The Dim-Post

July 28, 2013

Will the GCSB spy on Rachel Smalley?

Filed under: intelligence — danylmc @ 9:06 am

That was the question asked by Rachel Smalley on The Nation, who pointed out to civil libertarians arguing against the new GCSB legislation that she hadn’t done anything wrong, so the GCSB weren’t likely to spy on her.  But today in the SST we learn that the state security services regard journalists as a ‘subversion threat’, according to a leaked New Zealand Defence Force security manual:

The manual’s first chapter is called “Basic Principles of Defence Security”. It says a key part of protecting classified information is investigating the “capabilities and intentions of hostile organisations and individuals” and taking counteraction against them.

The manual, which was issued as an order by the Chief of Defence Force, places journalists among the hostile individuals. It defines “The Threat” as espionage, sabotage, subversion and terrorism, and includes investigative journalists under the heading “subversion”.

Subversion, it says, is action designed to “weaken the military, economic or political strength of a nation by undermining the morale, loyalty or reliability of its citizens.”

It highlights people acquiring classified information to “bring the Government into disrepute”.

The story also reveals that our intelligence agencies have been spying on journalist Jon Stephenson:

The Sunday Star-Times has learned that New Zealand Defence Force personnel had copies of intercepted phone “metadata” for Stephenson, the type of intelligence publicised by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. The intelligence reports showed who Stephenson had phoned and then who those people had phoned, creating what the sources called a “tree” of the journalist’s associates.

New Zealand SAS troops in Kabul had access to the reports and were using them in active investigations into Stephenson.

The sources believed the phone monitoring was being done to try to identify Stephenson’s journalistic contacts and sources. They drew a picture of a metadata tree the Defence Force had obtained, which included Stephenson and named contacts in the Afghan government and military.

The sources who described the monitoring of Stephenson’s phone calls in Afghanistan said that the NZSIS has an officer based in Kabul who was known to be involved in the Stephenson investigations.

And since early in the Afghanistan war, the GCSB has secretly posted staff to the main US intelligence centre at Bagram, north of Kabul. They work in a special “signals intelligence” unit that co-ordinates electronic surveillance to assist military targeting. It is likely to be this organisation that monitored Stephenson.

The government’s line is that the GCSB need to be able to spy on New Zealand citizens to protect us from terrorists. There are three problems here. (1) ‘The country is in danger’ is what politicians always say when they want to extend the power of the state over its citizens and (2) there is no actual evidence of a real threat. Other countries like the US have strategic enemies, a history of previous attacks, foiled attacks, arrests and court cases all indicating that there’s a real threat. We don’t have any of those things – just politicians and spies telling us that we’re in danger so they need to take away some of our freedom. Problem (3) is that every time – EVERY TIME – we get a glimpse into what our intelligence services actually do its totally unrelated to protecting us from external or domestic threats. In this case the taxpayers are funding intelligence operations that safeguard the reputations and careers of government bureaucrats and persecute their perceived enemies in the media.

I’m opposed to the GCSB having warrentless access to my smartphone data, phone logs and web traffic in principle, but really it wouldn’t have any impact on me. If I were a political journalist, however, I’d be a little concerned about a new law that gave the government the power to access my phone records without any judicial oversight. Being a journalist IS ‘doing something wrong.’


  1. I look forward to the greens getting into power with this law on the books. Tax evasion is surely a threat to our economic security, so lets spy on all the CEOs and Cfos of our biggest corporates! And mining and deep sea drilling – that’s a threat too. What will we learn from their secret communications?

    Comment by repton — July 28, 2013 @ 9:33 am

  2. “If you are not guilty of anything you have nothing to fear.”

    Surely some of the most chilling words in the English language.

    If you are a journalist you have everything to fear. With the collection of the sort of metadata being sought by the GCSB they would be able to retrospectively track where every journalist had been, and by inference who they had met. Subverting journalistic integrity in protecting their sources.

    Leaked revelations show New Zealand military intelligence have been using the GCSB to spy on Kiwi journalist Jon Stephenson. They tracked and bugged his phone calls and movements. They knew where he had been and who he had seen.

    Does no one find it disturbing that the Afghan military officer that Jon Stephenson interviewed and who was highly critical of the New Zealand armed forces for handing over captives to be tortured has gone missing without trace?

    And why are the New Zealand armed forces absolutely certain that he will never be contacted again? Do they have knowledge of the exact nature of his disappearance?

