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Why enhanced spying powers are bad

Written By: - Date published: 6:54 am, June 25th, 2013 - 61 comments
Categories: Spying, uk politics - Tags:

If one needs any more reason to worry about the government’s GCSB bill, here is the latest news from the UK: police there seemed to spend more time investigating the murder of innocent school boy Stephen Lawrence’s family to undermine their anti-racism campaign than they did his murder.

An former undercover officer has said he posed as an anti-racism campaigner in a hunt for “disinformation” to use against those criticising the police, with an aim to smear the family.

Stephen Lawrence was a bright black boy in his last year of school when he was murdered while waiting for a bus 20 years ago. The police failed to put any effort into the investigation, which lead to a report that found the London police to be “institutionally racist”. His murderers were eventually sent down last year after a more recent investigation.

His family got traction against the police as they were upstanding members of the community – not wealthy, but a stable middle-class family with nothing to be held against them. They were also lucky as the Daily Mail – a highly influential daily with many racist stories – sent a reporter out to find out dirt on them, but found that the father had recently done some plastering work for the Editor Paul Dacre, so he ordered a very different, much kinder, tone to their reporting.

The news that the police spent great effort trying to find dirt to smear them should worry greatly anyone considering enhancing the police’s snooping powers with measures such as our GCSB bill.

Yes our police are generally trustworthy, but there’ll always be a few bad apples in the bunch. Just look at those in the UK who collaborated with the likes of News International to pass on confidential information to sell newspapers. The motivation gets stronger when it involves looking after their own – just see Mike Bush’s defence of Bruce Hutton.

And with more information for our combined law and spying agencies comes more power – who would contradict the NSA with PRISM and related programs telling them everything about you and your friends and family? There’s no worries for Booz Allen and similar contractors consuming 70% of the budget of the intelligence services

So giving the police / SIS / armed forces powers to use the GCSB to grab whatever information they want on whoever they want (with a warrant, but the GCSB will grab an awful lot of related information as by-catch) is something that wants a whole lot more consideration than it’s being given.  Making a foreign intelligence agency into a domestic one seems unlikely to enhance our ‘security’.

And that’s before they start holding back the technologies of our Internet Providers because they don’t provide enough snooping powers (the bill allows them to veto new IP systems)…

61 comments on “Why enhanced spying powers are bad”

  1. The real problem with espionage is when the information gets into the hands of your adversary.
    Loose lips sink ships.

    • Pasupial 1.1

      @ Ugly

      Which adversary? What ships? I can’t think of anything I could say to anyone that could lead to the loss of either frigate. Perhaps you mean that the other Echelon nations will act to sink the waka of Aotearoan independence if it seems to be making any headway?

      Unless you are saying that the GCSB view NZ citizens as adversaries (in a military vs civilians way)? I would say that the problem with pervasive espionage is that it allows others to own you; or at least a virtual you (which may or may not have any relation to your own image of yourself).

      • David H 1.1.1

        You mean we still got ships?? They not sold them yet ? There’s a huge saving for the Gnats, get a bit for the ships, but the real saving comes in Jobs. The Benefit is way less than a ratings pay.

      • Anne 1.1.2

        … information will somehow get into the hands of malevolent individuals, and innocent people can have their lives and livelihoods destroyed.

        – from my comment at 6.

        That was my interpretation of Ugly’s statement Pasupial. It happened when paranoia claimed the West during the Cold War years. It’s happening again.

        I may have misunderstood Ugly’s meaning.

        • Pasupial 1.1.2.1

          There are many malevolant individuals. But surely it is the government agencies themselves who are responsible for this surveilance state. The military are always under martial law.

          • UglyTruth 1.1.2.1.1

            Individuals come and go, but belief systems don’t have such a limited scope of influence. The responsibility for the actions of the agencies is shared with those who empower it, especially taxpayers. The distinction between the military and civilians isn’t important when the military have no way of countering the problems arising from a surveillance state.

        • UglyTruth 1.1.2.2

          Anne, you didn’t misunderstand me. What remains is to determine the nature and extent of the malevolence, but this sort of thinking isn’t popular with the humans because to even ask the question makes them look like an idiot.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.3

        Unless you are saying that the GCSB view NZ citizens as adversaries (in a military vs civilians way)?

        The GCSB is irrelevant in this. As NZers we are considered “foreigners” by the main partners in the Five Eyes agreement – particularly the USA and the UK, who control the most comprehensive components of the online spying apparatus. You’re not going to tell me that the emails and txt messages of the PM and every Cabinet Minister and NZ MP is not routinely and actively monitored as persons of interest to our “allies”.

        BTW when a state does not have external enemies to contend with, it often becomes the case that the state starts viewing its own people as the enemy. Note the massive militarisation of US police forces, the use of military model drones in US law enforcement. And here in NZ the use of para-military law enforcement against unarmed NZ citizens and permanent residents.

