National’s GCSB legislation’s path to enactment is hitting pothole after pothole.
Last Friday the Human Rights Commission had its funding threatened after expressing concern at the proposed reforms because, according to John Key, it missed the deadline and misunderstood the law. The only problem was that its advice was provided to Key direct in accordance with one of its statutory functions and if anyone had shown a misunderstanding of the law it was Key himself.
Then on Monday Privacy Commissioner Marie Schroff urged that introduction of the GCSB amending legislation be delayed. The Herald reported the following:
“Effective oversight is required to ensure that it is collected and used appropriately, not as the tool of mass surveillance that it has the capacity to be, if unchecked.”
[Ms Schroff] referred to leaks by former United States National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the widespread collection of data and British intelligence spying on G20 delegates.
Fallout from those revelations would not be answered for some time.
“There is, therefore, good reason to postpone consideration of this bill at least for a short time, to enable us to develop a clearer perspective on what powers New Zealand intelligence agencies should have to perform their functions.”
And then one of the major selling points, the saving of costs by removing duplication of resources with the SIS has hit a snag. It appears the Government does not know how much it will cost for the SIS to do the spying instead of the GCSB. If the GCSB does it there may be a cost saving but, and this is a big but, all of our metadata may be handed over to the Americans. It would be good if the information concerning cost was available so that we could at least have a proper debate about whether our privacy was worth investing in.
Parliamentary support for the reforms is on a knife edge. All eyes are on Peter Dunne to see what he will do. After all he is rightfully upset that Key obtained his metadata without his permission. And Andrea Vance’s metadata generated by her movements around Parliament was handed over to the inquiry. MPs and Journalists ought to have their rights of privacy respected. Because if the State does not do this then none of us are safe and whoever is in power will be able to learn huge amounts about each of us.
Dunne has said that he wants to maintain his and others rights of privacy and I agree with him. He was using his Parliamentary Services email to communicate with Vance and had thought that this email account was private. He had reason to do so. Parliamentary Services is not an organisation that the Official Information Act 1982 applies to and we ought to be able to send emails to MPs without worrying about who will read them. I don’t think that we have as yet appreciated the significance of this. I use a few MPs’ Parliamentary Service emails all the time to communicate with them on political issues and I am sure many others do as well. We should all review this practice because it appears that the Executive may be able to demand to see what is in these emails or at least what metadata is attached to these emails.
And who authorised the use of Andrea Vance’s metadata? The state keeping tabs on the movement of reporters for what appear to be political purposes should be sending shivers up our spines.
Peter Dunne is correct when he says there are principles at stake. They first came for Peter Dunne because he was a United Future Party MP, then they came for Andrea Vance because she was a political journalist, then they came for … you know the rest.
Dunne is negotiating with the Government on the terms of the bill. I hope that he stands up for the rights of privacy of Kiwis and against the sending of our data to the US and opposes the bill.
Us lefties, myself included, have given Dunne a hard time. The best approach may be to encourage and persuade him to staunchly defend our rights of privacy. Peter Dunne, this is your chance to shine.