The Dim-Post

May 8, 2013

Two comparisons

Filed under: intelligence,media,Politics — danylmc @ 7:13 am

Saboteurs2

Back in 2007 the Labour Party introduced the Electoral Finance Act, the main effect of which prevented organisations that weren’t registered political parties from spending more than $60,000 $120, 000 during an election year (it was a response to the Exclusive Bretheren’s multi-million dollar stealth campaign in 2005).

The New Zealand Herald went ballistic and ran a months-long campaign against the legislation, printing the banner ‘Democracy under attack’ across their front page and publishing literally hundreds of stories and columns and editorials attacking the legislation.

Flash forward six years: a National government has introduced legislation that radically reforms the state’s intelligence apparatus, allowing the GCSB to monitor anything in New Zealand that goes by the name of an ‘information infrastructure’. The bill is in response to revelations that the GCSB has been illegally spying on New Zealanders; it gives them sweeping powers to intercept domestic communications with virtually no oversight, rushed through Parliament under urgency, naturally.

It’s early days, but so far the Herald coverage is three stories and this editorial, which concludes:

New Zealand First, as a condition for supporting the legislation, wants every warrant to be reviewed within three weeks by an independent authority selected from the judiciary, the Defence Force and the police. This, it says, would give the public confidence they are not being unfairly spied upon. It is right. A little tinkering along these lines would help smooth the passage of what should be largely uncontroversial changes.

It’s also interesting to compare this mild response to the reaction against the Labour-Green power policy announced a couple of weeks ago. The Herald’s editorial went nuts, as did business editor Liam Dann, as did Fran O’Sullivan, attacking the policy as ‘the ghost of Hugo Chavez’. Fairfax journalist Colin Espiner insisted Labour had ‘literally gone insane‘. A impressively huge propaganda machine swung into action: Business New Zealand, energy company CEOs, fund managers, merchant bankers all came out fighting in a nicely staggered sequence of denunciations.

And that’s okay – it’s a controversial policy. It’s just a shame there isn’t any comparable propaganda machine that can stand up for the civil rights of New Zealanders not to be spied on by their politicians. It seems odd (to me) that establishment journalists aren’t very exercised by any of this. The National Party aren’t going to be in power for ever, and sooner or later the ‘literally insane’ Labour and Green Parties, haunted by the ghosts of Communism and Totalitarianism are going to be in government and imbued with the power to spy on them with impunity.

People might comfort themselves with the thought that they ‘haven’t done anything wrong, so they don’t have anything to worry about’. I keep thinking of the beneficiaries who protested against Paula Bennett’s welfare policy who were punished by having their confidential data leaked to the press. Bennett argued that by speaking out against her those beneficiaries were fair game. (The leaked information was published in the Herald).

So merely disagreeing with a politician’s policies can constitute ‘doing something wrong.’ And thanks to this law change, future governments are going to have a vast amount of power to gather embarrassing information about their adversaries and critics. It would be nice if we could debate that as vigorously as we’ve debated the rights of infrastructure companies to enjoy windfall profits.

(Header image courtesy of Joe Wylie)

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81 Comments »

  1. Back in 2007 the Labour Party introduced the Electoral Finance Act, the main effect of which prevented organisations that weren’t registered political parties from spending more than $60,000 during an election year…

    The Electoral Finance Bill had a limit of $60,000 on 3rd party spending in it. By the time the Act was passed, this had been raised to $120,000.

    As for why the Herald got so steamed up about this … given that you can’t screen partisan political messages on TV, where do you think people wanting to tell people how to vote pay to put their ads?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 8, 2013 @ 7:31 am

  2. “The National Party aren’t going to be in power for ever”

    Says you, lefty thought criminal

    Comment by nommopilot — May 8, 2013 @ 8:50 am

  3. A third issue that democracy’s great self-defenders at the Herald have actively ignored is the Gov’t’s lack of response to the MMP Review. I know an op-ed I submitted on it – later published in the Dom – didn’t make it in our august paper of record. This was a few days before John Roughan wrote some sputtering existential rant about energy policy, MMP, and the next election that a first year student would be ashamed to submit. The clock’s ticking on that one, then, and I hope someone calls Collins to account before she swans off to Harvard mid-year. A mug shot on the front page will do nicely thanks Granny.

    As an aside, has anyone seen Phil O’Reilly’s open letter to NZ First about its dangerous energy policy? It must be out there, somewhere, right, because the markets – being the perfect receptors of information that they are – must have twigged to the little question of how National forms a government in 2014, Winston’s bottom lines on the soon to be partially privatised energy companies, and the dangerous truth that NZ First’s policy is even more a repudiation of Phil’s perfect energy market than the Red-Green proposals.

    Comment by Jon J. — May 8, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  4. The relative silence – journalistic and political – may have something to do with the legislation making legal what has been longstanding practise with the GCSB acting as the technical agent of the SIS in relation to domestic security. The longstanding practise was not, as we now know, covered by the law as the GCSB’s second in command had argued. To avoid the GCSB acting in this way we could provide the SIS with their own technical capability but that perhaps is not what you had in mind?