        • muzza 1.1.3.1

          Cv – Don’t assume, those who operate for *The State*,associate themselves as being NZ’ers, which then can make reference to *the enemy*, opaque to say the least.

          *The Enemy*, is the same it has always been – That is anyone/anything which threatens the stangle hold of those who own the money system, own the weapons, and control the information!

          Nothing new, other than humanity is now able to be rounded up through use of technology, which has not been possible throughout history before, not in the ways we are seeing currently.

    • lprent 1.2

      …when the information gets into the hands of your adversary

      The converse of that is what the US has – every thing is classified because it allows incompetents to hide their dirty deeds. Snowden merely confirmed what everyone suspected. That the NSA was monitoring the nets for patterns (ie meta data) and that to do so they were digging into the large US net corporations. To do the latter they were using secret authority.

      So why exactly was that classified. In a free society why wasn’t that subject to the public debate that we have now?

      Loose lips sink ships

      Oh and why are you such a old sprouting silly platitude dickhead? This isn’t exactly the battle for the atlantic…

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        I saw a very worthwhile comment on the ‘net a few days ago when this was just breaking.

        That while there was certainly some justification for the operational and technological details of the spying activities to be kept confidential, there was no acceptable justification whatsoever in an open democracy for the policies and policy goals themselves to be kept secret, and outside of public and parliamentary scrutiny.

        What is damn worrying? Secret interpretations of law containing secret regulations, secret courts issuing secret judgements viewing secret evidence provided by secret personnel, utilising secret operational capabilities.

        Essentially, this is the ‘conspiracy theory’ of a secret undemocratic government within an apparently democratic government come true.

      • Rogue Trooper 1.2.2

        I enjoy caressing ‘Loose lips’ myself; gotta keep those saddle bags filled.

  2. Dv 2

    Yes this stuck me too.

    AND what about the move by the Nacts to get more govt online.

    WHERE are the servers going to be – if they are offshore how can we protect our info from PRISM etc.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1

      What makes you think them being onshore would afford us more protection?

      • Dv 2.1.1

        No offshore probably means we loose any control we might have.

        • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1

          The system would have to be designed from the ground up to be completely secure, onshore, and to refuse links from overseas connections (no Kiwis connecting from overseas).

          Suggestion: don’t get the guys who did the WINZ kiosks to do it.

  3. One Anonymous Knucklehead 3

    At its core, the GCSB is a military unit. Military personnel deployed against civilians. Classy.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    Any politician, judge, business executive could find themselves compromised at the click of the mouse. Even if you were squeeky clean, a friend, family member, former partner or associate could be used against you. These people literally have all your passwords and can look inside all your correspondence and all your accounts. 3 months ago a bunch of Standardistas would have described this as an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory. Recent events show them as just not imagining hard enough.

  5. Well Snowdon has shown us that ALL spying today is too much spying.

    The only reason capitalist governments need spies is to protect private property.
    This the source of their private wealth.
    Since this is about intellectual property then spying has to focus on communication of ideas.
    Hence our ideas freely expressed in public as COMMUNication are being tracked down and logged as threats to privatised ideas.

    But private property is an oxymoron. All private property begins as theft of public property. It is the enclosure of the commons. Its retains its value only by means of constant expropriation of public property. Education is largely public funded and the knowledge produced privatised.

    That is private knowledge seldom originates as private initiative. It is expropriated collective knowledge.

    Get rid of private property. Open source everything. Collective ideas are free.
    Forward to the Commune. No need for spies.

    • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 5.1

      There’s a sensible solution.

      • Rogue Trooper 5.1.1

        some sense from the ‘fool’ at last./

        • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 5.1.1.1

          Problem: the state spying on its citizens. Solution: abolish private property.

          • Rogue Trooper 5.1.1.1.1

            wot else are they attempting to protect. (concession, off my ‘game’ today; heartburn- wild berries infused into a Little Black Dress, not going out of fashion anytime soon, although, there is a curent run-out). anyway, MN was a spunk, RH, the spunkiest, and CT the mouse who came in from the cold. 😉

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.2

            Thing is, I’m sure you don’t understand what red rattler said. Getting rid of private property doesn’t get rid of privacy whereas having private property most assuredly does.

  6. Anne 6

    Any politician, judge, business executive could find themselves compromised…

    That situation is not confined to the rich and/or famous. Thirty odd years ago my father was targeted by a group of people who I now know were linked to the Australian Security Service – ASIS. (I have some compelling evidence in my possession.) My parents emigrated from England in 1938 and lived in Auckland from that time until their deaths, but that didn’t stop a foreign agency coming here… spying on, and harassing my father in a despicable way. The basis for their suspicions about him was utter crap – not a skerrick of truth in any of it. The subsequent fallout from that time was to affect my life in both a professional and personal way for the next twenty years.

