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Another Key lie is why this government can’t be trusted with increased spying powers

Written By: - Date published: 9:07 am, August 16th, 2016 - 33 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, john key, national, Spying - Tags: , , , ,

As widely reported yesterday the Nats plan to rewrite the law to allow the GCSB to spy on NZ citizens.

Coincidentally yesterday another spying story broke. I/S at No Right Turn summed it up perfectly, so his post is reprinted (with permission) here:


John Key lied about the GCSB circumventing NZ law

no-right-turn-256Back in 2013, when the Snowden leaks were first released, John Key faced some very uncomfortable questions about whether the GCSB used the NSA’s PRISM system to circumvent the law (nad in particular, the law against spying on New Zealanders). His response was a categorical denial:

On TV3’s Firstline this morning, the PM categorically denied New Zealand uses systems like the NSA’s PRISM to circumvent NZ law.

The logic is that if the US government spy agency collects traffic arriving at its borders through PRISM, then it will be hoovering up lots of txts, emails and calls from New Zealanders (it has also been alleged PRISM collects information from the servers of tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft – the companies deny this is happening, at least with their knowledge; in some cases the denials are very carefully worded). When information is exchanged between US and NZ agencies, this US-gathered information would be shared, providing a warrant-less way to spy on Kiwis).
[…]
The Prime Minister continued: “I can’t tell you how the United States gathers all of their information and what techniques they use. I simply don’t know that.”

He added, “If the question is, ‘Do we use the United States or one of our other partners to circumvent New Zealand law?’ then the answer is categorically no we don’t.”

It turns out he was lying. A major story released by The Intercept today (and teased by TVNZ last night) tells the story of how the GCSB spied on kiwi public servant Tony Fullman over his links to Fiji’s pro-democracy movement. And a key part of that spying? Getting the NSA to use PRISM to grab all of his communications, so they could be passed on to the GCSB:

Between early July and early August 2012, New Zealand spies appear to have requested American assistance to obtain the emails and Facebook communications of Fullman and Ratu [ Tevita Mara], including from a “democfiji” email address used by Fullman to organize events for the campaign group, whose slogan was “thumbs up for democracy.”

The NSA’s documents contain a “priority list” that names the two men as “Fiji targets” alongside their Gmail addresses and an account number identifying Fullman’s Facebook page. The documents indicate that the NSA began intercepting messages associated with Ratu’s accounts on about the July 9, 2012 and on August 3 started spying on Fullman’s messages. The agency also obtained historic messages from the two men dating back to the beginning of May 2012.

To conduct the electronic eavesdropping, the NSA turned to one of its most controversial surveillance programs: PRISM. The agency uses PRISM to secretly obtain communications that are processed by major technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo, as the Washington Post and The Guardian first reported in 2013.
[…]
The classification markings on the files — “REL TO USA/NZ” — make clear that the intercepted communications were to be released to New Zealand spies. In one of the files showing Fullman’s intercepted emails and Facebook chats, the NSA explicitly noted that the intercepted material had been forwarded to its New Zealand intelligence counterpart, the GCSB.

And yet the Prime Minister was denying that was was happening just six months later, despite apparently having “personally” signed the warrant authorising the interception. I guess he just wasn’t paying that much attention.

But its not just a case of political deceit about spying – it is also a crime. Because it is very clear that by receiving Fullman’s information, the GCSB was intercepting it. And as that interception was not authorised by the GCSB Act (being explicitly contrary to the section 14 prohibition on intercepting the communications of New Zealanders), it is a breach of s216 of the Crimes Act.

The government clearly owes Fullman an apology and compensation for unlawfully invading his privacy. But more importantly than that, someone at the GCSB needs to go to jail. And the Prime Minister who lied to us about what they do? He needs to resign, now.


That is a warning about how this government abuses its powers. When caught out the response is:

Key defends Fijian anti-terror operation

Key was asked whether the Government would consider an apology to avoid a legal challenge from Fullman. He appeared to rule that out: “In the end, people are always free to go and test their rights if they believe they want to.”

Not good enough. Not worthy of being trusted with increased spying powers. When caught abusing those the response will be the same – meh, so sue us.

33 comments on “Another Key lie is why this government can’t be trusted with increased spying powers”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Will the Prime Minister be correcting his answer?