    Comment by tinakori — May 8, 2013 @ 9:29 am

  5. You have a point. I have a horrible feeling Russell Norman would be using the GCSB to track down the authors of the 100,000 invalid signatures right now if he could… he’s a politician scorned.

    Comment by Grant — May 8, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  6. The weasel wording around “acting on behalf of domestic agencies” is strong – could someone with a good handle on the text of the legislation state whether they are ONLY allowed to act on behalf of those agencies, or whether they are empowered to do it themselves and so can ALSO act on behalf?

    Comment by garethw — May 8, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  7. The relative silence – journalistic and political – may have something to do with the legislation making legal what has been longstanding practise with the GCSB acting as the technical agent of the SIS in relation to domestic security.

    That’s Key’s line. The problem is that the legislation was introduced – and passed with cross party support – along with VERY firm assurances that the GCSB COULD NOT spy on New Zealanders, and anyone suggesting otherwise was mocked as a conspiracy theorist.

    To avoid the GCSB acting in this way we could provide the SIS with their own technical capability but that perhaps is not what you had in mind?

    We have yet to see any proof that these agencies perform ANY valuable function that couldn’t be carried out by the police, with far more robust oversight. If the 85 people who were illegally spied upon really were international terrorists who posed a grave threat to the security of the state then why not have a proper inquiry?

    Comment by danylmc — May 8, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  8. You can’t expect the media to focus on Aaron Gilmore AND the threat to basic rights and freedoms. They simply don’t have the resources to do both.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — May 8, 2013 @ 10:19 am

  9. The National Party aren’t going to be in power for ever, and sooner or later the ‘literally insane’ Labour and Green Parties, haunted by the ghosts of Communism and Totalitarianism are going to be in government and imbued with the power to spy on them with impunity.

    We had for 9 years a Labour govt where the GCSB acted as is no proposed to be made legal .

    Democracy did not end. Shortly to be somewhat contradicted by my next point.

    along with VERY firm assurances that the GCSB COULD NOT spy on New Zealanders, and anyone suggesting otherwise was mocked as a conspiracy theorist.

    This remains a bit of a mystery, not helped by Labour being a bit shy about explaining just what they were up to, but it does seem to be the case that it was long standing practice for the GCSB to provide technical support and this not considered spying (by them) since the warrants were issues to the police or SIS.

    The problem with an inquiry is the issue if whether we can or should be given enough details to really make a judgement.

    Maybe I’ve just talked myself into a more skeptical point of view. Shearer is demanding a public inquiry before he gives his opinion ion the Nationals changes – but his party wrote the current law, they were in govt, he gets briefed on the security agencies – what more could he of all people learn from a public enquiry?

    It’s just another stunt. Yeah, so if we can’t rely on the opposition to proved intelligent oversight then we are a bit buggered.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 10:35 am

  10. The new GCSB legislation needs to be read in conjunction with the Telecommunications Interception Bill which is being introduced now also. That bill “clarifies” that the GCSB can commandeer any network and dictate its design. Any non-compliant foreign-provided service can be banned. The dodgy “risk to economic well-being” is sufficient to enable enforcement.

    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1305/Telecommunications_InterceptionCapability_and_Security_Bill.pdf

    There will be no legal way to communicate securely through electronic means, at least at the network layer, any more.

    If you are active in an organisation that plausibly presents a “risk to economic well-being” — say Greenpeace, or a trade union, or perhaps even the NZ Labour Party — you ought to be worried. Given the pathetic oversight regime there is no barrier to snooping anything of interest to the government of the day.

    Comment by Stephen J — May 8, 2013 @ 10:38 am

  11. Given the images above are SS storm trooperish does that make this post a Godwin?

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — May 8, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  12. I don’t see a problem with the govt regulating so that private industry is required to provide the ability to intercept communications.

    It wasn’t so much an issue with older technology- there was litlle troubled with intercepting mail or telephone conversations.

    But the Internet provides far more technical opportunity for clandestine communication far more difficult to intercept.

    Organised crime, corporate tax evasion, a govts will need access to internt communication to combat these.

    And the onus should be on the private sector who are making money to provide the ability at least of intervepting any transactions through their business are open to scrutiny.

    Otherwise it’s just a modern version if Swiss bank accounts.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 11:31 am

  13. “…Given the images above are SS storm trooperish…”

    Actually by the look of the prominent knobs on either side of the helmet (originally manufactured to allow the fitting of a bullet-proof visor) it appears they are wearing the M1916 Stahlhelm, so the image safely pre-dates the SS.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 8, 2013 @ 11:45 am

  14. The two are different, IMO. The EFA was claimed by both Labour and the Greens to be designed to avoid US-style politics-by-the-dollar, when the very mechanisms proposed were almost exactly the same. I was appalled, and when I conveyed my concerns to my local Labour party committee, was told that I had been brainwashed, didn’t know what I was talking about, etc. And here I simply thought that I had read the Bill, recognised certain features as being open to manipulation, and had expressed legitimate concerns.

    Re the GCSB: It is proposed to legitimise what had been standard practice, going back into the previous Labour administration. Now we can be concerned about those practices, then and now, but the cases are different.

