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The big issues: GCSB, Dotcom

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, July 5th, 2013 - 60 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, john key, slippery, Spying, telecommunications, trade, us politics - Tags:

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:

  • the trustworthiness of our PM
  • the possibility John Key has colluded with US agencies to spy on Kiwis in the interests of US corporates
  • the blurring of boundaries between commercially sensitive cyber security and state and national security
  • the use of the GCSB to suppress democratic processes, including the democratic right of protest and dissent
  • the use of the extended GCSB powers to collaborate with foreign agencies to suppress democracy in NZ



60 comments on “The big issues: GCSB, Dotcom”

  1. Rogue Trooper 1

    pays to watch Parliament (including QT) closely.
    The spooks have just been really blatant in there harassment of Kate Dewes and Rob Green

    • Anne 1.1

      It’s overt intimidation Rogue Trooper – an attempt to frighten them so that they fear for their safety, and stop their investigations into the death of Rob Green’s aunt. It will be coming from a non NZ agency. I can’t believe our intelligence gathering agencies would behave in such a thuggish way.

      Having said that, it looks like someone in the GCSB has been providing a foreign operative with information. It suggests a rogue element within the agency that needs to be fully investigated, but it won’t happen under the proposed legislation.

  2. Sable 2

    Yes, they used to have a word for people who betrayed their country, they called them traitors. Now we call them the National Party.

  3. Steve 3

    Re the quote: “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, the evidence has been deleted.

    • James N 3.1

      I agree…

      “We’ve gone extensively through every record my office holds, there is no evidence we can point to that we’ve heard of the guy prior to January 19, 2012.”


      Does anybody else find the way this is framed intriguing? First of all, the first person plural – the we – as if there were some collective responsibility involved; but more significantly the implication that if there’s “no evidence” then somehow there’s no case. It’s something of a playground argument: you can’t prove it, so there!

      • AmaKiwi 3.1.1

        It’s an old lawyer’s trick. “We can find no evidence that . . . . (because we shredded it).

    • aj 3.2

      His office records have been cleaned but that doesn’t mean that dotcom hasn’t got evidence

    • georgecom 3.3

      But, ‘you know I know…Why are you turning red Prime Minister’.

    • Murray Olsen 3.4

      This could mean that the records are held by another office. Or that it’s been deleted. Or that Key is telling the truth. 2 outta 3 ain’t bad.

  4. Veutoviper 4

    Good post, Karol.

    Re Peters’ question yesterday, this appeared to me to be a follow-on from the very specific questions he asked of Key in Q1 of Tuesday’s Question Time. In my response to bad12’s comment, I said that I thought Peters was very careful to stick to his script, not make any asides or other comments or raise any matters following each of the PM’s answers. Most unlike Peters, normally.

    IMO. Peters was very much in ‘barrister’ mode that day – setting out to get answers for use later on. For example, his use of “was he telling the truth …”


    Well worth reading is Gordon Campbell’s blog this morning where he sets out three reasons for questioning Key’s ignorance response


    Re Key’s attempt to get KDC to put up or shut up, KDC has now tweeted

    “Part of our extradition hearing: Political interference. Legal team: No release of key evidence until we’re in court.”

    KDC has tweeted on several past occasions that he would love to release details, but his legal team is adamant that details come out in court.

  5. AmaKiwi 5

    “The following are among the relevant Big Issues:

    – the trustworthiness of our PM

    – the possibility John Key has colluded with US agencies to spy on Kiwis in the interests of US corporates

    – the blurring of boundaries between commercially sensitive cyber security and state and national security

    – the use of the GCSB to suppress democratic processes, including the democratic right of protest and dissent

    – the use of the extended GCSB powers to collaborate with foreign agencies to suppress democracy in NZ”


    A succinct list of the big issues we must keep the MSM focused on.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      But just in in the nick of time Labour will come out with an appropriate diversion. Another corporate box? Another out of touch gender equality initiative?

      • AmaKiwi 5.1.1

        I despair at how poorly Labour does public relations these days.

        Elections are won and lost on perceptions, not policies.

        • Winston Smith

          How can that be? Wasn’t Claire Curran some sort of PR type? Surely with that kind of experience on board it should be smooth sailing for Labour :)

          • vto

            Winston Smith, why do you so happily support the politics that has driven so many New Zealanders to a worse positon over the last 30 years?

            Do you enjoy seeing people suffer? Does it give you a warm glow?

            • Winston Smith

              I think thats a few people on here who like having poor people to champion, whos lives would be meaningless without some down-trodden worker to look after

              • vto

                That doesn’t even remotely answer the question.

                But it is very revealing, thanks. You are clearly part of the other part of the population who just likes to get ahead no matter what. And if it is at other people’s expense then tough shit. If the poor go nowhere while you race ahead then that’s just life. Isn’t it. This is John Key’s approach to life too.

                … scrambling over ageing bones ….


              • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                Whereas you aren’t happy unless you have someone to tread down?

                Assuming you are correct and the Left represents “downtrodden” workers, can you explain why the Right is always so keen to swell their ranks? It seems quite the low-intelligence thing to do if you ask me.

