The justification for the expansion of the GCSB’s powers back in 2013 to give them the power to spy on New Zealanders was that there are ‘bad guys’ in our country. Terrorists. Radicals. Evil-doers who would harm innocent civilians or attack the economic infrastructure of the country to further their own deranged agenda.
What the GCSB is actually doing, we’ve learned from the Snowden leaks, is spying on New Zealanders – and everyone else – in Tuvalu, and Kiribati, and the Cook Islands, and the Antarctic research bases. And at the same time the police appear powerless to apprehend an individual or group threatening to murder babies and cripple the New Zealand economy by poisoning infant milk powder.
We’ve learned that the function of the GCSB is primarily diplomatic. It buys us good relations with the US. The value of that is obvious to Americaphiles in the New Zealand establishment and less obvious to me, but that’s what it does. What we’re seeing this week is that there’s an opportunity cost to that. Having security agencies that are devoted to carrying out US policy means they undertake tasks that are totally unrelated to our security interests while ignoring actual security threats to New Zealand like, say, radicals threatening to poison the infant milk supply unless their demands are carried out.