    Comment by David in Chch — May 8, 2013 @ 11:47 am

  15. It is extraordinary how quickly people have subsumed the Govt spin that “all this does is fix the legislation around stuff they’ve already done”. That may be true but a) it’s clearly a line most useful to the Govt so we should probably scrutinise it at least a little, b) a surface read of the legislation and coverage suggests it does a hell of a lot more than that and c) they should never have been doing it originally!
    Power of a good media spin clearly being shown here…

    Comment by garethw — May 8, 2013 @ 11:54 am

  16. But the Internet provides far more technical opportunity for clandestine communication far more difficult to intercept.

    You don’t know what you are talking about, NeilM.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 8, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  17. Phil Goff admitted that the way EFA was introduced was wrong. The head of the Electoral Commission said it would have a “chilling effect” on political debate. Were they wrong?

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz-election-2008/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501799&objectid=10542605

    Comment by Ross — May 8, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  18. > If the 85 people who were illegally spied upon really were international terrorists who posed a grave threat to the security of the state then why not have a proper inquiry?

    To be fair, 85 people represents 0.00002 of the population. In other words, almost 100% of the population haven’t been illegally spied upon. That would suggest that the State hasn’t lost the plot just yet.

    Comment by Ross — May 8, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

  19. “You don’t know what you are talking about, NeilM.”

    Cloud-based accounting software. Not around a few years ago.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  20. What also seems to have been lost in all this is that the role of the GCSB and the SIS are fundamentally different. GCSB was established to provide signals intelligence capability to both the government and NZ’s Allies via Echelon – their technical capability is thus designed around the ability to gather vast amounts of foreign data and scrutinise it (presumably) for “chatter”; the SIS by contrast was designed to catch spies lurking behind newspapers outside the beehive. Leaving aside all the other intrusions on my freedoms this bill represents, I’ve still not heard of an actual valid reason that the spooks at SIS need the capability that GSCB has previously illegally provided them with. Two different roles. And if the GSCB is allowed to spy on me, does that mean that NSA an others will also have unfettered (or even fettered) access to my data? The whole thing is utterly outrageous. These Tories talk a good line in freedom et al, but when it comes to it, they’re Muldoonist control freaks.

    Comment by Teej — May 8, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

  21. The other thing about those 85 cases – those warrants were obtained by the Police and the SIS. They would have spied on had anyway whether or not the GCSB was involved.

    If there was anything untoward about those warrents that had nothing to do with the GCSB.

    They were obtained via a judge and the committee overseeing the SIS includes Shearet and Norman neither of whom have ever raised any particular instances of concern.

    It’s not quite accurate to say that a govt can spy on who they want for what ever reason.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

  22. a shame there isn’t any comparable propaganda machine that can stand up for the civil rights of New Zealanders not to be spied on by their politicians

    Oh dear, oh dear. I suppose you buy into the idea that the free press is a (blemished) pillar of our democracy…

    Comment by rich — May 8, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

  23. The CIA must gaze longingly at Key’s abilities (via cameras in the petunias at St Stephens Ave presumably). Imagine the assault-rifle-grabbing outrage that would occur in the US if they tried to give them carte blanche legal permission for domestic spying?!

    Comment by garethw — May 8, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  24. He he he, NeilM, that’s hysterical. What’s at issue is that 85 people were being illegally spied on by an agency that was expressively forbidden from doing so, essentially on a contract basis from another agency who was given a warrant. And doesn’t the fact that the warrant was issued by a Judge, and that there was some sort of “oversight” etc… none of which picked this illegality up concern you in any way? Hardly oversight. Echoing Danyl’s point, I just can’t understand why supposedly small government, freedom loving right wing Nats and ACT fans think this is anything other than a Very Bad Thing. The wholesale abandoning core beliefs must be troubling for at least some.

    Comment by Teej — May 8, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  25. Cloud-based accounting software. Not around a few years ago.

    Nothing to do with communication security or intercept capability – which is what I assume was the point of your comment “But the Internet provides far more technical opportunity for clandestine communication far more difficult to intercept”.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 8, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

  26. “What’s at issue is that 85 people were being illegally spied on by an agency that was expressively forbidden from doing so”

    It’s not clear that there ever was such express intent but my point was if there was anything untoward about the spying ie if the Labour and or National govts were spying for their own political purposes then the problem does not lie with the GCSB involvement, it lies with the original 85 warrants.

    But neither Shearer or Norman claiming that.

    I don’t have any direct evidence that the political oversight has been working over the past few govts but there is the indirect evidence of many dogs not barking.

    What are the chances that having got into office Clark and Key wouldn’t be dancing on the political graves of the opposition at the merest hint that the previous govt had spied for political gain.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

  27. Imagine the assault-rifle-grabbing outrage that would occur in the US if they tried to give them carte blanche legal permission for domestic spying?!

    You mean the armed insurrection that didn’t occur as a result of the NSA warrantless domestic surveillance controversy?

    Comment by Gregor W — May 8, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  28. the problem does not lie with the GCSB involvement, it lies with the original 85 warrants.

    Bullshit NeilM.

    Even a cursory examination by a layman of the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, principally S14 – conveniently labelled Interceptions not to target domestic communications – makes it abundantly clear that domestic surveillance by the agency is verboten.

