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Networks of influence: Key, Peter Thiel & the GCSB

Written By: - Date published: 9:21 am, June 13th, 2013 - 69 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, copyright, democracy under attack, greens, john key, russel norman, same old national, slippery, Spying, telecommunications - Tags: ,

So, there is now further exposure of the networks of influence that connect John Key and his government with crony capitalists and spy networks.

It’s not enough that Key intervened in the appointment of the GCSB that resulted in the recruitment of his long time Ian Fletcher, a man with a strong background in intellectual property.  It’s not enough that the Kim Dotcom saga keeps giving information on the links between Hollywood corporates and pressure on the government with respect to copyright legislation.  It’s not enough to learn about the US metadata spy programmes like Thin Thread and Prism.  It’s not enough that we learn that the developers and managers of Prism, Palantir are operating in NZ and working with Key’s government.  Many claim Palantir designed the Prism system used by the US NSA spying agency and the FBI. Palantir deny it, but others claim it is too much of a coincidence, given the systems Planatir have claimed to have developed.

Now it is becoming clear that Palantir’s co-founder, Peter Thiel has had extensive involvement in NZ since at least 2009, the first year of Key’s government.

Yesterday Russel Norman asked questions in the House about Palantir and Key’s relationship with Peter Thiel.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would describe my relationship as cordial. I have met Mr Thiel on a few occasions—I would have to go to check exactly, as I said, if the member wants to ask me. I have never had a discussion with Mr Thiel about Palantir or about intelligence matters. He is someone who happens to live a certain period of time in New Zealand. He was extremely generous after the Christchurch earthquake, as is a matter of record, and just because “Noddy” over there does not seem to—

Same old attack and divert line from Key at the end there.

In this morning’s NZ Herald, Adam Bennett shows some of Thiel’s involvement in NZ:

Mr Thiel, a billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former PayPal chief executive, was “extremely generous after the Christchurch earthquake”, Mr Key said. …

Mr Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Matrix Capital Management hold 7 per cent of Mr Drury’s Xero software company. Mr Drury did not respond to the Herald’s calls yesterday.

It’s not necessary to research very far or deep online in order to find out quite a bit about Peter Thiel:

Business Insider Australia has a 2011 article on Peter Thiel and his involvement in NZ, entitled, “Billionnaire Facebook Investor, Petere Thiel Pours Money Into His “Utopia” New Zealand“.

Peter Thiel, famous for making billions off Facebook, tells us he’s finally found “utopia” – New Zealand.Thiel has been investing heavily in the country.

He’s already made two noteworthy venture investments there in the space of a few months. In October 2010, he invested $3 million in online accounting firm Xero, which is based (and publicly traded) in New Zealand. Then he invested $4 million in Pacific fibre, an ambitious company that is building a fibre-optic cable from Australia to New Zealand to the US and is raising $300-400 million more to do so.

These investments aren’t just one-offs. Thiel has set up a local venture firm called Valar Ventures. Valar Ventures LP was registered in New Zealand in July 2009, more than a year before Thiel’s first known New Zealand investment, and is managed by Valar Capital Management LLC, based in San Francisco, according to official records. Valar Ventures LP’s offices are at prominent New Zealand law firm Bell Gully, which suggests it doesn’t have full time staff yet. Peter Thiel founded two other companies in New Zealand: Second Star Limited, where he is sole shareholder, and Silverarc Advisors.

The people associated with these New Zealand companies, all of them close associates of Thiel at his hedge fund Clarium Capital, show how serious Thiel is about New Zealand. Valar Capital Management is managed by Nathan Linn, VP of Finance at Clarium. On the boards of Thiel’s New Zealand companies are Matt Danzeisen, Principal at Clarium, James Fitzgerald, COO and General Counsel at Clarium, and Andrew McCormack, VP Corporate Development at Clarium and previously Thiel’s assistant at PayPal.

The article also reports on the libertarian philosophy that underpins his business operations. It seems that he can’t set up the libertarian state he wants in the US, so has looked to NZ with it’s open door, “free-market” legislation.

Thiel is very libertarian, and New Zealand already has some of the most free-market policies in the world. Thiel is also a donor to the Seasteading Institute, a foundation that wants to create libertarian self-sustaining colonies out at sea. A popular libertarian cause is the “Free State Project” to get tens of thousands of libertarians to emigrate to New Hampshire and take over the government democratically to reshape the state according to libertarian ideals.

Thiel also has given promising young people financial incentives to drop out of college, in the form of Thiel Foundation Fellowships, as reported in the Huffington Post‘.

Thiel and Palantir (whose software customers include “many branches of the US government, especially in the intelligence community, and recently JP Morgan“) were also in the spotlight for having contributed to a plan to oppose Wikileaks back in 2011.  Thiel rebutted the claims that he was involved in developing cyber attack systems:

[Palantir CEO] Karp also personally apologizes to Glenn Greenwald, a Salon.com journalist who is a noted supporter of Wikileaks and who is specifically named by the document as a potential target.

Palantir cyber-technologies have also been used by the US military in places like Afghanistan.

It didn’t take me long to find this stuff online.

