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GCSB is watching you? Won’t ‘confirm or deny’

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: ,

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.

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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.

[Update]

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.
Read more at the above link.

34 comments on “GCSB is watching you? Won’t ‘confirm or deny’”

  1. ghostrider888 1

    88.8 / 81

  2. fender 2

    People who make the request will end up being spied on if they weren’t spied on earlier. The GCSB need to be swamped with 4 million requests as punishment.

  3. Excuse me for linkwhoring but I have put some details up about the response (http://waitakerenews.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/the-gcsb-will-neither-confirm-nor-deny.html). I presume that this is a standard response to everyone but if so it is really ham fisted. If I am not on the list of 88 then a simple confirmation would be fine. If I am on then they would need to justify the response.

    If this is a standard response and could be legally justified it would probably mean that the GCSB would never have to disclose any information to anyone ever.

    • karol 3.1

      Thanks, micky. Your post adds some significant information and analysis. I will add the link to my post.

    • From waitakerenews:

      “If I am not one of the 88 I do not see how the disclosure would prejudice New Zealand’s security or defence or prejudice the maintenance of law.”

      Disclosure would imply that the GCSB had been acting illegally. It’s like taking the 5th in US terms.

      http://www.thefreedictionary.com/take+the+Fifth+Amendment

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.2.1

        Reality check: that’s not what the GCSB is arguing, and in any case the admission has already been made.

        • McFlock 3.2.1.1

          I reckon UT should invoke Common Law and forcibly (but Legally) search GCSB premises according to the Law of the Land.

          That would be a reality check…

        • Ugly Truth 3.2.1.2

          Reading for comprehension isn’t your strong suit, is it?

          • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.2.1.2.1

            What the fuck are you blithering about, dickcheese?

            You waffled: “Disclosure would imply that the GCSB had been acting illegally…”

            So, comprehending that you are talking shite as usual, I pointed out that they have already admitted acting illegally.

            Why don’t you convene a tribunal and try them in the people’s court of common law, as a demonstration of impotence and futility?

    • The Baron 3.3

      Lawl, the GCSB would have to be pretty bored and desperate to wanna track Greg Presland.

      Waving a few homemade placards does not make you an enemy of the state, Greggles.

  4. McFlock 4

    I assume the logic is that if they said “no” then if someone who was being or had been (because the information would still sit there waiting for pattern matching or corroboration) spied on asked, the GCSB would have to say “no” to them, too, or give the game away. Which makes the question somewhat futile.

    So rather than saying “no” to everyone, they just refuse to confirm or deny.

    • Agreed McFlock.

      I am sure this is the logic used but they did not have to tell everyone how they responded to others’ requests. Besides the legislation requires that the disclosure to me of my private information would prejudice the security of NZ etc. It would not. Drawing a conclusion from an analysis of a large number of responses may but is that my problem?

      Of course the other possibility is that I am an enemy of the state …

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 4.1.1

        No. The argument is that knowledge of whether or not you were targeted for surveillance would prejudice security, by providing insight into the GCSB’s priorities.

      • Anne 4.1.2

        Well, I have another argument to make:

        the other possibility is that I am an enemy of the state …

        Now, what if the criteria as to who is an enemy of the state has been quietly altered without our knowledge and acquiescence. What if it now includes anyone who is engaged in activities designed to bring down the NAct govt. That would include all Labour and Green activists from North Cape to the Bluff. It would also include most Standardistas! So, there you go mickysavage you’ve got lots of company. 😛

        No, it’s a serious matter, but the whole thing… from Dotcom through to the proposed legislation has its humorous side.

        Oh, what a tangled web they weave when they practice to deceive.

    • grumpy 4.2

      ….so….if Valerie Morse asked if she had been under surveillance and they replied “no”, could she then sue them for not taking her profession as an “activist” seriously?

      • Rhinocrates 4.2.1

        Or if they said “yes”, could we ask if they or the SIS paid as much attention to, say, Kyle Chapman or the Artist Formerly Known As The Business Round Table?

  5. AmaKiwi 5

    Labour will not un-do this legislation because it will give them enormous power when they are the government.

    This is the people versus their rulers. It is not about Left versus Right.

    • Murray Olsen 5.1

      Agreed 100%. Labour governments are just as interested in playing spooks as National are. As Nicky Hagar showed, it’s “carry on as you were.” Possibly the only difference is that they may gather information that doesn’t get back to a Labour PM, so they don’t have to not recall anything.

  6. AmaKiwi 6

    How does this story end?

    Visit the USA, if you dare.

    If you don’t dare, go to your library and get some books about Russia, China, Nazi Germany, etc.

    • Dv 6.1

      OR go to the library and get books out how to cook with pressure cooker

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      Russia is not that problematic.

      The Soviet Union pre Gorbachev…that’s a different story.

  7. muzza 7

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8338853.stm

    #2 in the picture top right – Atmospheric aerosols (more effective, and less expensive) – Pontification, of course!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4171591.stm

    Dimming, nothing to do with the geo-engineering then, of course, or is it. Geo-engineering could be classified as pollution, which the article names as a contributor , to the global dimming phenomenon

  8. Chooky 8

    It is an issue of ferreting out the ferrets…

  9. Rhinocrates 9

    Considering the last Labour government’s handling of the Zaoui affair (with Goff playing a major role), the expansion of state surveillance powers and the erosion of civil liberties not something I expect to be reversed should the um, ah, what’s his name, I mean it might be or not, Shearer led, possibly…

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