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“Collect it all”, “exploit it all”: 5 Eyes economic surveillance

Written By: - Date published: 9:10 pm, May 15th, 2014 - 54 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, democracy under attack, john key, slippery, Spying, us politics - Tags:

I am in the process of watching the videos of Glenn Greenwald, as interviewed on Democracy Now about his new book No Place to Hide.  It’s posted on the Daily Blog by Selwyn Manning.  I am in the middle of the first video.

It’s mind blowing stuff. The extent of the NSA-led 5 Eyes surveillance systems is a leap from sci fi into our daily lives. ( NSA is the US state surveillance agency, and the 5 Eyes include the equivalent agencies in the UK, Aussie, Canada and NZ’s GCSB).

GCSB Key

There is a strong focus on economic surveillance in the use of the systems.

The first post and video, as Manning explains the significance of the latest revelations for NZ:

In this interview Glenn Greenwald reveals and describes new collection postures – or new methods of surveillance used by the the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) etc.

The interviewee makes references to dragnet “Sniff it all’, ‘Know it all’, ‘Collect it all’, ‘Process it all’, ‘Exploit it all’, Partner it all’, data surveillance taking place in all parts of the world.

The Partner it all reference raises questions as to the accuracy of New Zealand and Australian government assurances that such surveillance is not targeting citizens of these countries.

A graphic slide follows, demonstrating the surveillance methods.

For New Zealand, the latest information indicates that John Key and GCSB boss Ian Fletcher have questions to answer – they appear to have misled the people of NZ. Manning states:

The public interest demands the Prime Minister explain how this information is not incongruous to his assertions that New Zealand citizens are not having their communications data trawled, netted, and processed by the Five Eyes network – operations that appear to include the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
Some of the new stuff Greenwald talks about in the interview:
He outlines the extent of the economic surveillance that includes spying on the UN, oil companies, corporations, and the US department of commerce, and much more.  The NSA has spied on the Brazilian company Petrobras, spied on international economic conferences, the World Bank, the IMF, and the Swift banking system. The NSA has “customers”  like the CIA, and the US departments of agriculture and commerce, which make requests of the NSA.
After all the fuss that the US authorities, and others have made about the intensive surveillance in commercial technologies, alleged to be done on behalf of the Chinese government, there’s this at about 17 minutes 14 seconds into the video – Greenwald says that his new book describes this intrusive and wide-reaching practice by the NSA:

..all over the world, people buy routers and switchers and servers, which are the devices that let corporations or municipalities or villages provide internet service to large numbers of people at once

when somebody orders a product from Cisco [for example as well as other US companies], Cisco then ships it to that person. The NSA physically intercepts the package – takes it from FedEx or from the US mail service, brings it back to NSA headquarters, opens up the package and plants a back door device on one of these devices, reseals it with the packer e-seal and sends it on to the unwitting user, who then provides internet service for large numbers of people – all of which is instantly redirected into the repositories of the NSA.

The Snowden material includes email communications describing how they do this, along with photos of it being done.

GCSB protest-17

Greenwald then talks about the cooperation among the 5 Eyes partners. At about 28 minutes into the video, he says his book includes a letter from a “high level Australian official” who asked the US government to help it to spy on Aussie citizens.

Of importance with respect to the questions John Key and Ian Fletcher need to be asked, Greenwald explains

If you listen to these governments, in response to the stories that we’ve been reporting, what they’ll say is, to their own citizens, “You don’t need to worry because there’s all these restrictions on how we can spy on you. Yes, we can spy on the rest of the world as much as we want, but” these governments say, “when it comes to you, our wonderful citizens, we have all kinds of legal restrictions,..

This is the kind of thing that Key and Fletcher have said to us. Greenwald refers to a document, published for the first time, that he claims shows these governments,

will ask their surveillance partners to spy on their own people, and then give them the fruits of that surveillance. So they can learn everything that they want to know about their own population, while pretending to abide by the legal restrictions that have been imposed on them.

So, Mr Key, what exactly do you know about all this?  What haven’t you been telling us?

Part Two of Greenwald’s interview has been posted here on The Daily Blog.

54 comments on ““Collect it all”, “exploit it all”: 5 Eyes economic surveillance ”

  1. Mike the Savage One 1

    This is a good reference, and also to TDB, which I am getting more interested in – for a political blog.

    I think that this stuff is worth researching reveals heaps and more, but this may here be wrongly placed as only being about “economics”.

    This is about damned PRIVACY, dear all, damned PRIVACY, and think about that, please! We are all watched all over, more than most think, even here, while I write this, I fear.

