- Date published:
9:03 am, March 8th, 2015 - 71 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, election 2014, Globalisation, john key, journalism, national, Politics, same old national, us politics - Tags: edward snowden, nsa, teapot tape
The Sunday Star Times this morning has published further articles based on the Snowden leaks. They deserve to be read in full.
They include this one which details the setup in Waihopai (aka Ironsands), the fact that it is one of many bases throughout the world using American technology, linking into an American network and being in all ways except personnel working in the base American. The amount of data collected is everything basically that is sent through satellite. Key’s keenness to tap the Southern Cross cable is readily understood as this would give Five Eyes pretty well complete access to the country’s internet and phone traffic. The article includes this map showing areas covered by the network with New Zealand fully included. If Waihopai does not pick up local data then clearly the Australians must be doing this.
The linguistic summersaults that the GCSB must have gone through to explain how to soak up the Pacific’s data even though many New Zealanders may be living or holidaying there is set out. Apparently the GCSB formed the view that the governments of Cook Islands and Niue may be targeted, but not their citizens since they are entitled to hold New Zealand passports. Can someone explain this in a way that is comprehensible and also explain how this still allows the hoovering up of all of these nations’ data?
Which satellites are targeted? It seems all that are within reach.
And why is this important? Andrea Vance sets out a credible explanation why we should be very upset about what is happening. Her analysis is way better than that of John Roughen or Fran O’Sullivan who essentially thought we should not worry about it and failed to address the burning question of whether or not John Key has been lying to us. Vance does however repeat the meme that no one is concerned which is interesting because many people I know are incensed by what has been disclosed.
She says this about the current quality of safeguards:
But to prevent abuse of the immense power offered by bulk data collection, robust oversight mechanisms are crucial. Yet, they barely exist here. Despite recent vague promises to be more open, spy agencies remain in the shadows. More than a year after her appointment – and two years after an overhaul – watchdog Cheryl Gwyn released her first report but says she didn’t have enough information to determine if the agencies operate differently after an illegal spying scandal. The responsible parliamentary committee is equally toothless and Chris Finlayson, minister in charge, has dismissed public deliberation over spy legislation as “chit chat.”
And in a thinly veiled criticism of Roughen and O’Sullivan she says this:
Key, probably quite correctly, assesses that the public care more about snapper than spying. The initial revelations from the Snowden archives actually galvanised his support. It gives Key the confidence to vilify journalists, like Glenn Greenwald and Hager. That is bolstered when other media outlets slavishly report his pre-emptive strikes, even before scrutinising their investigative work, or the evidence. But the absence of debate about surveillance is not healthy. This is where abuses go unnoticed and thrive. And it’s Orwellian when Key shuts down pertinent questions with: you don’t understand the detail, and the journalists are wrong.
Why IMHO this issue should have an immediate political effect is that it it is bordering on the impossible to reconcile things that John Key said last September to what these disclosures show.
I discovered this transcript of an interview given by Key just before the 2014 election. It was classic Key. He was totally reassuring and dismissive at the same time. He said things with such authority that it was impossible to doubt him, or so you would think. But with the revelations of this week it is difficult not to conclude that Key was being disingenuous at best.
Some of the things Key said that day need to be repeated:
“What I can say is, absolutely without doubt, New Zealanders are not subject to mass surveillance by GCSB and they never have been. What I can say is, yes, there are databases that New Zealand intelligence agencies might be able to access but the information that would be in that database would be for legitimate and legal reasons. So there’d be a particular reason why a person’s in there – for instance, there could be a person of interest because they’re in a foreign location fighting for rebels, or they could be incidental to what’s going on. But there never has been any mass surveillance and New Zealand has not gathered mass information and provided it to international agencies.“
Pretty conclusive huh. He said later on:
“There’s no mass collection either. Not of New Zealanders.”
Was this an attempt at establishing some wriggle room? Besides it can only be true if we exclude all New Zealanders in the Pacific.
“If incidentally somebody contacts somebody of interest, that may be in there, or there may be different rules in different countries that allow a certain amount of information to be gathered which would of course around the cohort of nations around the world include some New Zealanders but there is no mass surveillance. Never has been. GCSB doesn’t have the physical capability to do that and that was the whole point and that was the whole point of the business case looking at the mass cyber protection, was to look if it was even technically to do it. It’s impossible to do something we don’t have the capability to do.”
Clearly the GCSB has the capacity to conduct mass surveillance. It was instituted in 2009 when Key was in charge. And it is almost impossible to reconcile what Key said with what we now know.
Key’s line that Kiwis do not care about the interception of their data has a strong sense of irony. You only have to think back to an incident where John Key hounded a journalist who had inadvertently taped his conversation to John Banks in a busy cafe and why he had the police obtain search warrants against various news media outlets in an effort to get the tape. So privacy does matter to the PM but only his own, not that of others.
Rather than abuse reporters and question their understanding while at the same time refuse to outline his Key should come clean and explain to the people of New Zealand and the Pacific what is going on. And why it is necessary for Five Eyes to store huge amounts of our data and what safeguards we have against the abuse of this information.