    Politicians and various other apologists for this activity are merely dancing on the head of a pin in order to retrospectively absolve themselves of crimes.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 8, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

  29. Gregor, what I’m trying to say is that GSCB involvement or not has no bearing on whether or not the original 85 warrants were kosher.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  30. “It’s not clear that there ever was such express intent”

    Cross-party Parliamentary debate on the Bill at the time says otherwise. But do enjoy the kool-aid.

    Comment by Sacha — May 8, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  31. “To be fair, 85 people represents 0.00002 of the population. In other words, almost 100% of the population haven’t been illegally spied upon. That would suggest that the State hasn’t lost the plot just yet.”
    @Ross – To be fair, that represents 100% of the 85 Kiwis spied on illegally who have neither been arrested, charged nor convicted. Which suggests 100% of those 85 people were committing no crime, hmmm?

    “Cloud-based accounting software. Not around a few years ago.”
    @ NeilM – So, how exactly are the ISPs supposed to maintain the technical ability to let the GCSB spooks access such cloud-based software? Should the ISPs hack into Google’s servers? Maintain illicit copies of such software in case the cloud provider shuts that service down (as is happening with some feeders? Thus breaching copyright to say the least?

    Also Neil, the Parliamentary committee that ‘oversees’ the spy agencies is not a select committee , so has limited powers of oversight. They barely meet once a year IIRC, and yes, Labour and Greens have been feeble in even asking questions (I recently asked ex-Green MP Keith Locke why they never asked for even basic quantitative data, such as how many intercepts the GCSB make annually, how many ops result in arrests, prosecutions, convictions, etc – he had no answer). And the Ahmed Zaoui case proved how useless the Inspector General of Intell & Security is. So, yes Neil, these 2 Bills DO give the NZ govt the legal power to spy unfettered on any Kiwi for any reason.

    @ Teej – yes, the US, UK, Oz and Canadian govts will have full access to anything the GCSB pulls down in their intercepts, and the GCSB does not even have to know that these other govt spy agencies are accessing such data on Kiwis. The key feature of the Echelon network is the ability for the relevant spy agency (say, the NSA) to enter keywords and search for data with such keywords and send a copy of those search results back to the requesting spies without the spy agency whose system intercepted the data knowing. ie the NSA can search for Kim Dotcom and retrieve any comm’s about Dotcom from the GCSB servers without the GCSB actively knowing (unless the NSA tell them, or ask for help). It is that bad a setup.

    Comment by bob — May 8, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

  32. NeilM – I don’t think the warrants are the issue. It’s GCSBs involvement in those warrants that is illegal, not necessarily the warrants themselves. Assuming the GCSB understand their own role and mandate within our society, then they must take some responsibility.

    Otherwise you get into this slippery slope where Party A (the NZ Police) legally pursue a warrant, then illegally involve the GCSB (through omission or commission), but you don’t hold the GCSB responsible for breaking the law because they failed to understand a statute that they operate under and never bothered to have independently assessed.

    Failure to understand the law doesn’t generally hold up in court.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 8, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

  33. NeilM: It’s not clear that there ever was such express intent

    Bullshit.

    The law said exactly what Parliament wanted it to: that the GCSB was forbidden from spying on New Zealanders. That clearly wasn’t what the GCSB wanted, but it is Parliament which rules this country, not the spies.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant (@norightturnnz) — May 8, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

  34. In theory yes it does IS

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — May 8, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  35. Sanctuary I think you’ll find the LSSAH had a helmet very similar to the grahic above.

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

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — May 8, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

  36. LOVE the graphic. Very WW2.

    Comment by Maura — May 8, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  37. The helmets in the poster more reminded me of the Galactic Empire. Only thing missing is the lightsabres.

    Comment by DeepRed — May 8, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

  38. @NeilM,

    Gregor, what I’m trying to say is that GSCB involvement or not has no bearing on whether or not the original 85 warrants were kosher.

    If the police get a warrant to search a house for unlicenced uns, and then ask the SAS to smash through the front door in a LAV, leap out and hold all the occupants at gunpoint, is your response “well – what’s the problem – they had a warrant!”?

    In other words, just because one agent of the state has legal authority to do something does not mean that it’s OK for all agents of the state to carry it out the authorised activities. And just as we don’t allow the SAS to carry out day-to-day policing operations, there may be very good reasons not to allow the GCSB to carry out domestic surveillance operations. So with respect, the warrant issue is a bit of a red herring.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 8, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

  39. APN and Fairfax are typical of modern corporate media. They make no serious effort to be impartial and most kiwis don’t seem to care.

    The problem is their voice of authority. Some people won’t believe the sky is blue on a sunny day if they can’t have it confirmed in the Herald.

    That kind of credibility is well into the distant past……if it ever existed. But many, many people don’t update their cred-base.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — May 8, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  40. Because I was an environmentalist and animal right activist; someone who organised public protests and lobbied politicians, and thus threatened NZ’s economic interests, I was spied on for 5 years by the NZ Police, as were family members and most of my friends. Eventually, the spy (Rob Gilchrist) was outed, and the whole thing came crashing down. I’m still upset that there has been no apology to any of the people who were hurt and had their privacy invaded in the most deep and detailed ways.

