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But they do it too …

Written By: - Date published: 2:53 pm, April 19th, 2015 - 23 comments
Categories: China, International, john key, national - Tags: ,

The Government’s apparent response (at least according to Kiwiblog) to news that New Zealand has been spying on the Chinese is that they spy on us so what is there to worry about?  There have also been suggestions by the usual suspects that the work of investigative journalists in printing this information is somehow treasonous.  Such comments are designed completely for local political consumption and for those limited purposes may work.  But I am sure that the Chinese are fuming and wondering about the appropriate response.

The question will be asked what did John Key know about this activity, assuming of course that the planned interception occurred, and the answer must be that he knew what was happening.  In fact he probably authorised it.

Putting to one side questions about whether or not the interception breached the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations the legality of the interception shows how loose the Government Communications and Security Bureau Act 2003 is.

The interception is presumably one authorised under section 8B of the Act which provides:

8B  Intelligence gathering and analysis

(1)  This function of the Bureau is—

(a)  to gather and analyse intelligence (including from information infrastructures) in accordance with the Government’s requirements about the capabilities, intentions, and activities of foreign persons and foreign organisations; and

(b)  to gather and analyse intelligence about information infrastructures; and

(c)  to provide any intelligence gathered and any analysis of the intelligence to—

(i)  the Minister; and

(ii)  any person or office holder (whether in New Zealand or overseas) authorised by the Minister to receive the intelligence.

So Key must have been told, presuming the interception happened while he was Minister in charge.

I would not be surprised if he actually authorised the interception.  Under section 15:

15  Interceptions for which warrant or authorisation required

(1)  Unless authorised by an interception warrant to do so, neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may—

(a)  physically connect an interception device to any part of an information infrastructure; or

(b)  install an interception device in a place for the purpose of intercepting communications that occur in the place.

Under section 15A the Minister in charge has to authorise the granting of an interception warrant.  And the Minister had to consult with the Minister of Foreign Affairs before issuing the warrant.  There is power under section 16 for warrantless interceptions but if they applied to this case very little activity would require warrants to be obtained.

Putting to one side the basic issue about the stupidity of such action you have to wonder if the action is in breach of the country’s international obligations concerning diplomatic communications.  Under Clause 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations official correspondence is meant to be inviolable and the receiving state is meant to permit and protect free communication for official purposes.  To suggest that the GCSB legislation allows a Minister to make a decision that breaches international obligations is laughable.

It is now clear why John Key transferred obligations for the GCSB to Chris Finlayson.  He must have anticipated after the Snowden revelations were made public that this news was on the way and wanted to avoid questions on the subkect.

It makes you wonder what will be disclosed next.

23 comments on “But they do it too … ”

  1. coaster 1

    standard parent child discussion
    “but dad, they did it first”, “well jimmy, as my parents told me, 2 wrongs dont make a right”.

    its time for us to appologise, were nz, we arnt the same as everyone else.

  2. emergency mike 2

    It doesn’t matter if China spy on us too, now that this disclosure is public they are obliged to remind us of our respective places in the global pecking order one way or another.

    Also, if the GCSB are in violation of the Vienna convention, then either their system of checks and balances is broken, (big shock), or our government, rightly or wrongly, perceives the convention as meaningless window-dressing for the masses that no one actually adheres to.

    Goodo, carry on then.

  3. Pascals bookie 3

    The people hollering about ‘treason’ and so on need to think a little deeper.

    Snowden, like Manning, released what they ahd access to. That was the problem from a security angle, not ‘treason’.

    We know about those two because of what they chose to do with the info. Either of them could have chosen to give the info to anyone who was prepared to wire enough cash and we would never have known unless they were caught.

    We have no reason to believe either of those two would have been caught if they had not gone public with the info, and we have no reason to believe no one had already sold the info to the Chinese or Russians.

    The NSA and others collect too much stuff to keep secret. In order to manage the volumes and databases they need contractors, on order to vet the contractors they use outsourced firms who have been known to scrimp on the vetting to lower their costs and increases their profit margin. That’s the failure, there, on the US’ part.

    For our part, tying ourselves to that machine is the failure. If the US can’t keep its secrets, and it can’t, then trusting them with ours is the failure.

  4. mary_a 4

    China’s spying will be for it’s own benefit, not that of an outside source.

    Key on the other hand is spying and pimping on behalf of his paymasters in the US, reporting and relaying information to the NSA. Bet he receives a lucrative fee for his slimy and sleazy efforts in this regard! Sickening!

    • Anne 4.1

      what did John Key know about this activity, assuming of course that the planned interception occurred, and the answer must be that he knew what was happening. In fact he probably authorised it.

      Remember August 2012 – some six to nine months before this spying activity is thought to have commenced?

