by Peter Calder, New Zealand Herald
If you're not paranoid, you haven't been paying attention. It's an old line, coined half in wry humour, half in deadly earnest, but it has a special pungency for Wellington filmmaker Errol Wright. Wright and co-director Abi King-Jones have spent most of the last three years making Operation 8, a restrained, even sober survey of the October 2007 "anti-terror raids" and their aftermath, that patiently paints a disturbing picture of the use of state force to suppress political dissent.
Wright is aware that the undertaking will have attracted close official attention. He recalls driving along a remote road late one evening and noticing a car a couple of hundred metres behind. "My cellphone rang," he says, "so I pulled over to answer it. And the other car pulled over 200m back. Then when I drove off, it continued to follow me." The incident spurred Wright to write to the Security Intelligence Service asking what information it held about him. He shows me the short letter he received in response. Over the signature of director Warren Tucker, it declines to confirm or deny that the SIS holds anything. In doing so, the letter says, it relies on section 32 of the Privacy Act, which allows an agency to withhold information if its release could "prejudice the maintenance of the law". "Which is a yes," chips in King-Jones.
"We have just taken the view that we expect there will be surveillance [of us] and we carry on. It's not a very nice feeling, but it brings you closer to the world of the people you are documenting."
The events of October 15, 2007 introduced the word "terrorist" into our domestic political discourse for the first time since 9/11 made it the century's most electrifying buzzword. More than 300 police raided 60 houses around the country, many in the Ruatoki valley in the heart of Tuhoe country. The raids, which resulted in 18 arrests, followed more than a year of surveillance and related to an alleged paramilitary training camp deep in the forests of the Urewera ranges. Within less than four weeks, the police case was in tatters: charges laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 were dropped after the Solicitor-General declined to prosecute them. He specifically defended the police action, but said there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charges, brought under legislation he called "complex and incoherent" and "almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances".
The firearms charges that remain are scheduled to be heard - controversially before a judge alone, not a jury, for reasons that have themselves been suppressed - next month in Auckland. Operation 8 - the film takes its title from the police codename for the 2007 raids - deliberately avoids using an instructive or tendentious voiceover. But it provides a pretty useful summary of a story which, its makers fear, has fallen off the public radar. "I think a lot of people are saying 'whatever happened with that? Are they in prison?'," says King-Jones. "Other people think the whole issue was finished when the Solicitor-General made the decision. People want to know - and they need to know - what happened and why."
What's new about the film is that it gives a voice to those who have so far been voiceless. The opening shots, a helicopter-eye view of the forest, plays over the words of 12-year-old Patricia Lambert, caught in the raids on Tuhoe. "I saw all these people in black," she says. "It was really scary."
Patricia ushers in the testimony of others in Tuhoe and elsewhere whose stories of police actions would be comical if they were not so chilling: unlocked doors kicked down; fences smashed a few metres from a wide-open gate; children and grannies in their nightwear, kneeling on wet concrete at gunpoint; officers yelling "you will be sent to Guantanamo!". Meanwhile a gallery of talking heads including security analyst Paul Buchanan, law professor Jane Kelsey and lawyer Moana Jackson comment lucidly and disturbingly on the original actions and the conduct of the case since.
There is testimony from former cops too, including Ross Meurant, whose contribution lent the film its subtitle "Deep in the Forest", and a one-time undercover man who makes some troubling inferences from the size of a police application for a surveillance warrant. Wright and King-Jones are aware of the charge that they sometimes appear almost to merge with their subjects. At one point, one of the more eloquent of those arrested, Valerie Morse, accosts Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe, the head of the operation, outside the Auckland District Court. "Do you really think I am a terrorist?", she asks. The microphone she thrusts towards him is plugged into King's camera and I feel constrained to ask him whether he has crossed the invisible, but important, line between a documentarian and his subject. "I think it's impossible to be totally neutral when you are making something. It's very difficult to understand what the environment is for being a political activist in NZ if you don't spend enough time finding out." Adds King-Jones: "When you collect all this observational material, you get to know these people. It's an important part of the process because these people are in a way quite isolated because of what they have been through. You have to get over their very understandable suspicion. They are wondering 'Are you someone that can be trusted?' or 'What's your angle?', that sort of thing. You can't really separate yourself from your environment." No one disputes that most, if not all, of the 18 have a history of activism. But the film raises concerns about the role police anti-terrorism measures can play in stifling the legitimate dissent that is the lifeblood of democracy. Wright and King-Jones point out that what might be dubbed the "protest movement" has been sidelined since the 1970s when political dissent was commonplace. "It's been really crushed in the last 10 or 20 years," says Wright, "and this was a further crunch."