              • chrissy

                WS Do people fight NOT to sit next to you at dinners, social functions, on the bus, walking down the street, are you lonely, are you sad? If so why? Just wondering.

      • Rogue Trooper 5.1.2

        fill that glass box.

  6. Sanctuary 6

    Kim Dotcom is an actual libertarian, as opposed to the crony authoritarians in disguise that pretend to be libertarians in NZ, a la David Farrar.

  7. vto 7

    Listening to Key at that hearing, he comes across as a smart-arse schoolboy. Nothing more and nothing less. The way he speaks, the way he asked questions, the way he responded to Dotcom’s “why are you red”…… “I’m not, why are you sweating?” What a frikkin’ child.

    Key the smart-arse schoolboy.

    • karol 7.1

      Exactly how he seemed to me. And particularly with the bit you quoted, VTO. A case of arrested development? Never got past schoolboy competitiveness, where he can’t admit any weakness?

      Will be his downfall?

      • Rogue Trooper 7.1.1

        Downfall you say?

      • Winston Smith 7.1.2

        No and it won’t because the people of NZ like John Key so they see him through different eyes then yours.

        They see someone they’d like to be like, successful career, happy marriage and family, reasonably down to earth and running the country well

        This big fantasy the left have that one day the people of NZ will see John Key how the left see him is just that: a fantasy.

        • karol

          he people of NZ like John Key

          Which people of NZ? Of the 65%-ish that rate him as preferred PM, according to polls? Meaning there’s already a sizable number who don’t rate him. And there’s those that didn’t choose a preferred PM in the polls?

          Because I know quite a lot of people who don’t like him at all.

    • Huginn 7.2

      Key is so-o-o passive aggressive

  8. karol 8

    Frank Macskasy fronts the hearing (John key absent – hope he’s got a sick note)

    Earlier, another activist Frank Macskasy told the committee the existing oversight of intelligence agencies hadn’t worked.

    Mr Macskasy said he was concerned that within a few years the GCSB and other intelligence agencies would be seeking additional powers.

    He warned the expanding powers of intelligence agencies spy on New Zealanders was creating a society similar to those in Soviet era Eastern Europe.

    “There’s no just reason for spying on New Zealanders it should be taken off the books, it’s as simple as that.”

    He made an appeal to committee members Labour Leader David Shearer and Greens Co-leader Russel Norman to review the law and hold a wide ranging independent inquiry should they form the Government in 2014.

    Go, Frank!

  9. TruthSeeker 9

    Excellent post, Karol. This isn’t over by a long-shot. I can’t wait to see what evidence the extradition hearing brings up.

    I find it really fascinating how Key’s story has evolved from “I didn’t know the guy’s name was Kim Dotcom” (24 January 2012) to “I didn’t know about him” (3 July 2013).

    See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHoHqZdZDLA

    He has already admitted to knowing about the presence of a “German resident” (i.e. Dotcom) living in the Chrisco mansion “some time in 2011”.

    See: http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QOA/6/6/e/50HansQ_20121024_00000007-7-Dotcom-Case-Prime-Minister-s-Awareness.htm

    As Key himself observes:

    “…when I was told in 2011 that there was a German living in the Chrisco mansion, that was well and truly before there was a raid on Kim Dotcom…”

    • Anne 9.1

      I find it really fascinating how Key’s story has evolved from “I didn’t know the guy’s name was Kim Dotcom” (24 January 2012) to “I didn’t know about him” (3 July 2013).

      It’s obvious what his line is going to be when KDC finally reveals the evidence he clearly has – at his extradition hearing next year?:

      I knew of him by his German name and didn’t know that the Kim Dotcom living in my electorate was the same person. Nobody told me.

      And the awful thing about it is the MSM will probably let him get away with it.

      • karol 9.1.1

        Grant Robertson did ask that specifically in Question Time yesterday, at the link in my post:

        Grant Robertson: By that answer, does he mean that it was simply the name Kim Dotcom that he had not heard but that he was aware of a person in New Zealand whom the FBI and other American authorities had an interest in pursuing over copyright-related issues?

        Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can only repeat that the Prime Minister stands by his statement. If the member wants to know what was in the Prime Minister’s mind, he would need to ask the Prime Minister directly.

        Will it be possible to put that question to John key, or will he dodge it?

        • chrissy

          John Key “I do not cut and run” Waitangi day, can’t remember the date.

    • Georgecom 9.2

      If Key has to do some dancing on a pin head to try explain away some lies, it will do him far more harm than good. If it is clear Key did not know, then people will support him. If it turns out Key has to rely on semantics, he’ll look like a shify liar. Key will be really really stupid to get himself into that position.

      • Anne 9.2.1

        He might have no choice Georgecom – if he’s already put himself in the position as he appears to have done. Serves him right. Sooner or later one of his many lies was going to come back and bite him.

      • Follow-the-money 9.2.2

        Are you suggesting he won’t, though?

      • tracey 9.2.3

        Hard to put it to him directly when he runs from question time where it can be put to him

  10. aerobubble 10

    So a very rich foriegner moves into the largest mansion
    in the PM’s own electorate and the representative of the
    richest people in NZ, always in donation drive, doesn’t
    know. Okay, let’s given him the benefit of the doubt
    that John Key is lazy and wants to send the message that
    he doesn’t listen to the richest in NZ.

    Now we find out that KimDotCom has funded Banks, that’s
    strange, why would he have done that, why wouldn’t have
    KimDotCom have funded the National party? Well someone
    must have informed him how helpful it would be to the National
    party to have funding given to Banks(and also distances
    the alledged copyright pirate from the National party).

    Now sure, Key may not have know, but also DotCom would
    have been atleast been led to believe his efforts for the
    National party were noted (and maybe just maybe have evidance
    Key did know, phone records maybe? with the PM office????).

    And when will Key be sending thanks to the US for bailing out
    the world economy through its QE policy, and applogize to
    Obama for calling his policy wacky.

  11. Huginn 11

    ‘the blurring of boundaries between commercially sensitive cyber security and state and national security’

    Eg the conflation of ‘national security’ with copyright protection.

    • UglyTruth 11.1

      The boundary merges with fair use. Both the copyright industry and govcorp act as if fair use does not exist, i.e. fair use of a creative work and fair use of a public resource like roads and radio spectrum. It is a national security issue because it is a case of organised injury of public rights.

  12. ropata 12

    Dotcom’s associate Bram van der Kolk proves Key lied about their time allocation

    • Huginn 12.1

      Yes, telling them that they had 25 minutes and then cutting that back to 15 minutes at short notice was petty.

  13. Yes 13

    Why are you supporting dot com..he is a capitalist and trying to rob artists that Helen Kelly was defending..you guys are seriously deluded.

    This is not about spying..this is about a guy who wants to steal off our artist.. I really challenge you to support Helen Kelly and say dot com is a rogue.

    Gscb stuffed up e all know that..let’s be honest and now you want him to continue to download all our artist work and make millions…swallow some pride and unit under left and right and say no to downloaders.

    I don’t think anyone on here have the balls to agree with me.

    • Murray Olsen 13.1

      When he’s appearing in front of Key to make a submission on the spying bill, it is about spying. Not even a good try. Maybe it’s about morbid obesity and diabetes instead? Say no to diabetes. Where are your balls?

    • Chris 13.2

      Bollocks…Dotcom supplied a place to store stuff (files) no different to the owner of a storage locker hiring it out or a landlord whose tenant uses the place as a p lab. Dotcom is no more responsible for what people stored than the landlord or locker owner.

  14. Follow-the-money 14

    Spot the other clanger.

    Kim Dotcom, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Helensville electorate. Huge in size and profile. Living in what must be on of the top houses in the electorate. Prepared to fork out cash to panhandling politicians. On the US spy agency’s watch list. etc etc

    Key, meanwhile, is the MP for the Helensville electorate.

    But Key hasn’t known Dotcom until 3.5 years after being elected PM.

    I know Key has memory loss challenges, but he must pay scant regard to the people in his electorate, if he really didn’t know Dotcom before.

  15. Shaz 15

    More excellent public interest research – thank you!

    The whole process is bizarre it would be comical if it were not so sinister.

    A point I haven’t seen made is that the function of the Bureau is to co-operate with, and provide advice and assistance to not only the police,defense force and SIS but also any government department covered by the Public Finance Act. This would potentially mean the outsourcing to the GCSB of WINZ and tax investigations, government employment security clearance work, in fact investigations related to the provision of any government service because the government department making the request are legally empowered to undertake whatever activity is in question.

    The Bill doesn’t take any steps to avoid unintended consequences. For example as it stands it massively increases the likelihood of corruption – both blackmail of employees or payments for intelligence gathering – of either public employees or the commercial third parties who supply and support the GCSB’s monitoring tools.

  16. BLiP 16

    The Prime Minister stands by his statements . . . lets have a look at some of those statements:

    Iain Rennie came to me and recommended Fletcher for the GCSB job

    I told Cabinet that I knew Ian Fletcher

    I forgot that after I scrapped the shortlist for GCSB job I phoned a life-long friend to tell him to apply for the position

    I told Iain Rennie I would contact Fletcher

    for 30 years, or three decades, I didn’t have any dinners or lunches or breakfasts with Ian Fletcher

    I did not mislead the House (9)

    I have no reason to doubt at this stage that Peter Dunne did not leak the GCSB report

    first I heard I heard about Kim Dotcom was on 19 January 2012

    first I heard about the illegal spying on Kim Dotcom was in September

    I did not mislead the House (6)

  17. clubconnecter 17

    Key is full of shit.

    JK knew of KDC when KDC attempted to purchase the Helensville mansion, ya know, it his own electorate?

    I really do hope that KDC does have evidence that Key did in fact know about KDC/Mega etc. If he does my bet is he’ll sit on it until closer to next years election – then the bullshit bombshell will be dropped.

  18. Martin 18

    I seem to remember a certain ship being bombed up in Auckland once. GCSB/SIS were certainly useless then. Some even said they knew ahead of the event. Are they worth the money we pay in taxes?

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