NRT: The spy bill

Written By: - Date published: 1:57 pm, May 7th, 2013 - 7 comments
Categories: defence, democracy under attack, human rights, law, national - Tags: , , ,

For the short version, as @lyndonhood commented: “Admittedly it will be easier for the GCSB to act within their legal boundaries if they don’t have any”.

For the long version see the excellent I/S at No Right Turn

The spy bill

Last year, we learned that the GCSB had illegally spied on Kim Dotcom. Last month, we learned that he wasn’t the only victim: they had illegally intercepted the communications of 85 other New Zealanders. Today, the government released its response to that unlawful behaviour, in the form of the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. But rather than subjecting them to stricter controls so they can’t run amok again, John Key wants to give them more power.

The full bill is here [PDF], and its a shocker. Some highlights:

  • removing any mention of foreign intelligence from the Act;
  • Changing the GCSB’s objectives from a tight focus on the gathering of foreign intelligence and securing government computer networks to a general national security function (including of course “economic well-being” – a licence to spy on anti-FTA campaigners and trade unionists)
  • Broadening the GCSB’s functions from the present list focused on foreign intelligence to three broad categories: “information assurance and cybersecurity”, “intelligence gathering and analysis”, and “cooperation with other entities”.
  • Broadening the intelligence function from gathering foreign intelligence to “gather[ing] and analys[ing] intelligence about information infrastructures”. what’s an “information infrastructure”? Any computer, anywhere. So, we’re getting a full-fledged domestic spying agency via the back-door.
  • Allowing them to gain interception warrants and access authorisations (allowing covert access to your computer) for that domestic “information assurance and cybersecurity” function. The ban on intercepting domestic communications specifically does not apply to this, so the intention is to spy on New Zealanders.
  • Broadening interception warrants from applying to specific persons or places (as at present) to applying to classes of people or places. For example, “all members of Greenpeace”.
  • Using the Commissioner of Security warrants as an additional “safeguard” on interceptions. Whoop-di-do. They’ve never refused any request for a warrant, so they’re not any form of safeguard. Instead, they’re just a rubberstamp tarted up as one. Just like the Inspector-General of security and Intelligence.
  • The interception warrant provisions “appl[y] despite anything in any other Act.” So they over-ride the Bill of Rights Act.
  • Allowing the GCSB to shop around for a compliant Minister (from a list of three) if their regular rubberstamp is visiting his holiday home in Hawaii or is otherwise unavailable.
  • Increasing penalties for GCSB staff who talk about their jobs – but not for GCSB staff who unlawfully spy on kiwis.

The latter I think says it all: this is a bill written by the spies, for the spies. Whether New Zealanders want to be spied upon has not been considered. There is some good stuff buried in there – the idea of “incidental intelligence” perfectly captures what we thought was the situation regarding police co-operation, and the position of the GCSB director has been put on a sounder statutory footing (though amusingly, their statutory performance reviews cannot consider “any security operations undertaken, or proposed to be undertaken” – that is, their actual performance). But the guts of it is a naked power grab by the spies, which would allow them to spy on you, me, and everyone. All in the name of “national security”, of course. Who are we being kept “secure” from? It’s top secret, of course. And we pay $50 million a year for this bullshit.

This bill is not fit for purpose. It – and the present GCSB – needs to be scrapped. We do not need a spy agency empowered to spy on everything kiwis do on the internet (sorry, “gather and analyse intelligence about information infrastructures”). We need some security geeks to ensure the government keeps our private information secure, and that’s it. as for the rest, it should be de-funded and consigned to the dustbin of history.

7 comments on “NRT: The spy bill”

  1. The only people who need spies are the ruling class.
    They need to protect their private property and spy on those who oppose their whole parasitical, exploitative, oppressive existence.
    We will get rid of spies when we get rid of capitalism.

  2. Chooky 2

    If Winston Peters allows John Key an out from being accountable for illegally spying on New Zealanders he wont be getting my vote again!….nor that of many of his older constituency. In fact I doubt whether many NZ First voters will allow him back into Parliament . Nobody wants John Key and his mates in charge of a Stazi New Zealand.!

  3. Murray Olsen 3

    All our spy agencies are a total waste of space and budget dollars. They spend their whole existence sucking up to foreign powers, who don’t even tell them when the French are about to commit an act of war in Auckland Harbour. Or even worse, maybe they did tell them. The French agents were caught by Neighbourhood Watch and normal policing. The spies leave pies and Penthouses lying around and break our laws in their eagerness to catch oversize Germans in the shower.

    Dismantle the SIS and the GCSB. Neither perform. If capitalists wish to protect their property interests, let them hire private spooks. We should not pay to be spied on.

  4. Mr Interest 4

    So if the two agencies charged with keeping NZ safe (economically as well are under Mr Prime Minsters control and said Prime Minister is flogging off the assets,

    Who the hell is watching him….. Funny how one can have a cup of tea with Banks or chortle the morning away with Job offers to old friends.

    If surveillance technology is becoming more powerful….. is the separtion of powers following suit
    “We are already at a stage that mass surveillance is a reality, reducing each one of us to the status of suspect” jspui/ bitstream/ 123456789/ 27862/ 1/ Democratic%20Accountability%20of%20Intelligence%20Services.pdf

    Democratic oversight of the intelligence services, including oversight by executive,
    parliamentary and independent bodies, has become even more essential against the
    background of the post-September 2001 fight against terrorism for at least four
    reasons. First, many services have been granted increased personnel numbers and
    higher budgets, creating a need for parliamentary oversight in order to ensure that
    taxpayers’ money is effectively spent. Second, in various countries the special powers
    of intelligence services have significantly increased, which in turn increases the need
    for civil liberty supervision, especially by judges but also through other independent
    complaint mechanisms.64 Third, higher levels of international cooperation have
    increased the need for effective executive control, as elaborated in this paper. Finally,
    although the use of intelligence was always politicized to a certain extent (as shown,
    for example, by the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s and the missile gap
    discussion in the 1960s in the USA) the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism
    have strengthened the apparent trend towards politicization of the use of
    intelligence, creating an urgent need to insulate the services from political

  5. Matthew 5

    We need an attorney-general with some fucking balls in this country. Its about time the AG was appointed by someone other than the PM & he is the person who should be telling these dicks that laws that overwrite the Bill of RIghts are unacceptable.

    • If you are serious about respecting people’s rights then perhaps a good place to start would be in not supporting those who do not.

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