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…

    https://r1016132.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/train-the-army-to-build-northlands-infrastructure/

    http://www.foxnews.com/weather/2015/03/14/cyclone-pam-vanuatu/

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

  8. philj 9

    Wayne,
    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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  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Government says it will now build just one really nice home
    Following publication of this article, the Ministry has requested it to be noted that this supplied image is not necessarily representative of what the final house will look like, and it “probably won’t be that nice.” As part of today’s long-anticipated reset of the Government’s flagship KiwiBuild policy, Housing Minister ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Imperialism and your cup of coffee
    Over the next week or two we will be running three synopses of parts of the opening chapter of John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st Century (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2016).  The synopsis and commentary below is written by Phil Duncan. Marx began Capital not with a sweeping historical ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Still juking the stats
    The State Services Commission and Ombudsman have released another batch of OIA statistics, covering the last six months. Request volumes are up, and the core public service is generally handling them within the legal timeframe, though this may be because they've learned to extend rather than just ignore things. And ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Hard News: Time for a New Deal: 25 years on
    In 1994, I was editing an ambitious street mag called Planet, from a fabled office at at 309 Karangahape Road. The thirteenth issue of the magazine was published in the winter of that year and its cover embodied a particularly ambitious goal: the end of cannabis prohibition.I wanted to do ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Not impressed
    KiwiBuild was one of the Ardern government's core policies. The government would end the housing crisis and make housing affordable again by building 100,000 new homes. Of course, it didn't work out like that: targets weren't met, the houses they did build were in the wrong place, and the whole ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Solar beats coal
    As the climate crisis escalates, it is now obvious that we need to radically decarbonise our economy. The good news is that its looking easy and profitable for the energy sector. Wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels, and now solar is too:The levellised cost of solar PV has fallen ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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