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Search and Survey Our Loss of Human Rights

Written By: - Date published: 6:49 am, August 30th, 2010 - 35 comments
Categories: law and "order", police - Tags:

The Search and Surveillance Bill that was thrown back for re-drafting last year has very quietly come back.  And as awful as it was last time (not many Bills are sent back), this time it’s little different.

The idea of the Bill was perfectly valid – Search & Surveillance powers were spread unevenly across 70 pieces of legislation, without much consistency.  A tidy up made sense.  But what has eventuated is a massive land grab of rights.

There is a real smorgasbord of new powers given, without discrimination, to 70 different government agencies.  All agencies now get the same powers – be they the police, the Pork Board, the Meat Industry Board, the Overseas Investment Office, the powers authorised by the Wine Act or your local dog control (or anyone else authorised by Local Government).  Anybody who had any evidence gathering power now has every evidence gathering power.

– If they have a policy on strip-searching they may use it.  If they have suspicion they may conduct a warrantless search, and seize items of interest in plain view.

– They may hack into your computer and conduct fishing expeditions for crimes you may have committed.

– 24-hour video and audio surveillance (and any future sort of surveillance) gets classed the same as a search, making it much more easily authorised.  And where warrants are required they need not be obtained from a judge, but from a ‘registrar” or possibly a JP.

– Police trespass on private property?  It’ll now be fine.

Along with search and surveillance powers it introduces a new ‘Examination Order’.  This requires someone to report to the police for questioning and removes the right to silence.  The new version of the bill allows you to go before a judge to have them determine if you are incriminating yourself, thereby incriminating yourself…

Another new power will be Production Orders  this allows ‘enforcement officers’ to sit back and order you to produce documents that you have, or will have in future, on an on-going basis if they suspect that an offence has been committed.

Some will say that only those who have done something wrong need worry about this.  They would be wrong.

The Urewera raids showed that where powers are granted, they are used.  The many innocent families who were hounded around at gun-point by balaclava-clad police who ransacked their houses would disagree that they had done anything wrong, but they certainly needed to be worried.  As did unconnected innocent activists who had their homes visited by police the same day.

Others who have had police go through their property in the middle of the night due to an erroneous address would say that the compensation they might receive after fighting through the courts was not worth the intrusion to their privacy.

An innocent business owner who recently had to threaten to go to the newspapers so that police would give him his work computer (with important customer details) back would probably not like to see it be easier for police to seize ‘suspicious’ property.

We need to stop this bill, as it is an attack on our fundamental human rights.

As it’s all come back very quietly there’s only this week to make a submission.

But there is an opportunity for Wellingtonians tonight to express their displeasure in person to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee chair, Chester Burrows:

There’s a public meeting at 7pm in St. Josephs Church, Basin Reserve (just off Brougham St, Mt Vic).  Along with Chester Burrows, Michael Bott from the NZ Council for Civil Liberties will be speaking.

35 comments on “Search and Survey Our Loss of Human Rights”

  1. freedom 1

    I cannot get there myself but am informing everyone i know in Wellington to go. A few months back i had a hell of a time even convincing people it existed.

    Though even today, how few know of the bill when the media give it no coverage.

    Although i have not seen a printed paper today, the stuff site has nothing on it. here is the headline list from their politics pages, and zip, zilch, nada

  2. So much there, so much to correct…

    The Bill as currently written is different from the Bill as introduced. Still worrying, but not nearly as worrying as this piece makes out, and some of things listed as concerns here are vast improvements over the current law.

    1. Surveillance.

    Currently, anyone can do this. No warrant needed. As long is it doesn’t involve a trespass, the pork board can tail you, set up video surveillance from the House next dorr, use telephoto lenses etc. It’s completely unregulated. This bill regulates it. Now you’ll need a warrant.

    2. Production orders.

    These are given to agencies that already have search warrant powers. They are a less invasive form of them. Person X is making large money transfers, and the police suspect money laundering. At present, they get a search warrant and have the power to go and search a bank’s offices. Looking at whatever they find on the way. Now, they’ll get a production order, and say, please hand over Person X’s information from date A to date B. Much less invasive.

    Among many others.

