NRT: Against anti-whistleblower laws

Written By: - Date published: 1:48 pm, August 17th, 2016 - 11 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, activism, law, national, Spying - Tags: , , , ,

I/S at No Right Turn does great analysis of legislation. His coverage of the new spying laws has been excellent. Here he is on National’s clumsy and misguided attempt to re-impose official secrets:

Against anti-whistleblower laws

Yesterday the government introduced new spying legislation into Parliament. The new law would enable the GCSB to engage in the mass-surveillance of New Zealanders while granting the SIS even more power to lie, cheat, and break into people’s houses. But it also has another unwelcome feature: an anti-whistleblower provision. The proposed new section 78AA of the Crimes Act would impose a five year jail term for passing on, retaining, or refusing to return “classified information”. And it would apply this penalty not just to government agents who hold that classified information in the course of their jobs – but to anyone who has ever held a security clearance, and over all classified information whether or not they’ve ever seen it before.

To give an idea of what this means in practice, a large number of public servants hold security clearances in the course of their work. MPs and Ministers automatically hold such clearances. Various people in the IT sector can be required by the GCSB to obtain a security clearance in order to keep their jobs. And this law would see all of them thrown in jail for five years for reading the Guardian, the Intercept, or any other news site which regularly publishes stories based on leaked government data (in other words, any news media worthy of the name).

Its a ridiculous overstretch, effectively an attempt to re-impose the long-repealed Official Secrets Act. It’s also obviously incompatible with section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act, which affirms freedom of expression, including the right to impart and receive information. While the protection of (some) classified information may be an important public purpose, this measure is neither rationally linked to that purpose, or proportionate to it. Reading someone else’s leak should not be a crime.

It is also of course completely unnecessary. We already have laws imposing confidentiality on spies (which are replicated in section 177 of the new bill), and we already have laws which criminalise the passing on of information which will harm “national security”. The difference is that that law requires that real harm be likely and intended. Clearly, the spies feel that that is too high a threshold, and that their classification decisions should be exempt from factual scrutiny and impose penalties in and of themselves. It is our job as citizens to rein them in.

Meanwhile, if you are asked to gain a security clearance for your employment, you should refuse. Holding a security clearance exposes you to the whims of the spy agencies and allows them to fuck up your life at any time in the future if they ever want to. The safest way to protect yourself from such threats (other than campaign to disband those agencies) is to refuse to have anything to do with their bullshit.

11 comments on “NRT: Against anti-whistleblower laws”

  1. Anne 1

    Oh my gosh, Jacinda Ardern quoted an article from the Guardian in QT today. She’s gone!!!

    Watch the pathetic replies from Anne Tolley. What a bitch.

    • save nz 1.1

      Watch the pathetic replies from Anne Tolley. What a bitch +1

      • Anne 1.1.1

        Her initial reply to Jacinda’s question afforded me some mirth – delivered as it was in a contemptuous tone:

        I have no responsibility for articles published in the Guardian – a left wing English newspaper that supports Jeremy Corbyn.

        Well ladies and gentlemen… apparently that is all that needs to be said but:

        1) The Guardian has spent the last six weeks publishing slanted stories and opinion pieces running down Jeremy Corbyn.

        2) She’s so stupid she thinks Jeremy Corbyn is an evil commie subversive even though he’s only advocating the type of social accord in which she grew up and benefited from… to the point where she is today.

  2. save nz 2

    Great post. +100

  3. nom 3

    No Right Turn has been doing some excellent blogging the last couple of weeks/months. Thank you Idiot/Savant!

    I am particularly enjoying the continuing saga of the ‘Open Government’ omnishambles.

  4. Observer Tokoroa 4

    .No Right Turn. Three questions …

    . If a person working in a Government job happens to see a person having great difficulty breathing whilst reading confidential ministerial papers as his job requires, should he inform his Manager, and dial 111 for assistance ?

    . Being Global, would the Informant be cited for his whistle blowing and would this be relayed to the USA and Russia and China, along with other dodgy friends of the current Government ?

    . Finally, how does a Government become as stupid as our current Government?

    . People should know the Government is comprised of:
    The National Party, The Act Party, The Maori Party, The United Future Party.

    . They are the people who stuff up everything they touch. I guess they are very busy sending sheep to a Saudi desert.


    • Anne 4.1

      how does a Government become as stupid as our current Government?

      By embracing a mindless right wing dogma called neo-liberalism.

      • seeker 4.1.1

        ‘how does a Government become ad stupid as our current government?’

        By craving fame, fortune and power above all else.

  5. Philj 5

    “how does a Government become as stupid as our current government?”
    Because it is serving competing, and conflicting, corporate Interests.

  6. smilin 6

    Blind prejudice and ignorance of the so right right wing rule to keep us ignorant
    If the govt has nothing to hide it has nothing to fear from real journalism or those who question the arrogance of the power of 1 to rule the many after all that is what this govt is, the power of a 1 seat majority

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