Karl du Fresne reports on a movie called The 5th Eye about the Waihopai spy base vandals
The Waihopai Three were convinced that innocent people were dying – in Iraq, especially – as a result of Waihopai’s inclusion in an international network of Western spy bases operating under an alliance known as Five Eyes.
The saboteurs used this as justification for slashing an inflatable plastic dome with a sickle. According to the government, the repair bill came to $1.2 million
Using the Waihopai saboteurs as its anchor point, The 5th Eye built an elaborate case implicating New Zealand in a sinister international conspiracy to spy on people and to use the information obtained to kill and wage unjust war – all in the political and economic interests of America.
It’s a skilfully crafted propaganda film that owes a lot to the techniques of the left-wing American documentary maker Michael Moore.
I suspect I was a minority of one in the audience. While most of the people around me obviously saw the Waihopai Three as heroes, I regarded the men as zealots, so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they considered themselves above the law.
But here’s an admission: I came away with a more charitable view of the saboteurs. I had always accepted that they were sincerely motivated. What I wasn’t prepared for was that they were such a likeable bunch of bumblers. There was something almost endearing in the amateurish way they went about their act of vandalism.
I’ve no doubt that their religious motivation, their implacable belief that they were doing God’s work and their disarming candour helped persuade a jury to acquit them of burglary and wilful damage charges.
At the time, the verdict made no sense. The satellite dish had been vandalised and they admitted they were responsible. How could they possibly get off? They admitted they expected to go to jail. Around the court it became known as the “No-hopai” case.
But the dynamics of the court room can produce strange outcomes. The quiet conviction of the men’s testimony and the passionate advocacy of their defence counsel resulted in the jury accepting the novel argument that because the men believed the satellite dish was the cause of human suffering, their action was lawful.
Similarly, the fact that my work is the source of so much political mayhem, the fact that they stole and published my emails is all just fine. The public good justifies the crime, so they say.
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t happy with the court’s Waihopai decision at the time. They should have gone with Guilty and a suspended sentence perhaps.
But we continue to see that the law and in fact what is right and wrong is totally flexible depending on the observer.
A hungry man can steal food. Apparently.
Whereas a hungry man that works to get money to buy food gets absolutely no credit whatsoever.
Should you be Not Guilty for killing your wife’s rapist? Or should you be guilty, but have a sentence that reflects the circumstances.
I don’t like the idea of the law not applying. The lenience lies in the sentencing.
The fact they expected to go to jail shows they knew they would cross a line. It has always been remarkable to me that the law did not apply once you invoke True belief in your cause. On that basis, I have a defence for everything I do.
– Karl du Fresne, First published in the Manawatu Standard and Nelson Mail, September 21