This afternoon in Question Time, John Key has refused to answer Russel Norman’s supplementary to Question One, asking if the GCSB has received any funding from the US.
Key says it’s not in the country’s interest to answer.
This question follows revelations in the UK Guardian that the US spy agency, NSA has provided secret funds to the UK branch of echelon – the GCHQ:
The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQover the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes.
Ministers have denied that GCHQ does the NSA’s “dirty work”, but in the documents GCHQ describes Britain’s surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a “selling point” for the Americans.
The papers are the latest to emerge from the cache leaked by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has railed at the reach of the US and UK intelligence agencies.
Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic. “It’s not just a US problem,” he said. “They are worse than the US.”
Also during the same question, John Key did his slippery contortions around apparently contradictory statements:
1) Content of New Zealanders’ emails won’t be accessed
2) “In principle” it is possible for the content of New Zealanders’ emails to be accessed by the GCSB.
I will update with full transcripts when they become available.
Now Shearer is questioning Key on the same points.
And then Key goes into attacking the opposition – divert, attack, prevaricate – standard Key MO.
[Update] Question One video from this afternoon’s Question Time:
Question Three – asked by David Shearer
[Update]: Question time Qu 1 transcript:
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister responsible for the GCSB: Will the Government Communications Security Bureau be able to access the content of any New Zealander’s communications under the cybersecurity provisions of the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister responsible for the GCSB) : I am advised that a combination of the provisions in the bill, specifically sections 8A, 15A, and 15C, means that the answer is no, not in the first instance. However, approval will be considered for the GCSB to access content if a specific and serious cyber-intrusion has been detected against a New Zealander. In those circumstances, the Commissioner of Security Warrants and I will need to be convinced that the action is necessary, falls within the function of protection, and will be limited to content that is related to the cyber-attack. The cyber-security function of bill clearly states that it is to protect the security and integrity of communications. It is not for spying or putting people under surveillance.
Dr Russel Norman : So is it correct to paraphrase the Prime Minister’s answer as: “No, it cannot access the content of New Zealanders’ communications, but, yes, it can access the content of the communications under certain circumstances.”, and how are those two answers compatible?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In principle, yes, but it is worth remembering that in the event that content was looked at, it would require another warrant. It would be highly specific, it would be for the purposes of protection, and it would almost certainly be with the agreement of the New Zealander.
Dr Russel Norman : As he has now admitted that in principle, yes, the GCSB will be able to access the content of New Zealanders’ emails, did he tell New Zealand on Campbell Live last week that “they would not have access”—
Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just ask you to consider the supplementary question that is being asked, because it makes a strong assertion at the beginning of what we hope will become a question. That is outside the Standing Orders, and I think it is not appropriate for a matter like this to have such gross misrepresentation allowed in the House.
Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : I will hear from Dr Russel Norman.
Dr Russel Norman : As I am sure you have realised, the difficulty is that the answer to the primary question originally was “no”, but then the Prime Minister went on and said: “But, in principle, yes.” The problem that we are dealing with is that the Minister’s answer is incoherent, so we are trying to deal with that.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, well, I certainly do not think that last point of order was helpful. If I go back to the very first answer to the supplementary question, the member’s interpretation of that answer is incorrect, and I think that is the point that Mr Brownlee is now raising about the continued paraphrasing of the answer in the opinion of the member. I do not agree with the way that it has been paraphrased. I ask the member to continue asking supplementary questions but to bring them within the Standing Orders.
Dr Russel Norman : Why did he tell New Zealanders on Campbell Live last week, his sole substantial television interview on this issue, that the GCSB would not have access to the content of their emails—to quote the Prime Minister—when he has just told us, just now, that in principle, under certain circumstances, it would?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, the member should stand corrected, because it is not my only television appearance on the matter. Secondly, the answer is correct that I gave on Campbell Live : no, it is not possible, but it would be possible to go and get a further warrant and do some work if required.