    • karol 1.1

      Yes, it’s about privacy – or more importantly intrusions into our daily lives. But that is all done in the service of corporate power – we are all just saleable commodities.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        It’s done in the service of corporate power and political control – including if necessary, blackmail and intimidation.

        The security state started full surveillance of Barack Obama when he was running for Senator. They will also have full email, text, phone call, web and internet search records going back at least a few years for every candidate standing for Parliament this year.

        There is no possibility of an actual democracy and free country under these conditions, where the deep state knows every thing about every facet of your life and what you are doing, while the citizens know absolutely nothing about what the activities of the power elite and the deep state.

  2. mickysavage 2

    Good post Karol. I have a go at a post but ran into writer’s block …

    There was a passage from Greenwald’s book which I thought explained a great deal.

    Deciphering the archive and the NSA’s language involved a steep learning curve. The agency communicates with itself and its partners in an idiosyncratic language of its own, a lingo that is bureaucratic and stilted yet at times boastful and even snarky. Most of the documents were also quite technical, filled with forbidding acronyms and code names, and sometimes required that other documents be read first before they could be understood.

    For me this summed up the Government response perfectly. Key’s interview with John Campbell was a perfect example. Of course everything is OK, we have nothing to worry about, there are legal protections and this Government respects our privacy.

    But there is nothing stopping Governments spying on each other’s citizens as a proxy.

    And can you imagine the Government having this much power and access to information and not exercising it?

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Deciphering the archive and the NSA’s language involved a steep learning curve. The agency communicates with itself and its partners in an idiosyncratic language of its own, a lingo that is bureaucratic and stilted yet at times boastful and even snarky

      The language is designed to hide the immoral, unprincipled and unconstitutional purposes behind the activities.

      Like a blandly worded technical plan for the efficient liquidation of Ukranian Jews in World War 2.

  3. Hi Karol, thanks for the reference. Much appreciated. You are right to follow the economics thread, as this is being used as part justification for surveillance alongside other definitions of national security. It appears that economic and commercial security was given a parity comparable to defence/offensive security in large part during the GW Bush presidency and expressed in the 2002 National Security Strategy document.

    There is also a commercial/service element expressed now within New Zealand’s new GCSB and TICS legislation.

    The commercial element is often overlooked when we evaluate/debate the merits or otherwise of security responses to threats. Remember, the NZ SIS gave potential negative economic consequences when justifying its issue of a Security Certificate against then asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui back in the early 200s. The SIS only coughed up that gem of information when forced by the High Court to present a summary of justifications for the issuing of the Security Certificate.

    David Fisher over at the Herald is also doing great work in making sense of this stuff. As is Russell Brown at Public Address. Definitely worth checking out.

    • karol 3.1

      Thanks, Selwyn.

      I don’t know as much about it as some of you guys. I have been following the shift towards a more extensive embracing of economic surveillance. The appointment of Ian Fletcher, with his background was part of that.

      There seems to me so much information coming out via Snowden, I need to digest it a bit at a time.

  4. Anne 4

    One of the unintended (no doubt) ironies is that it is inevitable that the NSA – or maybe one of the other 5 Eyes countries on their behalf – is spying on John Key.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      They are spying on John Key, on Angela Merkel, on Barack Obama, etc.

      The real question actually is WHO is spying on them and WHY

      In addition to the economic aspects (eg it has been shown that the NSA spied on G12 negotiators at a major meeting) this kind of security state surveillance activity has to be seen in a wider context of increasing social deprivation and resulting social unrest in many western nations.

      Combine this with law changes in the USA enabling the use of US military forces against US citizens on US soils, and in the UK allowing the British Government to strip citizenship from immigrants leaving them stateless,with no legal protections, becoming simple uncomplicated legal targets for say, drone strikes.

      When the power elite grant themselves powers on this scale, history has shown that they will eventually be used against the ordinary citizens, not if, but when.

  5. Mike the Savage One 5

    While we all agree on much, be aware, that we happen to live, oh, gosh, horrible, in a CAPITALIST SYSTEM, and yes, what are yo all going to do about it? I have my answers, which I will not publish here, for your own “protection”, but hey, this is absurd, you want a socially inclusive, fair and just society, but tend to now accept, that the capitalist system can “deliver’ this.

    I fear you are IDIOTS, and that is what you will be proved as, no matter from where you are and what you stand for . People will need to rethink and re-plan and more, all over the planet, and [prepare for the future, which will not be easy. Best wishes, HC

  6. AmaKiwi 6

    When Key, Obama, Cameron, Abbott say, “You can trust me” it is irrelevant.

    These powers are not given to individuals but to the offices they hold. Even if I do trust these particular men, I cannot trust that the people who will hold their offices during the rest of my life will ALL be trustworthy.

    Key is expecting us to accept it is impossible for another Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Putin to come to power. History shows it is highly probable one will.

    These spy tools will insure their absolute control over us all, including our PM.

    • AmaKiwi 6.1

      Are Key supporters happy this spy data might soon be in the hands of David Cunliffe?

      This is EVERYONE’s fight.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      When Key, Obama, Cameron, Abbott say, “You can trust me” it is irrelevant.

      Not only irrelevant, but alarming that all would use this same worn out formula in destroying democracy and civil rights. For it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who said this famous quote:

      In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

      And so, these rulers and their crony governments have been at every step undermining the constitution and its civil rights, replacing principled law with law which would be more at place in a military dictatorship, and subverting the courts.

      While I see the NZ Herald Online front page bleats on about National reducing Government debt, the same debt that National ran up in the first place. No longer simply farcical or funny, we are now entering dangerous times.

  7. thatguynz 7

    Isn’t it funny that when Nicky Hager wrote about precisely this topic in his 1996 book “Secret Power” he was labelled as a kook and a conspiracy theorist. Where are all those naysayers now? Gosman?

    More to the point why isn’t John Key (as the current minister in charge of intelligence services – god knows any of the previous PM’s could be pulled up on the same issue) being absolutely reamed over his blatant mistruth that NZ’ers aren’t being spied on by the GCSB. Granted, historically they haven’t been directly spied on by the GCSB – the GCSB just supplied the target or word list to the NSA, GCHQ etc who technically did the spying for them and then feed the results back. Nonetheless, it is semantics, the outcome was still the same. Why did it take a US based whistleblower to finally wake NZ up to a reality that was exposed 18 years ago?

    • framu 7.1

      the lie bit is soo bad that im surprised key isnt openly laughed at during interviews

      heard a great little exchange last night on the radio, where key basically admitted the lie

      he did the usual line hes been running, but when the journo dug a teeny bit further key repsonded with (paraphrasing) “if you listen closely to what i said you will see im telling the truth”

      yes, quite – your well known for such linguistic wriggle room mr key

      • karol 7.1.1

        As reported in this morning’s article my David Fisher, Key gives himself a little wriggle room:

        John Key has said he is aware of “some” but not all of the tools used by the Government Communications Security Bureau amid fresh questions over an intrusive piece of spyware showcased by the United States’ NSA to their Kiwi partners.

        The Prime Minister stuck to his position in refusing to talk about “operational” details of the spy agency’s work.
        […]
        Mr Key refused to say whether the NSA helped fund the GCSB, despite Snowden documents showing Canadian and United Kingdom agencies received funding.

        2 significant points there.

        • emergency mike 7.1.1.1

          “Asked if he knew the tools used by the GCSB, he said “some of them”. “I don’t go into the techniques the GCSB or SIS use.””

          Er, shouldn’t the minister for the GCSB be aware of ALL the tools they use? Him being the one and only elected official responsible for it’s “I can’t talk about it but trust me” ‘oversight’?

          Hands up who feels another John Key brain fade coming on?

      • karol 7.1.2

        This is last night’s Checkpoint clip, in which Key says that:

        [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ckpt/ckpt-20140515-1750-labour_says_pm_needs_to_front_up_on_latest_gcsb_allegatiosn-048.mp3" /]

        This is what went down:

        Key said:

        We don’t talk about the operations of the operational details of the GCSB but we have given two assurances which I continue to stand by, and that – ah we don’t undertake the mass surveillance of New Zealanders. We don’t collect metadata on a mass basis of New Zealanders. And we never use our partners to circumvent the law.

        On further questioning Key said:

        I’m quite happy to stand by the two statements I’ve just made and if you listen to those very carefully you’ll understand them.

        But, that looks like 3 statements to me.

        Anyway, the reporter then went on to say that the GCSB originally said they believed metadata was not included in the official meaning of “communications” in the law. Last year’s revision to Act doesn’t refer to metadata. However, an official statement of the Act’s intention says that metadata is treated the same as content, which means warrants would be required.

        • karol 7.1.2.1

          With Key’s statements in mind, looking at the Snowden material (link just added to the bottom of my post above), this comes to mind.

          The US has been collecting data via transnational telecoms cables and routers as it passes through the US.

          p. 105:

          FAIRVIEW – Corp partner since 1985 with access to int. cables, routers, switches. The partner operates in the U.S., but has access to information that transits the nation and through its corporate relationships provide unique accesses to other telecoms and ISPs. Aggressively involved in shaping traffic to run signals of interest past our monitors.

