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NRT: Did the NSA write John Key’s spy bill?

Written By: - Date published: 1:20 pm, March 11th, 2014 - 16 comments
Categories: Europe, International, john key, Spying, us politics - Tags: , , ,

no-right-turn-256This is a re-post from here at No Right Turn

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave evidence to the European Parliament last week about the NSA and mass-surveillance. The most interesting revelation? The NSA’s use of lawyers to subvert other countries limits on surveillance – including our own:

One of the foremost activities of the NSA’s FAD, or Foreign Affairs Division, is to pressure or incentivize EU member states to change their laws to enable mass surveillance. Lawyers from the NSA, as well as the UK’s GCHQ, work very hard to search for loopholes in laws and constitutional protections that they can use to justify indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance operations that were at best unwittingly authorized by lawmakers. These efforts to interpret new powers out of vague laws is an intentional strategy to avoid public opposition and lawmakers’ insistence that legal limits be respected, effects the GCHQ internally described in its own documents as “damaging public debate”.

In recent public memory, we have seen these FAD “legal guidance” operations occur in both Sweden and the Netherlands, and also faraway New Zealand.

[Emphasis added]

So what did GCSB receive “legal guidance” on? Was the secret interpretation of the old law, under which they asserted that metadata wasn’t a communication and so spying on it was lawful, concocted by foreign spies? What about the careful loopholes in the new Act, which allow them to claim the same thing, or conduct mass surveillance for “cybersecurity”? Was John Key’s spy bill really written in Washington, DC?

We need answers on this. And we need protection. The most obvious method is to make the GCSB publish their legal advice, so that we know how they interpret the law, what they believe they are allowed to do, and whether that matches what Parliament and the public think they are allowed to do. They won’t want to do that, of course – and in an environment of secrecy, that can only be interpreted as trying to hide a new “interpretation” to allow unlawful spying.

As for why the NSA is so keen on this, here’s Snowden again:

Once the NSA has successfully subverted or helped repeal legal restrictions against unconstitutional mass surveillance in partner states, it encourages partners to perform “access
operations.” Access operations are efforts to gain access to the bulk communications of all major telecommunications providers in their jurisdictions, normally beginning with those that handle the greatest volume of communications. Sometimes the NSA provides consultation, technology, or even the physical hardware itself for partners to “ingest” these massive amounts of data in a manner that allows processing, and it does not take long to access everything.

And the ultimate goal is for NSA to be given access to that. Of course, they promise not to spy on citizens of the agency which grants them access, but those promises are unenforceable, and in the EU they can often get around it by using one country to spy on another in violation of their agreements with both.

This is what the NSA wants to do to New Zealand. And John Key has just given them a law which enables them to do it. Sure, he’spromised that there’s no “wholesale collection”, but its worth noting here that the NSA doesn’t consider information is “collected” until an actual human reads it – so they can spy on everyone, while denying doing it. The GCSB could be playing similar word-games here. And we won’t know, unless we force the publication of their legal advice.

16 comments on “NRT: Did the NSA write John Key’s spy bill?”

  1. karol 1

    Ah, I was thinking this is an important post and would be worth putting on TS.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    That’s why Key can’t complain about Collins selling Ministerial visits to Oravida. He sold New Zealand to the NSA.

  3. Tracey 3

    Why do people keep thinking nz isnt like the others?

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    There is a hell of a lot to wade through here but… give it a go. Phone, ISP and Global positioning records and data let the filth know about where certain people congregate, say at a union building, what they do in their own time–conduct an affair perhaps. All based on data and modelling about peoples habits and particularly vehicle movements within a certain km radius.
    https://www.aclu.org/time-rein-surveillance-state-0

    Why would the NSA or GCSB snoop on you? Because they can. They are an integrated feature of US imperialism.

  5. Tracey 5

    If this was done without keys knowledge, his reaction behind closed doors will be fascinating. Its one thing for him to constantly make his followers look stupid but he will hate being made to look stupid and used.

  6. redfred 6

    Barrack: Hey John, Barack here.
    John: Oh Mr President!
    Barack: Now now Barracks fine, how about some quick horse trading
    John: Whatever you say Mr President.
    Barrack: Now John I’ll tell you what, let my boys over at NSA rewrite your spying law and I’ll let you lose against me in a game of golf, fair?
    Key: What ever you say Mr President.

