The Dim-Post

September 26, 2012

No surprises please

Filed under: intelligence,Politics — danylmc @ 7:07 am

I guess it’s the job of the opposition to try and hurt Key with this whole GCSB Kim Dotcom thing, but what strikes me as the real issue is that someone in the GCSB must have known that they broke the law, and they kept it quiet for months before notifying anyone. That’s a sacking/resignation level offense.

I’m still a bit unclear on Bill English’s level of complicity. If he simply signed a Ministerial warrant suppressing public release of information about the GCSB then that seems pretty reasonable. If he was informed that they broke the law, still signed the warrant and failed to inform the Prime Minister then he should be stood down as a Minister.

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40 Comments »

  1. If he signed it without twigging that it related to the GCSB spying on a NZ resident, then the Acting PM was a useless moron.

    Comment by Deano — September 26, 2012 @ 7:14 am

  2. That’s a sacking/resignation level offense.

    And the actual doing of it is an imprisonable one.

    If he was informed that they broke the law, still signed the warrant and failed to inform the Prime Minister then he should be stood down as a Minister

    Stood down until when? Until he no longer signed the certificate? Or until he no longer failed to tell the PM?
    [Calling it a warrant is likely to be confusing]

    If he signed it without twigging that it related to the GCSB spying on a NZ resident, then the Acting PM was a useless moron.

    He might sign it without realising it was illegal, for example, by not being told exactly when it occurred, or not being told when residency was granted, or not having at the front of his mind the exact prohibition in the GCSB Act etc.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 26, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  3. Also, English seems to have been advised by GCSB that he needed to sign because NZ’s security would be at risk if the evidence wasn’t suppressed. Didn’t he ask about the link between suppression and security? It seems a tad tenuous given this is a copyright case.

    Comment by jps — September 26, 2012 @ 7:48 am

  4. Let’s us not forget that the SIS, who also report to the Prime Minister were deep in this operation as well. And they also FORGOT to mention the whole thing to him as well?
    I do not believe the PM had no prior knowledge of the Dotcom raid. If he had no prior knowledge why did he refuse to handle any electorate enquiries about outcome, why did he pass them off to another Minister?

    Comment by Glg — September 26, 2012 @ 7:59 am

  5. It has all become suddenly clear to me. John Banks… John Banks must be a covert CGSB operative. What else can explain his fiendishly clever and successful machinations to get close to Kim Dotcom, his mansion and his bank account? The man is a hero – for the sake of his country and to protect it against the scourge of pirated music he has sacrificed his reputation, his integrity and his career. For the sake of future generations he has taken on the role of public buffoon. This has been a brilliant diversion worthy of the great Raffles himself. We will forever be in his debt.

    Comment by jamesnorcliffe — September 26, 2012 @ 8:00 am

  6. Ok – while Campbell Live isnt the font of all wisdom the list of people they re-broadcast last night who knew parts or all, of what was going on but didnt tell john key is staggering

    the GCSB
    NZ police
    Simon Power (and officials)
    Jonathan Coleman (and officials)
    Solicitor Generals Office
    Crown Law
    Attorney Generals Office
    OFCANZ
    Simon Bickle and other staff at immigration NZ
    Keys Electorate Office
    Maurice Williamson
    John Banks
    and now Bill English

    and off shore
    Hillary Clinton
    US Dept of Justice
    FBI
    US Attorney Generals Office
    Senior US Police members

    Does anyone seriously believe that John Key wasnt told? – and if he truely wasnt told – what the hell kind of govt are the Nats running at the moment?

    Comment by framu — September 26, 2012 @ 8:11 am

  7. for the record – im not a campbell live fan boy or anything – just caught bits of it as i was cooking last night dinner

    Comment by framu — September 26, 2012 @ 8:14 am

  8. I think the more interesting question is why the Police asked the GCSB to do any surveillance/interception in the first place.

    After all, the Police have the necessary powers (and the Telecommunication Interception Capability Act 2004 give them the facilities) to apply for a warrant that allows interception and tracking of communications.

    Of course, if they didn’t think they could get a warrant and asked the GCSB because they wouldn’t need to get a warrant – isn’t that the Police doing an end-run around the oversight built into our laws? And how often do they do this sort of thing?

    Comment by Thomas Beagle — September 26, 2012 @ 8:55 am

  9. That was covered on NatRad yesterday afteroon. Precis: It was easier for the plod to ask the spooks to do it than do it themselves.