In any case they are impatient with the notion of objectivity, a term commonly used by people who wish something had been slanted their way. "[In the raid], 18 people were arrested, 60 houses smashed into, stuff turned totally upside down," says Wright. "The police got to present their point of view through the media and they called press conferences all the time. They have a whole full-time PR team at Police National HQ. They are very well-resourced to look after their own interests. And at the same time, you have these people who really have no voice."
So is their film a dispassionate or activist one? "Both, really," says King-Jones. "It's about allowing the audience to hear and see something and take away from it what they want. They don't want to be banged over the head with anything. But you want to be able to take them by the hand and lead them somewhere and say: 'What do you think of that?'." Unsurprisingly the pair are hoping for a good turnout at the screenings - and even a bit of noise. "It's an opportunity for people to take stock of where this country is going," says Wright, "and ask themselves whether we want this kind of country. Because if we don't rein it in soon we are going to be in too deep." King-Jones: "I just hope that audiences will get a first-hand experience of the people who were targeted. If you are able to get a broader picture of where this has all come from, maybe you will go away from it being more aware of what's going on."
Operation 8: Deep In The Forest screens at the Paramount in Wellington tomorrow at 2.45pm and at Skycity Theatre in Auckland on Monday at 3pm and 8.15pm as part of the World Cinema Showcase.
by David Larsen, The Listener
Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones's documentary about the 2007 anti-terrorism raids deserves a wide audience
Have you noticed that when people, especially politicians, say “We need to have a national discussion about this”, it generally means, “We are not going to have a national discussion about this”? I’m not sure exactly what a national discussion would look like, or where it would take place; on any given subject, we seem to go in for lots of little discussions, in lots of different places, often with very little cross-pollination. But imagine for a moment that you are in a giant room filled with every other New Zealander, and someone says, “Now we’re going to watch a film, and afterwards maybe we could talk about it”.
That is the spirit in which Operation 8, Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones’s documentary about the 2007 anti-terrorism raids, needs to be viewed. And I say “needs to be viewed” advisedly, because this is a film that every New Zealander ought to see. It has a very clear political agenda, and we ought to welcome that: there is no way to deal with this subject without taking a position on it, and a film which attempted to present itself as innocently objective would strike me as far more suspect than one which wears its heart on its sleeve. A two-hour film about three years in the life of a police case and the people it targeted simply cannot tell the full story; there isn’t time. The devil is in the things you choose to leave out. I’m much happier with the selection bias of the film-makers out in the open.
As you’ll gather from the trailer, the film speaks for the 18 people who were arrested in 2007, and their families, communities and friends. Three years on, they are finally on the verge of having their day in court. This puts obvious limitations on what can be discussed in the film. Wright and King-Jones avoid focusing on the charges the 18 are facing, aside from noting that the original attempt to charge 12 of them under the Terrorism Suppression Act fell over when the Solicitor-General ruled the act’s requirements had not been met. Instead the film asks questions about who was targeted, how evidence was gathered, and what the implications are of having a dedicated anti-terrorism squad as a permanent feature of New Zealand’s law enforcement apparatus. For example, Police commissioner Howard Broad is shown implicitly acknowledging in media interviews that part of the Crown case rests on evidence gathered by informants. The film examines past cases where informers have been caught lying or inciting the people on whom they’re informing to break the law; we see an interview with Patrick O’Brien, a former police undercover agent who says, very straightforwardly, “I tampered with evidence; I lied; that was my job”. (He was not involved in evidence-gathering for Operation 8; he makes it clear, however, that he does not think police culture has changed since his time.) Ross Meurant – hardly a left-wing radical – is interviewed on the phenomenon of police isolation and self-reinforcing paranoia, a condition thanks to which, he says, their selective reading of ambiguous evidence is not reliable. “Much of what they deduce is bullshit.”
It would be perfectly legitimate to question how relevant these discussions are to the Operation 8 case; questioning is what the film asks you to do. Likewise, the fact that Operation 8 targeted activists from a wide range of unrelated left-wing causes may be simply because those activists were covertly working together, and not, as the film suggests, because those are the people the police are institutionally programmed to target, and sooner or later, an anti-terrorism squad is going to target someone. It would be as naive to imagine New Zealanders are incapable of plotting armed insurrection as it would be to suppose that the police are incapable of abusing their powers. Some people will vehemently disagree with this film. Others will endorse it whole-heartedly. A lot of people will have things to say about whether and where it crosses over from advocacy into factual distortion. I want to hear all of those voices. This is not an issue to stay quiet on. The film is currently screening at World Cinema Showcase. It may screen at the New Zealand International Film Festival later this year, and it’s possible it will get some sort of theatrical distribution as well. I hope so. Personally, I want to get hold of it on DVD and watch it at least twice more. It’s a densely argued, detail-rich two hours, and it deserves to be watched, absorbed, and discussed. Yes, nationally.
OPERATION 8, directed by Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones, at the World Cinema Showcase.
by Tom McKinlay, The Otago Daily Times
As a chapter in the war on terror closed this week, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, ripples from the tsunami of fear he helped unleash lapped against distant New Zealand. Cables released by Wikileaks indicated that the police case against the Urewera 18 was expected to end merely in fines for the defendants, according to the police themselves. That result would be a big come-down from the fevered talk of terrorism by police and politicians alike in the days after the arrests on October 15, 2007 - sparked by fears of paramilitary camps in the thickly forested North Island hills.
It is another twist in a tale two New Zealand documentary makers have been following since the early days of the drama. Their documentary, Operation 8, screens as part of the World Cinema Showcase film festival next week in Dunedin.
That all the talk of terrorism has gone quiet is no surprise to the film-makers, Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones, who quickly sensed that the picture painted on prime-time television did not quite ring true. "I saw the news headlines on October 15  and I was just generally kind of shocked and confused as to what seemed to me to be a really aggressive, full-on police action, especially what had happened up in Ruatoki," Wright said. "Then on the same day I think [then Police Commissioner] Howard Broad was on the news at 5 o'clock and he put this terrorism idea out into the public."
It seemed to Wright then that Mr Broad was getting ahead of the evidence, as little time had elapsed since the raids to determine whether insurgency was really in the making - more than 60 houses around New Zealand had been raided.
As it turned out, the police case unravelled quickly, and within four weeks of the raids charges laid under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002 were dropped when the Solicitor-general decided they would not stand up. What is left of the police case is scheduled to finally make its way to trial later this month.
In making Operation 8 - which takes its name from the police operation - Wright and King-Jones went back to the people whose houses were raided, as well as looking at some wider issues. "Doing the interviews with the people up in Ruatoki about what happened to them on the day of the raids was quite moving, just to hear the stories of families and specifically what had happened to children and the fact that people had been locked in sheds and not been given food and that kind of thing," King-Jones says.
"Also in terms of the broader area that we look at in terms of police surveillance in New Zealand and the extent to which that has targeted activists in really intrusive ways was quite eye-opening." Among those the film-makers talked to were a former police undercover agent, whose revelations and observations about the raids were "especially dramatic", she says. "In the broader sense, we looked at what goes on in New Zealand in terms of the surveillance and security agencies and how much power they have and how they keep extending that power with every new bit of legislation that comes in, in terms of their reach of surveillance into the lives of Kiwis.
"I guess putting all of that stuff, and looking at where the war on terror and colonisation has come from into one document gives a view of a side of New Zealand that many people don't have a window on." And for the people of Ruatoki, in the Tuhoe lands at the centre of the action, the raids had more than a little of the whiff of colonisation about them. "That was what came out immediately," King-Jones says. "For Tuhoe in particular, they have a very specific personal history with the police in terms of it being an arm of the State."
Parallels were drawn with the police action taken against Rua Kenana at Maungapohatu in 1916, during which his son was killed and Kenana taken away and imprisoned. "For them it was a very real current thing happening in terms of them being able to link it back to their recent experience with the State and the police."
The film opens with the 2007 raids. "We begin the film by getting the first-hand experiences of these people, when they tell the story of what it was like to wake up on October 15 and hear something outside their house or see red dots in their house and what their initial reactions were," King-Jones says. "Was this just some drunk people walking past on their way home, or the horses running around their house? Then suddenly there's these guns and these guys in terror get-up and they are being yelled at and screamed at and their families are being dragged out on to the street.
"Then on the other side of it you had the people who just thought, suddenly there were these police officers there 'and they were telling me I was a terrorist and it was just ludicrous and I just laughed'."
