How many more examples of Police partiality in the use of its investigative discretion do we need? The Police are a tool. Cross their political masters and you’ll pay the price.

In the case of the Hager investigation there are several disturbing aspects. Beforehand, the Police knew they were unlikely to find any evidence relevant to the identity of the hacker they were trying to find. Hager was officially not a suspect. Justice Clifford’s decision says that this was a mission motivated by little more than hope. Secondly, what the judge called the Police’s “fundamental error” was that they failed to reveal to the District Court judge issuing the search warrant that the target of their warrant was a journalist – and therefore someone likely to enjoy the protections afforded to journalists under the Evidence Act.

This looks particularly suspicious when – at 8.30am in a search that went on to 6pm– the Police actually asked Hager whether he wanted to invoke his journalistic privilege. Which Hager immediately did. As a result, this prevented the Police from examining the material they were gathering. It became evidence that had to be bagged and sealed, and could be opened subsequently only at the order of (another) judge. Therefore, if this was a raid designed to get evidence that would quickly uncover the hacker’s identity, it had become pointless almost as soon as the Police gained entry to Hager’s house.

The more important point being : if the Police knew about the probability of journalistic privilege being invoked, why didn’t they tell the District Court judge beforehand – in which case, the judge might have asked them some awkward questions. With hindsight, it looks like a willful lack of disclosure by the Police officers concerned. (Lets leave aside for now the issue of how the Police managed to find a judge who must be the only person in New Zealand unaware that this Nicholas Alfred Hager bloke named on the warrant was, in fact, a journalist. Did it not occur to the judge to ask any questions at all? Given that the scrutiny of the judge is supposed to be a check and balance on Police getting search warrants willy nilly, this part of the story isn’t very re-assuring, either.)

So, where are we now? Hager has had his belongings (some of them the basic tools of his trade) held in Police custody for well over a year. Hopefully – if the Police don’t appeal the decision – those belongings will now be returned, and lets hope that the inconvenience gets added to the compensation and damages payment Hager is now surely liable to receive, after being on the receiving end of an unlawful Police warrant and search.

Already there has been a lot of talk about how Justice Clifford’s decision has set a precedent and raised the bar on journalistic privilege [1]. I don’t really think so. The rules were already there in black and white in the Evidence Act, and the Police broke them at will. If sufficiently motivated, they will do so again. The next time someone royally pisses off the political Establishment, it’s a safe bet that the Police will come knocking on their door.

In this case, the Police were hoping to find something that might criminalise Hager, and shut him up for good. If that didn’t happen, they could at least harass him, inconvenience him and disrupt his ability to do his work for months and months on end. That goal has been achieved. Ultimately, you can bet no Police officer will be sanctioned over this affair. And as always, the taxpayers will pick up the compensation tab for the Police incompetence (and/or malice) that has marked their behavior on this occasion.

Christmas songs

Its almost Christmas week, so… ho ho ho, time for a bit of Yuletide song and general merriment. Red Red Meat were a beloved late 1990s band who put out two perfect and psychedelically obtuse records (Bunny Gets Paid was the masterpiece ) that still stand up pretty well today. “There’s A Star Above The Manger Tonight” was the title of the second of those efforts. It is a Christmas song – with a banjo wound up so tight it sounds Chinese – but the lyrics also go somewhere else entirely. Is “Let the lost keep staying lost…” really a Christmas sentiment?

Brandy and rye, the magpies are stirring
Lay down your last twenty dollars
Shepherds are dead sober, whispering numbers
There’s a star above the manger tonight
The Devil gets wise when you start to win
Dead from your pleasures too soon

Horseflies are flying slow, heavy from your remains
Silver green, many mansions above us
Wash up your hands before you dive in
Sweet baby Jesus, give me luck at the tables
There’s a star above the manger tonight
Turn down the lighthouse low
Let the lost keep staying lost
Shepherds are dead sober, whispering numbers
There’s a star above the manger tonight

Run-DMC’s Christmas in Hollis” is one of their most endearing songs. Run sees Santa and his reindeer in the park and mistakes the reindeer for a dog. And then finds Santa’s wallet, stuffed with cash. What’s a poor black guy to do ?

But I’d never steal from Santa, ’cause that ain’t right
So I was going home to mail it back to him that night
But when I got home I bugged, ’cause under the tree
Was a letter from Santa and the dough is for me

It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens
Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa puttin’ gifts under Christmas trees…

Sorry, this next one is truly terrible – and I include it only as evidence that Billy Idol really does bear a striking resemblance to Lockwood Smith.

This 1955 track by the Hepsters is simply the best rock’n’roll Christmas song, ever. Some genius has set it to footage of his daughter playing at a fairground in Swansea….

Here, from about 1963, is a great ska version of “White Christmas”: by two Jamaican guys called Simms and Robinson.

The Qualities were an offshoot of jazzman Sun Ra and his merry pranksters from Saturn. From circa 1960, here’s their quasi-doowop novelty song “Its Christmas Time”

And here finally are the Temptations, with what, to my mind, is the best version of “Silent Night” ever recorded.

Anyone got any others?

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