In Question Time, yesterday, Bill English, speaking for PM John Key, responded to questions about Key’s knowledge of the big German, by saying that Key was more focused on “the big issues”.
What bigger issue is there than the the role of the GCSB in spying on NZ citizens and the continual undermining of democracy by John Key and his government?
Dotcom, while politically being more or an entrepreneurial capitalist than a left winger, has managed to focus public attention on issues that John Key would most likely have let slide by with little media attention.
The mere presence of Dotcom at the public hearing on Wednesday ensured far closer media and public scrutiny than would otherwise have happened. With 2 TV channels live streaming Wednesday’s proceedings, the PM made an effort to engage, and some of his participation was quite telling.
And as a result, we now have videos of all Wednesday’s oral submissions online. Thomas Beagle from Tech liberty made an important point about why people want to keep some of their (perfectly legal) activities private. They may not want people close to them to know they have been having an affair. A closeted gay person may not want people at work to know they are gay.
Compare this with the comments by Penny Bright at Tuesday’s hearing, in which she highlights John Key’s preference for secrecy in his own dealings. Audrey Young reports that,
Bright started with a lecture about how Key does deals like the Sky City convention centre – “your deals over dinner, deals over the phone – that might be customary practice in how you do things as a foreign exchange dealer or the head of derivatives for Merrill Lynch but that is no way to run a country”.
On the spy bill, she wanted him to open up all his trust accounts, bank accounts, Swiss bank accounts, tax havens. “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, come on Prime Minister; you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
And consider how the TPP negotiations are being kept secret from New Zealanders, giving priority to the secrecy of foreign corporate power.
Jordan Carter, from Internet New Zealand, highlighted the way the GCSB’s role is being extended so that commercially sensitive cyber security is becoming increasingly integrated with national security matters. Internet NZ makes a very good recommendation that these two security roles be separated. In point 7 of their written submission they state (link accompanying their video):
As to the first principle, InternetNZ supports the spirit of those provisions of the Bill
that address information assurance and cybersecurity. New Zealand’s information
infrastructure must remain secure. The information assurance and cybersecurity
functions however, need not necessarily be housed alongside intelligence gathering
and analysis operations, foreign or domestic. InternetNZ has long called for a
Computer Emergency Response Team or “CERT” for New Zealand and invites the
Committee to consider this option in lieu of expanding the Bureau’s role as
Such a separation of activities would ensure more democratic processes.
The submission from nuclear disarmament and peace activists, Kate Dewes and Rob Green provided dramatic and worrying evidence of the way state surveillance of citizens can be used to suppress dissent and subvert democracy.
They argue that, in view of the kind of harassment via surveillance that they have experienced, the Bill needs to provide much greater oversight of the GCSB by a committee that includes a diverse group of independent New Zealanders. Over the last few decades, law abiding Dewes has been collecting evidence that her communications via phone, letter and email have been interfered with by surveillance services in NZ and internationally, as well as having evidence of stakeouts by people in cars watching her house. She says:
We don’t know if it is the GCSB that has been illegally monitoring our family and sharing information with foreign powers. Or whether it is another foreign power gathering information – either with permission from this government or not but it continues to this day.
Some of the PMs responses at Wednesday’s hearings sounded like a school boy’s response to challenges to his self-esteem. Some (like his questions about submitters’ views on a neighbour possibly looking at bomb-making instructions online) seemed like prepared questions, unrelated to any specific submission.
Underlying Dotcom’s media-savvy theatre, there are big issues: the trustworthiness of the PM, and the role the PM has had in over riding the GCSB law in order to collaborate with foreign (US) agencies in support of US (Hollywood) corporate interests.
The PM seems worried enough that there may be a smoking gun somewhere, to have all relevant material looked at carefully to ensure that there is no documentary evidence of him lying about his prior knowledge of Kim Dotcom.
Last night on TV3 News, Key said:
We’ve gone extensively through every record my office holds. There is no evidence that we can point to that we heard of the guy prior to the 19th of January 2012.
Clearly opposition MPs seem to think there is such evidence, as indicated in Question Time, yesterday. As well as being aware of English’s attempts at diversion and evasion, it is interesting to note Winston Peter’s final, and very specific supplementary question here.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister still stand by his statements—numerous statements—that none of his ministerial colleagues talked to him about Kim Dotcom before the raid?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister stands by his statements.
It is worth keeping in mind bad12′s comments on the specificity of the question and the silent response in the House to this supplementary, while viewing the entire video for Question 2 (wrongly labelled in the video subtitle).
The following are among the relevant Big Issues: