Spied on since she was 10

BY MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 23:30 28/01/2009
JOHN SELKIRK/The Dominion Post
I SPY: Activist Marie Leadbeater, 63, discovered that she has had her own SIS file since was 10-years-old.

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You are never too young to be regarded as a potential subversive, a Security Intelligence Service file shows.

Maire Leadbeater, now 63 and a long-time activist on peace issues, was an early target because of her Christchurch parents, Elsie and Jack Locke, who were prominent members of the New Zealand Communist Party and community activists.

Elsie Locke left the Communist Party in 1956 when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary, but her husband stayed.

One of Leadbeater's siblings is Green MP Keith Locke, a former Trotskyist and member of the Socialist Action League who has also received his SIS file.

Leadbeater's file, which she received late last year, begins when she was 10, with a note that she delivered the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Voice, to the mother of twins in Bangor St, in central Christchurch.

The next item refers to her membership of a junior drama group that the file says was connected with the William Morris (a Fabian socialist) Group, regarded by the SIS as a front for the Communist Party. Elsie Locke performed in the group.

The file continues to track Leadbeater's life, although the SIS lost track of her when she married and took her husband's name. "They lost me for about 13 years," she said.

Her file, like most of the others released, contains material from private meetings.

"I find that the hardest to accept," Leadbeater said. "That small groups of people gathering together in private homes and offices should have someone planted in the meetings.

"It's pretty shocking really. It's potentially very bad for democracy because it makes people anxious about involving themselves in free discussion of ideas and has a big impact on trust if you have to think to yourself `one of us could be a source'."  

She was surprised to find her file contains a list of every member of the Palestine Human Rights Committee.

Her file  contained references to the state of her parents' marriage, which the SIS thought would be strained by Elsie's departure from the party.

``It's all wrong anyway,'' Leadbeater said. ``It's unpleasant, inaccurate speculation about highly personal family issues.'' 

The most recent item on her file is a reference to a member of the South Auckland Muslim Association who said she would be taking part in a march on  September 28, 2002.

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Leadbeater's  activities on behalf of the Fiji Coalition for Democracy, the anti-bases campaigns and the  Ahmed Zaoui campaign  are not mentioned in the file.

"Does this mean that snooping is less or done in a different way?'' she said.

Keith Locke confirmed he had received his own file, which was  thick, and his mother's biographer was in possession of his mother's file. He  had yet to view his file and was not prepared to comment.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, who was once prominent in a number of radical movements, said he would be travelling to Wellington to uplift his file as part of a TV3 news programme.

He was not sure the SIS kept a file on him, but said he would feel a bit insulted if it did not.

"It will make interesting reading. I suspect they would have got a lot more detail if they had just read my book Bullshit and Jellybeans,'' he said.

Shadbolt said he had led at least five radical organisations, including the Radical Students Association and Auckland University Students for the Prevention of Cruelty to Politically Apathetic Humans.

"If they figured out what [the latter organisation] was about, then good luck to them because we never could,'' he said.

- The Press

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