web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

The surveillance state online

Written By: - Date published: 2:06 pm, February 25th, 2014 - 8 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, internet, spin, Spying - Tags:

The Edward Snowden leaks have provided extensive information about how the US, NSA (National Security Agency) surveillance uses the internet for widespread surveillance. The NSA dominates the “5 eyes” network that includes NZ’s GCSB and the UK equivalent, the GCHQ. Some of these techniques could also be used by NZ’s domestic surveillance agency, the SIS, or maybe even the police.

Recent leaks and articles about them have highlighted some of the strategies used.  There’s a lot to digest, but, it is important to consider, if and/how these techniques are used politically for surveillance of New Zealanders – and if they are used in ways that are politically sensitive.

Selwyn Manning usefully explains how the “Two Hops” strategy is used to work around regulations requiring warrants to spy on selected people digitally.  He cites this Guardian article by Glenn Greenwald, published in June 2013 for this explanation:

One function of this internet record collection is what is commonly referred to as “data mining”, and which the NSA calls “contact chaining”. The agency “analyzed networks with two degrees of separation (two hops) from the target”, the report says. In other words, the NSA studied the online records of people who communicated with people who communicated with targeted individuals.

Manning explains how this would work in the NZ context, in relation to the surveillance of Keith Locke, without the GCSB or SIS needing a PM-issued warrant.

Basically, Keith, as a MP, was corresponding with a person from Sri Lanka, a person from the northern Tamil area who had arrived in New Zealand after seeking asylum and a place of refuge far away from the tyranny dished out by Sri Lanka’s government.

That person, it appears was under surveillance. And it is understood the SIS had obtained a warrant to surveil that person through the normal channels i.e.; the warrant was signed ultimately by Helen Clark as the prime minister at the time of the operation.

Under the two hops protocol New Zealand’s security agencies placed the target under direct surveillance, and also surveilled, and filed data originating from, those who were in communication with the target.

The agencies then looked for spatial patterns (in a data sense) among the communications of the people and groups that those, like Keith Locke, were also in contact with.

So, in a human-intel sense, it appears two hops has been used in New Zealand at least since September 11 2001, and perhaps earlier.

Today on the new online news site Intercept, Glenn Greenwald summarises and explains several related documents leaked by Edward Snowden.  Some of these techniques of manipulation and online politicking (“online covert operations”) have been used by the UK agency, GCHQ.  It is not known if New Zealanders, or NZ websites are the target of such strategies. Greenwald writes,

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”(note: this document may take a couple of minutes to appear at the link).

Greenwald outlines some of the tactics used:

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

 

The attempt to jointly smear Kim Dotcom and Winston Peters comes to mind with these kinds of tactics, especially as we still don’t know how the information of Peters’ 3 visits to the Dotcom mansion was obtained.  I posted about the well known (originally CIA) ploy of plausible deniability, that would enable key, and any state surveillance agencies (including the police) to distance themselves from the published material.

There is a lot of material to digest here. It is worrying that there are so many ways of working around the legal checks and balances; requirements that are supposed to keep a check on surveillance and covert actions by state agencies.  It is wise to be alert to the kind of techniques that political opponents can use online.

[Update Andrea Vance on NZ spy tactics]

Vance reports that Snowden’s leaks show that GCSB spies were schooled in the tactics of  “covert operations online”:

Kiwi spies were briefed on setting honey traps and internet “dirty tricks” to “control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp” online discourse, documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal.

She also quotes Greenwald on the use of these techniques against political opponents within 5 eyes’ countries:

Greenwald called the tactics “extremist” and pointed out they do not just target hostile nations or spy agencies, terrorists or nation security threats,  but “people suspected (but not charged or convicted) or ordinary crimes orthose who use online protest activity for political ends”.

He added: “it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes.”

8 comments on “The surveillance state online”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Very very important details you cover here, karol.

    NB you might want to edit the following.

    about how the US, NSA (National Insurance Agency)

  2. Tracey 2

    great stuff karol. some good reading there.

    does anyone believe the nsa hasnt been spying on tpp negotiators and govts hangers on? (other than wayne mapp and he doesnt really believe they dont)

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      The Masters of Cyberspace can run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. No really. Why won’t you believe me?