What more is there to learn about the person, who John Key praises for his philanthropy, and who, as with pre-GCSB Ian Fletcher, John Key has met once or twice, but can’t remember exactly when and where?

How much more are we yet to learn about Key and his government’s interwoven US-focused, cyber-spying, intellectual property and wealthy “neoliberal” corporate networks of influence?

69 comments on “Networks of influence: Key, Peter Thiel & the GCSB”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Has any government body ever been asked to produce a report or briefing on Thiel and if so, let’s see it.

  2. freedom 2

    do we get to know the manner of his generosity after the quakes?

  3. Pasupial 3

    Seriously: Valar Ventures? Named after the angel/gods of the Silmarillian. And that’s on top of Palantir…

    Yep. Also: Mithril Capital Management. I suspect a link between the two Peters (Jackson & Thiel). Especially given that a; Catherine Thiel (or; Carrie Thiel?), was involved in the CGI of LOTR, haven’t been able to find if she is a relation yet. Googling now.

    • Pasupial 3.1

      Here’s something linking Thiel & Weta: “…[The Booktrack] startup has raised $2 million in Series B funding from Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Park Road Post Production, Weta Digital GM Tom Greally, Sparkbox Ventures, New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, EFU Investments Ltd., Stephen Tindall’s K One W One, and others”. Link: http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/17/booktrack-2m-series-b/

      Also interesting is this speech to the 2011 ICI Ideas conference: URL: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/watch/cpyBYsGQWUE/peter-thiel-paypal-talks-new/
      Much of it is typical conference speak (can anyone identify the host speaker, he looks familiar; but I can’t say from where). But once we get past the gushing over NZ adventure tourism, there’s some intriguing comments – the focal refrain is: “Globalisation is about copying things that work, technology is about doing new things” (e.g. 6:43, but he says it a few times).

      More fascinating is near the end (starting 11:49): “…If I had to give one broad theme that we are most focused on; is this idea of computer technology being applied to everything else. And so we’ve had this computer revolution that’s gone on for forty years – it’s been incredibly powerful and robust. But there’s a question’s whether the time’s starting to come to apply information processing to other domains. So; bio-informatics, robotics, [then a couple of less creepy sounding examples]… That’s probably the one overarching theme we’ve been focused on in the last three to four years…”

  4. “Ian Fletcher, a man with a strong background in intellectual property”

    Ian Fletcher, a man with a strong background in intellectual property while working for the British government and oh oops being investigated for contempt for the government of Queensland!

    Thiel just had a nice tète a tète with his Bilderberger buddies in Watford including one of John Key’s soul mates George Osborne.

    But no conspiracies here!

  5. erentz 5

    “It’s not enough that we learn that the developers and managers of Prism,Palantir are operating in NZ and working with Key’s government.”

    When were Palantir identified as the developers and managers of PRISM? Or are you accidentally (or perhaps purposefully) conflating the different Prism application they produce with the PRISM spying system that was made public by Snowden?

    (I suspect Palantir are dodgy as heck. But please stick with facts on this subject lest it be used to paint the left as conspiracy nuts who make things up and so on.)

    • karol 5.1

      Thanks, erentz.

      I was going on my memory that the NSA Prism system had been associated with Palantir on the TV3 news a couple of nights ago.

      I did some checking, and it seems Palantir designed a similar system, and Russel Norman is asking if Palantir are designing such a system for NZ spy agncies. . Palantir deny they designed Prism, others say that previously Palantir had claimed to have designed a system used by intelligence agencies that sounds very much like Prism.

      But hold on a second. This is the same Palantir that the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2009 had “designed what many intelligence analysts say is the most effective tool to date to investigate terrorist networks.” The article describes how Palantir made a tool that can easily scan multiple sources and has been used by the CIA, the Pentagon and the FBI. In fact, the CIA’s nonprofit venture-capital firm, In-Q-Tel, invested about $2 million in Palantir, which is now worth about $5 billion. So in other words, the CIA-backed Palantir is saying its Prism is not in any way related to the NSA’s PRISM, even though Palantir’s Prism software would be perfect for collecting massive amounts of data from outside servers, which is what the NSA’s PRISM is being accused of.

      I’ve amended my post accordingly.

    • BLiP 5.2

      Hard to say, at this stage, exactly what Palantir is up to. At the moment, the firm is saying its just a coincidence that one of its products is called “Prism” and its PR marchants are spinning like tops to distance the company from the recent revelations. Still, as the Wall Street Journal reported a while ago . . .

      . . . Palantir’s software has helped root out terrorist financing networks, revealed new trends in roadside bomb attacks, and uncovered details of Syrian suicide bombing networks in Iraq, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the events. It has also foiled a Pakistani suicide bombing plot on Western targets and discovered a spy infiltration of an allied government. It is now being used by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation . . . One of the venture firms that rejected Palantir’s overtures steered the company to In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit venture-capital firm established by the CIA a decade ago to tap innovation that could be used for intelligence work . . .

      . . . given the level of deceipt and obfuscation we’re witnessing internationally, along with the fact that Palantir is looking to embed an operative in the New Zealand government, excuse me if I find it a little disconcerting that concern trolls who are “Green voters, but. . . ” and who are concerned about valid questions being painted as those of “conspiracy nuts”.

