John Key On Trial

Written By: - Date published: 4:35 pm, September 15th, 2014 - 26 comments
Categories: election 2014, International, internet mana party, john key, making shit up, Minister for International Embarrassment, Politics, same old national, Spying - Tags:

The latest instalment in the saga of John Key’s struggle to maintain his image as someone above suspicion has produced the amazing spectacle of a Prime Minister in free fall.

Faced with the threatened revelation that he has been – not just economical with, but contemptuous of – the truth as to whether or not he authorised our spy agency to spy on our fellow-citizens, he began with an embarrassing attempt to divert attention by name-calling a respected international journalist.

That was bad enough; it surely does our international reputation no favours to see our Prime Minister resort to insults, rather than address the real issues.

But worse was to come; as those issues have become impossible to ignore, we have seen a Prime Minister in a kind of grotesque pastiche of a slow-motion strip-tease – compelled from one hour to the next to reveal, layer by layer, something that gets closer and closer to the naked truth.

It was, after all, only a day or so ago that he assured us that there was “no ambiguity – I’m right, he’s wrong”. But then we learned (after he denied that there had ever been any such intention) that there had indeed been a “business case” prepared (how reassuringly run-of-the-mill that was meant to sound) to allow the GCSB to collect metadata about New Zealanders and then pass the information on to the Americans. He then explained that he had decided that the plan, though well-advanced, should be abandoned so that it had not been implemented.

At this point, the Prime Minister resorted to talking gobbledegook in an attempt to persuade us that it was all too complicated for ordinary mortals to understand. The plan had concerned, he said, “cyber protection” – a phrase that was meant to convey somehow that this was something quite different from, and therefore more acceptable than, collecting metadata about large numbers of ordinary citizens – a difference not apparent to the experts.

Another hour, another layer removed; he had not actually stopped the plan, but had “narrowed its scope”. It would not therefore place everyone under surveillance – but large, unquantifiable and unverifiable numbers of New Zealand citizens would still have their right to privacy disregarded.

A further qualification was then provided. The GCSB, we were told, did not have the resources to secretly monitor large numbers of people – which begs the question as to why a government that had gone to such lengths to please the Americans with such an elaborate plan would stop short at providing the resources needed to put it fully into action.

And then, a little bit of wishful thinking, before the Prime Minister resigned himself to being fully exposed. The revelation, he suggested, would be embarrassing in terms of showing that we had spied on friends and allies, rather than that he had lied about spying on New Zealanders.

The reaction of New Zealanders to this spectacle has been mixed. There remain those, of course, who – whatever their predilection for striptease might be – have little interest in the Prime Minister baring all. For them, anything political is of no interest, and they are hardly aware, if at all, of John Key’s embarrassment; they notice only the smile.

Then there are those who have no doubt watched in horrified fascination as the various layers of misinformation have been discarded, but who are determined not to allow their faith in the Prime Minister to be shaken. They made up their minds, even before John Key told them it was so, that this has all been brought about by a “left-wing conspiracy”, though it isn’t clear quite how it came about that “they made me do it”.

And then we have those who prefer to front-foot it. Yes, they say, the Prime Minister did authorise spying on the whole population. Yes, he did conceal it from us and he did lie to us. But he did it because the threat from terrorist attacks is so great that we have to go beyond monitoring suspicious individuals. We all have to give up our civil liberties and the rule of law; we may not like Big Brother but he is there to protect us – the argument used by repressive regimes from time immemorial.

What should the rest of us think? Perhaps the best way to approach it is to think of ourselves in terms of a jury. The Prime Minister is certainly on trial and there is a list of serious charges against him – and, as in this case, the evidence is produced only in dribs and drabs.

We might want to choose whether this is a civil case – so that we decide on “a balance of probabilities” – or is more akin to a criminal trial in which case we will look to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt”. But, in either case, absolute proof, one way or the other, may never be achieved.

We still have a duty, though, to reach a view. A jury will not usually just accept the word of the person being charged or sued; our task is to reach a conclusion, having assessed the evidence, without fear or favour.

Bryan Gould

15 September 2014

 

 

26 comments on “John Key On Trial”

  1. karol 1

    Intercept/Greenwald has just released the NZ/KEY/GCSB/NSA stuff.

    It begins:

    AUCKLAND, New Zealand—The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted.

    Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key (pictured above), who said the law was merely designed to fix “an ambiguous legal framework” by expressly allowing the agency to do what it had done for years, that it “isn’t and will never be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” and the law “isn’t a revolution in the way New Zealand conducts its intelligence operations.”

    Snowden, in a post for The Intercept published today, accused Prime Minster Key of fundamentally misleading the public about GCSB’s role in mass surveillance. “The Prime Minister’s claim to the public, that ‘there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance’, is false,” the former NSA analyst wrote. “The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.”

  2. JanMeyer 2

    “the amazing spectacle of a Prime Minister in free fall”

    Serious? Whatever your politics surely we can agree a PM with over 65% personal support leading a party with 50% support, is not in “free fall”!

    • McFlock 2.1

      We’ll see in five days 🙂

    • Tracey 2.2

      It is fascinating that 65% people wanting him as PM only translates to 46-50% in the polls. People are odd indeed.

      Whatever your politics surely you can agree that he has presided over a pretty low standard of Cabinet behaviour

      • Tom Jackson 2.2.1

        I guess people don’t care, which raises serious questions about the value of NZ democracy. If it’s going to be no more than most people voting their wallets, then we might as well not bother.

        Democracies cannot function if people value their personal political preferences over the integrity of the system. There’s a disturbing pattern of behaviour which demonstrates that National and their supporters do not.

    • Hanswurst 2.3

      Whatever else you may pluck out of your arse, “I’m right, he’s wrong” → “It was a business proposal” → “It was actually much narrower” sounds like free fall, especially when there is a pinch of, “little henchman” and “loser” thrown into the mix.

  3. All you need to know about New Zealand is that if David Cunliffe had been subject to the smallest fraction of these accusations, most major media outlets would be howling for his resignation.

  4. karol 5

    Snowden’s rousing post published in the last hour – about John key’s mis-truths – and a call to stand up for democracy.
    It ends:

    National security has become the National Party’s security. What we’re seeing today is that in New Zealand, the balance between the public’s right to know and the propriety of a secret is determined by a single factor: the political advantage it offers to a specific party and or a specific politician. This misuse of New Zealand’s spying apparatus for the benefit of a single individual is a historic concern, because even if you believe today’s prime minister is beyond reproach, he will not remain in power forever. What happens tomorrow, when a different leader assumes the same power to conceal and reveal things from the citizenry based not on what is required by free societies, but rather on what needs to be said to keep them in power?

    • Chooky 5.1

      phew …that just about says it all…thankyou Edward Snowden!

      • AmaKiwi 5.1.1

        But will we ever see it in the MSM? That is the test of our freedoms.

        MSM, are you journalists or stool pigeons? This is YOUR test as much a Key’s.

  5. Potato 6

    A timely reminder of JK’s lying in the past….

    (uploaded April 2011) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxRCjwYcc1I

    (uploaded March 2014) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFUHAuwEe_Q

  6. Draco T Bastard 7

    Double Trouble.

    The impact of such revelations will outweigh the repercussions of the domestic surveillance aspects of the Snowden leaks. With the nature and extent of NZ’s espionage made public, its reputation as an independent and autonomous “honest broker” in international affairs will be shattered. Its pursuit of a UN Security Council seat could well go up in smoke. But above all, the response of the states that have been and are targeted by the GCSB will be negative and perhaps injurious to NZ’s national interests. The response can come in a variety of ways, and can be very damaging. It can be economic, diplomatic or military in nature. It could involve targeting of Kiwis living in in the states being spied on, or it could involve bans or boycotts of NZ exports. The range of retaliatory measures is broad.

    It seems that National have been so busy kowtowing to the US that they’ve now really screwed our economy and international relations.

  7. Ad 8

    So what’s the collective view:

    Is the complete oxygen-suck of stories around Key worth the effective silencing of Labour and Greens’ campaigns in this last week of the election?

    Some would say its the corrosion of Key that accounts for so much early voting. We can’t tell.

    Others, that the GCSB stories have collectively stunted the left’s campaigning so much that we are now likely to get close to the same election result as the last election.

    • Issues of political corruption are prior to partisan policy in my view. This government has been dogged by accusations of political corruption and the news media have for the most part let them off. For example, Collins should have gone months ago.

  8. repateet 9

    “…in a kind of grotesque pastiche of a slow-motion strip-tease …” as just seen on TV3 News. The tedium, the “I don’t want to be here with the baby” on the election campaign.

    The sort of grotesque performance of John Banks caught with his metaphorical helicopter-forgetting pants down or Robert Muldoon on that fateful night.

  9. Sable 10

    Good article. The big question is will people care enough to rid themselves of this man or will they wait until the consequences of his and his governments actions start to bite them personally….

    • AmaKiwi 10.1

      Will the MSM report the damning criticisms?

      If they don’t, tonight might just as well have never happened.

  10. David H 11

    Tomorrows Breakfast news with the Airheads on One, and the slightly better airheads on TV3 will be interesting, not for what they say, but for what they ignore , spin, or get ‘specialists’ in to obfuscate, the whole rotten mess. But this time, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and having way too much fun to go back in. Sorry Johnny boy but this time you are royally screwed.

  11. Tracey 12

    Does this mean the Debate is going to be an hour again?

    • CnrJoe 12.1

      Ah, the debate. Said on hoskings he was looking forward to it.
      Release the hounds, show me the dogs of xkeyscore

      • Tracey 12.1.1

        This is Cunliffe’s last chance to nail key on his meme that he can be trusted.

        McCarten needs to front up with some decent lines, succinct and comparative which show Key speaks with forked tongue…

        Pithily show how one minute he knows nothing about GCSB and SIS activities the next he is an expert (as he should be).

        It’s NOT a game, although most of us are being played.

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