    This bill empowers the same thing. I have no doubt it will be used in the same ways.

    Worse however, it gives powers to people who have an order of magnitude more sophistication in intercepting every aspect of our increasingly digital lives, and does so with the smallest figleaf of oversight, and no useful recourse to the courts. There are no limits on how the information is to be used, or for what purposes. In a democracy, this is unacceptable.

    Comment by George D — May 8, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

  41. Off topic: AG, was looking forward hearing your pitch on RNZs constitutional debate. What gives?

    Comment by Gregor W — May 8, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

  42. @Gregor,

    The Air NZ plane designated to get me to Wellington for said debate mysteriously developed an “engineering fault”. I choose to believe that the powers that be just can’t handle my truth. Seems th most rational explanation … .

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 8, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

  43. In other words, just because one agent of the state has legal authority to do something does not mean that it’s OK for all agents of the state to carry it out the authorised activities.

    I’ve never suggested it did.

    What I’m saying is that if the police use a LAV or not has no bearing on the validity of their original warrant.

    If its against the law for the military to come to the Policed assistance them that’s against he law. That does not change the validity of the origanl warrant.

    It’s really a huge point. But backtracking a bit if there is a problem with the activities of the Poice or the SIS hen there’s a problem irrespective of whether or not the GCSB is involved,

    They provide technical assistance, they’re not bring asked to initiate spying on new zeskandrrs.

    It seems to be that there are people here concerned that the givt might spy on legitimate political dissenters. Well it seems to me the issue is with how the police and SIS get their warrants not with the technology the use.

    If the police or SIS are targeting people for internal political reasons then that would be wrong whatever means and whatever other agencies were involved.

    Having the GCSB provide assistance doesn’t appear to me to be the central issue of whether or not there is appropriate oversight if the state security system.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

  44. It’s somewhat different to the SAS suddenly comming to assist the police.

    It was a long standing arrangement for the GCSB to assist the Police and SIS. And until someone in Labour comes up with a different explanation one possible explanation is that the 2003 law never intended to put an end to that.

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

  45. That should be –

    It’s not really a huge point

    Comment by NeilM — May 8, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

  46. @George D

    Thanks for that. Nice to hear from someone who can tell us whether “If you’re doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear…” is a particularly comforting justification when you’ve actually been spied on.

    another point is the sheer quantity of information this kind of spying yields ie. 65,000 plus A4 pages (IIRC) that came from surveilling the Urewera suspects: mind-boggling. and well beyond the capacity of a legal-aid funded defence to adequately deal with.

    “The Urewera 17 were also almost certainly targets.” according to Paul Buchanan:

    Comment by nommopilot — May 8, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

  47. NeilM: read Gregor’s #29 and I/S at #34

    It is very clear in both the legislation and the debate from the time of its introduction that the GCSB were not to intercept domestic communications. Are you really going to start debating the law with Andrew Geddis? (you know, he missed the RNZ debate, that’s going to have made him a bit grumpy)…

    The fact that it was a longstanding practice and no one noticed or challenged it during this time is damning evidence that oversight was practically non-existent. but, you know, spin away…

    are you really not concerned that the government is rewarding this rather than punishing it? or worried about how future governments might use it?

    Comment by nommopilot — May 8, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

  48. And Neil, the assistance GCSB provides isn’t advice, or know how. It’s capabilities.

    The government phrases this along the lines of gear. ‘GCSB has some stuff that the Police don’t, and it’s cheaper to have the GCSB help than buy the cops that gear’.

    That hides the point that the ‘gear’ provides capabilities that the police don’t have. Is there a reason the police don’t have those capabilities? Who knows, because we aren’t being told exactly what the capabilities are that the GCSB ‘loans’ to the police.

    When a judge gives the police a warrant, does s/he know that the warrant may be used to turn the capabilities of the GCSB on citizens? Who knows, because that also hasn’t been discussed by the politicians selling this bill. All we are being told is ‘don’t worry’. Well it’s not like these questions are going to be answered later is it? Once the bill is passed, that’s pretty much it and it all becomes secret squirrels again and we just have to trust GCSBs lawyers to interpret the new bill a bit better than they did the last one. Awesome.

    And on the intentions of parliament on the last bill. English had a weird little rant earlier this year saying the clause in question was only added to get the bill passed. He was trying to say, somehow (and in spite of his on comments at the time of the bill passing) that this means it was an afterthought that didn’t really matter. But is something has to be added to a bill to get it to pass, that’s not an oversight, or bad wording, it’s the thing that got it passed.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — May 8, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

  49. It is very clear in both the legislation and the debate from the time of its introduction that the GCSB were not to intercept domestic communications.

    I disagree, either Labour didn’t intend to make this illegal or they mislead the Greens and parliament.

    The only other explanation I’ve seen is that Labour, having gone to all the trouble of specifically making illegal specific actions, never ever thought to make sure those actions did not continue.

    Given we’re talking of Helen Clark I find that extremely unlikely.

    Comment by NeilM — May 9, 2013 @ 12:04 am

  50. As for why the NZ Herald would fight vigorously for the rights of those with $120,000+ to give to election campaigns, and not fight for the rights of people such as myself (see above)… I’ll let others draw their own conclusions.