    Visually, the cops did not want to have to go through this srot of thing:

    Cheers,
    FM

    Comment by Fooman — September 26, 2012 @ 9:19 am

  10. “…Of course, if they didn’t think they could get a warrant and asked the GCSB because they wouldn’t need to get a warrant – isn’t that the Police doing an end-run around the oversight built into our laws? And how often do they do this sort of thing..?”

    Since the police can legally ask for help for “serious crime” – which is apparently anything, since to the police all crime is taken seriously – from the GCSB this is a hugely important question. My Guess is the plod thought Kim Dotcom would have to much security for their gear, so they went off to the spies in the sky for what they wanted – which also neatly precluded the need for THEM to get a warrant. To my mind, the whole picture emerging is one where the law of the land relating to the liberties and rights of our citizens are not taken seriously by all our government agencies. Operational expediency, toadying to the Americans, and a Kiwi anti-intellectualism thats views right and liberties as ludicrous ivory tower abstracts are adding up to a fine reminder as to why democratic accountabilty matters.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2012 @ 9:20 am

  11. I forgot to mention, there’s also evidence that the Police are also using Customs to do warrantless searches of laptops and mobile phones (when people come through the border). Customs have admitted that the Police have direct access to the Customs computer systems so that they can enter information about people of interest to the Police.

    I’m actively looking for more information about this (Police using other agencies warrantless powers rather than getting warrants themselves) and if anyone has any I’d like to hear about it.

    Comment by Thomas Beagle — September 26, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  12. @ Danyl

    Do you think the Vice Chancellor knows or really cares about your day to day activities? Does the police minister know about some poxy drugs raid or the customs minister about some search at the airport? Hindsight 20:20 is a wonderful place to pontificate from about who should have know what, but the importance and history of separation of powers and duties needs to be remembered.

    YOu are setting an expectation of a level of knowledge that is unachievable and is democratically dangerous. I don’t want ministers getting into the daily operational activities of govt. That will lead to the politicisation of everything. It’s bad enough with the ‘no surprises policy’. Look at the Ministry for the Environment under Labour as an example of how destructive political invasion of ministries can be.

    Comment by insider — September 26, 2012 @ 9:52 am

  13. I was intrigued by Russel Norman’s statement that all the GCSB had to do was to look up Kim Dotcom via Google. He apparently believes that Google results are infallible.
    Well I tried looking up Russel and discovered that he is a member of the Australian Communist party.
    Why hasn’t he told the New Zealand public about this? After all if Google says so it must be true.

    Comment by Alwyn — September 26, 2012 @ 10:03 am

  14. Alwyn,

    Wikipedia isn’t infallible either, but it can be a good starting point. Note that Wikipedia says Dotcom was granted residency in December 2010. What I would expect the police to do is to contact immigration officials to ensure that the subject of any possible spying wasn’t a resident or citizen. That would be standard practice, wouldn’t it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Dotcom

    Comment by Ross — September 26, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  15. “Why hasn’t he told the New Zealand public about this?”
    Because Green party support would go through the floor, he’s not stupid, just selective in applying principles- he’s merely another politician, not Jesus reborn as some would have him be.

    Comment by gn35 — September 26, 2012 @ 10:18 am

  16. According to Labour, the GCSB were either incompetent or misleading, neither of which are good things of course.

    English could have been part of this cover up, however there’s no proving that. The whole thing is pointless. Key and English are cronies; Key and Dotcom have some kind of a flirtation going on; so English is the pig in the middle and he has to balance his own friendship with Key, his responsibilities with the GCSB, and the blossoming romance between the Jewish Banker PM and the Internet Piracy King (both titles only alleged).

    I wouldn’t be sacking English over this. He may be a miserly scrooge but he’s more stable than his boss.

    Comment by Dan — September 26, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  17. Do you think the Vice Chancellor knows or really cares about your day to day activities? Does the police minister know about some poxy drugs raid or the customs minister about some search at the airport? Hindsight 20:20 is a wonderful place to pontificate from about who should have know what, but the importance and history of separation of powers and duties needs to be remembered.

    Well, I agree with you Insider, and that’s really the point of my entire post. I don’t think Key is accountable, although the opposition are trying to tie him to it. If English helped the GCSB conceal the fact that they’d broken the law, ie if they notified him, then he should be sacked – if he didn’t, and just signed a suppression warrant without than knowledge then he’s not culpable.

    Comment by danylmc — September 26, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  18. “He apparently believes that Google results are infallible”

    If by that, you mean that he thinks a google search would have produced the info, then correct. But it doesn’t follow from that that he thinks every link google delivers would be factual.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — September 26, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  19. “Why hasn’t he told the New Zealand public about this?”