Wright says recent concerns raised by members of Te Whanau A Apanui on the North Island's East Coast that they might be subjected to similar raids as a result of their protest against offshore oil drilling, should not be lightly dismissed. "Ultimately it is always a possibility. The reality is that there are 16 detectives in Auckland working full-time on finding the terrorist threats, there are 12 in Wellington and I think eight in Christchurch, so I think the threshold for what these people are looking at is lowered," he says.
"Over the last few years we have seen more and more use of the Armed Offenders [Squads] coming out for what would usually be a routine thing and ultimately people are getting shot or totally intimidated." Some care had to be taken by the film-makers with court cases looming. They had to be careful not to include anything covered by suppression orders or that would otherwise put them in contempt of court. "We didn't ask people in any of the interviews what was going on at these supposed camps because anything along that line of questioning is sub judice," King-Jones says.
Screenings of the documentary in the North Island have been well-attended, the film-makers say, with extended question-and-answer sessions at the end. "People are usually quite worked up after the screenings and want to know more," King-Jones says. The pair will also be at the Dunedin screenings in the coming week.
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett The Dominion Post
The aftermath of the 2007 police raids in the Ureweras, and of various households around Auckland and Wellington, is about to play out in our courts. Errol Wright and Abi King- Jones' film on the background to these raids, and of how it came to pass that black-clad and masked, heavily armed police found themselves holding women and children hostage without access to food or outside contact, is as timely as it is shocking. Operation 8 carefully and rigorously advances the theory that if you tell a group of police investigators to go and find some terrorists, then after a year or two they will feel duty-bound to at least point the finger - if not the assault rifle - at someone.
Whether or not anyone in the Ureweras was actually planning murder and mayhem is for the court to decide. Having seen Operation 8, you will seriously doubt it.
Interviewing ex-Red Squad member and National Party MP Ross Meurant was a coup for Wellington's Wright and King-Jones. That he provides the most damning commentary of all on the actions of our police and government should be enough to convince most viewers that this film needed and deserved to be made. Operation 8 is a terrific piece of New Zealand film-making. Go see for yourself.
Reviewed by Dan Slevin The Capital Times
I was expecting to come out of Operation 8 fired up but instead I emerged depressed and dispirited. I knew that New Zealand’s default political setting was benign complacency but I hadn’t realised that the full force of a - frankly - barely competent police state was being brought to bear on the few of us who were actually agitating and protesting for a more progressive society.
Operation 8 is Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones’ unashamedly partisan telling of the 2007 “Urewera 18” scandal in which disparate protest groups across New Zealand (with the focus on Tuhoe’s independence movement) were violently raided, imprisoned and - now about to be - given a trial without a jury. It’s a shocking litany of state arrogance and ineptitude, all the more depressing for commencing under a Labour Government.
That these travesties occurred without public outcry is thanks to our old friend, the late and unlamented Osama Bin Laden - one outcome of his butchery is the increasing reach of the police state in places like ours that should be protecting freedom rather than attacking it. See Operation 8 and take as many people as possible with you.
Reviewed by Russell Baillie The New Zeland Herald
(FIVE STARS) Verdict: Best NZ “terrorist” film since Sleeping Dogs. And it’s real.
The trial from the protracted case resulting from the “anti-terror” raids of October 2007 was to have started this week. But yet another legal hurdle has meant the arrested 18’s day in court is still to come. Had the case gone ahead, it may have helped spur interest in Operation 8, a doco which lets those initially accused of being homegrown terrorists have their say – about the indignity an d fear of that initial raid by 300 police, mostly in Ruatoki deep in Tuhoe territory, has become four years of hardship and harassment as the case has slipped further off the public radar.
But this clear-eyed, involving film stands on its own merits and deserves to be seen and debated.
It could so easily become just a litany of complaints and activist political slogans to be endured rather than engaged by. While the police case – one which the Solicitor General declined to prosecute under 2002’s post 9/11 Terrorism Suppression Act – is mainly represented by the post-raid press conference of the then commissioner Howard Broad.
But Directors Wright and King-Jones have assembled their material to flow effortlessly as a good yarn while making various cohesive arguments about issues surrounding the case.
They also let you form your own impressions of some of the 18 – ranging from the familiar moko of Tame Iti to Wellington defendant Urs, a Swiss activist anarchist clarinetist, whose woodwind stylings are clearly a danger to any decent society.
It also brings in the insights of various sympathetic academics, legal brains, veteran protesters and former police officers (including Ross Meurant) to discuss the case in a wider context and ponder the motivations behind the police actions and the interception warrants which preceded the raids.