  6. Populuxe1 6

    Does it not strike you as improbable that an out and proud extreme Libertarian like Thiel would be actively enabling a government to have more control over the private lives of its citizens?

    • karol 6.1

      Contradictory, but not improbable. Neoliberal calling themselves “liberterian” often have such contradictions. Thiel’s “liberterian” values ultimately seem to serve his own wealth accumulation, and freedom from regulations. Thiel certainly has a curious mix of interests, as reported by The New Yorker. He doesn’t want government or state restrictions, but aims to be the one with most control. Some snippets from a long article that needs to be read in its entirety:

      As a teen-ager, his favorite book was “The Lord of the Rings,” which he read again and again. Later came Solzhenitsyn and Rand. He acquired the libertarian faith in high school and took it close to the limit. …

      Thiel liked to quote Margaret Thatcher: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women.”

      That year, he was interviewed by Reason, the libertarian magazine. “My optimistic take is that even though politics is moving very anti-libertarian, that itself is a symptom of the fact that the world’s becoming more libertarian,” he said. “Maybe it’s just a symptom of how good things are.”

      In 2009, Thiel posted an essay, “The Education of a Libertarian,” on the Cato Institute’s Web site. Sounding even more like an Ayn Rand hero than usual, he wrote, “In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms—from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called ‘social democracy.’ . . . We are in a deadly race between politics and technology. . . . The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.” There was little doubt who the single person might be.

      The fortune that Thiel has since accumulated has given him an influential role in Republican Party politics. During the primary phase of the 2008 Presidential campaign, he gave money to Ron Paul, the libertarian representative from Texas; during the general election, he gave money to John McCain. He has raised funds for Senator Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, and Representative Eric Cantor, of Virginia—both champions of the anti-government Tea Party.

      Thiel himself, perhaps out of sheer contrarianism, is uncertain about Darwinian evolution. “I think it’s true,” he said, “but it’s also possible that it’s missing a lot of things, and it’s possible it’s not the most important thing.” Global warming is also “probably true,” but the matter is too clouded by political correctness to be properly assessed. The closer science gets to politics, the more vague and less convincing Thiel’s thinking becomes….

      No technological change would have more effect on the living standards of struggling Americans than improvements in energy and food, which dominate the economy and drive up prices. “That’s not one I focus on as much,” Thiel admitted. “It is very heavily politically linked, and my instinct is to stay away from that stuff.” Such oversights are telling. In Thiel’s techno-utopia, a few thousand Americans might own robot-driven cars and live to a hundred and fifty, while millions of others lose their jobs to computers that are far smarter than they are, then perish at sixty….

      So we see the true limits of Thiel’s commitment to freedom for all and ends to income inequalities.

      This reported by Slate;

      His belief system is based on unapologetic selfishness and economic Darwinism. His most famous quote—borrowed from Vince Lombardi—is, “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.” In a personal statement produced last year for the Cato Institute *, Thiel announced: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” The public, he says, doesn’t support unregulated, winner-take-all capitalism and so he doesn’t support the public making decisions. This anti-democratic proclamation comes with some curious historical analysis. Thiel says that the Roaring 20s were the last period when it was possible for supporters of freedom like him to be optimistic about politics. “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron,” he writes.

      The technologies that Thiel’s company has been involved in developing for, or with help from, the CIA, etc, are very much capable of being used to intrude on the privacy of individuals, albeit in the name of protection from “terrorism”.

      .

      • Rogue Trooper 6.1.1

        Excellent overview karol, can see where Thiel would like society to head (down); it is becoming increasingly apparent that democracy as practiced in the modern world is incompatible with freedom, while intellectual dwarfs like Thiel & Key et al; want to “make the world safe for (unbridled) capitalism”.

        In Q.4, QT,11.6 Shearer came close to successfully pinning Key on PRISM / Palentir. I believe Key implied that international data exchanges have ocurred, if signed off on, warrants, etc.
        (Shearer really hooked into Key when beginning the Urgent Debate into the Henry Report into Dunne and the leaks.)
        I also believe that in QT 12.6 Key implied that Palentir are assisting moving the government of NZ towards greater surveillance of it’s citizens; Palentir to data-mine like PRISM at a national level.
        Great speech from Norman in miscellaneous business about “putting the security services back into the box”.

        On RNZ, Sir Bruce Ferguson stated (domestic security services) “not knowingly” exchanged intell obtained by NSA / PRISM, that such would occur “on a need to know basis” and that he could not “recall and confirm in the affirmative or negative”, echoing Clapper in the senate committee hearing using the terms “not wittingly” spied on domestic US citizens.

      • emergency mike 6.1.2

        “The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

        FFS. So he’s a rabid black or white thinking ideologue with messiah complex. I’m sure this will end well.

      • Populuxe1 6.1.3

        Karol, I think you may be reading the Libertarian fan-boy jargon rather too literally. Their understanding of certain very ordinary words is very different to that of normal, non-sociopathic people.

