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Spy scandals – today’s required reading

Written By: - Date published: 11:24 am, August 1st, 2013 - 72 comments
Categories: accountability, john key, Media, national, Spying - Tags: , ,

Here’s today’s required reading (so far) in the ongoing spy scandals that are swirling around John Key and his fiasco of a government.

Andrea Vance speaks out:

Spy scandal journalist speaks out

In other circumstances, I could probably find something to laugh about in revelations that the journalist who broke a story about illegal spying was snooped on by Parliament’s bureaucrats.

Let alone the irony that the reporter previously worked for the News of the World, the tabloid at the centre of a privacy violation scandal. But I am that journalist and I’m mad as hell.

Anyone who has had their confidential details hacked and shared around has the right to be angry. My visit to Speaker David Carter’s office on Tuesday left me reeling. …

Now the Speaker and Prime Minister John Key claim a cock-up (by a low-level contractor) over conspiracy.

Forgive me if those assurances ring hollow. …

What has got my goat is the casting aside of something we journalists hold very precious: press freedom. …

Key insists that he “values the role of the fourth estate”. He might well cherish the opportunities it gives him to beam into our living rooms at teatime, but it has become rather obvious that this government has a casual disregard for media’s true role as an independent watchdog.

Journalists were dismissed in a tantrum as “knuckleheads”. The teapot tapes fiasco – when Key laid a complaint about eavesdropping on a personal conversation – led to police raids on newsrooms. This week, the Defence Force stood accused of monitoring the phone calls of war correspondent Jon Stephenson, a man whose credibility Key has previously impugned. That contempt for the press continued yesterday with the obfuscation around what Henry had actually requested. …

I don’t want an apology. But I wish both men would do New Zealand’s media the courtesy of taking responsibility for the unreasonable activities undertaken by that inquiry, which undermined the freedoms I and my colleagues hold so dear.

Vance’s admission that this burns so much because it happened to her personally is crucial. We all feel this way, more concerned about our own well-being than others. Journalists, with the greatest of respect, you need to see this government as an attack on you personally, and do a better job at informing the public about what is really going on.

Next up, Claire Trevett:

GCSB saga becoming National’s version of hell

There have been more plot twists in the saga of the GCSB, the leak to Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance and the Parliamentary Service than in Game of Thrones.

Not quite as many stabby deaths though, so I guess that’s a mercy.

Once upon a time there was an inquiry into the spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau. Then there was an inquiry into the inquiry after the first inquiry was leaked to Vance in advance. Now there is yet another inquiry, by Parliament’s privileges committee, into the issues thrown up by the second inquiry, which was the inquiry into the inquiry.

Perhaps if the Privileges Committee enquiry goes bad we can get the GCSB to conduct an enquiry into that, and thus complete the circle?

Nonetheless, the GCSB bill’s critics have used the Vance case to highlight their claims that the Government cannot be trusted with the personal details of New Zealanders. It couldn’t have been worse timing for the Government, which has been on the charm offensive trying to persuade voters that it could indeed be trusted. …

It was the 2001 Twin Tower attacks in New York that prompted the overhaul of security at Parliament and transformed it into a place in which staff and the media who work there need to swipe if they so much as wish to blow their noses. That system was put in place to protect against security threats. But, as has become clear, the information gathered under it is used for completely different purposes.

“Completely different purposes”. New spying powers in NZ won’t be used on non-existant terrorists, they will be used on journalists, activists, anyone that the government-of-the-day doesn’t like.

Let’s move on to the always excellent Gordon Campbell:

Gordon Campbell on the Vance phone scandal

Pity the poor Prime Minister. The phone records of Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance? Don’t look at him. Once again, John Key has been let down by his minions, or by the people who were misled or intimidated into compliance by his staff’s overtures, either through fear or ignorance. Not Key’s fault either way. Scout’s honour, he never asked for, looked at, or did anything improper with respect to that woman. Even though his own chief of staff Wayne Eagleson had asked the hapless Parliamentary Services staff to supply all of the relevant information being asked for, to the Henry inquiry. Nothing to do with Key. Eagleson must have gone rogue. Or David Henry – can we blame him? Some faceless Parliamentary Services contractor? Anyone?

Thus we have the latest example of alleged prime ministerial ignorance of what is happening in his own office (over Vance) in his own portfolio areas (over the GCSB’s involvement in an unprecedented FBI /NZ Police raid) and in his own electorate, over the presence of a certain German billionaire. Didn’t know, can’t remember, not his call, don’t blame him. Quite some time ago, these professions of prime ministerial non-responsibility became literally incredible. Do we really have a PM and SIS/GCSB minister whose attention span on the job seems comparable to Homer Simpson at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant? Pass that man another doughnut.

There’s a simpler explanation. Whether you read the Vance phone records scandal as (a) the product of a hands on, top down attempt to nail the culprit who leaked the Kitteridge report, or (b) as an error sparked by a bullying demand emanating from the PM’s office – Key is ultimately responsible. Either way, it illustrates just why the GCSB Bill should be scrapped or sidelined. Because plainly, the current political masters of the security services cannot be trusted not to use private information for their own political ends. …

While the media has a special role in a democracy – one we can always perform better – the violation of Vance’s privacy is a prospect now facing every citizen in the country under the GCSB Bill. The boundaries of privacy are being erased for no discernible reason, and in the abscence of any proportionate threat. Peter Dunne, who holds the casting vote on the legislation, feels OK about that. But who will be watching the watchers? Why, it will be the same kind of people – in key respects, the very same people – who brought about the Andrea Vance scandal.

As usual, Campbell nails the big picture. This piece should be required reading for every MP in Parliament. Hey Peter Dunne, are you really going to vote for more GCSB spying? Really?

72 comments on “Spy scandals – today’s required reading”

  1. North 1

    Don’t worry folks…….it’s all for our own protection.

    Michael Moore: frighten the population.

    What a despicable man !

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8990498/Kiwis-trained-by-al-Qaeda-PM

    OK ShonKey Python. What you gonna say when Kim Dotcom releases the audio/visual proof that you knew about him way before you repeatedly misled the House with assurances you knew nothing of him ?

    What……you had to maintain cover ? Al-Qaeda was sitting up in Speaker’s Gallery ?

    • Tel 1.1

      John’s got a serious case of douche backup. He’s played all his cards except the joker… weapons of mass destruction anyone? 😆

    • Te Reo Putake 1.2

      But ..terrorists!

      Looking forward to Key stumping up with the evidence for this out there claim. The phrase ‘jumping the shark’ seems apt.

    • insider 1.3

      Can you explain the magical quality in our water that makes NZ immune to the kind of people most other western nations seem to experience. We should bottle it and export it (taniwhas permitting)

      • North 1.3.1

        More to the point can you identify any magical democracy embracing quality found in ShonKey Python’s Kool-Aid ?

      • weta 1.3.2

        Why here ? Why now ? Especially why when our favourite islamic fundamentalists are turning on each other in syria ?

        Re. “the kind of people most other western nations seem to experience” .. could you, as an
        ‘insider’, be a bit more specific ?

        The nearest islamic country to us is indonesia. Is kopassus about to start directing people
        in leaky boats around australia in order to avoid the ruddy ‘manus island’ solution ?

        Why the sudden scare campaign ? Is there a snap election in the works ?

        Will you be holding your breath ? Does anyone care ?

        • insider 1.3.2.1

          So you are saying that AUstralia for instance has never had citizens that have joined al qaeda style groups or allowed people into the country that have subsequently championed violent extremism?

          And of course we’ve never experienced people like ‘peace campaigners’ suddenly coming across all unpeaceful like by playing with and trading firearms

          • KJT 1.3.2.1.1

            Lets see .

            Terrorist attacks in New Zealand.

            1. France sinks the Rainbow warrior.
            2. Trades hall bombing.
            3. One attempted plane hijacking by a woman who turned out to be not the full quid.

            Potential for more. Potential for death or injury to New Zealanders, Almost zero.

            Biological breaches of border controls costing billions.

            Too many to remember.

            Potential for more. Very high.
            Potential for death or injury to New Zealanders, if something like the Ross River virus gets established here, rather high.

            Where do you think we should be concentrating our efforts to enhance New Zealand security?

            Returning to stream cleaning arriving containers, and resourcing MAF/customs properly would do more to ensure New Zealanders security than any amount of ‘intelligence” staff.

            This is all about protecting the Government from New Zealanders, when we all realise how much we have been conned, not security!

            • insider 1.3.2.1.1.1

              MPI and customs combined budget $800m. Gcsb and sis, $110m. Seems a reasonable balance

            • tricledrown 1.3.2.1.1.2

              Don’t forget Ernie Abbott no relation of Tony ha ha
              It probably was a national party hack who planted that bomb at trade union hall!
              what chances of the GSCB uncovering a plot involving the national party they would be the one’ s plotting to blow up a union hall!

          • Weta 1.3.2.1.2

            Your reference to ‘al qaeda style groups’ should be more specific. There have been press reports of australians joining al nusra, but that is not al qaeda. Its concerns relate to syria ..
            http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionID=2528&ChannelID=61001&ArticleID=2848#.Ufhr_5NOKM8
            .. in any case your double negative makes a weak case with relevance to Australia and provides no evidence in relation to Aotearoa. Show me evidence at a standard which will stand up in court of law, or cease the innuendo.

            • insider 1.3.2.1.2.1

              There are about a dozen Australian residents or citizens currently in jail there on terrorism charges for a range of conspiracies. A number trained in Islamist camps. our close political, social and economic links justifies maintaining a close watch on such events and for similar risks in NZ.

              as for the requirement for court standards of evidence, you’ve never visited a blog before have you?

              ps i didnt see no double negative

          • Colonial Viper 1.3.2.1.3

            insider.

            If only you had the same concern for the number of suicides which occur in NZ monthly. That’s a real ongoing tragedy in society, not the terror you are trying to spread through irresponsible comments.

      • Shaz 1.3.3

        I think you need to recall that when the police watched and collected data on supposed “terrorists in our midst” even one time National Party cabinet minister Ross Meurant described the resulting group think by police (and possibly the GCSB – now that we are aware of illegal spying on citizens by that organisation) that emanated as being ‘lost in the forest’ of their owned hyped up imaginations.

        I daresay that there are people in NZ who could be persuaded to act against the country with malign intent – but I don’t see how the other 4.2 million of should cede rights to privacy when existing legislation caters for warranted surveillance.

      • McFlock 1.3.4

        We’re small, out of the way, and tend build more stuff than we blow up (even when we’re taking part in… questionable wars).

        Export that.

  2. gobsmacked 2

    Yes, Gordon Campbell outstanding as usual.

    • karol 2.1

      Exactly. And who amongst the now-claiming-to-be-fourth-estate-and-for-press-freedom MSM journalists, will say as bluntly as G Campbell that the emperor has no clothes. How many times does Key deny all knowledge before he’s sacked for incompetence.

  3. tracey 3

    And now key says some kiwis were trained by al queda… the circle is complete

    • Wairua 3.1

      It used to be ‘reds under the bed’. Now it is ‘islamic terrorists’. It is interesting the key is bringing up
      al qaeda. Does that make him a zionist / neocon propagandist ?

  4. Because plainly, the current political masters of the security services cannot be trusted not to use private information for their own political ends.

    Nailed it.

  5. KJT 5

    It is a bit sad, that, “journalists” /National party propaganda peddlers are only interested in peoples privacy when it affects them.

  6. Veutoviper 6

    The Spy scandel stories just keep coming today

    Daivd Fisher’s latest in the last hour or so – NZSIS can spy on journalists

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10906598

    and NRT’s take on this article

    http://www.norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2013/08/sis-spies-on-journalists.html

    Not to be left out – Vernon Small’s take on the Vance issue

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/8989867/Parliamentary-Service-in-need-of-shakeup

  7. captain hook 7

    Time for a shake up.
    Kweewee and his collection of bohunks think they in the business of running NZ but it doesn’t work like that and there are checks and balances to keep people like them at bay.
    Vernon Small is right, for once, and the parliamentary service needs renewal and the people need a new government.

  8. Treetop 8

    It would not surprise me if a person in Key’s inner or outer circle has a dual role which involves being a government and a GCSB employee or a government and a SIS employee. It could be the tea lady or the toliet cleaner.

  9. Anne 9

    Heard his latest?

    He’s not going to appear before this latest inquiry because he’s only a bit player. Yeah that’s right, the PM who ordered the inquiries is only a bit player. 🙄

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Labour can come out blasting on this one…

      “Key evasive, has self-judged inquiry before it even starts”

      Played right this can force Key into a very embarrassing climb down.

      • Mary 9.1.1

        “Played right this can force Key into a very embarrassing climb down.”

        How about resignation?

        • Colonial Viper 9.1.1.1

          I think this thing has legs, yes. Just need a sustained and capable Opposition offensive strategy.

  10. Anyone beginning to see a global pattern here? Every time the TPTB want more control somewhere they play the Al Qaeda card. If that doesn’t work it’s the WMD ruse and if that doesn’t work maybe a nice little false flag incident. But hey conspiracies in backrooms between corporate bigwigs and government officials do not happen. No Sir!!!

    • Murray Olsen 10.1

      Nah, nobody except you has noticed. None of the previous posts mentioned it. Thanks for informing us.

      • travellerev 10.1.1

        Oh, if it isn’t Murray Olsen. The man who loves to censure and ridicule people all over the place. Mister scientific. LOL. Keep at it matey.

  11. mickysavage 11

    Twitter is reporting that Geoff Thorn, head of Parliamentary Services, has resigned. Dotcom takes another one out …

  12. aerobubble 12

    If we’re all being watched, tracked, will Police speed traps be needed when they can just use GPS phones in cars to measure speeds.

    But worse, what gives with Google and Facebook, as we all start switching to encryption and using encrypted social sites, how will they track us to push their adverts on to us? Will they be able to sue the govt for billions, as evidently its going to cost them eyes on their pages.

    With the new Key doctrine, arguable legality, where you find a person to come up with an argument that makes illegality arguable, will government be able to inspect any information it has collected illegally? Only then to retrospectively find some one to apply the Key doctrine, like has been done in the Lance breach. like KimDotcom….

  13. Fair call 13

    this is now a major story for beltway politics but however – have your moment of glory. What this has meant a decent person has resigned today. I am sickened that the left have conjured a situation where quite frankly an innocent person is now been made to look unethical.

    There is more to follow and here is the worst bit – some very prominent people in the opposition are about to be found out.

    I am picking 4 resignations.

    • McFlock 13.1

      the opposition gave Vance’s phone records to the office of the PM? I await the disclosure eagerly.

    • Rosetinted 13.2

      Fair call
      I’m not up with the news. Are you saying that John Key has resigned today? Or what – if it is someone innocent who has been made to look unethical it can’t be him.

      • karol 13.2.1

        Geoff Thorn, head of parliamentary services has resigned.

        Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said Thorn did the right thing.

        He had taken some of the fall for mistakes, including releasing Vance’s records and information about UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne, he said.

        The inspection of MPs’ and journalists’ information was a serious constitutional breach.

        But the question now was what responsibility Prime Minister John Key and his chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, took for leaning on the Parliamentary Service, Norman said.

        “The question now has to go to Mr Eagleson as to what he should do for his next step.”

        Norman expected more information to come out yet.

        “Whatever Mr Eagleson … have done … that is an action by the prime minister and the prime minister just for once should take some responsibility.”

        Norman said he could understand if Thorn did not want to appear before the privileges committee, but it was hard to see how it could get the full picture without hearing from him.

        Right, Russel. Keep up the pressure.