          Also, as in Keith Locke’s post today, a lot of GCSB’s active spying is on supposedly friendly governments.

          The US already has a wealth of data collected on Kiwis. Presumably, they can supply it to NZ when required….?

    • Tracey 7.2

      and Hager is often right because love him or hate him, he bases his work on documented evidence. You have to read his work to know that though.

  8. Tautoko Viper 8

    I have concerns that the US is able to influence our election by spying on the opposition MPs either using NSA/GCSB and putting the info into Key’s top drawer. This gives Key time to counter or spike any opposition ideas. When you look at the way the US has interfered with South American countries, then you would not find it difficult to believe that they would go out of their way to help retain John Key who is pro US. Time to shut our NZ eye!

    • framu 8.1

      yup – the USA’s leadership has a long and sordid history of dirty tricks in other peoples back yards

      and while some might cry “tin foil hat” your theory isnt that implausable once we consider historical and current events

  9. AmaKiwi 9

    For 35 years, the most powerful American was not a President. It was J. Edgar Hoover, who had blackmail info on every US president from Roosevelt to Nixon.

  10. Tracey 10

    GREAt post karol. Thanks again for this.

    I briefly posted when Ian Fletcher appeared at the Privacy Forum and reportedlt said

    “First of all it would be illegal if we were doing that and we don’t act outside the framework of the law, that’s a really important point to start with”.”

    Funny, if we don’t do it, why on earth would we waste time and money on a presentation, taking people away from their valuable work, to examine how and why to do it? Mr Fletcher, is that good use and time on taxpayer,s money??

    he then told us

    “He also offered an assurance that neither the GCSB or any foreign agency was engaged in the mass collection of metadata or information about New Zealanders’ communications which can be sifted for patterns that might point to areas of interest for authorities.

    “We don’t do that stuff. It’s important to keep on saying that.””

    Again Mr Fletcher may have been telling the truth, we weren’t doing it, but we were still in training from the NSA on how and why to do it. Forked tongue?

    And he appeared to be honest about his desire to divert attention from the very stuff just revealled by Mr Snowden

    “Mr Fletcher said his speech to the forum today was intended to “move the debate to start thinking about the kind of organisation, rules and framework for order that our community might want to have so that we can all live our online lives as safely as we can”.”

    If I understood the Pm corectly last night he said he couldn’t comment on the NSA presentation and so on cos he doesn’t know the detail of what the GCSB is doing. He then porceded to answer a follow up question with an answer that couldn’t be possible unless you did know that detail?

    from the herald today

    “Asked if he knew the tools used by the GCSB, he said “some of them”. “I don’t go into the techniques the GCSB or SIS use.”

    But he repeated his oft-stated position that there was no mass surveillance of New Zealanders and that partners in the Five Eyes network were not used to get around the law.”

    • karol 10.1

      Where did you hear the PM last night? radio? TV?

      • Tracey 10.1.1

        tv3

        I was fascinated by their news coverage… if anything sold the govt a lil short on the budget but gave the 5 eyes coverage quite high billing.

        • karol 10.1.1.1

          I got bored with the saturation budget coverage (a lot of sound and fury – more spin from the government than anything useful), and switched to looking at the Greenwald videos.

    • karol 10.2

      The 3 News Report.

      It’s the same statements as played on Checkpoint.

      Basically, you are saying, Key doesn’t know all the tools used by GCSB, but then indicates he must know when giving an assurance that they don’t use the 5 Eyes partner’s to circumvent the law.

  11. Anne 11

    A brief interview on RNZ with former GCSB head, Sir Bruce Ferguson on RNZ on the latest revelations. What I found very interesting is that he was not aware of the information supplied by the Canadians re- the spying on the Brazilian govt. and other Brazilian entities which occurred during his term as chief.

    I can’t say I know Bruce Ferguson but I did have a few dealings with him 20 odd years ago when he was a senior Air Force officer. Unlike John Key, who happily lies if its in his interest, I have no doubt whatsoever that if Ferguson says he had no knowledge of it then he is telling the truth. And if he knew nothing about it then that must mean the prime-minister of the day, Helen Clark knew nothing about it.

    I don’t consider such information as an “operational matter” and it is deeply concerning if the head of the GCSB and the prime-minister of the day were not kept in the loop. What other information might have been withheld from them?

    • karol 11.1

      Keith Locke has posted today on the material showing that Key must have known about the spying on Brazil.