    • Galeandra 6.2

      No, not if it’s a low tax, in-the-bathtub sort of government which gets out of the way of wealthy/powerful/ ‘self actualising’ elites while keeping the masses quelled so that things can stay as they are. Libertarians like that sort of government

      • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1

        +1

        Haven’t net a libertarian yet that like democracy and the general populace having a say in their own lives. Their all for the rich having a say in everyone else’s though.

  7. Rich 7

    …get tens of thousands of libertarians to emigrate to New Hampshire

    That’s actually an awesome scheme. NH is very cold in winter with lots of snow. Once their new propertarian government gets in and stops clearing the roads, food deliveries won’t get through and the propertarians will all starve to death).

  8. Chooky 8

    Thanks Karol! great investigation.

    Re the 2 Peters connection:- It would be ironic if filming of the Lord of the Rings in NZ ( which incidentally I thought should have been filmed in Grt Britain….Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, by a much more subtle director) should have attracted and unleashed a real live Sauron force into our fair countries midst!

    SPOOKY! ( It sent shivers all down the perches…Where is Winnie?)

    RISE UP THE HOBBITS!

  9. muzza 9

    Excellent article on this subject, again, Karol. Your analysis is outstanding, and like other authors here, what potential might exist, if such insight was available in the MSM!

    Key, Thiel et al, and the ideology these people revere, is not one which folk are keen to acknowledge, or accept, but slowly, the layers are peeling back, and the alter, at which they kneel, will become undeniable!

    NZ is getting a front row seat to the *experiment*, past, present and future!

  10. URGENT!

    No apologies for the length of this post – it contains research which may help in the making of submissions. (If you think it’s too long – don’t bother reading it :)

    ‘Drop dead’ TIME for submissions on both the following Bills is MIDNIGHT (not 5pm) TODAY Thursday 13 June 2013!

    (I’ve checked with the appropriate Parliamentary staff for both Bills).

    Today, Thursday 13 June 2013 is the closing date for submissions on both the –

    GCSB – Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

    http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Legislation/Bills/f/b/f/00DBHOH_BILL12122_1-Government-Communications-Security-Bureau-and.htm
    Submissions would be accepted up until midnight.

    Please email to GCSB.Bill@parliament.govt.nz

    _________________________________________________________

    AND the –

    Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill
    http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/MakeSub/0/e/d/50SCLO_SCF_00DBHOH_BILL12123_1-Telecommunications-Interception-Capability.htm
    Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill

    Public submissions are now being invited on the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill. Submissions can be made through the link at the bottom of this page.

    The closing date for submissions is Thursday, 13 June 2013
    The bill seeks to repeal and replace the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004

    The bill is available for download from the `Related documents´ panel. Print copies can be ordered online from Bennetts Government Bookshops.

    The committee requires 2 copies of each submission if made in writing. Those wishing to include any information of a private or personal nature in a submission should first discuss this with the clerk of the committee, as submissions are usually released to the public by the committee. Those wishing to appear before the committee to speak to their submissions should state this clearly and provide a daytime telephone contact number. To assist with administration please supply your postcode and an email address if you have one.

    Further guidance on making a submission can be found from the Making a Submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee link in the `Related documents´ panel.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    For background info which may help you make a submission – here you go!

    Reported comments at the ‘post-cabinet press conference’ held on 10 June 2013, regarding the expectation of the Prime Minister for the GCSB to act within the law:

    “The PM was asked if he there was any chance that the National Security Agency of the United States had collected in information on New Zealanders.

    It has been revealed that The United States intelligence agency have been engaged in widespread secret interception of internet communications.

    Mr Key said he could not go into the operational techniques of either the GCSB or New Zealand’s security partners but he expected the GCSB to act within the law. The GCSB did work with other intelligence agencies from time to time but New Zealand did not have a “wholesale reciprocal”of information exchange.”

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1306/S00064/pm-post-cabinet-press-conference-10-june-2013.htm

    In New Zealand, citizens have LAWFUL rights to privacy under the NZ Privacy Act 1993:

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1993/0028/latest/DLM297038.html

    ‘Principle 1′, of the above-mentioned Privacy Act 1993:

    “Personal information shall not be collected by any agency unless—
    (a) the information is collected for a lawful purpose connected with a function or activity of the agency; and

    Principle 4:

    “Personal information shall not be collected by an agency—
    (a) by unlawful means; or
    (b) by means that, in the circumstances of the case,—
    (i) are unfair; or
    (ii) intrude to an unreasonable extent upon the personal affairs of the individual concerned.”

    s.5 of the Privacy Act 1993
    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1993/0028/latest/DLM297036.html

    5Act to bind the Crown
    This Act binds the Crown.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Legislation/Bills/f/b/f/00DBHOH_BILL12122_1-Government-Communications-Security-Bureau-and.htm

    Compare the growing attacks on the lawful rights of citizens to privacywith the lack of accountability at the highest levels of Government- Cabinet!

    How can you have ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ without proper WRITTEN RECORDS?

    Why isn’t the Public Records Act 2005 being applied in a proper way to Cabinet, regarding the CREATING of records?

