GCSB & TICS

Written By: - Date published: 7:13 am, August 23rd, 2013 - 52 comments
Categories: economy, internet, Spying - Tags: , ,

There will be plenty of coverage of the Labour leadership process here on The Standard, I don’t feel any need to contribute. I’ll plod on with some of the other stuff — in this case the GCSB and TICS bills.

Probably the best coverage of the new amendments to the GCSB spying laws yesterday came from Jon Johansson at Public Address. You should go and read the whole piece there, but here are some extracts:

Naked Inside the Off-Ramp

Whenever the term ‘inside-the-beltway’ is used I usually wince. We Wellingtonians go about our business inside a succession of off-ramps, not inside a beltway. Off-ramp doesn’t sound as fashionable I guess, but then again neither is the view inside the capital about the Prime Minister’s competence in adopting a partisan 61-vote strategy to pass his Government’s Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. There is quite a bit of head-shaking from wise old hands, who saw the problem from the get go; a bare majority vote would prove a worse result than not passing the law at all.

Some distinguished New Zealanders did try and tell Key this, but they were all dismissed in scattergun attacks on their virtue, assisted gracelessly by his Attorney-General Chris Finlayson during the bill’s Third Reading Debate. God and sin seemed to have caused its own rot there, but never mind, if Peter Dunne wasn’t such a ‘willing seller’ of his vote he could have prevented the bill from passing by such a wafer thin margin. This would have proved his best rationale for not supporting it, especially as common sense has long been his purported lodestar. That future is gone now.

John Key, seemingly without awareness, has now created the space for uncertainty to form around our future intelligence relationships and foreign policy intentions under a Labour-led Government, which is an intriguing strategic blunder, especially for someone who has worked so hard to maintain the closest of relations with the United States. I doubt our four old friends will view Key’s 61-59 passage as any thing other than a disaster. …

So a 61-vote strategy won out, but any attempt to lead a principled policy discussion to gain consensus about the difficult trade-offs between preserving precious civil liberties and pursuing genuine threats to our national security, and then how to write good law to draw these boundaries and the state actions that can take place within them, were extinguished once a bare majority became the extent of Key’s legislative ambition. …

The Prime Minister’s belated attempts to justify the need for the legislation – which amounted to not much more than one appearance on Campbell Live and a third reading speech – provided a late flourish in what was an otherwise disastrous communication effort. Yelling “Yemen” and “Al-Qaeda” in the theatre, or biffing his critics with individualized care, like that delivered to former Prime Minister and constitutional scholar Geoffrey Palmer, or the low-rent venom delivered against Anne Salmond; well, it says a lot about Key’s attitude to well reasoned and principled criticism. …

The Prime Minister has been like King Canute; everybody’s wrong but me, everyone’s wrong but me. Or, when under pressure Key will fall back on his latest internal poll number: ‘Forty-nine.’ Spoken like an accountant. Spoken like a tactician and somebody whose 61-59 victory is no real victory at all because it will not prove to be the last word. Key’s poor leadership has guaranteed it. Inside the off-ramp last night a man called John stood naked for all of us to see.

Indeed.

The GCSB law changes are now in the past, nothing we can do until we change this amoral government. The TICS Bill, however, is the next battleground for privacy. Yet another excellent post at Tech Liberty sets it all out:

Next: the TICS Bill

… Next up is the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill also know as the TICS Bill. This is an update of the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act (2004) that forced communications providers (ISPs, telcos, data networks, etc) to provide “lawful intercept” capabilities so that the Police, SIS and GCSB could access communications once they had a suitable warrant. The new bill expands and clarifies these requirements.

However, the addition of the word “security” is the key to what has changed. The new bill now gives the GCSB sweeping powers of oversight and control over the design, deployment and operation of all data and telecommunications networks run by network providers in New Zealand. The stated reasons are to both protect New Zealand’s infrastructure and to ensure that surveillance agencies can spy on traffic when required. As part of this, the GCSB will have the power to stop network providers from reselling overseas services that do not provide these capabilities.

The bill has passed the first reading and is expected to be reported back from the Law & Order Select Committee on the 20th of September.