    Comment by George D — May 9, 2013 @ 12:04 am

  51. Cullen explicitly stated in Parliament when the legislation was being debated that the GCSB had never spied on NZers – and scoffed at the Greens for their fears that it had.

    Now, either Cullen was lying or he, along with many others, did not consider the.actions of the GCSB to amount to spying.

    I think the latter more plausible and it was a form of institutional blindness – it should have been seen as spying but because no one had seen it in that light no one did and that remained the case til last year.

    Comment by NeilM — May 9, 2013 @ 12:15 am

  52. Now, either Cullen was lying or he, along with many others, did not consider the.actions of the GCSB to amount to spying.

    We’ve gone over this numerous times before on other threads but you just dont seem to get it, NeilM.

    Why can’t you accept that successive governments, IGs or both have been lied to by successive GCSB administrations about who they spied upon? That’s a far more likely scenario.

    It doesn’t matter whether that falsehood was a result of “institutional blindness” ( i.e. GCSB management not doing their jobs properly and/or lying by ommission) or deception. Only an idiot or someone acting in bad faith could miscontrue the legislation.

    To try and pin it on a particular administration is fruitless – you don’t have to look to far to see where the corruption lies. As stated to you before, Fergusson as good as fessed up.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 9, 2013 @ 12:33 am

  53. Why can’t you accept that successive governments, IGs or both have been lied to by successive GCSB administrations about who they spied upon? That’s a far more likely scenario.

    Because it’s one possible scenario and I’ve seen no evidence to convince me it is more likely.

    Have Labour said they were lied to by the GCSB? If they were then what reason do they have not to make political capital out of it?

    Shearer is calling for an enquiry surely if his party was so wronged he’d be singing that from the rooftops.

    Comment by NeilM — May 9, 2013 @ 1:08 am

  54. NeilM: yes, absolutely – either Labour ministers were lying ten years ago when they said the GCSB had never spied on NZers and their legislation would enshrine that in law, or the current Labour MPs lack the competence to draw conclusions about this matter (and which of those is more likely, do you think?). However, that is essentially something to file under So The Fuck What when it comes to legislation the current, National, govt is implementing. The fact is, whatever people knew about ten years ago, today we know that the GCSB has been illegally spying on NZers under successive govts and the current govt’s response to that discovery is to declare that activity retrospectively legal. No-one can force you to care about that, but you needn’t be surprised that a lot of people do.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — May 9, 2013 @ 6:48 am

  55. either Labour ministers were lying ten years ago when they said the GCSB had never spied on NZers and their legislation would enshrine that in law, or the current Labour MPs lack the competence to draw conclusions about this matter (and which of those is more likely, do you think?).

    Well I’m certainly not sure what to make of Labour’s current inability to categorically state they’re against any form of GCSB assistance to the Police or SIS.

    Either it’s an extension of my theory – it’s something they never really opposed or they’re a bit hopeless.

    And for all the bluster there’s no guarantee they’ll repeal either the GCSB bill or the telecommunications one.

    Which certainly isn’t evidence supporting my contention that one can have some trust in politicians.

    Comment by NeilM — May 9, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  56. “But the Internet provides far more technical opportunity for clandestine communication far more difficult to intercept”.
    “NeilM you don’t know what you’re talking about” says Gregor W
    Really, Gregor? Not heard of encryption? Relays? Proxy servers? Have they traced the Climategate “hacker” yet?

    “He he he, NeilM, that’s hysterical.” Says Teej
    “It’s just a shame there isn’t any comparable propaganda machine that can stand up for the civil rights of New Zealanders not to be spied on by their politicians.” Says Danyl
    Both of you imply that GCSB does the govt’s bidding, and without a warrant. Sure, they done wrong, but to suggest that they spied on the 85 for POLITICIANS is so incorrect to be mischievous. Points off for you as an intelligent blogger, Danyl.

    “there may be very good reasons not to allow the GCSB to carry out domestic surveillance operations.” Says AG. Can you suggest some good reasons? A wire tap is a wire tap, innit? How the heck are they supposed to filter my emails out from all the emails they monitor? Especially when my email ends in “.com”?
    I do not condone the illegal acts, but can’t see why the distinction needs to remain. BUT with the proviso that the activities that GCSB undertake for those other agencies (or for themselves) is in accordance with the warrants. I should imagine that a warrant allowing a search for illegal guns doesn’t allow the police to examine the contents of your computer harddrive?

    PB raises that point: “When a judge gives the police a warrant, does s/he know that the warrant may be used to turn the capabilities of the GCSB on citizens?” If the conditions of the warrant aren’t adhered to, what are the consequences? (The illegally obtain evidence is usually inadmissible IN COURT, I believe, but what if the info goes into a dossier that is never intended to make it to court, it seems the police/GCSB are away scotfree.)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 9, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  57. (Apologies if this ends up as a double post)

    “But the Internet provides far more technical opportunity for clandestine communication far more difficult to intercept”.
    “NeilM you don’t know what you’re talking about” says Gregor W

    Really? Not heard of encryption? Relays? Proxy servers? Have they traced the Climategate “hacker” yet?