    Comment by Jenny — July 28, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  3. I’m opposed to the GCSB having warrentless access to my smartphone data, phone logs and web traffic in principle, but really it wouldn’t have any impact on me.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that the GCSB will find excuses, sooner or later, to archive metadata on all citizens, residents and transients, and simply store it just in case it wants to mine into a person’s background at a future time. Even if I trusted today’s government, I have trouble sharing your optimism. I have the whole rest of my life ahead of me, and I have no idea what the NZ government will look like for most of that time (let alone the governments of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc) nor how it might treat all the historic data it holds on me.

    I think it’s naive to suggest that New Zealand is extremely unlikely to be a terrorist target in future, but I also see this as complete and utter overkill towards addressing that problem.

    Comment by MikeM — July 28, 2013 @ 10:37 am

  4. If the govt’s spying on investigative journalists, very few of TV3’s presenters have anything to fear.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — July 28, 2013 @ 10:51 am

  5. “regard journalists as a ‘subversion threat’,”

    And they are. Journalism is just another of our public institutions that has fallen victim to the left wing onslaught upon our culture. Its purpose nowadays is not to provide a variety of viewpoints but to ensure that the discussion is limited to left wing ideas.

    In fact most of our cultural institutions have been captured by the left, and this had led to stifling social totalitarianism. Most of the contributors to this blog have no idea there are other viewpoints out there besides the Progressive viewpoint, and are completely and totally ignorant concerning alternative political ideas. (especially Conservatism, which they understand only from a far left perspective)

    Public education was once a good idea. Ruined by the left. Universities- bastions of progressivism where conformity is enforced by Stalinist speech codes. Journalism courses are the worst. Hence journalists no longer inform and stimulate the discussion of ideas, they misinform and set up fences around the areas of discussion. Many do this unknowingly because they are brainwashed by subversive university tutors. (MH for example) More than a few are deliberately deceptive and deceitful purveyors of far left propaganda.

    Want an example-? Update on Journolist

    The great majority of journalists are anti-democratic left wing scum, part of the movement dedicated to enslaving us to socialist government, and they deserve everything they’ve got coming to them.

    Comment by Redbaiter — July 28, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  6. @redbaiter.

    Not busy today? Able to make a constructive comments and avoid using name calling like ‘scum’?

    Comment by Paul — July 28, 2013 @ 11:14 am

  7. Oh, Bedwetter. Your mind must be a terrible place to be. So much fear and loathing.

    Comment by Sacha — July 28, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  8. Have to agree with you on this one Danyl. The spying on Stephenson is quite shocking. Its exactly what we are being told not to worry about, and it just happened last year. So fairly damming. It will be interesting to see how the government responds.

    Comment by swan — July 28, 2013 @ 11:32 am

  9. “Able to make a constructive comments and avoid using name calling like ‘scum’?”

    Well, I am sorry you are offended, but I find it hard to have any kind of regard for the leftists who have so discredited the craft of journalism and who so constantly attack the democratic process. As I said above, journalism is just another tool for the left to either maintain the status quo or drag it further leftward. They’re not journalists they are propagandists for a totalitarian political system, and I do not think I am alone in holding such propagandists in contempt. Hence scum.

    And what is more constructive than exposing a fraud? What is journolist to you? A myth? Some kind of illusion? It exists. It is a reality.

    As for NZ, maybe a similar emailing list exists, but its hardly necessary since if they are all graduates from NZ universities, they all think the same anyway.

    Comment by Redbaiter — July 28, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  10. “the leftists who have so discredited the craft of journalism and who so constantly attack the democratic process.”
    John Roughan, Fran O’Sullivan, Leighton Smith, Larry Williams, John Armstrong, …..
    Yep, a real hotbed of left wing scum!

    Comment by Paul — July 28, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

  11. Yes they are, apart from Smith ( a soft conservative with many liberal ideas) who is not as far as I know a trained journalist. (“Trained” being a euphemism for indoctrinated with left wing garbage.)

    You only think they’re right wing because of your own extreme left position. Tell me which one of those listed does not believe in progressive taxation, public health and schooling, public/ private partnerships and most other instruments of the socialist/ Marxist/ Progressive state.

    BTW, as for surveillance of journalists by security forces, there is actually no case at all for their exemption as throughout history, journalists have often been exposed as anti-democratic subversives. Burgess and Philby being two notable examples. There are many more.

    Comment by Redbaiter — July 28, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

  12. Serious question. Which is the worse pest on a comment thread – Redbaiter or Pete George?

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 28, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

  13. Flashing light- I think the worst pests are people like you with pointless comments like yours. You have three options to any comment posted here.