Its cameras do spend a little long following repeated protest marches. But the footage of shady men in suits filming marchers and, when the camera is turned on them, donning balaclavas and scooting away is priceless and adds neatly to this film's justified paranoid streak.
Of course, from where most of us sit, many of those arrested – rightly or wrongly – have some funny ideas about how The World Should Be. But what this doco says, articulately and credibly, is funny ideas shouldn’t get you door kicked in and you stuck in a legal mire for four years.
Reviewed by Helen Martin ON FILM
There are shocks galore in this outstanding political documentary. For me the most startling was hearing Ross Meurant, former detective, sometime National Party MP and the face of the much-hated Red Squad during the 1981 Springbok Tour, give frank insider insight into the mind of the New Zealand Police establishment.
According to Meurant, the world of law-enforcement-think is a forest where the further you go into the forest, the more paranoid you become. This paranoia, Meurant says, leads to detachment and a consequently distorted notion of reality. And while this is not news to those of us outside the institution, it’s amazing hearing it coming from one who was once so committed to it.
Another shock Prime Minister Helen Clark, always keen to oil troubled waters with the voice of reason and calm, justifies the outrageous 15 October, 2007 police raids on a number of New Zealand’s political activists on the grounds that these people were planning terrorist attacks, posing a serious terrorist threat to the country’s security.
From the first scenes the tone is set for a down-home Orwellian nightmare, as black-clad, balaclava-wearing police smash their way into the homes of Ruatoki’s Tuhoe and of activists in other parts of the country in a series of early morning raids. Victims of the raids, including children, describe how the police, among other things, held guns to their heads, incarcerating them for hours with no food, water or toilet access. Several animal rights campaigners were among those targeted in the raids.
A huge strength of this meticulously constructed documentary is its scope. The 15 October events are carefully outlined; the arrests of several people under the 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act, the refusal of the Solicitor General, David Collins, to give consent to the charges being brought, the subsequent charging of 18 people in February 2008 (charges include participation in an organised criminal group and possession of weapons under the Arms Act) and the strict bail conditions forcing many defendants to regularly travel the many miles to Auckland.
While local in focus, the issues raised in Operation 8 are global. Alongside the narration of events the film patiently provides a voice for a great number of protagonists, defendants, lawyers, Ruatoki locals, academics, former undercover cops and others, as it unpicks the historical, political and social contexts of those events: the Suppression Act looking for an outing; police abuse of power (some of which, such as the Guantanamo Bay threat, is just plain laughable); media demonisation of Tuhoe, in particular poster bad boy Tame Iti, capitalising on good ratings opportunities and to hell with the truth; government denial of Tuhoe’s claims for ownership of Te Urewera; the crude face of unabashed racism and class division in this country; and the insidious surveillance culture in which we are all now deeply embedded.
With a massive amount of footage to wrangle, filmmakers Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones (Caretakers of the Land, The Last Resort), with support from veteran documentary makers Gaylene Preston and Alister Barry, spent over three years making Operation 8. Their dedication and commitment is to be applauded.
The 15 defendants due to go for trial on 30 May were told their fate would be decided by a single judge, rather than a jury. With their lawyers appealing against this, and against the admissibility of some evidence, the trials have been deferred for yet another year. Police Commissioner Howard Broad, who presided over the raids and arrests, has resigned, leaving the ongoing management to his successor, Peter Marshall. Continued support for the victims is being provided by October 15th Solidarity, www.October15thSolidarity.info. Further reading
ed Danny Keenan. 2008. Terror in Our Midst?: Searching for Terror in Aotearoa New Zealand. Huia Publishers, Wellington
Reviewed by Geoff Mercer Whakatane Beacon
“EVERYONE in Ruatoki’s got a .303 rifle … if you had a koro that went to the war,” says Maraki Teepa in the documentary Operation 8. “That’s what they took … our Koro’s antique gun,” he said of the so-called police terror raid at his home on October 15, 2007. “It’s a taonga to us. It might be evidence to them, but it’s a taonga to us and we want it back.” Teepa’s words are spoken from the front lawn of the Ruatoki home police burst into after smashing the lock mechanism on his unlocked ranchslider.
He is one of many Tuhoe from Te Urewera and Ruatoki to feature in Operation 8, yet the documentary is much bigger than Tuhoe. Anyone curious about how New Zealand’s undercover agencies work needs to watch this film. The portrayal that emerges is disturbing. Sure, the documentary is not objective, but neither can what it reveals be easily dismissed.