    Or does Shearer’s “routinely” give him an “out”?

    • Leftie 1.1

      Aren’t Key and Shearer secret talking buddies? That’s what cost Shearer his job as Lab party leader.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        I think Key would be in trouble if our Parliament had a spine.

        Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I can assure the House that we do not use our partners to circumvent New Zealand laws. We do not ask them to do that. I cannot speak for other international agencies; I simply do not know what they do. But I know that from our perspective and from the Government Communications Security Bureau’s perspective we do not use foreign partners to circumvent the law.

        11 June 2013.

        Perjury, to all intents and purposes, and not for the first time. Ladies and gentlemen, your Prime Minister.

    • srylands 1.2

      Key’s answer looks fine. He had not received any information that showed routine breaches. Anyway it was a stupid law.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2.1

        we do not use foreign partners to circumvent the law.

        the classification markings on the files — “REL TO USA/NZ” — make clear that the intercepted communications were to be released to New Zealand spies

        One of these things is not like the other. I suppose Key can argue that the law being broken was a a side-effect, rather than the intention, and if you’re comfortable with a Prime Minister who twists and turns and wriggles and gets off on qualifiers and clauses, good for you.

      • Paul 1.2.2

        How about a post?
        What John Key would have to do that SSLands would not defend?

  2. vto 2

    An anecdote to expose where the power lies ………

    You can always tell where the power lies in a society by who has the biggest buildings..

    In the long past the churches built the biggest – they had the power
    In sometimes past military forts were the largest and grandest – they had the power
    In most of last century business build the biggest buildings – they had the power

    In Christchurch pre-eq IRD had the biggest flashest building – they have the power

    Now, in post-eq Christchurch the biggest most expensive building is the Justice and Emergency ‘Precinct’. i.e. the cops and the courts, the state enforcers. The state enforcers have the power.

    resistance is futile …

  3. Righty right 3

    Well if you don’t try and undermine John key by committing economic vandalism iby opening your mouths without thinking then you have nothing to worry about ,in a post gfc environment where uncencered thoughts could cause an economic collapse .so it’s important to learn self censership .Do not contradict john key

    • Leftie 3.1

      Seriously, are you for real Righty right? are you making a joke?

    • Mike the Lefty 3.2

      The greedy right don’t tell me who I can or can’t contradict, I decide that for myself.
      If you don’t have the guts to make your own decisions that’s your problem.

  4. Leftie 4

    John key always lies, and isn’t that what John key always does to cover himself and his activities, makes whats been illegal, legal?

    • Henry Filth 4.1

      It’s what all governments do. All of them.

      Don’t let your bigotries blind you to the truth-power exists to be abused.

    • Righty right 4.2

      John key lies because he has to he lies for greater good if truth came out the nZ economy would collapse John key lies for new zealand

  5. Pasupial 5

    This is the most disturbing passage to me in that Intercept piece:

    the Security Intelligence Service, bugged telephone calls in which it believed it heard people discussing a plot to violently overthrow Bainimarama. According to the source, security officials were “very excited,” thinking they “finally had some baddies, real live terrorists in New Zealand.”

    That eagerness to discover (create?) a terrorist threat is quite a problem in our spies. Diligent pursuit of the truth is one thing, fitting information to a predetermined conclusion is quite another.

    • Wayne 5.1

      Pasupial

      A slight problem with your narrative. The “spies” did in fact ultimately accept that it was wild talk, and that they were not dealing with “real live terrorists.”

      But the spies would certainly look more than a little foolish if they heard something like that and just ignored it, and then something did happen.

      • Stuart Munro 5.1.1

        I’m not sure that the potential embarrassment of operatives who are not publicly known is much of a sanction.

        RWNJ spies and their fanboys are nothing if not consistent – MLK was spied on, but not Oswald. Spies were wrong on Zaoui, but couldn’t admit it. There’s a pattern here, and it has nothing to do with suppressing terrorism.

