Three cheers for the domebusters who kicked Waihopai in the ball!

Victories are few and far between in this game and tend to be hard won. They deserve to be celebrated when they do occur. Anti-Bases Campaign made sure that we celebrated the total victory of the Waihopai Domebusters.

Three Christian peace activists, Adrian Leason, Peter Murnane and Sam Land, whose 2008 dome deflation operation owed more to the Three Stooges than al Qaeda have totally defeated the covert State, namely the GCSB and its NSA overlords.

They were acquitted by a Wellington jury of all criminal charges in a 2010 trial. And now the Government has admitted defeat and voluntarily withdrawn its’ petty and vindictive $1.2 million civil damages suit against the three of them personally. Guess that means that the GCSB will have to pay itself for the pies and drinks consumed by the workers who erected the replacement dome (and which were included in the damages claim).

As to any suggestion that the Domebusters “got away with it”: nonsense. After deflating the dome they waited a full 30 minutes before any of the “top secret super secure” spy base’s security personnel showed up. They were fully prepared to take the consequences of their actions. What the covert State was not expecting was that they would use a defence that saw them acquitted, not on a legal technicality, but because a jury of ordinary New Zealanders (what politicians used to be fond of calling “right thinking New Zealanders”) could see who were the real criminals in this case – and it wasn’t the Domebusters. This stinging defeat in the criminal court stuck in the throat of the covert State so much that it changed the law so that defence could never again be available. That’s democracy, eh – if you don’t get the result you like, change the law.

After their acquittal in the criminal trial in 2010 there was much outraged bellowing from politicians and media commentators. But after the covert State meekly surrendered (announcing the decision immediately before a long weekend, a favourite time to dump unpalatable news) there was barely a whimper. Why? Where were the media commentators demanding to know why the covert State had thrown in the towel? The only reason given was that it was unlikely that it actually would have got $1.20 from the Domebusters, let alone $1.2 million. Really? That had been glaringly obvious from Day One. As our Aussie mates would say, Blind Freddie could see that.

I think it was that, since 2010, public opinion in New Zealand has swung dramatically against the GCSB and, globally, against the NSA, in light of the revelations of massive systematic criminality both here and around the world, exposed by both the Dotcom case and the Edward Snowden revelations. The powers that be suddenly decided that not only were they on a hiding to nothing in regard to getting any money (or pies or drinks); their very vindictiveness was only succeeding in turning an unwelcome spotlight onto the spies. In short, they wanted to kill the story and get the GCSB out of the headlines and back under its rock.

What did Barack and his BFF John talk about during their much hyped round of golf in Hawaii in January? Key says that he told Obama that there had been no Snowden revelations about NZ as per yet but that he expected some this (election) year. Maybe the golfing buddies decided that, as if the Dotcom fiasco is not bad enough, that the Domebusters’ case was becoming a bad look and that the eager to please caddy was advised to cut his losses and shut it down.

Whatever the reason, the Domebusters won three times over – they made the base a laughing stock by getting right into it and deflating the dome; they were acquitted in the criminal trial; and they have walked away unscathed from the million dollar damages claim. Three strikes and you’re out, covert State. And right throughout the whole six year process they succeeded in showing who are the real criminals in this story – the GCSB and its NSA overlords. At ABC’s latest Waihopai protest on January 25th, Adi Leason addressed the cops guarding the spy base and challenged them to stop protecting the criminals who operate the place.

When they were acquitted in 2010 the late Bob Leonard and I from ABC had a celebratory drink with Christchurch defence lawyers Mike Knowles and Moana Cole. Bob had made a major contribution to the defence with an affidavit – he patiently waited through all eight days of the trial but was prevented from taking the stand because the Crown objected that he wasn’t really an “expert” witness. But they couldn’t stop his affidavit forming a key part of the defence evidence, both at the criminal trial and at the hearings that were held over the civil damages claim. My role was more modest but maybe crucial – I provided the affidavit that persuaded a judge to transfer the criminal trial to Wellington on the grounds that the Domebusters wouldn’t get a fair trial in Blenheim.

And ABC certainly wasn’t going to let this latest victory pass by without a celebration. The saddest thing was that Bob died in August 2013 and wasn’t here to savour the total victory. 12,000 earthquakes since 2010 meant that we had to go a bit further to the pub this time but last Friday night nearly all of the ABC Committee, with spouses, gathered with Mike Knowles to celebrate.

We drank a toast to absent friends, of whom Bob Leonard was first and foremost.

Obviously we toasted Adi, Peter and Sam, for their incredible bravery in doing what they did, their willingness to face prison and financial ruin (not to mention electrocution cutting the spy base’s electric fence to get in), and their unflinching adherence to principle all the way through. Theirs was a model textbook example of nonviolent direct action.

And we drank a toast to Mike Knowles, the lawyer who defeated the covert State and who was paid the ultimate backhanded compliment – they changed the law so that he can’t do that again. They gravely underestimated this man who eschews mobile phones, credit cards and computers, preferring to use instead the vintage typewriter which his wife has christened “Dickens”. They underestimated a man who, in the course of working on this case, survived the collapse of the ceiling of his 19th Century office during the February 2011 killer quake and then helped dig some of Christchurch’s best known lawyers and other professionals out of the rubble of the Provincial Chambers Building.

I was delighted to persuade him to recite in the pub an excerpt from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem that he recited in court, complete with accompanying gestures:

“Last came Anarchy: he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.

“And he wore a kingly crown;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
On his brow this mark I saw -
'I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW’”

The poem concludes:

“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few”. (Mike concluded by telling us: “At which point the judge rolled his eyes”).

Good on you Mike, you bloody old ham. A lawyer who uses a typewriter, prefers to ride a bike and who recites 19th Century Romantic poems in court – the covert State didn’t stand a chance.

Anti-Bases Campaign

Box 2258, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand

abc@chch.planet.org.nz

www.converge.org.nz/abc

www.facebook.com/AotearoaABC

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Thanks for the rarity of a positive news story. Support and best wishes from an ordinary kiwi.

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