With Nicky Hager’s latest book about to be unveiled tomorrow, I have been thinking about his research interests, and his approach to investigative journalism.
In his 2012 Bruce Jesson lecture, “Investigative Journalism in the Age of Media Meltdown”, Hager said this about investigative journalism:
Investigative journalism includes, for instance, the public service of investigating truthfulness in politics and of seeking facts when the truth is disputed, twisted or hidden. It can also involve a different kind of truth: trying to discover and illuminate what is right and wrong. In essence, it is about investigating and challenging the activities of the powerful,
In short, investigative journalism, for Hager, is about speaking truth to power: something that is done in the public interest, and in order to help democracy to thrive. If they powerful are allowed to perform their activities unchallenged, they will become increasingly autocratic, dictatorial, and anti-democratic.
In his 2013 speech at the Auckland Town Hall Meeting on the GCSB Bill, Hager talked about the way the surveillance state stifles public debate and dissent, aided by creating fear in the general population. [Daily Blog transcript of the speech].
Most people will not be spied on by the state security services.: the GCSB, the SIS and police and other systems However, the fact that it is becoming increasingly possible for all of our activities to be monitored by state security services. Because of the secrecy involved in these spying services, we don’t know when we are being spied on. This creates a sense of fear: something that can contribute to people avoiding speaking truth to power.
In his town hall speech, opposing the changes to the GCSB legislation, Hager talked of both the extent and limits of the US-NSA-led, 5 Eyes surveillance network,
I want to talk about how far and how wide it has gone – but also how far and how wide it hasn’t gone first.
And so the thing I want to say tonight, even though it sounds a little bit counter the meeting, is that most people in this room are not going to be spied on by the GCSB and most people out there throughout society – and there will be [people who are] – but part of us trying to reduce the harm and the hurt of something like this, is not to spread unnecessary fear – because they attack peoples sense of self and their confidence and their ability to be involved in politics [audience claps].
But I’d like to also just before we run out of time put [it]in a larger context because what’s going with this GCSB Bill is just the tip of an iceberg of what is happening – it is not happening in isolation – what we’re really talking about is that we’ve moved into the digital age. We’ve moved into a time where people live much more of their lives online.
They store their lives online. They communicate online. Compared to using a telephone a generation ago – people’s privacy and their selves are vastly more exposed than they were in the past – and at the same times as people have exposed themselves more digital technology has given previously unimaginable powers to intrude into that.
On top of that, different kinds of mass surveillance tools have come out. The ‘War on Terror’ which allowed a vast expansion, resources, the GCSB doubled in size, it’s overseas allies more than did that, and just like the American intelligence agencies which moved from spying on the Russians to spying on Americans – surprise, surprise we discovered the same thing had happened here – that they moved those great big Cold War resources to use against domestic targets as well.
So that’s the context in which we see what’s going on, and it’s all happened invisibly and secretly and the GCSB Bill we should realise is not the end of the world and the only issue on it, it’s like a jump, on a curve which has being going up and up over the last couple of decades –
… this is the idea that one of the ways that ordinary people can control centralisation and excesses and abuses of power is by leaking information, by fighting back in that way, and what Edward Snowden is doing at the moment is something that just doesn’t happen every year, it doesn’t even happen every decade
[.. it] is the perfect opportunity for us to change things.
Whether by accident or design, information is mow being made public about the alleged spying activities of former Labour MP, Bill Sutch. The focus is on KGB activities during the cold war.
The activities of the GCSB and SIS are an important election issue.
Green Party Policy: abolish the GCSB, review the SIS and consider whether to abolish it, and abolish the Intelligence and Security Committee Act. They will replace the later with independent security and intelligence watchdog.
Labour Party Policy: Real the recent amendments to the GCSB and TICS laws.
Immediately repeal the GCSB Bill and TICS Bill passed last year, and make intelligence sharing agreements fit for our future.
I can’t find a policy statement on this for the Mana Party.