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?