    1) Reply to it with argument. (Sometimes attempted but where the left are concerned, only infrequently successful. When you have only ever had one political outlet in your life, it means you’re incapable of confronting any points made against it.)

    2) Ignore it. (Frequently done here and something I have no problem with. I know its hard for leftists to deal with truth.)

    3) Write something off topic and attacking the commenter, thereby disrupting the thread. You chose 3) because you are that kind of bitter and twisted selfish self focused ignorant of other views small minded idiot.

    Why don’t you join me in requesting our host to delete this message and your’s directly above?

    Comment by Redbaiter — July 28, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  14. After reading this article in The Age ( ), If I was a journalist in Afghanistan I’d be very worried about targeted drone attacks – apparently civilians are occasionally accidentally killed in the quest for the ‘greater good’ – don’t be carrying your cellphone Jon… The US seems pretty sanguine about it all, what’s a little spilled blood, eh…

    I had to laugh out loud today, when I heard the US Govt advising the Egyptian military to not make politicised arrests!
    Do as we say, not as we do…

    Comment by id2d — July 28, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  15. Pete George doesn’t seem to post here any more, but Redbaiter still thinks it’s worth looking in on us every once in a while. I present this information without comment.

    Comment by Hugh — July 28, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  16. “Burgess and Philby being two notable examples” Your two and raise you Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who brought down Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. Of course, the irony in the context of this discussion is that no-one would have needed to burgle and wiretap the Democratic Party’s headquarters for Nixon’s henchmen as they would just have claimed “security threat” and used the equivalent of the GCSB to do it for them.

    Comment by teararoawalkers — July 28, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  17. Pete George got banned a while back when I noticed that the majority of the comments threads were filled with awesomely boring Pete George comments.

    Comment by danylmc — July 28, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

  18. @17 Surely its time for that same standard of boring ranting to be applied to Redbaiter? It was once entertaining, in a village idiot sort of way, but the recycling of adjectives as insults (leftist, marxist, progressive, statist, etc) without any understanding or explanation of what those terms mean in the context of his comment is just getting ridiculous.

    Though of course, as a nanny statist, progressive, socialist, stalianist, communo-anarcho lefty, I would argue that he should be silenced.

    Comment by Alex Braae — July 28, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  19. @Redbaiter,

    You have three options to any comment posted here.

    You leftist, Stalinist liberal scum. Trying to limit my options. Typical thought police tactics of a Stasi goon that are the usual hallmark of the intellectually vacuous and ideologically bankrupt.

    Plus, you missed the obvious fourth option. I can laugh at you, and try to get others to do likewise.

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 28, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  20. Of course you may however on such a nice sunny day why would you bother.

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — July 28, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  21. @TDlotsofnumbers

    I don’t have much in my life, but take it … it’s yours.

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 28, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

  22. That was the question asked by Rachel Smalley on The Nation, who pointed out to civil libertarians arguing against the new GCSB legislation that she hadn’t done anything wrong, so the GCSB weren’t likely to spy on her.

    Given the revelations about how the NZDF views “journalists”, and the lengths they go to in order to gather information on those who do their job too well, Smalley’s conviction that she’s safe from being spied on says quite a lot about how she did her job in Afghanistan (see here:

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 28, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

  23. I, for one, welcome our new overlords to scan my metadata. The text I received from St Petersburg (carefully changed from its real name) from my “parents” wishing my “son” a “happy birthday” will never be cracked in a million years. My return thanks for the “birthday present” could be broken when petabit keys are considered small, but it will be too late by then. Muaahahah!

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 28, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

  24. Suspicion breeds confidence.

    Eternal vigilance is the price of prosperity.

    Be safe – Be suspicious.

    Loose talk is noose talk. Be a live patriot, not a dead traitor.

    Comment by MeToo — July 28, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

  25. The simple fallacy of “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to hide/ fear” is that YOU don’t get to define “wrong” – THEY do! But hey, they wouldn’t bug Rachel Smalley for the simple reason that she’s not a journalist……8-)

    Comment by Michael — July 28, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

  26. A little off topic, but, “Tell me which one of those listed does not believe in progressive taxation,”.

    Everyone believes in progressive taxation, even those who at first query think they do not. People who think there should not be any taxation at all obviously want it gone along with all other taxation, but if there is taxation then everyone accepts it must be progressive. It’s easy to demonstrate if one accepts that there are always going to be people so poor they have no surplus and that one will not take from those without surplus.

