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Spying and the terrorism excuse

Written By: - Date published: 11:34 am, March 15th, 2015 - 25 comments
Categories: International, Spying - Tags: , , ,

Governments the world over “sell” their spying and surveillance activities to the people as a tool to keep them safe from “terrorism”. It doesn’t and it can’t, of course, leading many skeptics to suggest that surveillance is mostly used for diplomatic and industrial spying, and keeping tabs on “threats” like political or environmental activists.

And so to the latest revelations in the Snowden documents, as they are unfolding weekly in The Herald:

GCSB spied on inner circle of former Solomon Islands PM and anti-corruption campaigner

New Zealand spies targeted the emails and other electronic communications of the aides and confidants of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, a top-secret document says.

The document … shows the Government Communications Security Bureau programmed a powerful electronic surveillance system to scoop up documents from the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, who has spoken of his outrage at the intrusion into Solomon Islands affairs.

Another on the target list was anti-corruption campaigner Benjamin Afuga, who has expressed concern over the identity of his confidential sources.

There is no way that these are legitimate targets for surveillance, and no way that this can be justified as protecting NZ from terrorism. There is more detail in a second piece:

Revealed: The names NZ targeted using NSA’s XKeyscore system

The GCSB target list features seven Solomon Islanders by name under the heading “Terms associated with Solomon Islands Government documents”.

The names are a who’s who of senior public servants in the Solomon Islands government at the time the list was written. They include Barnabas Anga, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Robert Iroga, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Dr Philip Tagini, Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Fiona Indu, senior Foreign Affairs official, James Remobatu, Cabinet Secretary, and Rose Qurusu, a Solomon Islands public servant.

Targeting emails associated with these officials would have provided day-by-day monitoring of the internal operation of the Solomon Islands government, including its negotiations with the New Zealand, Australian and other Five Eyes governments.

The target list includes the usernames of the senior public servants’ computer accounts. The surveillance was tailored to intercept documents they or other officials sent between each other.

The seventh person caught up in the GCSB’s surveillance sweep is the leading anti-corruption campaigner in the Solomons, Benjamin Afuga. For several years he has run an online publication that exposes corruption, often publishing leaked information and documents from whistleblowers within the government. It has a large following.

The next time that John Key says that we spy so as to keep NZ safe from terrorism, could some journalist please please ask him if the PM of the Solomon Islands is a terrorist?

25 comments on “Spying and the terrorism excuse ”

  1. Chooky 1

    The future of freedom: NSA whistleblower Bill Binney

    Published on Jan 28, 2015
    A 36-year veteran of America’s Intelligence Community, William Binney resigned from his position as Director for Global Communications Intelligence (COMINT) at the National Security Agency (NSA) and blew the whistle, after discovering that his efforts to protect the privacy and security of Americans were being undermined by those above him in the chain of command.

    Advice from Bill Binney and other NSA whistleblowers:

    1. stop bulk collection of metadata

    2. nothing into storage except from “target” focus groups

    3. list reasons for “targets”

    4. the name(s) of the operative(s) who list the “targets” must be registered…so there is “accountability” ie the person(s) who compile “watch/kill” lists must be held “accountable”….at the present time they are NOT! ….(shocking because it is open to abuse and corruption!)

    ( people are being killed on the basis of metadata…it is possible some Americans are being killed in their own country )

    Everyone should watch this video…and make up their own minds!

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    The next time that John Key says that we spy so as to keep NZ safe from terrorism, could some journalist please please ask him if the PM of the Solomon Islands is a terrorist?

    Or the anti-corruption campaigner. Although, considering Key’s career through the corrupt banking sector and his history of lying to NZ I’m pretty sure that he does see him as a terrorist.

  3. wyndham 3

    Is GCSB spying on American Samoa ? It’s a Pacific island after all.

    If GCSB is supplying information to the US because there is a “gap” in the area that the US can spy on themselves, where does American Samoa fit into this ? Why do they not have a spy-base ? Or do they ?

    • Colonial Rawshark 3.1

      The NSA conducts total mass surveillance of their own mainland citizens so I have no doubt that they are spying on their own people in American Samoa, one way or another.

    • mary_a 3.2

      @ wyndham –

      Why would the US need a spy base in American Samoa, when they already have international spy nark John Key at their disposal to carry out the work on their behalf? Isn’t that the reason Key is here, as PM of NZ, at the behest of Uncle Sam’s good ole boys club?

  4. NZJester 4

    Yeah My Key when are you going to tell us what devilish terrorist plan the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, his aides and confidants have been cooking up?
    Are the Solomon Islands about to invade us?
    You must have the GCSB spying on him because the Solomon Islands attacking New Zealand such a big danger right now I’m sure!

  5. mac1 5

    I wonder what the Australians and Americans have upon John Key and his entourage, aides and confidantes…..

  6. Wayne 7

    The Solomon Islands has had lots of difficulties in recent years, to the point that both New Zealand and Australia have had to deploy troops to keep the peace.

    It is very much in New Zealand’s interests that we know what is going on there. Are you suggesting that we deploy troops to dangerous places without any knowledge of the internal situation, when we have the means to get that information. I imagine this site would be furious if the govt put soldiers in harms way without doing what we could reasonably do to protect them.

    That is why this issue will get no traction. Most New Zealanders expect their govt to keep a prudent eye on what is happening in places where we might have to deploy troops.

