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.
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:
- Govt proposes GCSB control over NZ communications in new TICS Bill
- Does the TICS Bill really give the GCSB control and oversight of NZ telecommunications?
- GCSB’s new powers for wide-spread spying on New Zealanders
- Will the GCSB ban Apple from New Zealand?
- Tech Liberty written submission
- Tech Liberty oral submission
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.