Dr Russel Norman : OK. Then is the Prime Minister prepared to consider an amendment to make it abundantly clear to everybody, including those of us in the Opposition who struggle to understand these things, that the bill will not allow access by the GCSB to the content of the communications?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is not necessary. It is already in the law. In fact, the function of cyber-security is clearly to protect, not spy. If the member wants to know what spying looks like, which is the claim he is making, he needs to go and look at section 8B, where the GCSB work is all about gathering intelligence, and the capabilities, intentions, and activities of people. Of course, that is in relation to foreigners. The member should tell me where he can see those provisions in the cyber-security. He cannot. The truth is that no one on that side of the House understood the legislation. That is why they spend so much time filibustering and wasting time instead of understanding the law. The people who look like fools are on that side of the House—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer is quite sufficient.
Louise Upston : Has the Prime Minister seen any reports about the importance of security legislation like the GCSB legislation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have. I have seen a report stating that “… the security of the realm should transcend party politics.” and: “… I recognise the support that members of the Opposition are giving to the passage of this bill.” That statement came from none other than David Cunliffe during the debates in 2003 on the GCSB. They are the leadership qualities the Labour Party—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is not in order. [Interruption ] Order! I have an interruption coming from Grant Robertson. Does the member want to take a point of order?
Dr Russel Norman : Does the GCSB receive funding directly or indirectly from the Government of the United States?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is not in my interest or the national interest for me to answer that question. I do not think any Minister responsible for the GCSB would do so.
Hon Trevor Mallard : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a long-term tradition in this House that a member’s interests—and the Prime Minister has said it is not in his interests to answer the question. He can say it is not in the national interest, but we know it is not in his interests already.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Prime Minister, I think, stumbled over the first words as he started that answer. He said that it is not in the country’s interest for him to continue to answer that question, and that is a perfectly satisfactory answer.
Dr Russel Norman : Does that mean that the Prime Minister will not deny that the GCSB has received funding from the Government of the United States?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No. It means that it is not in the national interest for me to discuss those matters.
Louise Upston : Can the Prime Minister outline for the House the increasing threat that the National Cyber Security Centre has reported on?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I can. The National Cyber Security Centre reported that in 2011 it had 90 incidents lodged with it. These constitute serious incidents that do damage or compromise the target or company involved. In 2012 that number increased from 90 to 134. The number this year is already standing at 204, and we are not even near the end of the year. These attacks are steeply rising and putting at risk our Government and our private sector security. The GCSB has a vital role to play in combating this, and that is why it is crucial the legislation is passed by the House.
Dr Russel Norman : Does the Prime Minister believe it is right or, indeed, lawful for the GCSB to receive funding from a foreign Government without informing this Parliament?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, the member should be very careful about jumping to any conclusions. It is not in the national interest for me to discuss those kinds of matters. But what is really interesting is that 24 hours before we finally pass the GCSB legislation, that member does not even have a question on the matter.
Louise Upston : Has the Prime Minister seen any other reports relating to the process under which the GCSB legislation is passed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have. I have seen the criticism from Sir Geoffrey Palmer of the process the bill has gone through. I have also seen a report that the State-Owned Enterprises Bill, which was passed in Sir Geoffrey’s name in 1986, had all of its final stages after the select committee stage taken in one day, including Sir Geoffrey’s reading the third reading on a Saturday. That was a bill that completely redefined the Government’s role in business and corporatised Government State-owned enterprises and set them up to be privatised, including the sale, under Labour, of New Zealand Steel, Petrocorp, the Post Office, Air New Zealand, State Insurance, and Telecom. If he wants to know about process, clearly he is an expert in the matter. [Interruption ]
Mr SPEAKER : Order!
Dr Russel Norman : Does the Prime Minister believe in the basic principles of parliamentary responsibility for the Government’s finances—that is, Parliament must know when the Government receives funding—if so, how can an agency like the GCSB receive money from a foreign Government without Parliament knowing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not saying it is, or it is not.
And that last point is important: funding of the GCSB by the NSA would undermine New Zealand’s democracy and sovereignty. Such funding needs to be transparent.