    The South Pacific is where we have our most important security interests, in the sense that really only Australia and New Zealand will take action if necessary. We have had to do so in Bougainville, The Solomons and Tonga. So I expect that the New Zealand govt will make sure we know what is happening in the region.

    So when I read the Herald item by Nicky Hagar, well, I gave it the weight I thought it deserved. And I suspect so did many other New Zealanders.

    • Pascals bookie 7.1

      Hey Wayne. Seeing you profess to give a fuck, perhaps you could expand on why the govt can’t get a SOFA to protect the troops we are deploying To Iraq.

      I’m not interested in hearing, again, the pablum being delivered about how the passports (or whatever other workaround they come up with) is the same, for the simple reason that if they were the same, we’d have no problem getting a SOFA.

      Also of note given your comments, the PM advises us that ISIS wasn’t even ‘on the radar’ of our spy agencies just 18 months ago, even though they were all over social media and Key was jumping up and down on the international stage about the situation in Syria. The agencies seriously let him down if what he saying is true. I guess they were too busy targeting anti-corruption investigators in the Solomon Islands

    • Tom Jackson 7.2

      And of course this cannot possibly be done without wholesale and indiscrimInate collection of all internet traffic….

      Beneath contempt.

    • Colonial Rawshark 7.3

      Did we collect personal correspondence between Solomans government officials and their spouses? And their lovers? And their personal business partners?

      Was any of this material retained by our spy services? Why?

      How are any of these matters relevant to the safety of our troops? Isn’t the “safety” of our troops just a smokescreen to justify spying on Pacific neighbours and passing that information on to other foreign parties?

      And has the information we gathered been used to advantage in NZ in ways other than military and security? Have we used it against the Solomans in terms of business, trade and commercial negotiations?

      One last question – did the Solomans government support our bid for a seat on the Security Council? Was spy information used in our attempts to influence their governmental decision?

      • Tom Jackson 7.3.1

        I doubt you’ll get a reply. He’s too busy polishing his jackboots.

        [lprent: That is over the line of pointless abuse, especially the godwin element. Do it again and you will feel my jackboot as I kick the sharp point about pointless abuse up your ego and off the site for some time. This is your one warning.

        Read the policy.

        You will be in moderation until I see an acknowledgement that you have seen this. ]

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.4

      It’s totes ok for individuals from the Solomon Islands to tap our phones and open our mail, and of course we won’t arrest and prosecute them or anything, because we’re committed to law & order.

      Extradite the GCSB, and the criminal trash who give the orders.

    • newsense 7.5

      I do hope you realise that the National Party has had a lot of difficulty in very recent years. Funding, but we’re not sure where it came from or who it was for. Conversations that may or may not have happened. Unelected office members who presumably deal with the GCSB, but don’t brief the PM in a timely fashion. With that lack of accountability and secret money channels, it seems like a breeding ground for terrorism and treachery to me. Perhaps we should consider anyone from overseas funding such a secretive organisation a terrorist? Suppose we suspect someone in the Party or Spy apparatus is more concerned with foreign interests than our own nations?

      After all the actions of this organisation affect our security interests.

      Or is that not the kind of horrifying justification you are looking for or the worms inside a can that you want to see? We have created the apparatus for that can be used fascism or any slightly lesser abuse. We take it on trust, on the trust of politicians and seemingly the more powerful surveillance community that it won’t happen.

      Does the ‘trust us, don’t look at the law, it’s time to tackle the terrorists’ not worry you just a little bit Dr Mapp?

      And yes, we only hear about leaks from 5 Eyes, not any other security agents. But this doesn’t make it any less worrying.

    • Murray Rawshark 7.6

      I hope you use lubricant in your interactions with your betters from the US and A.

    • thatguynz 7.7

      Wayne not only are you attempting to defend the indefensible, you’re also playing the man rather than the ball. Neither of which are terribly surprising given it seems to be National Party modus operandi but don’t think that other people can’t see it for what it is.

  7. Jamie 8

    Might I suggest a better way to gain influence and goodwill with our neighbours than spying on them.

    Train our military to build infrastructure – like the Roman legions did back in the day…



    Would be cheaper and more effective than giving money to a corrupt UN

  8. philj 9

    Your points attempting to justify spying are more than answered by the video by William Binney. It makes your arguments look simplistic and myopic. William Binney is a former highly ranked and ethical public servant who has witnessed the methodical corruption of the US government, AND has suffered the full weight of the US government’s unbridled power. Unfortunately, your comments only add to the view that, governments are a major part of the problem. Increasingly they, or the powerful interests they represent, are struggling to meet the needs of their citizens. I look forward to your response. lol.

  9. philj 10

    Thanks Chooky.
    Just watched William Binney video and was nodding as he outlined what we now witness in our country today. Cheers.

    • Chooky 10.1

      thanks Philj….William Binney is a quiet American HERO…a very brave American trying to wake us all up ….and he comes from the inside of NSA with expert credentials

  10. Brewer 11

    “Everyone is guilty of something. Who thinks he is innocent, just doesn’t know what he is guilty of yet.” – Erich Mielke, Stasi chief.

    “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” – Cardinal Richelieu.

    Those who, for reasons that (to me at least) defy evidence and reason, accept our Prime Minister’s “trust me” stance should bear in mind that there will one day be a party in power that they do not similarly trust – the powers will remain.

    Anyone who has ever used the term “Helengrad” should be the first to protest the installation of these powers.

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