    As Ugly Truth says:

    The real problem with espionage is when the information gets into the hands of your adversary.

    My experience all those years ago is a good example why this planned extension of the powers of the GCSB – at least in its present form – is so dangerous. It is inevitable information will somehow get into the hands of malevolent individuals, and innocent people can have their lives and livelihoods destroyed.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      In this, I think that red rattler is wrong. This is not primarily about money or property, even though that cannot be ignored. This is about maintaining power and maintaining the status quo.

      The other thing this panoptical surveillance allows the authorities to do is to monitor and unwitting focus group of millions. Any controversial political or policy issue of the day – the powers that be can always tell, from a 100% survey of online “chatter”, whether people are taking it seriously, if it needs to be defused with some key messages or criticisms of activist leaders, if it needs to be agitated and increased etc. depending on the goals of the day.

      Basically, that is the end of democracy and the start of not just the surveillance state, but the rise of actively managed faux-democracy.

      • Rogue Trooper 6.1.1

        faux, par.

      • amirite 6.1.2

        True. Also, they have to be on track for possible social unrest, protests, demonstrations and other general revolutionising. Gotta hold on to power with tooth and nail!

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.3

        This is not primarily about money or property, even though that cannot be ignored. This is about maintaining power and maintaining the status quo.

        Money & property = power

      • Populuxe1 6.1.4

        I love the way you talk about the vast majority of people as though they’re stupid

      • red rattler 6.1.5

        The state is the state of the capitalist class. The class that rules through the state.
        Power by itself is pointless unless its serves to maximise wealth.
        Why do you think the capitalists have a monopoly on power?
        Why would they pay (making us pay is cutting their profits) for surveillance unless to protect their property from the surveillees?
        Amirite is rite
        Workers power on the other hand once it suppresses the capitalists would cease to be concentrated in a state and dissolve into free association (not free ass as Marx pointed out in the Communist Manifesto).

  7. “Yes our police are generally trustworthy, but there’ll always be a few bad apples in the bunch.”

    I think that meme has had its day – it should imo be, “yes our police are just doing what they are told to do, but thankfully there are some good apples in the bunch”

    Look around at the reality and yes sure if you need them the police will be there eventually, depending on who you are of course. Now I don’t blame individuals because I think there are some very good policemen and women, but the ‘them and us’ philosophy is set strongly in them and guess who the ‘us’ is. Hint – it’s anyone who is not in the force.

    • Rogue Trooper 7.1

      inho, once they complete college and throw their hats in the air, collectively, they leave their ‘wisdom’ behind. Trust me, I have experience of the deceit of “respected by the community” officers.
      Anybody watched Police 10-7? Ten hut!

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      I think that meme has had its day – it should imo be, “yes our police are just doing what they are told to do, but thankfully there are some good apples in the bunch”

      QFT

    • Murray Olsen 7.3

      Agreed mm.
      Another issue is that it is not particularly important whether individual coppers are good or bad apples – the basket they operate in is rotten. A cop can spend his or her whole career being honest and slavishly obeying all the rules, but as the whole system is biased against workers and non-Pakeha, this doesn’t make things any better. The nicest person you’ll ever meet is doing bad things when they enforce bad laws.
      RR is also correct. Our rulers don’t spy on us as part of some psychological game. They do it so they can continue to be people of wealth and power. Keeping the status quo with their privileges and entitlements depends on their knowing what we’re up to. This is why in my area, for example, the US and Australian governments fund quantum computing so heavily. It promises a way to break PGP encryption, which is otherwise practically 100% secure.

  8. Dv 8

    AND key is running the line that we need the extra power to prevent a Boston bombing incident.

    BUT the US had lotsa of surveillance and they still didn’t stop the Boston Bombings!!!

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Not only did they have a lot of surveillance, the Russian intelligence services had raised concerns about those brothers with US authorities several times before.

      • Anne 8.1.1

        @Dv and Colonial Viper.

        A good counter attack for the Labour Party but they won’t even think of it… or use it if pointed out to them.

      • Dv 8.1.2

        Yes keys statements is Bizarre and illogical.

        What is he going to say if they give all these powers to the spys AND it still doest stop an attack.

        • Murray Olsen 8.1.2.1

          They’ll say that ten others were stopped, but they can’t release any details for reasons of national security.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.3

        Well, both National and Labour undoubtedly was access to the surveillance capabilities when they are in Government. Why speak out against it?

    • UglyTruth 8.2

      “What we tried before didn’t work, so lets just throw money at it and have faith that the situation will improve.”

      The Boston bombings were fake. I’m not saying that nobody was hurt, but that the operation was scripted from start to finish, and anyone who uses it as in argument for increased state power is either ignorant, a fool, or worse.

      “Uncle Ruslan” was directly connected to Graham Fuller, who was central to the Gladio-B radicalization and manipulation of Islamic extremists.

      http://www.voltairenet.org/article178524.html

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