    There is much to fight with this bill, but please focus on the problems with it, rather than the good things it does.

  3. just saying 3

    Nightmare stuff.

    Does anyone have any idea of how the parties would vote if the bill was introduced in its current form? I’d like to imagine that the Greens/Labour/Maori/Progressives would vehemently oppose it.

    If Act was true to its supposed civil-libertarian roots it would too, but obviously I’m not holding my breath.

    There is an alarming societal tolerance-cum-appetite for this kind of authoritarain shit at the moment, IMHO, and the public is being groomed via the media. The same people who railed against the “nanny-state” welcome the sinister comfort of the “daddy-state” with open arms.

    • Most of the work on the Bill was done by the Labour Government. That is, there was the Law Commission report that made a number of recommendation. That report went through internal governmental process, with recommendations considered and rejected, etc, and a proposal went through cabinet, which agreed to them. Those decisions were then sent of the the Parliamentary Council Office, which started making them into bill form.

      This all occurred under Labour.

      The Bill that came out came under National, in the form agreed by the former government and was introduced by Simon Power, I think without amendment from the previous government’s proposals. The Greens opposed its first reading, and the Maori Party were voting one short, but everyone else supported it.

      • just saying 3.1.1

        Thanks for that Graeme.

        I had heard from posters here that the S@S bill was originally Goff’s baby, and found that very worrying. I had wondered if the cold shower of being in opposition, along with the chance to disown the bill now that Power seems to have taken it over, might have brought Labour and Anderton to their collective senses.

        Has there been any recent indication from them about their position on the bill?

        • Graeme Edgeler

          The Cabinet Papers were signed off my then Minister of Justice Annette King.

          I believe Labour still supports it, while wanting to fix up some of the problems that were originally in the Bill (e.g. the extension of audio and video surveillance involving a trespass and phone tapping etc. to all bodies with search powers. Same with National. It’s not a partisan issue in Parliament.

          • Loota

            Oh that’s just great. FFS can we have someone standing up for the citizenry for a change, instead of looking to grow the powers of the State into our everyday lives.

            • Rex Widerstrom

              In my experience, the best party in any legislature for standing up against this stuff is the Greens. Who then ruin it by wanting to regulate what lighbulbs we can buy… and would probably go along with right of entry for lighbulb inspectors *sigh*

              Apparently a large number of people followed the advice of Mark Latham in his special report for “60 Minutes” just prior to the Australian election and posted a blank ballot (thus complying with Australia’s compulsory voting law).

              NZers seriously need to put aside our left / right “baby eating capitalist” / “baby factory dole bludger” differences for long enough to rein in our polticians before it’s too late and we disengage completely with the system.

              Since there is no party which truly supports personal freedom we need to agree some sort of truce whereby we vote for none of the bastards, thus destroying their claim to legitimacy. That’s the simplest solution.

              Or, my preferred solution would be to work together to purge every last “I know what’s best for you” trougher out of the place. Replace them with independents who’ve agreed to properly consult and listen before making their own decision, not doing what they’re “whipped” into doing in the hope of a cosy list spot. And then we can go back to our myriad differences, because then we’ll have a system capable of responding to, and accommodating them.

              Either way, if we’re just going to keep fooling ourselves that our preferred party isn’t about to seek to control us to suit their own ends, then we wholeheartedly deserve what’s coming, because no politician ever repealed a law without substituting a more punitive one. Sadly, though, we’re also visiting the nightmare on our children.

            • Hayden Peake

              Couldn’t agree with you more, Loota. I’m encouraged by the fact that there seems to be a broad opposition to this bill — authoritarianism needs to be opposed at every turn.

              Of course, it would help if we had the right to challenge legislation against a small body of superior law — ie, legislation that violates constitutional law (there seems to be a lot of potential for personal destruction without the lawful judgement of one’s peers in this bill), should be challengeable in the supreme court.

              And just for amusement value, the anti-spam word I had to type to post this was “watched” :-)

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    The SS Bill is a real shocker. Junior authoritarians in our midst from dog rangers to fishing inspectors will love the added opportunity to poke about in our lives. Few are more sanctimonious than a baggage handler/clerk/inspector with extra powers.