        • Fair call 13.2.1.1

          [deleted]

          [lprent: Already banned and now subject to an extra 8 weeks ]

          • yeshe 13.2.1.1.1

            got a link for what dunne said and where he said it ? thx

            • Pascal's bookie 13.2.1.1.1.1

              I’d be happy if Fair call had a coherent sentence.

              • McFlock

                You need to read between their lines [of coke]

              • David H

                Well I guess we will never know. If all them 8 weeks are cumulative, cos he won’t be back till after the election 2017.

                • lprent

                  Nah, I just tend to double up their previous ‘sentence’ unless I have previously warned about what the next one will be. Until it gets too long and then I just make it a permanent ban and start trying to eradicate their ability to leave comments.

              • lprent

                It was when he wrote a long paragraph that I recognised the rather insane style that I’d already banned. I left the only other comments where “fair call” said actually something useful for the argument when I tracked back down comments left since the banning.

                My general rules about people coming back these days during a ban is that I don’t target adaptability and for people to reinvent themselves. They cannot use their banned handle. But if someone “new” comes in then I (as moderator) will only examine their back history iff I recognize the style that they got banned for or if they do something that steps over the policy bounds. Either of these is a prima facie evidence of dumb stupidity and gets rewarded accordingly.

                This strategy affords me (as non-moderator) considerable amusement because I obviously often have suspicions about who people “were” going back to patterns from the last 6 years. I’m not as good at recognizing style patterns with as much certainty as some others. However I’m getting a whole lot better with all of the practice I get.

                As moderator of course it also reduces my immediate workloads, and in a longer term I view it as an exercise of “evolution in action”. I slowly help either prune the wireheads who can’t adapt from my part of the blogosphere. Or help others to adapt to circumstances by being an evil bastard who provides the immovable object that they have to work around. There are quite a few people around who eventually decided that they could live without me noticing them while in moderator role.

                Of course that amuses me as well. Helps me work off those *awful* authoritarian and totally sarcastic instincts that I seem to have acquired in a relatively harmless hobby sort of a way. I do so get upset when the trolls don’t come around for me to play with. And (says he virtuously) it constitutes as a public service…

                (snigger) 😈

          • Draco T Bastard 13.2.1.1.2

            So you want an ex communist to head up our spy laws

            Whereas you seem to be happy with an actual corporatist.

      • McFlock 13.2.2

        The Parliamentary Services boss is going. Start of the process of throwing pawns to the wolves as the kitchen starts getting too hot. My pick is that the pecking order (depending on proof of interference) goes PM office functionary, then speaker, then PM office boss, then Key (although key won’t go).

    • Anne 13.3

      Get those pills down you pronto Fair call.

  14. vto 14

    All newspapers should refuse to publish tomorrow

    • McFlock 14.1

      lol
      that’ll happen naturally in a decade or two. Technology moves ever onwards…

      • Colonial Viper 14.1.1

        The civil religion of progress? That’s coming to an end too.

        • McFlock 14.1.1.1

          O Fortune,
          like the moon
          you are changeable,
          ever waxing
          and waning;
          hateful life
          first oppresses
          and then soothes
          as fancy takes it;
          poverty
          and power
          it melts them like ice.

  15. BrucetheMoose 15

    But -Nothing to hide, nothing to fear…right?
    Wasn’t this the favourite mantra of the Gestapo and SS?
    Oh well, never mind.
    Heil Key. I mean hi Key.

  16. Anne 16

    Dunne is on Campbell Live at 7pm. Could be very interesting.

    • geoff 16.1

      And yet it wasn’t. I’m so tired of these creeps having just enough wiggle room to slither through scandal after scandal with no effect to the opinion polls.

      • Colonial Viper 16.1.1

        Five years into Government, the opinion polls aren’t about National and Key any more, geoff.

        • geoff 16.1.1.1

          Yeah well that’s part of the problem too. But you cant explain everything because of a lack of decent Labour leadership. If the population wasn’t so fucking ignorant and apathetic they’d still vote for a shitty Labour over National. And yes I’m well aware that that situation is the result of us marinating in a dog-eat-dog, pro-privatisation, anti-union, right-wing, brine for some 30 years.