Over 110 minutes it paints a fascinating but disturbing view of the 2007 raids, and their aftermath. Its title, Operation 8, was the name police gave to the operation.
There are interviews with key Tuhoe leaders and victims of raids conducted by 300 police at 60 houses throughout the country. I use the term “victim” intentionally. First-hand accounts of confrontations with firearm-wielding police are difficult to dismiss. It is impossible to watch the footage and conclude many living in Ruatoki, especially children, were not frightened and treated unfairly.
The Ruatoki people spoken to express shock and surprise at the way police acted. Why did they smash his unlocked door, Mr Teepa asks? Another, Tuhoe Lambert, living in Palmerston North, points to an open gateway at his property that police ignored in favour of chainsawing a hole through his fence.
Documentary makers Errol Wright, 35, and Abi King-Jones, 33, spent more than three years recording key events since October 2007 in Ruatoki, Wellington, Auckland and elsewhere. Wright began filming post October 15 raid-related events on a hunch the footage would be a useful record of a significant event. King-Jones joined him in October 2008. The pair have collaborated twice before – over the comedic short film Findrs Weeprs and The Last Resort, about the sale of a Mahia campground to developers.
While suppression orders and restrictions around reporting material likely to influence a trial means one cannot reasonably expect to conclude guilt or innocence through watching the documentary, a Keystone Cops impression of New Zealand’s secret services slowly but surely emerges. Bugging of phones, vehicles and homes produced quips one might expect of terrorists, such as threats to kill United States president George Bush.
But security analyst Paul Buchanan, who claims to have seen most of the evidence, says such threats were often made by people drunk at the time, the implication being police had intercepted beer-talk. As Buchanan says: “… we need to look a little harder and find out what they’re saying when they are sober, and this does not appear to have been done in this instance, and that’s faulty intelligence work.”
Eastern Bay audiences will learn much about accused from other walks of life. While it is easy to associate Tuhoe accused such as the outspoken Tame Iti with the quest for Tuhoe mana motuhake, or autonomy, the list appears to include animal rights and peace activists. The state set a net, the mesh gauged to catch terrorists, and hauled in a mixed catch. Various experts and activists speculate that having an undercover police section dedicated to countering groups perceived to threaten society means those same agencies must produce results to warrant their very existence.
Former MP and policeman Ross Meurant reckons analysis of much of the intercepted and supposedly incriminating evidence obtained by police amounts to “bullshit”. The documentary raises questions about police tactics when it comes to obtaining evidence. A former police undercover agent, Patrick O’Brien, who was not involved with the raids, candidly admits: “I tampered with evidence; I lied; that was my job”. He says contact with agents who have recently left the service assures him nothing has changed.
If you are a conspiracy theorist convinced the CIA lurks just around every corner, Operation 8 will only mildly excite you.
If you consider yourself an ordinary New Zealander but are curious about the secret-squirrel side of New Zealand policing, you
In the early hours of October 15th 2007, activists around New Zealand
woke to screaming voices and guns in their faces.
Masked police in black smashed through doors and gates, dragging families
out onto roads and detaining others without food or water.
Houses were ransacked and ‘evidence’ confiscated.
In the small rural village of Ruatoki, helicopters flew overhead while
locals were stopped at roadblocks, their photos taken and their cars searched.
Those arrested were interrogated and then imprisoned for four weeks.
The War on Terror had arrived in Aotearoa.
Over 300 police raided around 60 houses throughout the country. Operation 8 had involved 18 months of invasive surveillance of Maori sovereignty and peace activists accused of attending terrorist training camps in the Urewera bush – homeland of the Tuhoe people.
Prominent Tuhoe campaigner Tame Iti was said to have lead the planned insurgency. The police and media spoke of napalm bombs and plans to kill the prime minister and George W. Bush. Protests in support of those accused erupted around the country. When the bid to have charges laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act failed, a leak of an anti-terror squad affidavit swung the tide of public opinion back in favour of the police. Once out on bail the ‘Urewera 18’ face a drawn out and heavily taxing court process. Families are broken up and livelihoods destroyed.
'Operation 8' asks why and how the raids took place within the contexts of colonisation, state suppression of dissent, police culture and America’s War on Terror. How did the search for Osama bin Laden become a global witch-hunt of political dissenters - reaching even to the South Pacific?
Made over 3 years the film goes to the front line of resistance against state control in the post-911 era. In this world, those in power conjure the spectre of terrorism at will. What really goes on ‘Deep in the forest’?