The Dim-Post

September 29, 2012

Skepticism and intelligence

Filed under: intelligence,Politics — danylmc @ 7:50 am

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer says he is astonished John Key was not told about the foreign intelligence agency’s involvement in the Dotcom case much earlier.

Sir Geoffrey said Mr Key should have been told from the start.

“I would have thought if the GCSB was using its sophisticated surveillance methods in a situation like this, it would be prudent to tell the minister. I don’t understand that at all.

“In my experience with them, they were meticulous in consulting ministers when they needed, and should have.”

The problem here is that Sir Geoffrey doesn’t know that the GCSB were ‘meticulous in consulting ministers’, he assumes this because nothing went wrong during the year in which he was Prime Minister and the GCSB reported to him. For each of Key’s previous three years in office he, also, could have assumed that the GCSB were doing a hell of a job and telling him everything he needed to know. (I forget what logicians call this fallacy, which is a shame because it would have made a snappy title.)


  1. The police are not going to get thrown under the bus willingly.

    Police officers told the Government’s spies in February that surveillance of Kim Dotcom may have been illegal.

    But after its legal department reviewed the case, the Government Communications Security Bureau concluded their actions were legitimate.

    Key has had multiple briefings from GCSB, but only ‘found out’ a week ago, this is beyond credible that Key did not know. Or he sits there and plays angry birds on his phone and gets all petulant and signs things, without reading them, when the brief him.

    Looks like the only way to keep your conversations secret in NZ is to have them in an Epsom Cafe.

    Comment by andy (the other one) — September 29, 2012 @ 8:02 am

  2. Survivorship Bias?

    Comment by durden — September 29, 2012 @ 8:36 am

  3. Survivorship Bias ?

    Comment by durden — September 29, 2012 @ 8:36 am

  4. Great infographic, Will de Cleene. Maybe there should be a permanent link to it on this page, Danyl?

    Comment by Neil — September 29, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  5. You can find all logical fallacies here:

    And so beautifully expressed!

    Comment by Grumpy Woman — September 29, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  6. Can any one explain how the spies could have decided their action was legal? ( They even got a legal opinion from their legal dept.)

    Comment by Dv — September 29, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  7. You have to wonder what benifit the Spooks are when you look at their history of stuffing things up
    A history that goes back to the scandals of WWII
    I guess they would have to shoot us if we knew

    Comment by rayinnz — September 29, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  8. DV: “no harm no foul” or perhaps “if we don’t get caught it doesn’t matter”.

    Hopefully this will be a case of “we must hang together or we shall surely hang separately”.

    These cliches bought to you by Moz: the wit that witters whiter.

    Comment by Moz in Oz — September 29, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  9. “The problem here is that Sir Geoffrey doesn’t know that the GCSB were ‘meticulous in consulting ministers’”

    unless he had his own spy agency monitoring the GCSB to see if they knew anything they should be telling him and weren’t.

    Comment by kahikatea — September 29, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  10. John Armstrong in the Herald:

    “This was the week John Key was revealed to be human after all … In short, this was the week when Key was found out.”

    Note the repeated use of the passive voice, speaking for us all. So much more elegant that “I finally got it”.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 29, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  11. It could also be that Geoffrey Palmer’s attitudes and interests demanded a different kind of relationship. (Less ‘relaxed’, perhaps?)

    Comment by George D — September 29, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

  12. Danyl, your post led me to the GCSB homepage at, which has the tagline “Mastery of Cyberspace for the security of New Zealand”, which made me double-check it wasn’t a parody site…

    Comment by Dave Guerin — September 29, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  13. @George D: that’s what I would think. Under Palmer (or Helen Clark) one could imagine that failing to inform ministers in a complete and frank fashion would be a career limiting move.

    @Dave: not to mention the mentions of “Cyber”. Whenever I see that word, I automatically think of smutty conversation with tarty strangers. Does it have another meaning?

    Comment by richdrich — September 29, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  14. kahikatea @ 10, you mean like Seuss’s Bee-watcher-watcher?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 29, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

  15. Sir Geoffrey Palmer is distantly related to my stepmother, but I won’t hold that against him. I think he probably knows what he’s talking about.

    Comment by Dan — September 29, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

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