Tech Liberty articles

We’ve written about this bill and also made a written and oral submission to the Law and Order Select Committee. Here’s a list of our articles in publication order:

Go check out the excellent resources on Tech Liberty.  Industry voices are warning that TICS could stifle the NZ tech industry and cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.  I/S at No Right Turn also has an important take on TICS:

TICS gives spies a veto on ISPs

Criticisms of the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill have focused on the powers of the GCSB to micromanage network decisions and demand backdoors into networks (to “protect us from cyber-attack”, of course). But there’s another problem with it as well, and its a significant one: the bill requires a substantial invasion of privacy by the SIS of people who are not government employees. And it gives the SIS an effective veto over who can run an ISP in this country.

How? Section 70 of the bill requires “network operators” – phone companies and ISPs – to nominate an employee to apply for a secret-level clearance. Nominees are legally required to apply. Once they do, then the SIS will vet them – which means trawling through their lives looking for signs that someone is a “security risk”. What are those signs? The basics are MICE – Money, Ideology, Compromise, or Ego. So, they look at your financial records to see if you’re in debt and e.g. whether you might be easily persuadable by someone offering you a large amount of money. They look at whether you have secrets in your life – affairs, sexual orientation, mental health issues. They look at whether you like to brag. They look at who you know, and whether any of them are a “risk” or “unsuitable”. They look at your politics, whether you might be ideologically motivated (e.g. by a belief in democracy and transparency) to leak information. And they ask your friends and co-workers about all of this, asking them to rat on your private life, with your job on the line.

This may be suitable for government employees in sensitive positions. But it is simply no fucking business of government to do this to people who aren’t working for them. …

Under the law as written, it seems perfectly possible for the SIS to drive an ISP out of business simply by repeatedly denying them a security clearance. it gives them a political veto on who can run an ISP in this country. And that is something we should not accept.

I’m guessing a lot more people are going to start taking an interest in the privacy of their communications now. Keith Ng at Public Address is going to run a series of posts providing a step-by-step introduction to the basic tools. The first in the series is here (and the Ars Technica resource linked in subsequent comments is also excellent).

Brighter Future. Happy Days.

52 comments on “GCSB & TICS”

  1. Tinfoilhat 1

    Thanks r0b this is concerning stuff indeed.

  2. Huginn 2

    The TIC Bill is a shocker. It also puts US providers like Google and Microsoft at odds with US law because it requires them to report to a foreign inteligence service.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    The internet entranced populace of NZ that live on and in some cases by trademe, and regularly spill their guts on the many blogs and other online places are in for a surprise sooner rather than later. The TICS veto for ISPs is classic “Catch 22” stuff.

    Do you think IRD and various snoops are not going to be peeking at your emails and trades? They likely will just because they can. Encryption? why bother unless you really know what you are doing, it smacks of the anti virus industry a while back and NSA probably have a whole department laughing their asses off at individual users trying to hide out on the matrix.

    Ultimately there is only a political solution which requires hard work and organisation as did going nuke free, NZ has to cut itself adrift from Five Eyes and go for independent nation status.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1

      Why bother? Because there is free encryption software that’s easy to use and virtually impossible to break.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1.1

        Thats what the Germans thought in WW2.

        But the allies easily compromised the Enigma coding and then got the highly secure Tunny teleprinter coding

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.1.1

          Yeah Ghost, they did. Tell me, has anyone managed to crack GPG?

          • Tracey 3.1.1.1.1

            how many ordinary NZers do you really believe use encryption

            • lprent 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Hey I’m “ordinary NZer”. Just a geek as well.

              • Tracey

                Ok, let me rephrase, not a single person I know uses encryption. I would like to but I don’t know how. I started to follow the tech post earlier..

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  I think we are likely to see much more of it in the future. You may not care about your personal communications, but your employer/employees/clients certainly should, for example where trade secrets are involved.

                  Especially once people discover how simple it is.

                  • chris

                    I currently “password protect” my files, but after having a quick squiz at the encryption article I will seriously consider that from now on

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Yeah I’m going to encryption pretty soon. Even if its just to eat up processing cycles in Utah, I reckon what the hell. Gotta make a statement anyhows.