    A more significant concern though is the extended police powers and loss of right to silence. Even plain old kiwi neighbourhood curtain twitchers may soon get to experience what it is like to be snooped on. All it might take is exercising freedom of speech or assembly on say foreign ownership of land or animal rights, and whammo instant ‘person of interest’ to the authorities.

    Re digital files, keep your stuff on a remote server or securely stored removable drive if the SSB slimes in which is quite likely.


    …but on a serious note, i reckon i could find out more and get more dirt than Big Bro’ could find out, faster and cheaper, just by befriending someone on facebook and asking them about themselves.

    only thing is, i’m not on facebook, don’t tweet or instant message, have a general mistrust of social media and much prefer pseudonimity.

    It’s not that i’ve anything to hide, it’s just i’m not that interesting :)

    • Bored 5.1

      I like your challenging approach, if this goes through I will see you in the basement of some random government department being “questioned” about illegally taking flowers to granny or similar. Whole thing is so bloody small minded.

      • pollywog 5.1.1

        I’m all for CCTV everywhere too.

        Only let’s make it public access and pay bludgers a reward, based on convictions, to sit around all day scanning for crime.

        I’d also expand Parliament TV to all ministers/MP’s offices and meeting places for sub commitee hearings and require their phone conversations and e- mails be public access.

        If they got nothing to hide they got nothing to fear … right ?

    • Rex Widerstrom 5.2

      i reckon i could find out more and get more dirt than Big Bro’ could find out, faster and cheaper, just by befriending someone on facebook and asking them about themselves.

      And you think “Big Brother” isn’t doing this already?! We see the tip of the iceberg… police officers who should be out in the community protecting citizens paid to sit in an office all day pretending to be a teenage girl and entrapping idiots into offences they’d probably never have the guts to do if it wasn’t for the encouragement of the officer.

      But beneath that there is a lot of other illegal (but only in some countries… in the US now anything goes) information gathering going on. It even has a name: Social Hacking.

      It’s common in industrial espionage too. Why break into a secure office building andf try to decrypt files when a spotty young geek will tell a hot girl he’s met on Facebook what he’s working on to try and impress her?

      It always prods my cynicism nerve when I see governments spending money to “warn children about online cyber predators” when it is government agencies and large corporations who are the most predatory presences on the net.

  6. Bill 6

    I’m reckoning the most pernicious aspect of this bill will be the fact that it wont even have to be used much to have an effect.

    Currently, I could rattle off countless examples of where people have self policed in the mistaken belief that what they were about to do was illegal or unlawful or otherwise held the potential to ‘get them into trouble’.

    And where over zealous wee authoritarians have over stepped the mark and gotten away with it because the person being stepped on made a whole pile of incorrect assumptions.

    And where an innocent comment made by someone not directly involved in a matter has introduced fear, uncertainty and doubt into a situation and curtailed action.

    Whereas a lot of the examples I’d draw on to illustrate the points above would be from various protest actions or challenges to authority, there is another level of acquiescence that is encouraged by the constant mantra that ‘innocent people have nothing to fear’.

    Know how when the traffic lights are still on red but there’s no traffic, yet some people stand and wait for the pedestrian’s green light? Or how some workers feel a need to ask the bosses permission to do just about anything? Or how people won’t complain about being ripped off or done over? Or won’t step up to intervene in a situation where someone is abusing another or others?

    All Sam Lowry’s from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

    They wouldn’t want to be seen to be stepping out of line now, would they? ‘Cause only ‘bad’ people rock the boat. Only ‘bad’ people don’t follow the dotted line. And ‘bad’ people are watched. And ‘bad’ people have something to fear. And so better this discountable ‘good’ fear born of striving to not be bad, than the burden of persistent, nagging ‘bad’ fear. And besides, the authorities are keeping an eye on things and know the difference between a Buttle and a Tuttle. Right?