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0040/latest/DLM345729.html

    17. Requirement to create and maintain
    records

    (1)Every public office and local authority must create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice, including the records of any matter that is contracted out to an independent contractor.

    (2)Every public office must maintain in an accessible form, so as to be able to be used for subsequent reference, all public records that arein its control, until their disposal is authorised by or under this Act or required by or under another Act.

    http://www.cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/8.86

    Ministerial records
    General

    8.86During their time in office, and on leaving office, Ministers will need to consider how to store or dispose of the papers created or received in their capacity as Ministers of the Crown (“ministerial records”).

    These papers fall broadly into the following three categories:

    Cabinet and Cabinet committee records (agendas, papers, and minutes);ministerial papers and files;departmental papers and files.

    8.87 The following paragraphs provide guidance on the storage and disposal of ministerial records. The Cabinet Office and Archives New Zealand are able to provide additional advice.

    8.88Ministers also receive and hold papers in their non-ministerial capacity; for example, correspondence with constituents and private or personal papers.

    (These papers are referred to as “non-ministerial records”.) Archives New Zealand is also able to provide guidance on the storage and disposal of these papers.

    (See paragraphs 8.98 and 8.99.)

    Cabinet and Cabinet committee records
    Disposal or storage

    8.89 By convention, Ministers are permitted to retain personal copies of Cabinet records on leaving office. The documents,
    however, are not their personal property. The licence to retain Cabinet records continues only for a Minister’s lifetime, after which the records should be returned to Archives New Zealand

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION!

    http://techliberty.org.nz/gcsbs-new-powers-for-wide-spread-spying-on-new-zealanders/
    GCSB’s new powers for wide-spread spying on New Zealanders
    Posted on June 9, 2013

    There have recently been a number of revelations about the US government spying on its citizenry and other people around the world (a good summary). Many people have been shocked to find out the extent of the US’s spying and access into theoretically private systems.

    What many New Zealanders don’t realise is that the NZ government is currently changing both the GCSB Act of 2003 and the Telecommunications Interception Capability Act of 2004 to allow similar levels of access to New Zealand communications for the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau).

    Current law

    The current TICA law already gives the GCSB, Police or SIS the technical capability to intercept all NZ communications if they have a valid warrant.

    The GCSB can get warrants to spy on the communications of foreign people and organisations, although they can spy without a warrant if it doesn’t require the installation of any device (e.g. wireless/satellite/radio/mobile).

    TICS – Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill

    The new TICS Bill clarifies and expands on these interception capabilities. It also allows them to be extended to service providers (people who offer “goods, services, equipment, and facilities that enable or facilitate telecommunication”) such as email providers, Trademe forums, Mega, etc.

    TICS continues the existing regime where these interception powers can only be accessed with a valid warrant, but keep reading for the new exceptions to this in the GCSB Bill.

    Furthermore, the TICS Bill also creates a new role for the GCSB, ensuring the security of New Zealand’s telecommunications infrastructure. This includes wide powers of oversight and control of how communications networks are managed and implemented in order to “protect New Zealand’s national security or economic wellbeing”.
    ______________________________________________________________________________

    GCSB – Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment William BrownThe new GCSB Bill gives the GCSB three purposes (we’ll come back to these):

    8A – Information assurance and cybersecurity. (Expanded from protecting government communications to a much wider responsibility for New Zealand’s communications.)
    8B – Intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing. (Similar to the existing law except that it adds “gathering information about information infrastructures” to the existing spying on foreign people/organisations.)
    8C – Helping the Police, SIS and Defence Force by providing advice and assistance in helping them execute their own legally obtained warrants. (This is entirely new.)
    The bill doesn’t significantly change how the GCSB can apply for an interception or search warrant, but it does add a whole new class of “access authorisation”. To quote section 15A(1)( b)

    The Director may apply in writing to the Minister for the issue of an access authorisation authorising the accessing of 1 or more specified information infrastructures or classes of information infrastructures that the Bureau cannot otherwise lawfully access.

    These authorisations are granted at the whim of the Minister (although see below) and are incredibly wide-ranging and open-ended. There are no recommendations of limits (other than what the Minister sees fit to impose) and there is no automatic expiry. And just in case you thought that the TICA/TICS law might provide some protection, the GCSB Bill goes on to add section 15A(5):

    …………………….

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1306/S00357/industry-groups-concerned-at-prism-implications.htm
    Industry groups concerned at PRISM implications.

    Wednesday, 12 June 2013, 9:10 am
    Press Release: Internet NZ

    Industry groups concerned at PRISM implications. Call for TICSA/GCSB Bills submission extension.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    Penny Bright
    ‘Anti-corruption / anti-privatisation’ campaigner
    2013 Auckland Mayoral candidate

  11. tracey 11

    Sorry karol but I don’t quite see how this is proof that key has a relationship with Thiel which could then be construed as meaning that Key has invited or knows of a contract within the realms of Prism. I may have misunderstood, happy to be corrected and unconfused.

    • karol 11.1

      Tracey, and Wayne below, it’s just an indication of the networks Key is involved in. We all interact with a range of networks, but it’s telling the kinds of networks that Key inserts himself into most regularly. It’s not about some organised and planned conspiracy, Wayne. It’s more subtle than that.

      It may not seem like much to the likes of Wayne, but for us less powerful folk, it highlights the networks of like-minded influential people who have a major influence on the NZ government, and in Thiel’s case, the US government and its spy agencies.

      In response to Russel Norman’s question this week, Key adopted the same vagueness over his contacts with Thiel as with his contacts with Ian Fletcher prior to shoulder-tapping Fletcher for the GCSB job.

      Thiel’s involvement with Key and the NZ government goes back a way.

      Hamish Fletcher reported this in an article on Thiel in the NZ Herald back at the beginning of 2011:

      Thiel has another connection to New Zealand – the Herald understands he has purchased an exclusive Parnell property through Auckland real-estate agent Graham Wall.

      It is also believed Thiel has privately met Prime Minister John Key.

      In March 2012, ironically in defending the decision to allow Kim DOtcom residency in NZ, John Key said:

      Key said it was “not for me to opine” on whether Dotcom had broken American law by establishing Megaupload, but that the Investor Plus category of migrant had been, on the whole, valuable to New Zealand.

      He cited New York billionaire Julian Robertson, who has developed tourist resorts in New Zealand and made the largest single art collection donation in Australasia, film-maker James Cameron and Paypal founder Peter Thiel, an investor in kiwi accounting software company Xero, as examples.

      Key elaborated on this in his post cabinet press conference, as reported by NBR:

      “Having high net worth individuals come here is a positive, in my view,” he said at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference. “There will never be massive numbers. There aren’t that many of them.

      “The vast bulk of people don’t come in the super-rich category, if you’re talking about how people get citizenship,” Key said.

      A little later in the same month Stephen Joyce announced:

      Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce today announced that United States investor Peter Thiel has established a New Zealand venture capital fund alongside the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and private investors.

      This promotion of, and networking with, such individuals investing in NZ seems Key pre-occupation. I don’t see him mixing so much with those on low incomes or groups who promote their well-being, except when there’s a photo op in it.

      On Prism, there have been reports that Thiel’s company Palantir, with PRISM-like systems, is now operating in Wellington, is recruiting for work involving the government.

      • Anne 11.1.1

        This promotion of, and networking with, such individuals investing in NZ seems to be a Key pre-occupation. I don’t see him mixing so much with those on low incomes or groups who promote their well-being, except when there’s a photo op in it.

        Precisely the point. Everybody aspires to reach a higher level on the class human scale than they actually are…

        This is Key’s desired level – a wannabe filthy rich corporate internationalist. He’s actually using NZ and New Zealanders to achieve his aim. It’s not about Key wanting to do his best for the country as he claims, but rather wanting the country to do its best for him. As soon as he thinks he’s made it, he will shoot through and we won’t see him again.

  12. Huginn 12

    Key was talking about contracting out government business to Google a few years ago. I found this while I was looking for it:

    15/07/2011
    ‘Prime Minister John Key will meet with the top brass of internet giants Google and Facebook, as well as Hollywood bosses on a visit to the United States next week.

    But before the political talks, Key will make stops on the American west coast for meetings with representatives of The Hobbit co-producer New Line Cinema and senior executives at Facebook and Google.

    Key confirmed the Tuesday meetings were on the agenda in his weekly newsletter to voters, sent this afternoon.

    “The meetings were arranged to talk about technology and innovation issues, areas of co-operation between these two important companies and New Zealand, and whether opportunities exist for investor interest in New Zealand,” a spokesman for Key said.

    “As a Government we are very focused on trying to lift New Zealand’s technological capability. Google and Facebook represent real opportunities to keep and grow our on-line connections to the rest of the world.”

    “I think without doubt both Google and Facebook are very influential in shaping how we work and play.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5292868/John-Key-to-meet-with-Google-Facebook-and-movie-bosses

  13. Wayne 13

    Karol, As you say it is easy to find all these links of the various people and their activities on the Internet. They don’t exactly try to hide it. In fact they go out of their way to promote it. For instance Derek Handley has just written a very interesting book.

    So why is it a problem that all these people know each other. Of course they do.

    As a former Minister of Science and Innovation I met them all. And some of the initiatives now coming about have their origins from those discussions, especially the ICT Innovation Hub associated with Callaghan Innovation, plus The Base in San Francisco.

    Anyone working in this sector, whether in governement or the private sector, will know all about these links. And a lot has been done to cultivate them to get better connections for the NZ ICT sector with the West Coast of the US.

    And yes they are often quite libertarian, since they all have total self belief in their ability to succeed by their efforts. But so what. Their political beliefs do not come into what govts do. You would be hard pressed to see any NZ science or innovation initiative that has some sort of libertarian tone to it.

    So really your conspiracy theory simply does not add up.

    • Rogue Trooper 13.1

      really, Libertarians and Conservatives.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarians
      reads like anarcho-capitalism. let the anarchists from both ends of the political spectrum face-off = the rise, and rise,of terrorism. The RAF flies underground.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baader-Meinhof_Gang

    • karol 13.2

      Wayne, see my reply to Tracey above. Also, if it were merely about these people being involved in Science and Innovation, then I wouldn’t be so concerned.