    I think you’ll find he had made full disclosure. He publicly stated his resentful feelings towards the intelligence agency that was spying on him and collecting a stack of information that was pointless. That, along with the unmistakable accent, hints strongly at a past in the Australian Communist Party.

    I’m more concerned with the fact that all the Green MP’s look like those gloopy-gloop creatures (or whatever they were called) from that Spy Kids movie.

    Comment by Dan — September 26, 2012 @ 10:39 am

  20. My goodness.
    I didn’t expect to get any reaction to a tongue-in-cheek contribution, and certainly not three in half an hour.

    Comment by Alwyn — September 26, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  21. ” I don’t think Key is accountable,”

    Probably true, although given Key’s refusals to read things that might make him “aware” of something he might then be forced to be accountable for, this is not necessarily a good thing. In this particular case it’s a fairly high level international operation involving several agencies including a couple which John Key has direct ministerial oversight of. He probably should have some knowledge of things like that.

    He might escape legal accountability, but the more he’s forced to claim not to know what’s going on inside his government and ministries the more people are going to start asking “so what are you actually doing all day, if you’re not doing your job?”

    Comment by nommopilot — September 26, 2012 @ 10:49 am

  22. “If English helped the GCSB conceal the fact that they’d broken the law, ie if they notified him, then he should be sacked – if he didn’t, and just signed a suppression warrant without than knowledge then he’s not culpable.”

    Sure … except, what exactly is the point of having a legislative requirement that Ministers sign certificates if they aren’t bothered to find out exactly what it is they are saying can’t be made public or why it can’t, and (or, rather, because) they aren’t culpable for the consequences of their failure to do so?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — September 26, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  23. “so what are you actually doing all day, if you’re not doing your job?”

    To be fair, he was attending quite an important baseball tournament in the US at the time :)

    Comment by Ross — September 26, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  24. I think the more interesting question is why the Police asked the GCSB to do any surveillance/interception in the first place.

    It is also of interest why the GCSB complied. I mean, when umm a friend of mine was working there 15 years ago, any such request would have met with obscene gestures and sad trombone noises in way of a response.

    Look at this way. The GCSB is a partner — a junior partner, but a well-regarded one — in a collegial network involving the NSA, GCHQ and DSD. The GCSB operates the interception station at Waihopai and sends off a stream of data to the rest of the network, but It’s not a one-way thing… In return we receive a lot of material that is intercepted overseas, and more important, the training (and some hardware) necessary to make sense of it. This is *crucially important* stuff for NZ’s foreign affairs and trade. It is like having a duplicated set of embassies and consulates around the world. We do not just have a NZ Embassy’s observations about some trade-talk negotiations; we sometimes also have insights from the diplomatic staff of other on-looking nations.

    So the GSCB’s strongest bureaucratic partnership has always been the Foreign Affairs crowd. MFAT is the customer for most of the GCSB’s output (briefings and briefing papers).

    This is only possible with the help of the information, the training and the hardware supplied by our American colleagues. And they only supply that because they trust the security arrangements at GCSB; they trust us not to misuse that capability for any picayune police investigation. GCSB’s partners overseas are going to look at this askance.

    What I’m seeing here is a lot of potential damage to New Zealand’s strengths in foreign affairs and trade, though I realise that these are not priorities for the current government.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — September 26, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  25. Key is accountable, he admitted that, because he oversees the agencies. If he didn’t know what was going on, he’s still accountable for not knowing what was going on (unless the agencies in question intentionally kept it from him, which is possible).

    But then you’ve got to ask why they kept the information from him. It’s obviously not a malicious move on their part, if they did, more likely it’s because he has illustrated through this scandal and other similar ones that, to inform him fully (as is their obligation) is not something that is helpful.

    And not being able to fully inform your boss, who happens to be PM, because he puts his own personal interests and the welfare of his mates ahead of the job he is supposed to be doing, is unacceptable. This brings back shades of George W’s political career, with his lackeys covering for him because of his lack of ability.

    Comment by Dan — September 26, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  26. ” If he was informed that they broke the law, still signed the warrant and failed to inform the Prime Minister then he should be stood down as a Minister.”

    I’m pining for the days when a politician would just do the honorable thing and resign. Mind you, that wasn’t in my lifetime.