    “He he he, NeilM, that’s hysterical.” Says Teej
    “It’s just a shame there isn’t any comparable propaganda machine that can stand up for the civil rights of New Zealanders not to be spied on by their politicians.” Says Danyl

    Both of you imply that GCSB does the govt’s bidding, without a warrant. Sure, they done wrong, but to suggest that they spied on the 85 for POLITICIANS is so incorrect to be mischievous. Points off for you as an alleged intelligent blogger, Danyl.

    “there may be very good reasons not to allow the GCSB to carry out domestic surveillance operations.” Says AG. Can you suggest some good reasons? A wire tap is a wire tap, innit?

    I do not condone the illegal acts, but can’t see why the distinction needs to remain. BUT with the proviso that the activities that GCSB undertake for those other agencies (or themselves) is in accordance with the warrents. I should imagine that a warrant allowing a search for illegal guns doesn’t allow the police to examine the contents of your computer harddrive?

    PB raises that point: “When a judge gives the police a warrant, does s/he know that the warrant may be used to turn the capabilities of the GCSB on citizens?” If the conditions of the warrant aren’t adhered to, what are the consequences? (The illegally obtain evidence is usually inadmissible IN COURT, I believe, but what if the info goes into a dossier that is never intended to make it to court, it seems the police/GCSB are away scotfree.)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 9, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  58. CF – encryption has precisely nothing to do with the Internet. It’s been around for centuries.

    Further if you actually understood the standards physics that underpins electronic communication, you would quickly see the claim as incorrect.

    Quite the opposite of NeilM’s statement is true in fact – the Internet provides an almost unparalleled tool for collection and analysis of unstructured communication, precisely because it is so centralised, and pretty much all the information travels along structured routes using the same signal methods. It’s an intelligence agency’s wet dream.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 9, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  59. Also interesting how previously Key wouldn’t work with Winston under any circumstances because he had a poor character or something and now he’s the centre of the design of a crucial bit of our constitution. Anyway- the right show themselves up again, and they don’t give a stuff.

    Comment by sheesh — May 9, 2013 @ 2:59 pm


  60. Both of you imply that GCSB does the govt’s bidding, without a warrant. Sure, they done wrong, but to suggest that they spied on the 85 for POLITICIANS is so incorrect to be mischievous. Points off for you as an alleged intelligent blogger, Danyl.

    The history of NZ’s policing and spy agencies is littered with domestic political targets. I don’t know what ODESC is doing now, but we do have plenty of evidence that such things have happened in the past.

    To suggest that things are otherwise is to be either highly credulous, or entirely ignorant of our history.

    Comment by George D — May 9, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  61. Internet provides an almost unparalleled tool for collection and analysis of unstructured communication

    If there are modes communication govts can’t have access to then they will quickly be used for crime including tax evasion.

    And since it’s private companies out to make a profit that are providing these mechanisms
    then I don’t have a problem with govts regulating them if even if that makes life a little more difficult for those companies.

    Google has to expend vast resources protecting the credibility of its search rankings. There’s always unscrupulous people out there ready to take advantage of new technology.

    Comment by NeilM — May 9, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  62. Good heavens ClunkingF, do I not get points off either, or am I mere unintelligent poster to blogs? Regardless, I didn’t suggest GCSB spied on New Zealanders FOR politicians; I said they spied on New Zealanders illegally and that oversight mechanism was so woeful that no one recognised that what they were doing was clearly illegal. And I still find it hysterical that so many with a right wing, libertarian bent (who should be up in arms at such a flagrant abuse of personal freedoms and the potential intrusion of the State so thoroughly individual lives) are desperately contorting themselves in the most unseemly ways to somehow justify the Government’s Bill. Cue NeilM.

    Comment by Teej — May 9, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

  63. If there are modes communication govts can’t have access to then they will quickly be used for crime including tax evasion.

    So, by that reasoning, pubs must be prevented from playing music above a certain decibel level, least it mask the conversation of ne’er-do-wells from the omnipresent listening devices required to capture every potentially unlawful word that falls from the citizenry’s lips?

    And there I was, thinking Winston and Julia were being overly paranoid … .

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 9, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

  64. If there are modes communication govts can’t have access to then they will quickly be used for crime including tax evasion.

    Lester would have loved to have had NeilM in charge of Baltimore’s laws,

    “Marlo’s changed up by dumping cells and only having face-to-face meets? Well then, let’s prohibit standing around in parks talking to other people! It’s just common sense.”

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 9, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

  65. And yes – I’m trying to get a riff going here.

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 9, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

  66. “If the conditions of the warrant aren’t adhered to, what are the consequences?”
    This is vitally important – the reason the police, SIS and GCSB act the way they do is because our MPs have never placed serious penalties on these agencies for breaking the law. Irrespective of whether these GCSB and Telco Bills pass (and I hope they don’t), we should amend laws to give criminal penalties for Police and spies breaching people’s privacy and accessing our data, networks and IT devices without lawful and legitimate justification.

    Also, NeilM, you’re trolling. Try to answer people’s questions and their answers to your questions, not just state you ‘see no evidence’ of any illicit intent by the spies. Your credibility is vanishing to Pete George levels.