      But all these connections are happening in a context were the GCSB & Echeolon network, plus the kind of surveillance systems Palantir is involved with, are raising serious questions and concerns internationally. Added to this is the Key government anti-democratic processes, and the legalising of GCSB surveillance of NZ citizens, plus the way the GCSB under Key’s watch has shifted more towards protecting economic interests and intellectual copyright in ways that favour corporates over the less powerful.

      Thus, in view of all these happenings, I think it is important to to question the connections and roles of the likes of Thiel in NZ. Key is not doing anything to damp down such questioning with his obfuscations, vaguenesses and diversions.

      • Wayne 13.2.1

        Karol, two interesting posts.

        Yes the PM does interact with this group of people. In many respects they are his generation or close to it. He is much more networked into this global group than any other prior NZ PM. His prior job and the level he rose to ensures that. He was involved in the most globally networked part of the economy; global finance and IT. The latter by degrees of connection and their need for huge infusions of capital in order to grow at often exponentional rates

        And a significant number of them are really interested in NZ, often for quite eccentric reasons – the billionaires who visit NZ in their private jet and then bike around NZ as an expression of their oneness with nature – work that one out if you can!

        So he is certainly going to know those who come to NZ especially if they are from the US, where he PM did a lot of his work. In Peter Theil’s case he has actually become a citizen.

        There are quite a few who have exclusive hideaways in Queenstown area and Bay of Islands.

        Yes, it is a bit of an unusual part of the zeitgist, but there you are.

        • karol 13.2.1.1

          Well, Wayne, your acceptance of Key’s key’s nurturing of those kinds of networks is a little unsettling, and doing nothing to lessen my concerns.

          Thiel is an NZ citizen? great.

          • Colonial Viper 13.2.1.1.1

            We’re just so lucky that such a mighty job creator has chosen our little hobbit shire.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 13.2.1.2

          “Eccentric” – that’s a new word for “government policy for sale”.

    • Tom Pained 13.3

      Wayne, it worries me that this infatuation with information technology tends to overshadow small concerns such as checks and balances of power.

      A small country without an upper house [abolished by the Holland government the day before the waterfront lockout after a personal visit from the US Secretary of State not long after General MacArthur considered using nuclear weapons against Chinese/Nth Korean interiors with the intention that radioactive fallout zones would interrupt their supply chains] is easy to influence by people wielding the charisma of a new technology and .. apparently .. a fountain of wealth.

      There has long been a meme on the net about finding a ‘lifeboat economy’ in case of a north american economic implosion, and for many that has been NZ. If I were in their shoes I would be doing the same.

      Are you familiar with Melanesian cargo cults following the Guadacanal and Papuan campaigns? My hypothesis is that something similar is happening here, and, in the spirit of open inquiry, I offer that as a research topic to anyone who may be interested.

      Advanced algorithms are now involved in film-making, innovation, and surveillance. Our relaxed and friendly south pacific democracy suddenly has pretensions of playing with the heavy hitters in the northern hemisphere. Those pretensions may be rudely exposed if there are any sudden geopolitical shifts.

      Karol and others have raised legitimate questions about networks of influence which need answering.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War#Stalemate_.28July_1951_.E2.80.93_July_1953.29
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1951_New_Zealand_waterfront_dispute
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Thiel

      • Anne 13.3.1

        And here’s another little conspiracy theory that may exercise Wayne’s brain.

        Remember the three (not one but three) soldiers who died in Afghanistan around the 20th August of last year? John Key was due to leave a few days later for a private trip to America to watch his son play baseball. He chose not to delay his flight to the USA by one day so he could attend the official memorial service. This, despite the fact his son was not due to play his game for another 4 days. We later learned he had dinner with some Warner bros. executives in Hollywood en-route to his son’s game.

        I remember wondering at the time if that dinner was being used as a smokescreen for something else – something he deemed more important than attending the military service. Key’s demeanour during that period was odd. His reluctance to alter his travel plans so he could attend the service was odd. The fact that the MSM didn’t have that much to say about it was odd. Quite a few things seemed a bit odd. But of course if you’re planning to have a top secret meeting with say… a group of intelligence operatives affiliated to the NSA, then you are going to behave in a slightly odd way.

      • Wayne 13.3.2

        Very interesting comment Tom.

        Yes, I have seen a bit about the idea of the “lifeboat economy”. I suspect that is part of the answer, judging by the way some of them talk. An english speaking country a long way from anywhere has appeal. And being libertarians, some of them do have a bit of an apocalyptic (spelling!) view of the world.

        Had not thought about the commonality of film, innovation and surveillance, only of the first two. You may recall that Weta Digital got quite a bit of govt support around advanced digital imagery, which I very much encouraged. Mostly about the technology around CGI and the film”Avatar”, and of course the “Hobbit”, but it is a universal film technology. And NZ is now a centre of global expertise in this area, so not really cargo cult, but real value being added. And around 1500 high value jobs in Wellington, which presumably support another 3000 jobs in the general Wellington economy.

