The Dim-Post

September 15, 2014

Greenwald vs Key

Filed under: intelligence,Politics — danylmc @ 5:52 am

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?


  1. I am pretty sure this ends in a draw. Greenwald reveals plans, with documents. Key says he stopped them, with documents. Key’s critics say “but there might be more that shows you relaunched plan”. Key says there’s not. Voters believe who they want to believe. We shall see.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — September 15, 2014 @ 5:58 am

  2. Reblogged this on Politically Corrected NZ and commented:
    Very helpful timeline from Andrea Vance for Dominion Post via Danylmc at Dim Post. Danylmc’s posts are almost always followed by insightful and interesting comments.

    Comment by sleepdepriveddiva — September 15, 2014 @ 6:04 am

  3. after seeing hager present at a conference in dunedin, i had thought Dirty Politics was to be about this subject – was surprised when it turned out to be about people like hooten. your timeline above should realistically extend all the way back to the late 90s.

    new zealand has been an embarrassingly compliant member of 5eyes since forever, so routine metadata harvest in the internet age shouldn’t surprise anyone. it’ll be the depth to which they’re stooping to please the americans that’ll be the shock.

    Comment by Che Tibby — September 15, 2014 @ 6:21 am

  4. More than th voters this election – there’s the facts – that don’t have such low information values, and that live on in real time outside of #teamkeys little bubble that we are suffocating within.

    Comment by CnrJoe — September 15, 2014 @ 6:24 am

  5. Yep – seeing this in terms of what happens on Saturday is taking way too short a timeframe.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 15, 2014 @ 6:45 am

  6. disclaimer! “they’re” in the previous comment refers to the security services here in NZL, obviously.

    hi guys! [waves]

    Comment by Che Tibby — September 15, 2014 @ 6:59 am

  7. Key has been very careful to exactly say the GCSB have never conducted mass surveillance of New Zealanders. That doesn’t mean someone else in the five eyes hasn’t. My guess is Greenwald will produce evidence of mass surveillance by the USA of NZ traffic, almost certainly aided by the GCSB. Key will stand by his exact wording – “The GCSB have never conducted mass surveillance of New Zealanders”. The public can judge.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 15, 2014 @ 7:06 am

  8. GCSB bog standard State overreach. (You lot vote for it time and time again.) For the authoritarians the goals of the State are more important than the right to privacy. Across all surveillance.

    Under Labour / Green GCSB is not going to close down (& job of handling crime to police) and NZ is not going to withdraw from 5 eyes. This week useful to bash Key around but later this government spying is very useful to hunt down tax evasion and hate speech. And all the other things government spying (with a wise committee installed) should be used for to help build a more equal & fairer society.

    Comment by Simon — September 15, 2014 @ 7:18 am

  9. A couple of points…

    There are five points listed! You are being inconsistent!

    (Just doing kalvarnsen’s job for her/him.)

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 15, 2014 @ 7:32 am

  10. If DotCom’s big hit is this then it will be a fizzer, of course if it is something else that is a really a big hit then maybe the Left who have run a lacklustre campaign might win

    On the other hand if there is a release of more scandal about the Left anything could happen, just who was Cunliffe’s secret donor ?

    Comment by rayinnz — September 15, 2014 @ 7:48 am

  11. 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.

    This does not follow. It may be the case (hopefully we’ll see the documents), but authorising the GCSB to look into something could include authorising them to prepare advice on necessary legislative change.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 15, 2014 @ 7:54 am

  12. Quote from Stuff “Glenn is going to show that there is, and they increased it ***after the GCSB bill was announced***”.

    Remember Greenwald has a new source with documents newer than the Snowden docs.

    Comment by Laser — September 15, 2014 @ 8:12 am

  13. Gotta love the spin machine in overdrive. John Key on newstalk zb this morning: “….we weren’t considering mass-surveillance, we were considering mass cyber-protection….” Really had to laugh at that one. Mike Hosking didn’t even bother to ask what that is supposed to be.

    Comment by eszett — September 15, 2014 @ 8:33 am

  14. 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.

    Following on from my quote above from Radio New Zealand (via Pete George on Twitter):

    Mr Greenwald said he had NSA documents showing that show the GCSB programme was underway; that “phase one” had been achieved and that “phase two” was waiting for a change to legislation to implement the programme.


