- Date published:
7:32 am, March 23rd, 2015 - 133 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, International, national, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: GCSB, nicky hager, tim groser
A definite inclusion in the I kid you not file. David Fisher in the Herald revealed this morning that not only is the GCSB engaged in the detection of terrorist threats and the protection of national security but also the interception of communications in an attempt to assist Tim Groser’s bid to become the World Trade Organisation’s Director General.
From the Herald:
Our spies monitored email and internet traffic about international diplomats vying for the job of director-general of the World Trade Organisation – a job for which National Government Trade Minister Tim Groser was competing.
The spying operation was active in 2013 and called the “WTO Project” by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), according to a top secret document obtained by the Herald and United States news site The Intercept.
The operation involved covert surveillance of candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and South Korea.
The GCSB tasking document which structured the search of internet traffic was designed to look for references to Mr Groser, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) role and his competitors, initially in any online communication but then narrowed to emails.
The WTO document can be read here.
Presumably at least some of the intercepted communications were diplomatic. I wonder if New Zealand’s bid for election to the Security Council would have been as successful if friendly third world nations had discovered that New Zealand had been spying on their diplomats?
The Government’s response is the typical one, cast aspersions on the veracity of the document while at the same time neither confirm nor deny that the document is real. Groser is quoted as saying:
We do not comment on such leaks because they are often wrong, they are deliberately timed to try and create political damage and we do not comment on any of them.
He was then asked if he knew the GCSB was conducting surveillance for him, and replied “I’ve got no comment to make whatsoever.” A simple denial would have been preferable Tim unless you know that something was happening.
As well as the major international embarrassment the release will cause there is the not insignificant issue of possible breaches of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Diplomatic communications are meant to be sacrosanct. The treaty is somewhat dated and does not easily fit into modern communications techniques but the expectation that nations do not spy on nations with which they have diplomatic relations is a strong theme of the treaty. New Zealand has diplomatic relations with each of the above nations and significant relations with Brasil, Indonesia, Mexico and South Korea.
Nicky Hager said on Morning Report that he thinks that John Key sanctioned this spying. Certainly under the no surprises policy it is difficult to understand how he did not know.
And there is the awkward question again posed on Morning Report if use of the phrase for the search “Tim Groser” meant that the GCSB was spying on a New Zealander in breach of section 14 of the GCSB Act.
It makes you wonder what else the GCSB is engaging in. Spying on diplomats to seek an advantage in an election suggests that the moral limitations employed by the GCSB are minimal.