        One of the studies I initiated was about the characteristics of high tech firms that stay, and those that leave. It is very much about the inclinations of the founder. As yet I don’t think we have got to the point where these firms will stay, irrespective of the decisions of the founder. The clusters of firms (except for diary technology and maybe high tech yachts) are not yet deep enough.

        And the truth is there are only a very small number of tech clusters in NZ.

        By the way I don’t really buy into Anne’s conspiracy theory!

        • karol 13.3.2.1

          I have long linked film, IT technologies and surveillance. They all link up with the Kim Dotcom saga.

          I think Weta and Weta digital are the big success stories. Jackson’s movies ride on those capabilities.

          PS: And those 3 areas are all part of my academic background, which is why I tend to write posts on them. Manuel Castells is one writer I have attended to quite a bit, on the “Information Age”, “Network Society”, “Internet Galaxy”, etc.

        • Anne 13.3.2.2

          By the way I don’t really buy into Anne’s conspiracy theory!

          Yeah… but the two words got you reading it Wayne and I had fun puttng it together. :)

          • Anne 13.3.2.2.1

            Addendum: you see you tried to fob off karol’s post as a “conspiracy theory” Wayne when it clearly is an excellent piece of analysis work that we have long since come to expect of her…

            I thought I would give you a real one to exercise your mind -one that was good enough to be plausible.

  14. Tigger 14

    Utopia? Not under this government…

  15. tracey 15

    Thanks karol

  16. Jenny 17

    What gets me is that the media, in a campaign that went on for weeks, whipped the public into a lather with hysteric claims of a “Nanny State” over Labour’s attempts to bring in a very mild law to mandate energy saver light bulbs.

    And now we have an administration that is hard spying on everyone and even condoning illegal actions by the GCSB to do it. Treating the whole population of New Zealand as criminals to be kept a close eye on. Intruding into our living rooms room through our computers and into our pockets through our cell phones, silently listening at every conversation. Remotely and illegally monitoring every thing we do. And storing and passing on this “meta-data” as they see fit.

    Not a murmur from the talking heads in the media. No condemnations from ringing editorials in the major newspapers. No stern faced TV reporters interviewing worried citizens in the streets for their views.

    No devastating satire, mocking the spies and the supine government lackeys who give the spies free reign to run amok.

    No instead we are all told it is nothing major, a “storm in a teacup” and other such soothing platitudes.

    And the news cycle moves on. “Nothing to see here folks.”

  17. Mr Interest 18

    http://www.muckety.com/Palantir-Technologies-Inc/5071273.muckety

    Palantir Technologies Inc.

    Areas of interest: politics & government

    People related to Palantir Technologies Inc.:
    Alexander C. Karp – co-founder & CEO
    Joe Lonsdale – co-founder
    Peter A. Thiel – co-founder

    Other current Palantir Technologies Inc. relationships:
    ATS Communications, Inc. – lobby firm
    Becker & Poliakoff, LLP – lobby firm
    Cassidy & Associates – lobby firm
    Central Intelligence Agency – contractor
    In-Q-Tel – investor
    major defense contractors – contractor
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security – contractor
    U.S. Department of Justice – contractor

    Palantir Technologies Inc. past relationships:
    Center for a New American Security – contributor
    Kadesh & Associates – lobby firm
    Patton Boggs LLP – lobby firm

    Additional Muckety map information sources:
    U.S. Department of Defense

  18. Descendant Of Sssmith 19

    Reading this, computers, rand, Silicon Valley……. Just constantly reminds me of this

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace/

    • Rogue Trooper 19.1

      Excellent series DOS (could use that OS, let down by the fraudulent again; pirated OS in my ‘gift’ computer).

  19. David H 20

    And it seems that the NSA even ‘stole’ their Prism logo.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/12/nsa_logo_scandal/

    • BLiP 20.1

      Heh! That’s hillarious. I actually miscontrued your comment, thinking to my silly self that NSA had stolen Palntir’s logo for its Prism product. It appears not . . . but in double checking, I stumbled across this . . .

      . . . The Prism logo is slightly more opaque than the one used by the US government’s Information Awareness Office, which boasted an all-seeing eye atop a pyramid, casting a golden light across an adjacent planet Earth. They might just as well have used the motto “We Spy on Absolutely Everybody” . . .

      . . . seems the geeks might be well able to keep John Key posted on my activities by the hour, but lack a certain finesse when it comes to graphic design. As odd as it sounds, I don’t hope the same lack of design skill applies to the PRISM programme for fear that the innocent could end up facing real world consequences of false-positives turning up in some AOS briefing folder. If the fuckers are going to spy on us the least they can do is get accurate data.

  20. Jenny 21

    In 1948 George Orwell had to imagine the technology that would make this level of surveillance possible.

    “You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that evey sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.”

    George Orwell From the novel 1984

  21. Wairua 22

    Tarpley: “Rand Paul – No Unions, No Social Security, No Medicare, No Medicaid, No Employment Benefits, because that violates the Austrian School” ..

    34:47 at

    http://tarpley.net/2013/06/18/tarpley-at-new-york-left-forum/

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