                    Keith Ng has a pretty solid intro to the steps to take here.

                    http://publicaddress.net/8771

                    Seems like he is planning a whole series of these tutorials.

      • Macro 3.1.2

        Wrong OAK! The GCSB will not permit ISPs to operate that do not allow them backdoor access, and then they can gather the metadata see here:
        http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/metadata-is-intrusive.html
        While the contents may be scrambled, with whom you communicate, and how often, is in most cases all they need to know… It’s called guilt by association.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.2.1

          Wrong Macro!

          Public key/private key encryption has nothing to do with who your ISP is.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2.1.1

            But the ISPs will still have a record of who you were communicating with which means that the SIS/GCSB have those records as well and so they will be able to see exactly who you’ve been communicating with even if they can’t read what you said which brings in the “guilt by association” that Macro mentioned.

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.2.1.1.1

              The guilt by association might make you a person of interest, but with hard encryption that’s all you’ll ever be: they can’t read your mail.

              • Draco T Bastard

                What makes you think that they’ll stick to only looking at your emails once you become a “person of interest”?

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  The right to freedom of association? The physical impossibility of siccing pavement artists onto so many civilians? My fingers in their eyes?

    • I don’t see the leadership ‘process’ diverting from TICS or GCSB stand.
      What happens in parliament in the next few weeks will also show up the leadership contenders.
      Cunliffe’s record as Minister of Communications will make him a strong opponent of the Bill (among others). We may get another instalment of what cannot, must not and will not stand.
      This will be going on at the same time the ‘process’ is happening.
      We can’t rule out the leadership contest pushing the Party Conference to take a left turn on the TICs and GCSB so that the ‘fifth eye’ may be somewhat blackened.
      On the other hand the beltway bureaucracy may use its whip to shut down Cunliffe and prop the eye wide open as the price of their jobs.
      People may not embrace dialectics but it embraces them.

    • bad12 3.3

      The IRD already monitors traders on TradeMe, once a certain amount of trades appear on an account IRD will go after the trader for tax,

      No i do not know what the magic number IRD uses to decide if a trader is trading as a ‘hobby’ or as a ‘profession’, the way traders avoid IRD at present is to regularly close and open accounts,

      Obviously if IRD are allowed access to TradeMe servers the ‘game’ will change…

  4. Pascal's bookie 4

    Good post r0b 🙂

    Ng’s piece has been picked up in the press in australia, so hopefully it will bounce back into our broadsheets from there::

    http://www.itnews.com.au/News/354407,nz-police-affidavits-show-use-of-prism-for-surveillance.aspx

    and a couple of Fisher pieces from a while back that may be related:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10889696

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10877535

  5. Sable 5

    Time to pack up shop and head for the airport.

  6. Pascal's bookie 6

    And this analysis of the reaction by the spooks to Snowden:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/08/the-real-terrifying-reason-why-british-authorities-detained-david-miranda/278952/

    ignore the sensationalist headline.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      This leaves one last possible explanation — those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger.

      That bit right there.

  7. Tracey 7

    Is this really about profits before people? Giving large corporations an inside advantage?

    This is probably not the right place for this quote but it’s amazing how glowingly a profit can be viewed despite the tossing aside of some 1200 employees.

    Sadly you can only cut someone’s job once, so as a long term cost cutting strategy it is… well.. short term

    “Telecom has reported an adjusted profit of $342 million in a year where it moved to restructure its business and cut about 1280 staff.

    The company is going to keep reducing its costs in the coming financial year and continue to “simplify” its business, chief executive Simon Moutter said.”

    And the shareholders cheered and the CEO smiled and collected his bonus.

    • Sable 7.1

      No its about more than that. Its about ownership of the truth as defined by a small group of people and in so doing shaping and controlling public opinion giving them unlimited power. Dissent is silenced through spying and then using loosely defined laws to label and discredit anyone viewed as a threat as a criminal/terrorist.

      These are the tactics used by Hitler, Stalin and Honecker amongst others. Of course, this tactic never endures long term as the truth is as Tom Stoppard put it “simple and monolithic and requires no elaboration”.

  8. Tracey 8

    Two naysayers who proclaimed they have nothing to hide and therefore nothing to fear on this site (Winston Smith and Srylands) were asked by me to prove it by posting a full day’s emails on this site. I might have missed the posting so could someone copy me the link?

    • Sable 8.1

      They have no real opinion Tracey. I have challenged BM and Srylands myself and they have had little to say aside from the usual droll sarcasm and Communist nonsense. Of course there’s Brett Dale too. These are really no more than hecklers from sites like Whale Oil.

      I plan to ignore them from now on. With any luck they will go too far and get banned.

  9. infused 9

    TICS is a bill you won’t find me supporting. I believe most ISPs are agains’t this as well.

    • Sable 9.1

      For now we have a so called government that does not care what the majority of us want or think.

    • Tracey 9.2

      did you protest the GCSB infused?

      • infused 9.2.1

        Nope, I have no issue with it. Don’t say they are the same, because they are not.

        • Macro 9.2.1.1

          “Don’t say they are the same, because they are not.”
          Of course they are not ! Your statement is a tautology.

          They are however two sides to the same coin – primarily aimed at garnering oversight of all communications, and a direct assault on individual privacy. You neglect either one at your peril.

          So if you have nothing to hide let’s see a list of all your emails for yesterday? By the way – you’re not getting mine..

          • infused 9.2.1.1.1

            Yawn. That line is getting real old. It’s not about if you have something to hide.

            It’s not wholesale spying. Warrants need to be issued. There is far greater oversight now. Stop being a drama queen.

            • Tracey 9.2.1.1.1.1

              …but only on “suspicion.” Have you got a theory about why the PM wouldn’t add a dozen or so words to enshrine his promise to never agree to issue a warrant that allows a NZers email content to be read?

        • Tracey 9.2.1.2

          I was asking cos I couldn’t recall your particular comments.

          Can you explain to me what we have to worry about if this one goes through? In lay people language. Thanks

          • infused 9.2.1.2.1

            This one IS the wholesale capture of data. GCSB bill is not. It also enforces huge cost on small businesses to track/capture data.

            • Tracey 9.2.1.2.1.1

              So for you it is about cost to small business rather than any erosion of freedom? Not an accusation, a genuine question

            • Tracey 9.2.1.2.1.2

              I welcome your comment on the following infused

              “there are no protections against the mass surveillance of metadata, because they are not included within the definition of quote personal communications set out in the Bill. Rather, they fall within the definition of information infrastructure in the cybersecurity provisions that include, and I quote all transmissions close quote, including anything which goes across any electronic or wireless network. That means every email, every text message, every phone call, every website visit of every New Zealander is able to be surveilled firstly in terms of its metadata, without a warrant. And secondly to establish a basis, and it may already be the case, for full interception without those warranting provisions, at least through the cybersecurity clause.”

  10. BLiP 10

    Yep, the Labour Party leadership kerfuffle is potential distraction from the machinations of National Ltd™. Good on you for volunteering to maintain sentry duties. Nice one, r0b.

    Jon Johansson over at public address is certainly worth a read in full. As he says ” . . . Prime Minister John Key has codified his ineptitude as the responsible minister . . . “, although I quibble with what Jon suggests is the one aspect “above all” which cements John Key’s incompetence. Jon believes that in forcing the GCSB legislation through with so slim a majority ” . . . [John Key] has now created the space for uncertainty to form around our future intelligence relationships and foreign policy intentions under a Labour-led Government.” Given Labour’s own history of stripping civil liberties and usually tacit obsequence to the United States, it seems to me its opposition to the GCSB was more about the polls than any real intent to disobey. All it took was one US State Department-sponsored visit and Clare Curran was back here singing from the same “shock horror organised crime terrorist” songsheet, for example. And lets make no bones about it – this legislation is more about protecting the failed Warner Bros business model than it is about protecting New Zealand citizens from terrorists.

    Rather than leaving room for a reconsideration of New Zealand’s future intelligence activities, John Key’s blunder is his arrogance and CEO-type approach to politics. Forcing unpopular policy through the Board Room process might win friends and influence people in the business world, in politics, however, it results in the opposite. The electorate has a notoriously short memory but, in this instance, there will be a series of constant reminders. Kim Dotcom’s case still has a way to go and every time that story appears people will be reminded. The TICS Bill is currently working its way though the process and, again, every time that story appears, another reminder. Meanwhile, having experienced John Key’s venemous ad hom form of public dialogue, the 2013 New Zealander of the Year, the Law Society, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Human Right’s Commission now know what National Ltd™ is all about. Those bodies are filled with opinion leaders and there are more than a few dinner parties between now and the next election for word to spread even into National Ltd™’s own territory. And then there’s Winston. His speech during the third reading of the GCSB Bill made it clear that there’s more to come and sitting in Winston’s sights is the Attorney General. Just what has Christopher Finlayson been up to in relation to the Kim Dotcom affair . . . hmmmm?

  11. Tracey 11

    “Meanwhile, having experienced John Key’s venemous ad hom form of public dialogue, the 2013 New Zealander of the Year, the Law Society, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Human Right’s Commission now know what National Ltd™ is all about.”

    You must be wrong cos the NATS don’t do personality politics and they only tell us what they will do and are not negative about those who disagree with them.

    • BLiP 11.1

      Heh! My bad, I’ll pass on your correction to my fringe
      extremist Marxist North Korean Green Party friends.

  12. yeshe 12

    Please forgive me for being there,( I ended there by accident), but Pete George reports on his site that Dunne has not promised any support for this bill beyond committee stage. Not that anyone could rely upon Dunne keeping his word or anything …

    The only good thing I feel about any of this horrific bill is the timing in that we will have a gritty fighter standing for us opposite Key.

  13. tracey 14

    thanks richard

    and kim dotcom was planning to suicide bomb which target? fly his helicopter into which building? what part of the nations physical safety from terrorists was keys gcsb protecting us from?

  14. Mr Mumdad 16

    What Mr Keys (aka is this a snapper in my pocket or do I just smell a but fushy ta yew) failed to say when he was explaining the latest bill in simplified moron nano second filter speak is this

    Exerts gleaned from this rather intelligent article

    http://edge.org/conversation/nsa-the-decision-problem

    And, as if to discount disclaimers by the NSA that they are only capturing metadata, Turing, whose World War II work on the Enigma would make him one of the patron saints of the NSA, was already explicit that it is the metadata that count. If Google has taught us anything, it is that if you simply capture enough links, over time, you can establish meaning, follow ideas, and reconstruct someone’s thoughts. It is only a short step from suggesting what a target may be thinking now, to suggesting what that target may be thinking next.

    Does this not promise a safer world, protected not only from bad actors attempting to do dangerous things, but from bad actors developing dangerous thoughts? Yes, but at what cost? There’s a problem, and it’s the problem that Alan Turing was trying to answer when he first set us down this path

    What we have now is the crude equivalent of snatching snippets of film from the sky, in 1960, compared to the panopticon that was to come. The United States has established a coordinated system that links suspect individuals (only foreigners, of course, but that definition becomes fuzzy at times) to dangerous ideas, and, if the links and suspicions are strong enough, our drone fleet, deployed ever more widely, is authorized to execute a strike. This is only a primitive first step toward something else. Why kill possibly dangerous individuals (and the inevitable innocent bystanders) when it will soon become technically irresistible to exterminate the dangerous ideas themselves?

  15. Mr Mumdad 17

    Oh and one last snappet….. from http://edge.org/conversation/nsa-the-decision-problem

    There is one problem—and it is the Decision Problem once again. It will never be entirely possible to systematically distinguish truly dangerous ideas from good ones that appear suspicious, without trying them out. Any formal system that is granted (or assumes) the absolute power to protect itself against dangerous ideas will of necessity also be defensive against original and creative thoughts. And, for both human beings individually and for human society collectively, that will be our loss. This is the fatal flaw in the ideal of a security state.

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