Written By: - Date published: 9:02 am, July 3rd, 2013 - 42 comments
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Yesterday, hearings began on on the Bill amending the regulations related to the GCSB and surveillance. John Key showed complete disdain for the process by failing to ask questions and only intervening to hurry people along. There are good reasons to amend the regulations governing surveillance because their are murky areas. However, it is a threat to democratic rights and processes to extend GCSB’s powers to spy on New Zelanders, especially in the light of revelations about the extent of invasive spying by NZ’s Echelon partner, the US spy agencies.
Yesterday at the Parliamentary hearing, John Key showed his disdain for democratic process, and exposed the fact that he intends for the Bill to be passed in spite of extensive and valid opposition:
Mr Key chairs parliament’s intelligence and security committee which is hearing from the public on a bill that will make it legal for the Government Communications Security Bureau to spy on New Zealanders on behalf of other agencies.
The committee’s other members are Labour leader David Shearer, Greens co-leader Russel Norman, cabinet minister Tony Ryall and ACT leader John Banks.
On Tuesday, they heard arguments from the Law Society, Human Rights Foundation, Council of Trade Unions, and the Environment and Conservation Organisation, who discussed the public’s privacy expectations, whether the law should extend to companies and whether metadata can be considered private communication.
Mr Key didn’t ask a single question, instead acting only as a timekeeper who told submitters when their speaking time was up, Dr Norman says.
“He was kind of sitting there, grinding his teeth but not engaging … He was just simply going through the motions and waiting for the time to be up,” he told Radio New Zealand.
Russell Norman explained the problem and related issues in a clear and reaosnable way. Listen to the full RNZ interview here:
Yesterday in the NZ Herald, Paul G. Buchanan (“director of 36th Parallel Assessments, a geopolitical and strategic analysis consultancy“), provided a clear and knowledgeable assessment of the proposed Bill.
There is clearly a need to “tidy up” the legal framework governing GCSB activities on home soil because under the current act the role of the GCSB in domestic espionage is murky. But civil libertarians and privacy rights activists have legitimate reason to oppose the GCSB bill in its present form.
He argues against extending the GCSB powers in the terms of this Bill, which contains a dangerously vague definition of “threat to national security”, while providing poor oversight. Added to this is the fact that the NZ intelligence agencies are over-stretched and It would enable
… mission-creep into common law enforcement and encroachments on individual and group privacy. For example, under the proposed legislation the GCSB could assist the Ministry of Primary Industries to spy on environmental activists on behalf of fishing, logging or mining interests if their protests were deemed injurious to the economic well-being of the nation, which can be construed as a threat to national security under current definition of the term.
Buchanan is also critical of the related Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill , which he describes as being “more draconian than similar legislation under the US Patriot Act.”
Buchanan concludes that it is necessary to have a,
…a full inquiry into the New Zealand intelligence community is needed before any reforms are made to its legal architecture […]
There is some anticipation of Kim Dotcom providing a direct face-to-face and well-informed challenge to the PM at today’s hearing. Gordon Campbell provides some background and 5 possible Dotcom questions to the hearing (as outlined at the link). Campbell explains,
Given the rogue nature of the agency in question, Dotcom might usefully explore some of the GCSB’s existing activities as well as its proposed new powers.
What I’m getting at is that there are a few matters of substance at stake tomorrow, beyond the sheer personal drama of Dotcom’s confrontation with Key. And yes, it is weird that it should fall to a wealthy German to uphold the kind of freedoms that a previous generation of Kiwis fought to defend between 1939 and 1945. I hope the elderly supporters of Winston Peters get that irony.
On TV3 News last night, it was stated that they will be streaming the hearing live today, and that Kim Dotcom is likely to front at around 5pm.
Will there be fireworks, procedural diversions and/or useful clarifications?
Or will John Key continue to use his slippery, spin-laden, corporate-backed, MSM-enabled, Prime Ministerial power to continue to subvert democracy?
[update] Kim Dotcom told today’s GCSB hearing that Key knew about him prior to the GCSB spying on him. TVNZ article:
John Key, sitting as the Parliament’s Secretive Intelligence and Security Committee’s was chairing the meeting today when discussions became heated between the Prime Minister and the internet mogul.
Dotcom told the committee he believed Mr Key knew about him before the GCSB spying, when Mr Key replied, “no I didn’t”.
Dotcom then jibed, “why are you turning red, Prime Minister?”
“Why are you sweating?” Mr Key responded.
Dotcom said it was hot and that he was wearing a scarf.
Dominion Post: Thursday 4 July 2013, p1: