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Freedom and security

Written By: - Date published: 9:22 am, August 25th, 2011 - 30 comments
Categories: crime, human rights, national - Tags: , ,

Everyone wants freedom, and everyone wants security. But there’s a tension between the two, one person’s freedom is another person’s risk. Benjamin Franklin was pretty clear where he stood on the issue, in one of his most famous quotes he writes: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. I wonder what he would make of the Patriot Act shamed America of today.

So where’s the boundary between freedom and security? Every country makes its own decisions. It seems likely that we’ll be having another round of this debate in NZ shortly, as the government initiates a crack down on “organised crime”.

First a word on what this crack down is not. In a piece yesterday on Stuff (bizarrely posted under the “Technology” category) Andrea Vance cried wolf:

Racism online may become illegal in NZ

Posting racist or xenophobic messages on the internet and Holocaust denial could be illegal if New Zealand signs up to a international cyber-crime agreement. …

Commentator Bryce Edwards was quick to condemn: “Such a fraught attempt to censor what the state might view as incorrect thinking would be both ridiculous and outrageous”.  Fortunately I/S at No Right Turn dug a little deeper.  While the government is considering (as part of its crackdown) signing up to the Council of Europe Cyber Crime Convention, there’s no suggestion (in any of the published material) that it is considering adopting the optional “protocol” which bans online racism and the like.

So what will the crackdown entail? 3 News had this description:

Govt plans organised crime crackdown

The Government says it is going to crack down on organised crime by improving information sharing between agencies and placing a stronger focus on “disrupting the money trail underpinning offending”.

The new initiative, ‘Strengthening New Zealand’s Resistance to Organised Crime’, has been developed by the Ministry of Justice along with police, the Serious Fraud Office, Ministry of Economic Development and other groups.

“Money underpins crime, so Government agencies are stepping up efforts to confiscate the proceeds of crime and work more closely with the financial sector to ensure there are no weak links in our rules and systems that criminals can exploit,” says Police Minister Judith Collins.

Sounds good so far, right? But…

The Government will begin with legislative changes it says will “remove impediments to the effective combating of organised crime, and disrupting key tools and processes used by organised criminals”

Ahh, there’s the downside. The “impediments” to organised crime are the laws that protect privacy and limit police snooping into our lives. “Removing impediments” means removing such laws. Which ones? When will we be told?

Ms Collins is brushing off concerns about a loss of privacy through information-sharing.

Typical, arrogant, not helpful. Instead Collins should be listening and engaging, recognising the legitimate concerns and responding to them.

“The people who actually benefit most about a lack of information sharing are quite often organised crime. Where as for the civil libertarian concerns I think they should be very concerned like the rest of us about organised crime and the fact that they could well target New Zealand.”

Collins is trying to scare us with the bogyman. Trying to get us to surrender some of our liberty in the pursuit of an unquantifiable increase in security / decrease in crime. Not good enough. It’s a debate that needs to be set out clearly and resolved publicly. If we let the Nats sneak it through under the radar then we could end up with NZ’s own version of the Patriot Act. No thanks.

30 comments on “Freedom and security”

  1. Oligarkey 1

    National is pushing young people in to crime with their careless attitude to youth unemployment, then they’re whacking them when they try to seek escape from their miserable lives with drugs and the money it takes to get them. National has created this sadistic meat grinder that chews up our youths, and spits them out into jails.

    At the financial end of things it costs $100,000 per year to keep them in prison. Why not spend that money on four jobs for at-risk youths instead? Then we can avoid crime, substance abuse, depression and suicide.

    Now to add further insult to the whole injustice of the situation, they want to be able to stick their noses in to all our lives so they can punish the unfortunates who don’t fit in to their sadistic system. It’s all very creepy.

    When are our representatives going to get a soul?

  2. queenstfarmer 2

    You think organised crime / gang problem in NZ is just a “bogyman”? Well there’s the problem – belittling the issue. In reality it’s a major problem (which contrary to some people’s views, no doubt, didn’t suddenly materialise on 19 November 2008).

    Allowing a few state agencies to (lawfully) run cross-database queries is hardly draconian and as part of tackling the real problem is a low-cost, low impact and sensible step to take.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      There’s got to be careful and stronger oversight qstf, there are plenty of cases where police officers or civilian workers have accessed data that they where not authorised to, for personal use.

    • aerobubble 2.2

      Gangs are a presense in NZ society because of parliament lazy indifference to the
      consequences of a range of policies, from CGT, to GST off food, to deposit guarentees,
      all are policies that help broaden the economy and remove inequality.

      The reality is if government does not engage with its own citizens economic needs
      then gangs will.

      The very presense of so many gangs means open information becomes easier
      to obtain by gangs and gangs have far fewer limits on their activities than Police
      and law abiding people.

      I view the changes as stupid, ill considered, and another own goal. Its like
      fighting a blazing inferno by throwing open the doors (as falsely think the fire
      has gone out).

      Its just more deck chair revisionism, moving the deck chairs to block the
      access to the lifeboats.

      • queenstfarmer 2.2.1

        The very presense of so many gangs means open information becomes easier to obtain by gangs

        You lost me there. The specific proposal isn’t to make information publicly available to gangs, it’s to allow state agencies to join the dots more effectively – let the left hand know what the right hand’s doing.

        • Ianupnorth

          criminology 101 – the more police spend on new technology, the less effective basic policing becomes – fact, but don’t let fact get in the way of Tories running amok with ideology.

          • queenstfarmer

            It would be a mistake to assume this is all about new technology. As I understand it (and having talked recently with someone working at Customs who gave a good example) it’s often just a case of agencies being able to co-ordinate, to pick up the phone and check simple facts about a particular situation / individual.

            No doubt this already happens to a limited extent at an informal level.

            • aerobubble

              Putting the dots together means several foobars come into being.

              One data is found to be in error and costs to reckify it, or downstream costs
              when errors are made at the coal face.

              Second, informality is good, it implies immediate integrity born from
              professionalism. Data houses have no such filter protections.

              Third, information is power, my point is that more people who have access
              to data (say WINZ staff to other more secure data say held by Police)
              then the more avenue for a lowly paid, maybe annoyed frsutrated
              staff member in a moment of unprofessionalism passes data to a gang.

              Then add to that the whole problem of who has access to what.
              Its a dumb plan by an inept government who think they are masters
              of the universe, who have been propelled by policies that are now
              openly described as stupid and reprehensible. Neo-liberal.

              The world ain’t perfect, data will not be either, the people who
              access it aren’t saints, and so the more open doors, the more
              clueless the potential outcomes.

              And all for what exactly, what’s the pay off. Bigger brother controls
              on the citizenry to try to make welfare work instead of just sacking
              the whole of WINZ and providing citizens with a basic income
              guarentee, a tax free threshold and let them get on with unseating
              the monopolistic NZ economy run by woefully poor public and
              private managers. Who like the government come up with new
              schemes to distract from their inability, that are rushed into law
              without a upper chamber to cry fowl and we’re all stuck with
              yet another fundamental breach of our basic rights to dignity.

              • queenstfarmer

                rushed into law without a upper chamber to cry [foul]

                Agreed – there should be an upper house. Strangely, the idea was attacked by some here the other week as some sort of right-wing plot.

                we’re all stuck with yet another fundamental breach of our basic rights to dignity

                Since when has there been a “fundament” right not to have the state engage in data matching? The answer is never – this is an example of rights inflation.

                • Campbell Larsen

                  Qsf:” there should be an upper house. Strangely, the idea was attacked by some here the other week as some sort of right-wing plot”

                  It seems clear that the Nacts are trying to push through as much damaging policy in the time they are in power and have two strategies for enabling them to continue their sacking of NZ.

                  The first is the anti MMP bullshit which will make it easier for the Rats to get re-elected in the unlikey event that people are stupid enough to vote for a return to the old system (or something that resembles it).

                  The second is the introduction of an upper house which they obviously hope to control – if they manage to pull this coup this will enable them to veto any repeals of the horrors they are unleashing, and will hobble any left leaning government that is voted in to repair the damage.

                  When your democracy is sick you don’t take it to a cosmetic surgen, or ask it to donate a kidney. You nurture it by encouraging participation from the electorate, and transparency, accountability and results from our politicians.

                  • aerobubble

                    By removing the upper house, the parliament has a much easier time
                    picking up its mistakes and pasting over them with more mistakes,
                    while failing tot address the fundamental flaw in the system.
                    That parliament stopped governing efficiently.

    • lprent 2.3

      qtf: Perhaps you should define where you think the limits will be?

      It’d be more than what this authoritarian government are likely to do based on their past performances with legislation. Urgency, last minute revisions, and restricting access to select committees.

      It isn’t a government that accepts any limits on the ‘lawful’ abuses of process.

      BTW: Remember that in placing your limits you have to define how you’re going to limit it – especially in presumption of guilt and privacy of the innocent. Quite simply you’ll find it a really hard task without saying that police can look at whatever they want whenever they want and communicate it with whomever they want at their discretion. Think of how you prevent them passing traffic fine information to the likes of Whaleoil

      • queenstfarmer 2.3.1

        The limits will be defined in law, like they are now. There are already a range of powers and discretions and limits on civil liberties. and always have been. Anything involving a discretion by definition already cannot be precisely defined. And at the end of the day, anything that ends up in Court comes down to a judge’s view of whether or not it is lawful. This is no different to how the system works now, in the past, and in every democratic country.

        Questionable parliamentary processes (or abuses thereof) are a completely separate issue.

        • Ianupnorth

          Crusher should go and have a read; the police are light years behind the game!


          • queenstfarmer

            For fighting hackers, even Govts of major countries are struggling to keep up, let alone NZ.

            When it comes to more non-hacking-related crime fighting though, NZ police are apparently quite good (I’m sure that’s a relative assessment). I went a NZCS talk last year where they had the head of the Police’s e-crime lab come along and discussed various initiatives the police had in placel

            (Just dont mention INCIS!)

            • mik e

              Its a pity they couldn’t beef up the new Sfo and prosecute a lot more fraudsters but no they have said themselves we don’t have enough money to prosecute all the fraudsters from the recent finance company collapses [ponzi schemers] !

              • queenstfarmer

                I hope they bring all the finance fraudsters to justice, though in fairness prosecuting white-collar fraud is a massively expensive and time-consuming process. It’s pretty easy to spot the crime when it’s a burglary or a bashing. But investigating financial crime may mean trawling through thousands of documents going back years looking for a few figures out of place. I don’t know if there is any easier way to do the job properly.

                However harsher penalties would be a deterent. Plus, trust-busting liability, so you can’t be Rod Petrecivic living in your mansion and driving round in your flash car while asking for taxpayer-funded legal aid.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Speaking from a US perspective and slightly OT. Harsher penalties are not a deterrent when no one is ever charged, let alone convicted.

                  No lenders have been convicted in the US (and lenders were implicated in 80% of collateral and loan frauds in the US subprime mortgage scandal) despite hundreds of billions of dollars of failed mortgages.

                  I hope they bring all the finance fraudsters to justice, though in fairness prosecuting white-collar fraud is a massively expensive and time-consuming process. It’s pretty easy to spot the crime when it’s a burglary or a bashing.

                  No no no you got it all wrong. In many of these residential mortgage backed securities which were rated AAA but turned out to be toxic trash, destroying the value of many pension funds and investment funds (and the retirement hopes of millions of workers) the fraud was what you could call FUCKING OBVIOUS.

                  Put it this way, when Moodys rated those toxic securities AAA they never ever looked at any of the original mortgage documents that formed the basis of those securities.

                  When Goldman Sachs onsold those securities to their valued clients (LOL) they too never looked at any of the original mortgage documents.

                  Finally in one case, when Fitch did look at the original mortgage documents in one set of failed AAA rated RMBS’s they found clear and obvious fraud on the loan applications of more than NINETY PERCENT of the loan documents in the folder.

                  It doesn’t get more open and shut than that.

                  Number of subsequent convictions: ZERO

                  The financial markets and the system of law and justice is a farce. A kid knocks a dairy over for $200, gets put away in jail for 2 years. A banker rips his clients off for $200B, gets his year end bonus.

                  Total farce.

      • aerobubble 2.3.2

        Just remember that serving Police officers can now stand for council. I could be wrong.
        Add to having heaps of data available, it does start becoming a hidden threat to
        civil liberty.

  3. Benjamin B. 3

    Details on the impediments removal?

  4. Afewnkowthetruth 4

    ‘ the government initiates a crack down on “organised crime”.

    That could pose quite a problem, since most organised crime in NZ emanates from government front bench, which promotes organised crime.

    The NZ banking system is organised crime (creation of money out of thin air, fractional reserve banking, usary etc.)

    The activities of corporations is organised crime (stealing from the commons, largely for the benefit of a few at the top).

    The Ministry of the Environment is organised crime (sanctioning the destruction of sustainable systems and their conversion into unsustainable systems, for profit).

    The National Party organisation is organised crime (churning out propaganda founded on fabrications and lies, and ignoring fundamental scientific truths).

    As Dr Jim Hansen, Head of the NASA Goddard Institute said, political leaders should be prosecuted as [environmental] criminals for their abject failure to deal with out-of-control CO2 emissions.

    ‘a stronger focus on “disrupting the money trail underpinning offending”.

    Does this mean the government is going to tackle the rort system which underpins most decision-making and commercial activitiy in NZ?

    I guess the government really means clamping down on the victims of this corrupt and inefficient system.

  5. Terry 5

    So National will begin investigating itself and all of its own kind!

    • Ianupnorth 5.1

      Bugger Terry, you beat me to it – investigate those continually fiddling their taxes!

  6. kriswgtn 6

    ayatolley strikes again


    When do strip searches begin and when does this get rolled out all over the country

    Oh thats right it has

    my bad 😛

  7. prism 7

    I don’t know why National doesn’t go easy on criminals and their ‘organised’ crime. With the disorganised way that the country is being run and the lack of any coherent, forward looking policies, it may be that soon the only organised commercial activity will be crime.

    At least it’s ‘honest’ crime, straight-forward malfeasance, unlike the activities of many of our politicians which are so cleverly managed at getting round the law that we don’t realise we have been rorted in some way until years later. By then they have been promoted by their mates to some position where they never even feel the effects of their shoddy behaviour.

  8. Marjorie Dawe 8

    Will they catch all of the tax dodgers and put them in prison? Not likely cos prisoners cant vote and their whole voter base will be locked up.

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