    Comment by bob — May 9, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

  67. Kinda like you when the subject was gay marriage, right bobby?

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 9, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

  68. If there are modes communication govts can’t have access to……

    So for arguments sake NeilM, what would propose these mysterious modes of communication might be?
    Because I can tell you now, they probably aren’t electronic or travel over a telco network.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 9, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

  69. Except NeilM is like this all the time. And we know bob believes in something – but NeilM? What does he stand for apart from nitpicking and getting the last word? (Multiple times, and with autocorrect misspellings.)

    Comment by MeToo — May 9, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

  70. “but NeilM? What does he stand for apart from nitpicking and getting the last word? ”

    Look, guys it’s pretty clear that NeilM is just here to make sure that everyone stays entirely reasonable and doesn’t go getting all irrational and criticising the government or something.

    And also to remind us that whatever it is, Labour did it first ages ago, anyway.

    Comment by nommopilot — May 9, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

  71. Teej, NeilM is an angry, disillusioned, former Labour voter. I am confident that he has not eaten a baby in his life.

    I, on the other hand, have eaten many, some raw. But Libertarians with their “all roads must be privatised” mantra are just a bit too religious for me. I am more of the pragmatist/small “l” liberal right wing brigade, that doesn’t care who marries who or sticks what where or how many (with consent of course) as long as govt realise they are there for direction from voters, not there to direct our lives.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 10, 2013 @ 7:58 am

  72. If there are modes communication govts can’t have access to then they will quickly be used for crime including tax evasion.

    I’m not sure I’d call accountants a ‘mode of communication govt’s can’t access’, but a lot of what they say is pretty incomprehensible to me, so maybe you’re on to something.

    Comment by Vanilla Eis — May 10, 2013 @ 10:48 am

  73. 73.If there are modes communication govts can’t have access to then they will quickly be used for crime including tax evasion.

    We must install cameras in all confessional boothes forthwith. And all lawyers’ offices, goes without saying..

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — May 10, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  74. Don’t reckon Neil is a libertarian. Just trusts authority rather a lot, perhaps

    Comment by Sacha — May 10, 2013 @ 11:50 am

  75. From another thread “It’s called apophenia”.

    Double-plus irony NeilM!

    Comment by Gregor W — May 10, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

  76. @ flashing Light # 68 – I actually thought a lot before posting my criticism of NeilM’s trolling in my #67 FL, and almost didn’t say it, conscious of my lone opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption in recent threads. But, like MeToo and Nommo say, I aim to contribute to the debate by addressing what Danyl and others have said; I thought that Neil was doing that too, but lately his comments seem to be designed to derail threads with nitpicking that is not tied to any particular line of argument Neil is making. Hence, trolling. That, and a writing style that bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Pete George.

    In thread-related news, is it just uncanny coincidence? The US govt is now talking about giving similar powers to their spooks that National are trying to give in our Telco/GCSB bills. One for the conspiracy theorists. ;)

    Comment by bob — May 10, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

  77. Lordy lordy chaps, I just spout opinions like everyone else.

    But yes, disenchanted centre-left voter current reading to much Moravia to have much hope in our ability to connect with reality.

    But anyway:

    The 400-gigabyte cache of data leaked to the authorities is understood to be the same information seen by the Guardian in its Offshore Secrets series in November 2012 and March this year. It reveals complicated financial structures using companies and trusts stretching from Singapore and the British Virgin Islands to the Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands.

    That’s from a leak, probably want always be so lucky.

    http://m.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/may/09/100-richest-uk-billions-offshore-tax-havens

    Comment by NeilM — May 10, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

  78. nommopilot: I’ve been spied on, too. When I was very active on the National Executive of the Electoral Reform Coalition in 1988-91 (and acting Secretary in ’89-’90), my mail from overseas was opened 100% of the time and my phone was bugged. My house was broken into at least once. I’ve always assumed this was because the ERC had the active support of Marilyn Tucker (Ken Douglas’ partner and also a member of the Moscow-aligned Socialist Unity Party). I wasn’t a member of any political party of group. I just wanted a vote that would actually elect someone.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — May 10, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

  79. “…Look, guys it’s pretty clear that NeilM is just here to make sure that everyone stays entirely reasonable and doesn’t go getting all irrational and criticising the government or something…”

    I must say though that between them, Pete George and NeilM provide a fascinating window into ambient pycho-political mindset of vast swathes of the right. It seems to be the mental equivalent of a slightly dusty British 1950s middle class suburban drawing room in the depths of a Manchester winter, where they sit in the gloom forever worrying about communism and the price of the coal going on the fire.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 11, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  80. “NeilM provide a fascinating window into ambient pycho-political mindset of vast swathes of the right.”

    As a real rightie, I can assure you that you are wrong: Neil is angry with his once beloved Labour. He wanted them to be above the petty partisan stuff that National and their supporters allowed themselves to wallow in. Now that the scales have fallen from his eyes, he’s still a leftie, but a bit pissed that the silly partisan stuff he used to see national supporters engage in, he can now see that ALL party supporters engage in. I think he was hoping (as we all do) to be part of something better, above all that shit.
    For much the same reasons, I find it difficukt to support any party, too.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 12, 2013 @ 11:00 am


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