    From which it proceeds that some people cannot be taxed and they represent one tier of at least two tiers of progressing taxation. The argument is really how taxation, given it exists, is to progress.

    Arguments that there should be no taxation at all are another argument altogether.

    Comment by Fentex — July 28, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

  27. “If you are not guilty of anything you have nothing to fear.”

    One wonders exactly at what point of increased authoritarian intrusion people who ever accept this argument will begin to question it.

    Comment by Fentex — July 28, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

  28. @danyl: Whoah, you can get banned for being boring? Bold move. You’re right, he did tend to regard his own opinion as intrinsically more interesting than anything else (including the original post) but if that was a generally bannable offense the blogosphere would be very small.

    Still, it’s not as if we’re missing much. I could tell you Pete’s opinion on any given issue without needing to hear him actually give it.

    Comment by Hugh — July 29, 2013 @ 12:37 am

  29. Glad we’re banning people for being supremely boring – that’ll be the end of Neil Miller as well then.

    Comment by — July 29, 2013 @ 4:13 am

  30. @danyl: Whoah, you can get banned for being boring?

    Pour l’encouragement des autres, Hugh.

    Comment by Flashing Light — July 29, 2013 @ 7:51 am

  31. I pity the GCSB fool who has to tap Pete George’s communications.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 29, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  32. i have done nothing wrong so have nothing to hide is an attitude that gives power wielders a blank cheque to do what ever the power wielders want to do.

    Sorry do not buy that specious line.

    You want to know something about me? Let me know first. We can debate the issues.

    If I am still suspect keep me under surveillance, at least I know. Make it public knowledge.

    My neighbours. work associates, club associates, family would be forthcoming about my beliefs and actions

    If I was a genuine threat to the country it would be very apparent very quickly.

    That Key is pursuing this Bill so hard indicates he has something to hide.

    Conspiracy theorists feel free……

    Comment by peterlepaysan — July 29, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

  33. @Ben: I think that’s the job they give the new guy, or the guy who spills the Director’s coffee.

    Comment by Hugh — July 29, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

  34. Thomas Beagle gave some good arguments against the “I have done nothing wrong so have nothing to hide” argument at the “Stop the GCSB Bill” meeting. The one I particularly liked was you might not have anything to hide, but maybe someone in power does, like a judge or politician. And this gives anyone who possess this information a tremendous amount of power (e.g. they could easily use this information to blackmail people). Even if you think that the GCSB would never misuse this information, and that all GCSB agents are completely honourable and could never be corrupted, do you really trust them to secure all this information so that it could never fall into the wrong hands?

    Comment by wtl — July 29, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

  35. I’m amazed that the ‘innocent have nothing to hide’ argument holds any water at all.
    It appears that none who hold this opinion have read about or lived through any period of the 20th century.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 30, 2013 @ 9:11 am

  36. Funny thing is I’m struggling to come up with more than a handful of proper investigative journalists in NZ who might actually challenge the Defence’s bullshit. Very few will get paid to stroke through the spin, very very few actually, so like Jon Stevenson they need to be obsessed and altruistic. For most it’s easier and less time consuming to become a pundit.

    Due to the poverty of a fourth estate this bill will pass with most people unaware. And make it even less likely for journalists to ‘pose a threat to national security’.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — July 30, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

  37. And as for Rachel Smalley and The Nation… listen to the elegant destruction of a kiwi style current affairs programme over on the latest mediawatch.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — July 30, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

  38. Found this www from a link on another www regarding XKEYSCORE etc.

    Redbaiter is bang on the money with his obervations & comments etc about Journo’s Teachers etc. etc. And not just in NZ, but all around the world.

    Some of you are either blind/deaf, or are part of the problem. Fortunately a heck of a lot of people are now waking up, & not before time ! Alternative Media is where you’ll discover the Real Truth & Facts about what’s Really going on, & has been for years.


    Negative comments etc don’t affect me one bit, or byte ! So do your worst ……..

    Comment by Truther — August 1, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  39. hahah

    Comment by Rob — August 2, 2013 @ 8:30 am

  40. Considering that Rachel Smalley is a smug, arrogant, ego-inflated, silly reporter with an income seemingly based on physical rather than intellectual attributes, it’s a pretty safe bet that she won’t be spied on by the GCSB. She may, however, make a great second wife for someone else who is smug, arrogant, ego-inflated and silly.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — August 16, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

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