          • Rhinocrates 16.1.1.1.1

            I think it’s very dangerous to start thinking of the electorate as a mindless mass who are too stupid to know what’s good for them.

            The population may not be politically engaged most of the time, just wanting a government that keeps the electricity and the water running – but don’t start thinking of them as idiots.

            Even if they’re mere “consumers” as the neolibs would have it, they know crap product when they see it.

            If you’re a socialist, then you have to believe in the needs, will and intelligence of the people.

            The fault or at least the burden then does lie with those who claim to be the “representatives”.

            They’ve got to carry the burden – that’s what we pay taxes to see that they do. They aren’t paid to have meals at Bellamy’s, they’re paid to represent us – it’s a job and a duty.

            Look at their salaries when people are starving and have no pity for them, make no excuses for them. Demand that they DO THEIR FUCKING JOB.

            • geoff 16.1.1.1.1.1

              That’s me Rhino, living dangerously.

              mindless mass who are too stupid to know what’s good for them.

              History is littered with examples of populations failing to know what is good for them. That’s almost the entire point of history (those who fail to learn the lessons of history blah blah blah…)

              If you’re a socialist, then you have to believe in the needs, will and intelligence of the people.

              How am I supposed to believe in those ideals when the majority consistently votes for ideas that I think are bereft of merit?

              The fault or at least the burden then does lie with those who claim to be the “representatives”.

              They’ve got to carry the burden – that’s what we pay taxes to see that they do. They aren’t paid to have meals at Bellamy’s, they’re paid to represent us – it’s a job and a duty.

              Look at their salaries when people are starving and have no pity for them, make no excuses for them. Demand that they DO THEIR FUCKING JOB.

              No disagreement there.

          • Colonial Viper 16.1.1.1.2

            You are absolutely correct that we cannot explain everything via the single issue of the leader. Labour’s issues are a tripartite.

            1) The Leadership (implicit within this are issues around the quality of caucus and the selection of MPs).

            2) The Party, which no longer draws perspectives, attitudes or people from a broad cross section of NZ.

            3) The 21st Century Labour Mission. It doesn’t have one, apart from implementing neoliberalism (and the upcoming neo-feudalism), a little more gently.

  17. karol 17

    Shearer looked like he was trying to remember his lines on 3News, re-spy scandals. Din’t look like his heart was in it.

    Norman was more convincing.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      I hate how all you people are so anti-Labour and anti-Shearer. Can’t you please be good apparatchiks and minions for once.

      • Rhinocrates 17.1.1

        Sorry, I’m, not yellow and if you shake me, I won’t be a good glowstick. That said, if Gru was leading Labour and Margo, Edith and Agnes and a unicorn were on the front bench, I’d vote for them.

  18. georgecom 18

    The statement “Vance’s admission that this burns so much because it happened to her personally is crucial. We all feel this way, more concerned about our own well-being than others.” sums up some peoples view of the behavious of a wide specturm of the media over the past 5 years.

    The media is pissed off because Key is now screwing them. They are as mad a hell.

    Good. But stop and think about the many other things that have gone on that burns other people and makes them mad as hell. Seems there as not bee a heck of a lot on indepth scrutiny of the Key govt up to now.

    The media is pissed off, good. Now, go away and do a proper job of digging into stories rather than giving that ‘nice man John Key’ an easy ride. Whether you do it because you have a vendetta, or whether because you now realise how other people have felt for a period time, just go and do a proper job.

    • BLiP 19.1

      From your link . . .

      . . . According to the Guardian, “some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive programme expressed concern about ‘the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved’ . . .

      . . . and yet when those people working at the core of this “soul harvesting” ever dare to speak truth through the Fourth Estate they are pilloried and subject to charges of treason by those who hold the secrets we really need to see.

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  • Green Party seek amendment to ensure all prisoners can vote
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