    Comment by billbennettnz — September 26, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  27. You need to change your picture then Bill as it seriously makes you look way too old for someone who is barely out of newborn nappies, given Nick Smith resigned quite recently.

    Comment by insider — September 26, 2012 @ 11:47 am

  28. why would it be necessary for the deputy prime minister to sign a certificate to hush up what the GCSB was doing? I thought hushing up what the GCSB was doing was something that happened automatically, and could be trusted to a rubber stamp bearing the words ‘top secret’ in the hands of any vertebrate with an opposable thumb.

    Comment by kahikatea — September 26, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  29. why would it be necessary for the deputy prime minister to sign a certificate to hush up what the GCSB was doing?
    The process is to make sure that a breach of law is not taken lightly. Asses are covered in the GCSB only because someone else has said “OK, that was wrong but I will take total responsibility for it and carry the can if things turn to custard”.
    So Bill English took total responsibility.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — September 26, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

  30. we sometimes also have insights from the diplomatic staff of other on-looking nations

    Might have done 15 years ago. I think they might have wised up to strong crypto by now. If you read Wikileaks, most of the telegrams aren’t exactly earth-shattering stuff.

    Also, if you look at the trade performance of countries inside and outside the magic circle of the US and it’s satellites, the ones on the outside seem to be doing perfectly well without these “insights”.

    Comment by richdrich — September 26, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

  31. John Key recently received a letter from a jilted lover, apparently he tricked them into a relationship, accepted their money and gifts and then abused them. Let’s hope it doesn’t come out badly in the courts. http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/dear-john-love-has-gone.html

    Comment by Dave Kennedy — September 26, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  32. Might have done 15 years ago. I think they might have wised up to strong crypto by now.
    One would certainly like to think so. OTOH, there’s always been a suspicion of strong, open-source crypto systems and a preference for in-house systems (which might be strong as long as their algorithms remain secret).

    Presumably the GCSB’s overseas counterparts give *something* back to New Zealand as part of the partnership. If that return is just “the capability to help NZ police investigate non-New Zealand suspects”, then it’s a rather expensive deal. If it is more than that capability, then we risk losing the quid pro quo when the GCSB is seen turning into an adjunct to an incompetent police force.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — September 26, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  33. And, just in time for the news, today’s daily distraction. Look, we’re getting tougher on… youth,immigrants,drugsbeneficiaries,criminals!

    Comment by George D — September 26, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  34. yes, can not have our precious time wasted by holding parole hearings for people who do not admit guilt. Our fine justice system has determined they are guilty and it is in everyone’s best interests that they go along with that view of themselves. If they pay lip service to this view, then they will be released into the community and will lead honest and respectable lives, because we know for sure that criminals can not lie at parole. They would never ever do that, because of my name and reputation. They fear me. I may be called Crusher now but not too long ago I was Prisoner 68527301

    Comment by Dan — September 26, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

  35. >(which might be strong as long as their algorithms remain secret)

    Or could be secretly weak, constantly exploited, and they never know. But probably not, it’s not really that hard to design a strong algorithm. So long as you can reliably demonstrate that cracking the code would involve solving the greatest problem in modern computer science, then you can pretty much guarantee you’ll know it can be cracked very soon after it becomes possible to crack it. That kind of demonstration was a relatively easy assignment in a Master’s CompSci paper I did. If they’re relying on obscurity instead of security in our intelligence services, then it’s just as well we haven’t got any secrets worth hiding (which is usually the best form of security).

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 26, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

  36. GCSB Intercepted Communication – JK to PJ:

    “Any chance we can bring that Hobbit premiere forward? Next week would be good. Come on, you owe us.”

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 26, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

  37. Listening to Kim Dotcom on the radio tonight I can tell that dude is one natural politician, he has the invaluable gift of being ably to distill his case in an easily understood soundbite. I think he might just form a political party. The Dotcom Freedom Party. He has more money than God (AKA Colin Craig) and he is a natural at it. 5% would be a piece of cake.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  38. I’d vote for him

    Comment by Dan — September 26, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

  39. I’d vote for him

    I’m loving how a vulgar, nouveau riche Kraut wanker has been transformed into a cultural hero.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  40. @Ben:
    – two reasons I think the intelligence agencies can’t break strong crypto (e.g. most of the SSL algorithms)
    1. as you allude, if there was a weakness, it would likely have been found in the open community. (as happened with MD5)
    2. if the intelligence agencies had an opening, somebody would have abused this by now, probably for financial fraud, and this would have become obvious,

    Comment by richdrich — September 27, 2012 @ 4:47 pm


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