      John Key was missing at a Saturday memorial service for soldiers killed in Iraq. His excuse: he had to attend his son’s baseball match in the USA. The match was on the following Tuesday (Wednesday our time?) – five days after the service. He could have delayed his flight another 12-24 hrs and attended the service. So, why didn’t he? Well, it transpired later, he had arranged to have dinner with some Hollywood moguls in LA prior to travelling on to the baseball game. The secrecy around that trip – apart from the son’s game – has always struck me as odd. My own view is: he was also there to meet with ‘some other Americans’. Perhaps a top secret meeting which we would never have had cause to suspect might have existed, if hadn’t been for the two soldiers being killed at an inconvenient time.

      • Anne 4.1.1

        It is now clear why John Key transferred obligations for the GCSB to Chris Finlayson. He must have anticipated after the Snowden revelations were made public that this news was on the way and wanted to avoid questions on the subkect.

        And did it have a bearing on Ian Fletcher’s resignation announcement (well before his term was due to expire) around the same time?

        • Naturesong

          And the next one was promoted to a position that is legally above reproach.

          There won’t be answers coming from Lt. Gen Sir Jerry Mateparae anytime soon.
          I wonder what he learnt when he babysat the GCSB (7 Feb 2011 – 1 July 2011).

          • Anne

            The pieces of the jigsaw are starting to fit together.

            Mateparae was appointed to the position of GCSB Director for a period of 3 years (possibly longer) in 2011, and then six months later it was announced he would be the next Gov. Gen. That was a bit weird. John Key knew he was going to have to appoint a new Gov. Gen. well before 2011, so why did he not appoint Mateparae directly to the position? It didn’t make sense. Obviously something happened in that six months to make Key change his mind about the GCSB. He no longer wanted Mateparae in the job. He – or somebody – had their eye on Ian Fletcher instead.

            The whole saga had the appearance of having been swiftly engineered. Now I think we know the reason why?

            • dukeofurl

              It was more likely that Mateparae was out of his depth in his new role.

              We have seen a’ parade of horribles’ that have made a hash of it, even including Keys favourite neighbour Fletcher.

              • Colonial Rawshark

                It was more likely that Mateparae was out of his depth in his new role.

                Now I’m thinking that you’re a bit of a stupid fucker. Or dangerously insincere.

                Please justify how you see a former commander of the NZSAS – who has had in depth experience planning and executing with global intelligence support provided by the likes of CIA/NSA/MI6/etc, special ops missions where NZ troops have operated alongside US SOCOM and SAS teams from all over the world – would have been “out of his depth in his new role.”

            • Paul Campbell

              maybe the previous guy (or Mateparae) refused to do something for, gasp, moral reasons, and the Americans demanded he be kicked out

              • Anne

                My thoughts too Paul Campbell.

                • Tracey

                  Perhaps he foolishly thought the role would be about national security for NZers and when he found it was about taxpayer funded work to essentially spy for corporate advantage he said nah?

              • mary_a

                @ Paul Campbell ( – BINGO!

                Possibly the same scenario with Ian Fletcher too maybe! Morality and honesty got in the way of continuing in the job and the Almighty Uncle Sam said get rid! And the scourge Key obliged willingly!

                Two GCSB chiefs going suddenly after a very short period of tenure, does make you think doesn’t it?

                • Anne

                  At the time mary_a it looked very much like Mateparae was ‘encouraged’ to resign and the carrot was the position of Gov. Gen. That was the weird bit. Only 6 months or so previously he had been appointed for a three year term (it might have been 4 years – not sure) at the helm of the GCSB. I don’t think he chose to stand down of his own accord.

                  Ian Fletcher, on the other hand did, apparently, stand down of his own volition. And therein lies the question: what was the real reason he did so? Personal and family matters may well have come into it, but I have a sneaky suspicion there was also another reason.

                  The whole GCSB business has a pungent smell about it, and it is pertinent to note that the problems started AFTER John Key became PM. During Helen Clark’s reign the security services seemed relatively consistent in their behaviour and stable. There was none of this secretive duck shoving around and rapid turnover of bosses etc. You really do have to wonder what the hell has been going on.

  5. Murray Rawshark 5

    Once again we have the FJK regime and one of its organisations violating the laws and agreements which govern them. Until there are penalties for not following the law, they will keep doing it. What we need are additions to the acts, for example “Any acts undertaken in breach of this legislation will be punished by resignation without pension of the Minister responsible and a prison sentence of not less than five years for the director.” Only then will we see these reprobates respecting the law.

  6. saveNZ 6

    The problem is that some of the 5 eyes prime ministers think they are above the law.

  7. Tracey 7

    John Key was well prepared with his dirty rotten thief lines but he forgets, or no one reminds him, that the GCSB were dirty filthy law breakers too. Key had to change a law and make it retrospective to try and sanitise them.

    Everyone is spying on everyone BUT we have to keep TPP from the people cos everyone is also in need of confidentiality to preserve their negotiating positions, even though everyone is spying on everyone.

    I thought Ms Hill missed a trick when Key said of course we are spying… the real archilles heel about the recent reveal is we are NOT spying on china for our security purposes but to be a conduit for the USA.

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