More corporate spying on environmentalists : Whitehaven Coal & Co.

While in the UK Women deceived by undercover officers back in court to challenge police’s “delaying tactics”,* in Australia Fairfax’s Tom Allard reports that corporations have been doing what corporations do: spying on activists, in this case anti-coal mining malcontents. In April 2012, then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon stated on Q&A that “there may be people and unfortunately we do see a growing number of links across some sort of groups who are anarchist, others who meld into some religious, sometimes, and intent with committing a terrorist offence that might link in with other protest groups…”

If that mAkEs SeNsE?

The case reported on by Allard seems to conform to the general pattern of corporate spying:

    • official denial;
    • close cooperation with the state;
    • disregard for legal niceties;
    • obscuring the ultimate legal and political responsibility for the infiltration and covert surveillance through a series of private contracts with a range of agencies;
    • beaming, well-paid, lying yuppies.

Obviously, anyone involved in any form of political activism should expect to be spied upon, both by the state and corporate sector. One of the mildly disturbing aspects of this account, however, is the reaction of one of the spies when confronted by activists. “Confronted on camera”, Marnie Tisot — Professional Service Solutions’ ‘Operational Risk and HR Advisor’ and ‘a highly respected project leader with more than 10 years experience in delivering projects and services across government organisations and commercial industries’ —

… denied she was working undercover, breaking down in tears and saying she had assumed her false identity to escape the attention of a violent ex-husband. She also said she had stopped working for PSS.

However, Ms Tisot continued to use her real name once she left Maules Creek and returned quickly back to work at PSS after being detected.

Her emotional story about fleeing a violent man was also undermined by the prominent profile and photograph on the PSS website and the fact there were business cards in her name with her mobile number at the office of PSS last week. In a brief interview with Fairfax Media, Ms Tisot declined to outline what she was doing at Maules Creek but referred Fairfax to her explanation on video.

However, multiple sources familiar with the operation have confirmed to Fairfax that Ms Tisot was working as an intelligence operative for CIRM.

The construction of a plausible back-story is a crucial aspect of infiltration, as is the existence of a plausibly deniable reason for, say, adopting another name, being in a certain place at a certain time, and so on.

While Marnie appears to have closed her Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, she has written several online articles, which make for very interesting reading given her lying and spying:

    Can I Read Your Mind?
    June 29, 2011
    “Many successful people swear by their ability to read others and use ‘gut feeling’ to make decisions. But is there a hard science behind reading people, and can it be learned?”
    Relationships: Make or break businesses.
    November 7, 2012
    “According to Marnie Tisot, Transport Security Inspector at the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, relationships make or break ideas, projects and even businesses.”
    Track me if you can
    August 16, 2013
    “Employee tracking – arguably useful, always controversial. This week we are talking about tracking employees who travel, particularly to high-risk destinations. Today we see an increasing number of devices, apps and systems available to track and monitor people who travel internationally or work alone and in remote locations. So what should you think about when considering a tracking solution for your corporate travellers?”


* See the Police Spies Out of Lives blog, a “support group for women’s legal action against undercover policing” for moar infos.

See also : Rob Gilchrist : Saving the country economically from people who do a lot of good (…and need a shave) (December 24, 2008) | Mehmet Ersoy/Osman : Former officer hired to spy (October 17, 2008) | Eveline Lubbers’ 2012 book and site Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists is a highly recommended resource. NB. NOSIC — the National Open Source Intelligence Centre — has been contracted by ASIO to engage in open source intelligence gathering, meaning monitoring Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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3 Responses to More corporate spying on environmentalists : Whitehaven Coal & Co.

  1. Anon says:

    Ooh, freelance business idea!

    Dear Big Corp,

    I am an experienced activist with many years in the environmentalist and anti-capitalism movements. For example, I have spent months at a time in forests from Tasmania through to northern Queensland protecting them against loggers and miners. (insert moar detail here about stuff)

    As well, I am also an expert technologist, and note-taker. I have fancy mini-cameras, and voice recorders, and I can use dead-drops, encrypted emails, and whatever else, to report shit.

    I wish to offer my experience and expertise to you corporation. Basically, because my credentials are immaculate, I can easily infiltrate various activist groups. Once inside, I would be able to do various things, including:
    * report back to plans and discussions by the group;
    * suggest activities that sound plausible, but would not actually hurt your corporation (or would hurt less than alternatives);
    * other things.

    If you are interested, please get back to me to discuss terms and conditions. As a guide, prices would start around $1500 a day, or $10,000 a week (in which case, there is a minimum of four weeks). This price is all inclusive, with no extras such as a travel, food, bail or fines.

    Yes, I will go the distance to maintain my cover, including getting arrested if that happens.

    Anyway, I’m sure we could have a mutually beneficial relationship. Please get in touch via this email, or via telephone at 04 1234 5678.

    Yours faithfully,

    Class traitor, and general turncoat.

  2. Ablokeimet says:

    The interview linked above with Marnie Tisot in November 2012 contains the following gem:

    “The key things I’ve learned from human skills training are that firstly there is a hard science behind it that everyone can use to improve, secondly that if you practice you really will see a difference, and thirdly that you need to be ethical in your motivations,” she said.

    Sincerity is the key. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

  3. mudsticks says:

    ‘breaking down in tears and saying she had assumed her false identity to escape the attention of a violent ex-husband’

    Shame on you Ms Tisot. I know your ex-husband very well and we have been great mates for many, many years.

    You know as a young man he grew up with domestic violence and had to defend his own mother from his abusive step-father. You also know he abhors any violence towards women.

    You lied to try and justify your behaviour.

    The legacy of your comments taints the innocent.

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