Written By: - Date published: 10:46 am, May 15th, 2013 - 34 comments
Categories: accountability, john key, national/act government, same old national, Spying, telecommunications - Tags: GCSB, kim dotcom
When the Kitteridge Report revealed that 88 New Zealanders had previously been spied on illegally by the GCSB, it was suggested concerned people ask the GCSB if they were one of the 88. Now people who followed that suggestion have received replies, with a won’t “confirm or deny” line, according to RNZ. In response to an RNZ question, GCSB boss Ian Fletcher issued a statement which, in RNZ’s words said:
that to confirm who or what the agency might have been investigating, or not investigating, would potentially identify law enforcement or national security priorities, which is not appropriate.
Valerie Morse, one of those arrested in the Urewera raids, is one of those who received the non-committal reply. She is contacting the Privacy Commissioner and is also considering starting a class action. However, these actions may not result in the GCSB releasing the information. However,
A barrister specialising in privacy law, John Edwards, says once people take their claims to the courts or the Privacy Commissioner there may be no grounds for the agency to withhold the information.
He says it may have to come clean on cases where it was monitoring people as part of a police prosecution.
Innocent people have good reasons to worry about their privacy being breached by the GCSB. mickysavage posted on Open mike this morning that he had written to the GCSB asking if he was one of the 88 they spied on, and the replies indicate such concerns.
Opposition MPs have raised questions about the possibility of the GCSB, part of the five country Echelon network, providing private information on NZ citizens to foreign intelligence agencies. Toby Manhire wrote on the issues in the NZ Herald on 10 May. He questioned the wisdom of the NZ government rushing through legislation to make illegal spying by the GCSB on Kiwis, legal.
As Winston Peters argues, the bill leaves the door dangerously open to the extension of these powers to unspecified “other agencies”. It provides potential for mission creep. It makes it easier to spy on New Zealanders, tap our phones, read our emails.
It’s not as though the existing legislation is adequate; it did and does need overhaul. And it’s not as though the new bill is without merit. There’s a good argument for using the GCSB inventory of surveillance tools in domestic situations. Oversight undoubtedly needs beefing up. But this is no way to do it. The sensible, responsible approach is a comprehensive review of NZ’s spy agencies.
Part of the concerns about “mission creep” involve the ultimate oversight of operations lying with the PM, as outlined by Chris Trotter in his response to the Kitteridge Report. There is also the concern around the shift from a focus on physical threats to NZ security, to “economic security”. This partly includes the need to ensure NZ businesses are not damaged by foreign sabotage.
However, when surveillance of NZ citizens are pulled into the system, it raises concerns about the use of the GCSB to support the power of wealthy international corporates. This concern partly arises out of the Kim Dotcom arrests, seemingly to support the interests of the powerful US motion picture industry and it’s attempts to extend their control of digital copyright. It’s also of concern when the government supports the profiteering of corporates over the interests of less powerful, low income New Zealanders, as in the dirty SkyCity deal, and the TPPA negotiations.
Waitakere News post on the details in a GCSB letter that responded to a request for information on being/not being one of the 88.
All this neither confirming nor denying made me feel like I am a nuclear weapons capable US warship.The GCSB has since confirmed that the grounds are contained in sections 27(1) PA and 6 (a) and (c) OIA. These allow the GCSB to withhold information if it thinks the disclosure would prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand or the international relations of New Zealand or that it would prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences and the right to a fair trial.But this response raises more questions than it answers.