    • Vicky32 6.1

      “Know how when the traffic lights are still on red but there’s no traffic, yet some people stand and wait for the pedestrian’s green light?”
      In Auckland, that’s called self-preservation, as some speeding plonker in an SUV can come barrelling out of nowhere in the blink of an eye… No traffic doesn’t mean a thing here, where people do 110kph outside schools at 3.00 pm secure in the knowledge that they’ll get away with it, and if they hit a kid the talkback rabble will blame the victims…(half of all talkback listeners being truckies on the road, judging by when I used to listen.)

  7. Bored 7

    Police trespass on private property? Does this mean that search warrants will not be required, that they can come right on in and question you in your own lounge?

    If we quietly give away “access” today will they want “habeus corpus” changed tomorrow?

    What worries me about insidious legislation is that the real reason it is required never sees the light of day until post event. What the F is the real purpose of this ?

    • Bill 7.1

      “What the F is the real purpose of this ?”

      Not the sole reason. But to encourage a culture of self surveillance and acquiescence to societal norms as determined by society’s centres of authority.

      You got something illegal sitting around your home? Maybe enough home-grown for personal use for example? Or maybe you have something on your computer that you’d rather authorities didn’t access?

      Up until now, the only threat would have been a plod with a warrant. And as long as your nose was relatively clean, then you had no worries.

      But now a plod can bowl right on in and have you for that plant. And embark on whole episodes of questioning and accusing over something you wrote on your computer or whatever.

      So fear will encourage you to throw away the plant and self censor in other areas.

      That’s the purpose….a purpose.

      edit. Pollywogs ‘Come get me fuckers!’ attitude would, if everyone followed suit, see this legislation wind up as useless. But chances are that people will tend to hide away instead of getting out whatever closet it is they’ve locked themselves away in.

      • Vicky32 7.1.1

        I honestly had a nightmare about this – trying to hide my mobile from the Plods – scary stuff!

  8. M 8

    ‘only thing is, i’m not on facebook, don’t tweet or instant message, have a general mistrust of social media and much prefer pseudonimity.’

    Exactly – blogging will probably get me into enough trouble.

    All this cyber stuff could end up very toxic for some. You need not look further than people who go on to internet dating sites – there’s no telling what you could be connecting with. I think most humans next context or background to suss someone out properly, as in where they work, socialise and what their reputation is amongst family, friends and community – warts and all. No way can this be ascertained over the Net and we humans need body language to really get the measure of someone.

    Increased powers for the pocket Hitlers who push the state’s agenda will have Garth creaming himself

  9. Worst thing blogging can do, is create a delusional sense of self worth ending in becoming something akin to whaleoil or some dipshit might step to you for saying something ‘provocative’ online

    Some people take this shit far too seriously :)

  10. jbanks 10

    Only criminals have to worry about this. So I’m not surprised with the outcry here.

    • The Voice of Reason 10.1

      So jwanks, are you saying that the sysadmin, authors and commentors here are criminals? Think carefully before you answer.

      • jbanks 10.1.1

        Am I wrong to think that many people here use marijuana and/or force against a child for the purposes of correction? (Both illegal acts)

        • Rex Widerstrom

          Speaking for myself, no and no. Hate smoking anything, have never even had a cigarette. Raised four happy children. Nor do I have a criminal record of any sort. I’m as clean and pure as Garth McVicar and David Garrett combined (now there’s a mental image).

          So by your reasoning, that makes everything I’ve said against this Bill and the general culture of surveillance completely valid then.

          jbanks, King of the Non Sequitur.

        • Armchair Critic

          Count me out for both of those. I do support decriminalisation, though I would still not use marijuana if it were decriminalised.

  11. just saying 11

    That’s right dear, big daddy only wants what’s best for good boys and girls like you.

    • just saying 11.1

      Just to clarify for all the grown-ups out there. As can be seen from the time of the above post, I was responding to little J’s first post (10). The little tyke slipped in his next post (10.1.1) afterwards.

      You’d better be careful J, ’cause you know what happens to naughty boys and girls!

      • jbanks 11.1.1

        When you respond to someone try clicking “reply”. Moron.

        • bbfloyd

          J..just between you and me, i’m really glad we don’t have webcam facilities on this site. what you’ve been doing would be hard to watch..

  12. Lew 12

    … and then when they inevitably get enough evidence to charge you with something, you’re not guaranteed a jury trial.


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