      • Anne 11.1.1

        I haven’t read Keith Lock yet karol, but it should be remembered that Bruce Ferguson was essentially booted out of the GCSB by John Key. For public consumption he retired early. And we all know Key replaced him with someone he personally knew. The position was temporarily filled… until he was able to get his man back to NZ.

        • karol 11.1.1.1

          Ferguson was also a military man. Key replaced him with someone with more of a focus on digital and economic surveillance.

          • Anne 11.1.1.1.1

            Key replaced him with someone with more of a focus on digital and economic surveillance.

            Yes, and it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out from where the “instructions” were emanating. I distrust Key in every sense of the word and – as I’ve said here before – he is ultimately NOT working in the interest of New Zealand and New Zealanders.

          • Tracey 11.1.1.1.2

            yup someone with digital experience but we are noy doing mass digitial finance… if correct it was a stupid appoint 😉

          • Huginn 11.1.1.1.3

            Key replaced Ferguson with Ian Fletcher, who has a background in Intellectual Property.

            I wasn’t convinced by Ferguson on a Morning Report.

            Fletcher’s beginning to make the right sorts of noises when he talks about moving ‘the debate
            to start thinking about the kind of organisation, rules and framework for order that our community might want to have so that we can all live our online lives as safely as we can.’

            But first he has to concede that the Snowden revelations have led to a massive erosion of trust – and I don’t see that coming from him when he flatly denies that the GCSB has been involved with collecting our meta-data on the scale that we all think it has.

    • Tracey 11.2

      the problem is we view the very nature of spy agency work as deceptive… we are rarely going to believe anything they say.

      • thatguynz 11.2.1

        You’re right Tracey, valid point 🙂

        I’d also go so far to say that I actually believe that our membership of 5 eyes will in time prove to be detrimental internationally – if it isn’t already. Think of it in these terms – we currently have (what is touted to be) a fairly lucrative FTA with China and have stated that we are keen on growing this relationship. Politically and intelligence-wise however we are closely aligned with the US and Western bloc. Should the Asia-Pac situation between the US and China develop in a detrimental fashion, where will that leave us?

  12. karol 12

    I’m just scrolling through the PDF with Snowden material supporting Greeenwald’s book. On p 167, there’s this interesting document, headed: “Secret//Rel to USA, FVEY” (note micky’s point above about the dense coded language).

    What’s the threat?

    *Let’s be blunt – The Western world (especially the US) gained influence and made a lot of money via the drafting of earlier standards.
    + The US was the major player in shaping today’s Internet. This resulted in pervasive exporting of American culture and technology. It also resulted in a lot of money being made by US entities.

    P187 refers to collecting info on the “vulnerabilities” of “jihadists” AKA “radicalizers” – vulnerabilities is indicated as personal moral failings (sexual, financial) that could be used to undermine their credibility – ie smear campaigns.

    P190 – on “Online Covert Action” – previously made public – strategies circulated to NZL (GCSB).

  13. Tracey 13

    I suspect key would be chuffed if he were being spied on… plays into his need to feel important.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      What do you mean IF? He is (almost certainly) being spied on – as are we all. And so is every other leader allied with the USA. By the USA.

      • Tracey 13.1.1

        yup… but he sees it as a compliment. I wonder if they have to use uppers when going through hiz stuff.

      • MaxFletcher 13.1.2

        Exactly right.
        But you can’t be spied on if you are willing to just give away all that info anyway

  14. Tracey 14

    the person overseeing the gcsb, the prime minister, must know all the tools being used because otherwise how can he determine if they are operating within the law?

  15. McGrath 15

    No-one really cares about the GCSB story anymore. The only way that will change is if hard evidence of spying (eg hard disk of NZ metadata) is found in GCSB possession, and that I suspect is unlikely.

    • McFlock 15.1

      move along, nothing to see here….

    • emergency mike 15.2

      Yeah you may as well just shrug your shoulders and change the channel aye. Have another brew maybe.

      Anyone with half a brain should care about the implications of Snowden’s revelations. I’m sure that some peoples brains enter fog mode once a story has lasted more than one year, or a couple of weeks perhaps, but you should probably speak for yourself on this point.

    • Huginn 15.3

      Disagree with you on this, Mcgraw.
      This is very important to a small group of voters who may not be very interested in politics. The sort of person who rarely reads a newspaper or watches the news on tv – maybe doesn’t watch TV at all any tv at all – but who is outraged, totally incandescent, that the NSA and GCSB have been weakening the Internet by building back doors into the infrastructure.

      People like this will vote for the Internet Party, and under MMP, their votes be very important.

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