  3. Well, Hillary Clinton said it: We’re in an information war and we are losing!

    http://youtu.be/LyjnEm8DZkI

  4. Whatever next 4

    I may be bleating on, but how does this not result in Mc Carthyism?
    “…. those who use on line protest for political ends”

    • karol 4.1

      The extent of the surveillance state is very worrying – and yes, it could result in something like McCarthyism – but often less obvious as to how people’s right to protest is being undermined.

  5. ak 5

    Any other politically-active person here hearing loud alarm bells from Andrea Vance’s piece, and relating it to events in their personal life of late – not to mention discourse on the Standard of late? Whatever it takes, eh Slipper.

Links to post

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Greens call for ring-fencing of state home proceeds
    The Government must ring-fence the proceeds of any state home sales and spend every dollar raised on more Government-built homes in order to address the housing crisis, the Green Party says.Prime Minister John Key has indicated that his first major… ...
    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
    18 hours ago
  • English breaks his $6000 wages promise
    Just one month into the new year Bill English has already rowed back on his election promise of real wage rises for New Zealanders, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “During the election campaign National promised Kiwis that the average… ...
    6 days ago
  • National fails to produce evidence justifying attack on RMA
    The National Government is misusing evidence provided in the Motu report on planning rules to justify gutting the environmental protections secured by the Resource Management Act (RMA), says the Green Party today. The Motu group's research into the impacts of… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter MP
    6 days ago
  • National fails to produce evidence justifying attack on RMA
    The National Government is misusing evidence provided in the Motu report on planning rules to justify gutting the environmental protections secured by the Resource Management Act (RMA), says the Green Party today. The Motu group's research into the impacts of… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter MP
    6 days ago
  • RMA changes won’t knock a dollar off the cost of a new home
    The Government’s proposed changes to the RMA won’t increase the number of affordable homes or knock a dollar off the cost of building a new house, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “Tinkering with the RMA will not solve National’s housing… ...
    7 days ago
  • What is the real ‘price of the club’?
    What price is too high to join a club?  According to the current the New Zealand Prime Minister, the lives of young Kiwi men and women are a part of the package. In his latest BBC interview, John Key fails… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    7 days ago
  • Palestine – NZ talks loudly in New York, does little at home
    Even though New Zealand has been gently slumbering over the last few weeks, world affairs have been progressing at its usual break-neck speed. There have been a number of significant steps since we all disbanded from the last parliamentary year.… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    1 week ago
  • DOC debacle means hundreds may have missed out on fishing licences
    Hundreds of families and recreational fishers may have had their holidays spoiled by missing out on their fishing licences, with Conservation Minister Maggie Barry preferring instead to focus on more high profile portfolio priorities over the summer break, Labour’s Conservation… ...
    1 week ago
  • Effective action needed against pirate fishing boats
    New Zealand’s failure to detain pirate shipping vessels poaching endangered species in our region is simply not good enough, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “We send New Zealand naval vessels to the Arabian Gulf to board pirate ships there… ...
    1 week ago
  • Housing affordability crisis gets worse under National
    News that Auckland’s housing is now among the 10 most unaffordable in the world confirms the Government’s housing policy has failed, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “After six years in power, National’s housing policies have not fixed the housing… ...
    1 week ago
  • Rheumatic fever rates continue to soar despite millions spent on prevention...
    The Government’s $65 million spend on rheumatic fever prevention has made little impact on the alarmingly high rate of the disease among young New Zealanders, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Latest figures from ESR show there were 235 notified… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government wipes off $5 billion in tax debt
    Since coming to office, the National Government has written off $5 billion* in tax debt owed by more than a million, Labour MP Stuart Nash says. "There are two sides to the New Zealand economy under the National government: the… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour adds its condemnation of Paris attack
    The Labour Party adds its voice to the international condemnation of today’s shocking attack on freedom of speech in Paris, Leader Andrew Little says. “The attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper is an assault on democracy and freedom of expression.… ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Petrol retailers and importers must pass on savings
    New Zealand’s petrol retailers and importers must start passing on savings to Kiwis motorists following the dramatic drop in the price of crude oil, Labour’s Energy Spokesman Stuart Nash says. “It is great news for Kiwi drivers that the price… ...
    3 weeks ago

