Around 2,000 people showed up at the protest in Wellington last week. Picture / File
Police are trying to “find a mole” who leaked a sensitive email to a right-wing blogger.
The email was sent by the Interpol office at the National Police Headquarters in New Zealand to its counterpart in
Canberra and sought information that could be used to stop a pair of alt-right agitators with large social media followers from attending the latest protest in Wellington.
It was obtained and published by former Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater on Monday on his new blog which regularly pushes Covid-19 conspiracy theories and views well to the right of the political spectrum.
The email was later picked up by right-wing outlets such as The Platform and Sky News Australia and has since spread to alternative media with millions of subscribers.
A spokesman for police headquarters said: “We can confirm that the email was written by New Zealand Police and sent to a number of people.
“Police in New Zealand and Australia are currently investigating how the email became public.”
The spokesperson said the email was in line with police practice of “regularly consulting and liaising with law enforcement around the world…as part of routine policing.”
Security expert Dr Paul Buchanan of 36th Parallel Assessments said the police response was “pretty pro forma for the cops” and should not be seen as unusual.
He said that at the time the request was made, Wellington was preparing for a protest which some said would lead to a repeat of the February occupation and that it made sense to avoid escalating tensions with alt-right agitators from Australia.
The demonstration saw around 2,000 people turn out for a protest march in which the leader of the Church of Destiny, Brian Tamaki, launched a new political movement. The protest saw a mock trial held which a disinformation expert said had “undertones of violent extremism”.
Buchanan said he considered it reasonable for police to ask Australian law enforcement to seek information which could then be used to deny entry to New Zealand on the grounds of bad character.
“We’ve got a lot of right-wing unrest. It’s really a tense moment for the cops. I think a manager said ‘we don’t need these foreign guys showing up and stirring shit up’. I think they were well within their rights.”
Buchanan said the long delay between when Slater revealed the email and the police comment signaled that there was a “security breach” and that “they were trying to find a mole.”
“For something to leak to Slater, it would indicate the possibility that there is someone who is ideologically close to or supportive of this guy’s actions.”
Slater was approached for a comment, to which he said “f*** off”.
The blogger suffered a massive credibility blow after the publication of the book Dirty Politics in 2014. Financial collapse followed, seeing him lose the Whaleoil website and go bankrupt. Its period of bankruptcy has just ended.
Through a new website, Slater has provided a platform for those opposing public health measures and has championed causes shared by those on the far right of the political spectrum.
Slater portrayed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as an “evil bully” and pledged to “spend every moment working” to remove her from office.
Wellington Police’s email to Australian counterparts highlighted the imminent arrival of Avi Yemini and Rukshan Fernandes who produce content for the right-wing Rebel News website.
Yemini claims to be a journalist but often presents information unsupported by fact-checking.
He said: ‘New Zealand Police are keen to prevent the two from entering New Zealand and are URGENTLY seeking any information regarding criminal convictions or any information which suggests that they are individuals of bad character, associated to criminal groups and individuals or groups of far-right extremism”.
When the couple attempted to travel to New Zealand, Yemini was unable to make it.
Yemini, who was convicted of domestic violence, had previously been refused entry to another country, which resulted in him being barred from New Zealand.
In the blog, Slater claimed the email showed “a deliberate political witch hunt against anyone deemed anti-government.”
In the three days since the email first appeared, it was widely circulated on right-wing conspiracy websites with millions of subscribers.
In a post on the new right-wing site The Platform, a ‘contributor’ to Slater’s site said he had been leaked by ‘a trusted source’ who had contacted to say ‘the police were lying and documents existed to prove it.
The email became the focus of a segment aired on Sky News Australia in which broadcaster Andrew Bolt called the email an “incredible development” in New Zealand’s refusal to allow the theorist the Avi Yemini plot in the country.
He also saw conspiracy theorist Australian Senator Ralph Babet release a statement in which he accused New Zealand of being an “authoritarian regime”.
Bolt said the email showed “New Zealand police are shopping in Australia for an excuse to ban Yemini.”