To me the big reveal yesterday wasn’t in the ‘Moment of Truth’ event, it was in Glen Greenwald’s column on The Intercept, and it was this excerpt from an NSA planning document:
So during the huge, bitter debate about the new GCSB legislation of 2013, in which anyone suggesting it enabled the mass surveillance of New Zealanders was scoffed at and dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theorist, the NSA was anticipating metadata probes of the Southern Cross cable.
Relevant to that is this Radio Live interview yesterday with former GCSB head Sir Bruce Ferguson. Ferguson is withering about the suggestion that the GCSB is involved in mass surveillance. It’s against the law! They don’t have the ability to do it and even if they could, they simply would not have done so. It’s a whole bunch of rubbish. End of debate.
But then, when asked about the collection of metadata Ferguson says – and I quote – that ‘collecting metadata is not surveillance’, its ‘millions of numbers’ and you ‘cannot avoid it’.
Also significant: the Prime Minister has changed his story about surveillance in New Zealand three times in the three days. On Saturday there was no mass surveillance and Key said of Greenwald’s allegations: ‘There’s no ambiguity. No middle ground. I’m right. He’s wrong.’ On Sunday he admitted that Cabinet signed off on a business case for the GCSB to investigate ‘mass protection’ of New Zealanders against ‘cyber-attacks’ but that Key cancelled that program outright. ‘It never got past the business case’. Then yesterday he told the New Zealand Herald that the GCSB had tapped the Southern Cross cable for ‘cyber-protection’ but that he had then scaled back the program.
So we don’t for sure know whether the NSA and GCSB went ahead with their plans to collect metadata about New Zealanders. We do know that the spies and politicians were not telling us the truth during the debate about the GCSB legislation last year, and that they’re lying and arguing in bad faith now.