  • Devoy: Honour our Holocaust survivors, don’t be a bystander
    70 years ago in the early hours of the morning and in the middle of a bitter snowstorm, Auschwitz Concentration Camp was liberated. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, this afternoon some incredible New Zealanders – our own Holocaust survivors… ...
    15 hours ago
  • Lyttelton Port workers vote to escalate dispute
    Members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) at Lyttelton Port today voted to escalate their industrial action. Around 200 RMTU members have been operating an overtime ban since 17 December and today they endorsed a series of full… ...
    16 hours ago
  • Newsletter – Free Press
    Welcome to the first ever edition of Free Press , ACT’s new regular bulletin. If you’re wondering why you’ve received this, we’ve used the same mailing list as Richard Prebble’s classic The Letter , and hope we can stimulate you… ...
    16 hours ago
  • Collins Picked to Return to Cabinet Before Next Election
    Judith Collins is this week picked to make a return to Cabinet before the next election, according to the combined wisdom of the 8000+ registered traders on New Zealand’s predictions market, iPredict. John Key is expected to remain leader of… ...
    16 hours ago
  • The other housing crisis
    CCS Disability Action hopes Prime Minister John Key’s state of the nation speech will address the other housing crisis as well. With an aging population, the number of people who need accessible private homes and social housing is rapidly growing.… ...
    17 hours ago
  • Prisoners and the right to vote
    Arthur Taylor and other serving prisoners, will take their case to end a ban on prisoners voting to the High Court in Auckland today (27 Jan 2015) http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/264583/prisoner-voting-case-in-high-court ...
    17 hours ago
  • Public health, union, and church groups slam TPP trade deal
    As secret Trans-Pacific (TPP) trade talks resume in New York, an unusually diverse mix of 47 Australian community groups including public health, environment, union, church, development aid and other groups have written an open letter to Trade Minister ...
    21 hours ago
  • Third world fishing policies put NZ to shame
    The union representing workers in seafood processing factories has today slammed New Zealand’s fishing policies which allow our fishing resources to be exported to other countries. ...
    21 hours ago
  • Warts and all expose of Taranaki’s oil and gas
    Taranaki’s relationship with oil and gas will be examined at an Environmental and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa New Zealand (ECO) gathering this weekend. ...
    21 hours ago
  • Time for Maggie Barry to come clean on 1080
    National's new Conservation Minister Maggie Barrie appears to have gone into hiding over the raging controversy surrounding New Zealand's continuing use of 1080, according to Democrats for Social Credit health spokesman David Tranter. ...
    22 hours ago
  • No part of a warmongers club
    Peace Action Wellington condemns the prime minister’s commitment of military support for the US war in Iraq. Peace Action also condemns the casual and cavalier way in which the prime minister discusses joining the US-UK led war as being the… ...
    22 hours ago
  • Camp Gallipoli and RSA Commemorative ANZAC Day Event
    The Camp Gallipoli Foundation is delighted to have formed a partnership with the Returned and Services' Association (RSA) as part of the Anzac Day centenary commemorations. ...
    22 hours ago
  • Turangawaewae – Human Rights Commission e-newsletter
    Please find our new newsletter here . Highlighted stories this month: Treaty of Waitangi and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Dame Susan Devoy – Al Jazeera interview Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner – The Equal Pay Act… ...
    2 days ago
  • Election for New Labour President
    Two nominations have been received for the position of Labour Party President vacated with the recent resignation of Moira Coatsworth. A vote will now proceed, closing on February 26th. ...
    2 days ago
  • Flags to be lowered to half-mast – Monday 26 January 2015
    At the request of the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Key, the New Zealand Flag is to be half-masted on all Government and public buildings on Monday 26 January 2015 , to mark the death of King Abdullah bin… ...
    2 days ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere