The ‘Moment of Truth’ is tonight. Greenwald will release his documents and then Key has announced that he’ll declassify documents disproving whatever it is that Greenwald proves. I found this timeline in the Dom-Post helpful:
November 2011 – Two un-named New Zealand companies come under signficant “cyber attack”
Early 2012 – In response, GCSB suggests it starts looking at carrying out mass surveillance. Key takes the idea to Cabinet, which authorises the agency to begin work with other intelligence partners in the Five Eyes network.
September 2012 – It emerges the GCSB had illegally spied on Kim Dotcom ahead of the January 2012 raid on his home
October 2012 – Rebecca Kitteridge is seconded to the GCSB to begin an internal review
March 2013 – Key tells the GCSB to put its business case into mass surveillance on hold
April 2013 – Fairfax reports that the Kitteridge review found the agency illegally spied on 88 Kiwis over a decade
May 2013 – The Government introduces two pieces of legislation to beef up GCSB and SIS powers
June 2013 – The first leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden appear, sparking a global debate on privacy and spy agencies
August 2013 – The GCSB bill passes, despite protests.
A couple of points:
- Yes, we’ve been members of the five-eyes alliance for a long time. But the proliferation of consumer digital technology and the fact that it enables intelligence agencies to place huge sections of the population under surveillance at a minimal cost, and those agencies have just gone ahead and done so means that the nature of the alliance has changed in the very recent past.
- Protecting government departments and companies from cyber-attack has NOTHING to do with mass surveillance. It’s a distraction, designed to confuse people because they both involve computers. Harvesting meta-data about phone calls or web traffic of New Zealand citizens does absolutely nothing to stop Chinese hackers targeting Fonterra or MFAT. It’s a bit like your local police officer saying ‘I think someone is trying to break into your house so I’m gonna drill peepholes in the walls of your bathroom and bedroom to keep you safe’.
- When the GCSB put their case for mass-surveillance to Cabinet and Cabinet authorised them to go ahead, they were authorising the GCSB to break the law because at that time spying on New Zealanders without a warrant was illegal.
- There might be something to Key’s story. Note the timing: he sends Kitteridge to review the GCSB and just before she reports back he (allegedly) cancels their surveillance program. Is that because Kitteridge was the first person to figure out that it was unlawful?
- If so, was it cancelled – as Key alleges, and claims he will produce documents to prove – or was it suspended until the legislation was passed later that year authorising the agency to spy on the public?