    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 15, 2014 @ 9:20 am

  15. What does ACT, the party of classical LIBERTY and small government think about all of this? Come on Jamie Whyte, make a stand!

    Comment by MeToo — September 15, 2014 @ 10:00 am

  16. You know, if one were a suspicious person, one might even wonder if the attacks on NZ companies that just happened to result in massively increased powers for 5eyes in NZ were done by … 5eyes? Nah. Silly.

    Anyone remember that thing about how you couldn’t trust those rotten Chinese machines because they’d be stealing all your datas? Then it turned out it was actually the NSA saying that because they were annoyed the only machines they couldn’t get all your datas from were the Chinese ones. That most of those backdoors the hackers use to steal all your shit are written in at the behest of the NSA so they can do it (something they spend around a hundred million dollars a year on, making everything insecure). Just, you know, they have always lied, about everything. They are not out to protect your data.

    They just wanna watch. It’s cool. Anyone who values privacy is obviously hiding something nefarious. How else could find out who Rodney Hide was shagging when you wanted to take over the ACT party. Dirty man.

    Comment by tussock — September 15, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

  17. Key is a classic “speak-out-of-both-sides-of-your-mouth-at-the-same-time” operator. His supposed white knight act of stopping mass surveillance by the GCSB, as Sanctury points out above, will possibly seem a plausible explanation to those who want to believe Key, but it is at odds with the reality of GCSB’s entanglement with the Five Eyes mass surveillance programme. The closure of the Spy Valley base and the repeal of the GCSB enabling law by an incoming Labour-Green government will go a long way to protecting our privacy and ending our subservience to the rule-the-world ambitions of the US and its three other puppet states.

    Comment by Len Richards (@LenRichards) — September 15, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

  18. I think the really scary revelation is that the people’s guardian against mass surveillaince is … the Cabinet.

    “Gerry? Paula? Stop squabbling about the last biscuit and pay attention! We’ve been told this is important. No Steven, Five Eyes is not a character in the Hobbit …”

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 15, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  19. This week useful to bash Key around but later this government spying is very useful to hunt down tax evasion and hate speech.

    We have the IRD and SFO to “hunt down” tax evasion. As for hate speech, I didn’t realise we needed the GCSB to tell us when someone loudly proclaims they don’t like Jews.

    Comment by Ross — September 15, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

  20. According to the Herald: “Key has said he canned a plan for mass surveillance in March 2013 because it was too intrusive.”

    It’s nice of the PM to tell us there was a plan for mass surveillance. It’s a pity he didn’t tell us in March 2013. Clearly, voters are not all that important.

    Comment by Ross — September 15, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

  21. In response to your couple of points at the end:

    See the documents here:

    It is absolutely clear (paragraph 25 of the last document there for example) that these documents have absolutely nothing to do with secret mass surveillance and everything to do with mutually consenting IT security services.

    This is the biggest red herring from Key in a long time.

    Comment by Michael — September 16, 2014 @ 1:46 am

  22. “This week useful to bash Key around but later this government spying is very useful to hunt down tax evasion and hate speech.”

    Hate speech, eh? You’d better hope that the Catholics, farmers, global warming skeptics don’t get into power, the way liberals talk about them, lol.
    The idea of hate speech is up there with burning books and the concept of “enabling rape culture”. Sometimes you need to let people, whom you don’t like, express an opinion: if only so that you know who not to hang round with.
    All non-judicially justified spying is bad, not just spying by governments controlled by anyone right of the centre-left. Anyone who believes there is justification for this type of spying, could also believe what happened to Tuhoe has justification.

    “‘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”. That about nails it, I reckon.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 16, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

  23. Isn’t Five Eyes the rabbit in Watership Down? 😉

    Dunne said just after he heard that info, that he hadn’t known & that if was true they’d need to look into / change or something – re the passing of the GCSB legislation which he voted for. True to form the weasel has said nothing since.

    Mass Surveillance goes hand in hand with the TTPA.

    Already the facebook page John Key Has Let New Zealand Down has been taking down when a number of people starting discussing the TTPA

    Comment by flotsy — September 26, 2014 @ 1:21 am

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