  7. Huginn 7

    It would explain how Key ended up promoting legislation that he didn’t understand.

  8. karol 8

    David Fisher reports on this over at the NZ Herald. He quotes comments from Tech Liberty:

    In listing New Zealand among countries targeted, he said: “Each of these countries received instruction from the NSA, sometimes under the guise of the US Department of Defense and other bodies, on how to degrade the legal protections of their countries’ communications.”

    Cyber rights group Tech Liberty’s spokesman Thomas Beagle said the new laws introduced in New Zealand last year appeared surprisingly quickly.

    “It was like someone had it sitting in a drawer ready to go. Who is really writing these laws.”

    He said the greater concern was the lack of oversight. “It’s never being able to test what they are doing what they say.”

  9. Sosoo 9

    How many people actually care? The impression I get from talking to folks about this (and I do a lot of that in my job) is that only a minority of people care. The majority appear to think that the “nothing to hide = nothing to fear” principle is true. Commentators seem to wildly underestimate how submissively authoritarian the average person is. It sucks, but as long as they get to post inane messages to Facebook people don’t seem to care.

    • exitlane 9.1

      Many kiwis were outraged when our nuclear free policy was being undermined in Washington and many will be similarly outraged that our spy laws are being written by US spies

      now they know … with the NZ Herald, TV3 and Radio NZ giving the story legs today

      • politikiwi 9.1.1

        I hope you’re right, exitlane, but I fear Sosoo is on the money here: Most people feel that all this enhanced surveillance protects them. I guess the reason people think that is basic intuition: “if everyone’s being watched all the time, they’ll never do anything wrong, and if they can’t do anything wrong then they can’t hurt me. And it’s fine for me because I never do anything wrong, so what am I worried about?”

        It strikes me as naive and backwards to think that way, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people.

  10. peterlepaysan 10

    John Key is a USA puppet.

    Always has been.

    Washington and Wall Street run this country.

    The USA needs hegemony over the Pacific. Ocean, Howard gifted Oz to the yanks. The yanks want us well, they sent us John Key.

    The NZ National Party has a hell of a lot of explaining to do, as do the various business and employer lobby groups that support that party.

    The National Party, under John Key has allowed this country to be raped by the USA.

    Having said that , I have to admit that are more than one other possible rapists lurking nearby.

    I actually think rape is utterly revolting and should inspire revolutions.

  11. Clemgeopin 11

    What needs to happen immediately is for Labour to state unequivocally that if in power, it will immediately review the spy laws thoroughly consult widely and rewrite the spy laws so that our own sovereignty, honour, freedom, decency, fairness and values are not compromised. Does Labour and its leaders have the courage and integrity to take such a stand and follow through?

    • Clemgeopin 11.1

      Listen to this very good interview of Mr Cunliffe on TV3 this morning. Towards the end, he was asked about the Snowden’s revelations about NSA and the NZ spy law. Stangley TV3 left out Mr Cunliffe’s excellent response and important commitment in its transcript below the video!

      Here is the video:
      http://www.3news.co.nz/Sack-Collins-over-Oravida-Cunliffe-tells-Key/tabid/1607/articleID/335554/Default.aspx

      And here is Mr Cunliffe’s unequivocal response:

      “Labour is absolutely right to have made a commitment to a digital bill of rights which will protect New Zealanders rights and freedoms in cyber space. We have previously said and I will repeat again today that we will repeal the GCSB law and replace it with one that protects New Zealanders privacy and which requires a warrant before any intercept of New Zealander’s communications”

      I think that is a very clear statement and should be given very wide publicity often through out this election period. I think a vast majority of Kiwi’s will support this fair and enlightened policy.

  12. NZ Jester 12

    It’s not just us new Zealanders that should be worried about this but the American public also.
    While the NSA can not legally spy on US citizens at will, our GCSB can. The NSA using the data sharing agreements they have with the GCSB can then spy on any US citizen without needing a warrant as they are technically not doing the spying themselves.
    It sounds a lot like what is meant to be our GCSB has been taken over by the NSA and is now their GCSB.

    • Murray Olsen 12.1

      I’d laugh if GCSB agents were caught spying on Americans and prosecuted. All it would need would be an independent minded federal prosecutor. Wouldn’t it be great to see Key’s schoolboy mate doing 20 years in a federal pen?

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