        • Pasupial 5.1.1.1

          Stuart Munro
          Actually, the first example that popped into my mind on reading the Intercept piece was; the Tuhoe raids being supposedly in response to the overheard “threat” to catapult a bus onto GWBush (and not at all to exert political pressure to expand police powers). If you take drunken jokes out of context then you could hang anyone for treason (if we were at war; which if we are, hasn’t been announced to the general public):

          “People would say things like, ‘Please can we just hire the Americans to send one drone to Fiji to get rid of those bastards’, or ‘Let me go back to Fiji and I’ll just get a knife and stab him!’” Fullman said. “It’s venting. It’s our way of maintaining sanity — we just sit and bitch about everything. We don’t want violence…
          The New Zealand security agency may not have recognized the difference between eavesdropped venting and an actual plot, prematurely launching its raids and broad secret surveillance operation without any clear evidence.

          [Hmm, thought I’d posted this a while back, but it didn’t come up even with a ctrl-f5 refresh so assume I must have pushed cancel instead. Luckily it was still in the buffer after I came back to the keyboard (always ctrl-A/ ctrl-C before posting!). If it’s gone to moderation for some reason could please you delete the duplicate.]

      • Pasupial 5.1.2

        Wayne, your point would be valid if it was on the SIS’s own behest that actions against Fullman ceased. However:

        On 16 April, 2013, the internal affairs minister, Tremain, wrote again to Fullman. Contrary to the earlier notice he had issued, Tremain now said that “based on advice” provided by the Security Intelligence Service, there were “no longer national security concerns” about Fullman. The cancellation of his passport was lifted “without requiring an application for a replacement, or payment of a fee.” The change of position followed Fullman initiating legal action against the New Zealand government in the Wellington High Court two months earlier.

        By this stage, the SIS had known that they lacked any evidence of wrongdoing for months, maybe even back in 2012 (the passport was seized on July 17 of that year). But they took no steps to return freedom of movement to Fullman until their minister was pressured with a court case. Which rather neatly ties into the Original Post’s point that the government surveillance authorities (“spies”) are:

        Not worthy of being trusted with increased spying powers. When caught abusing those the response will be the same – meh, so sue us.

  6. save nz 6

    +1000 The government clearly owes Fullman an apology and compensation for unlawfully invading his privacy. But more importantly than that, someone at the GCSB needs to go to jail. And the Prime Minister who lied to us about what they do? He needs to resign, now.

    Yep, folks, the current ‘targets’ of the US and NZ spies seem to be pro democracy public servants… so let’s not pretend any longer what the spying regime is going to be used for….

    • Garibaldi 6.1

      All eyes on the Labour party eh? Just watch their response to this latest debacle by Key. The left needs to wake everyone up…… can Little do it? Of course the media will see nothing – too busy with bloody sport.

      • save nz 6.1.1

        Labour were very naive about Phil Goff and spying.

        Wake up!

        Do they really trust National to be in charge of the spies, just like does the world really trust Trump to be in charge of the Nukes?

        Personally I don’t trust Clinton either.

        Worldwide there needs to be greater accountability of all governments NOT increase powers to them.

      • Leftie 6.1.2

        Rest assured Garibaldi, the media will say “hey, look over there…!!!”

  7. dv 7

    Wait till a really left wing govt gets into power, and they start using the new power!!!
    And then listen to the roars of outrage!!!!

  8. Ralf Crown 8

    kiwiherald.wordpress.com

    Tells it all.

  9. Repateet 9

    “It turns out he was lying.”

    We’re in the realms of, “nothing to see here, nothing new here, nothing to make a fuss over.” And of course that’s the slow working venom which destroys.

  10. Erik Bloodaxe 10

    Key is the lowest of the low. At least Trump, despite his many flaws and narcisistic personality, is up front with his dishonesty. Key simply lies and even when caught will carry on – business as usual. The worst thing of all is that there are so many people out there who think he is the messiah. What would it take for this to change? I doubt it will.

  11. ianmac 11

    And this intrigued me:
    “Prime Minister John Key was briefed in advance on the operation and personally signed the warrants.”
    See https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/special-investigation-inside-one-siss-biggest-anti-terrorism-operations

  12. srylands 12

    Rare praise from Andrew Little for a Minister.

    Just shows how well prepared the Government is to win Labour support for this Bill. Well said Andrew Little!

    “I do have some comments to make about the role of the Attorney-General in relation to some of the provisions in this bill, and I do want to say from the outset that the comments I make are absolutely no reflection on the Attorney-General, who has conducted himself, since he has acquired the responsibilities for these agencies, with considerable distinction. ”

    New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill — First Reading, Speech by Andrew Little.

    https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20160818_055237000/little-andrew

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