Spying for torturers

Written By: - Date published: 10:27 am, April 17th, 2015 - 19 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, International, Spying - Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday the latest in the ongoing series of GCSB spying leaks emerged:

Secret documents shine light on GCSB spying in Bangladesh

Secret files reveal the GCSB spies both on and for the South-East Asian nation.

Secret documents reveal New Zealand has shared intelligence collected through covert surveillance with Bangladesh despite that country’s security forces being implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights abuses.

The intelligence gathered by the GCSB staff was also being forwarded to foreign intelligence agencies, including Bangladesh’s state intelligence agency. In recent years, human rights groups have issued several reports documenting Bangladeshi intelligence and security agencies’ disregard for international prohibitions on torture and alleged involvement in politically motivated killings. In 2014, a case was filed in the International Criminal Court accusing the Bangladesh Government of committing crimes against humanity.

As usual there are (redacted) original documents in The Herald piece, and as usual there was a matching piece on The Intercept (Gallagher and Hager):

NEW ZEALAND SPY DATA SHARED WITH BANGLADESHI HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS

An NSA document that outlines the agency’s relationship with New Zealand, dated from April 2013, noted that “the GCSB has been the lead for the intelligence community on the Bangladesh CT [counter-terrorism] target since 2004.” The document added that the New Zealand agency had “provided unique intelligence leads that have enabled successful CT operations by Bangladesh State Intelligence Service, CIA and India over the past year.”

In 2008, for instance, Human Rights Watch alleged that the Special Branch headquarters in Dhaka’s Maghbazar neighborhood was used to torture detainees. In 2009, the rights group accused the Rapid Action Battalion of extrajudicially executing hundreds of people and said acts of torture were routinely perpetrated by officials from the intelligence directorate.

It is unclear from any of the NSA documents whether New Zealand sought or received any assurances from Bangladesh over how intelligence it shared could be used for detentions and interrogations, or whether there was any effective oversight of how the country’s agencies ultimately used the information. …

I/S at No Right Turn comments:

Unlawful and possibly criminal

As with other GCSB spying, this raises the usual questions: how does this contribute to New Zealand’s international relations and national security? And it has the usual answer: it doesn’t. The GCSB isn’t spying on Bangladesh because it poses some threat to New Zealand, but because the NSA has told them to and they want information to trade to their American masters. Whether that is in New Zealand’s interests is left as an exercise for the reader.

But it also raises serious questions about what is done with the information the GCSB collects. Bangladesh’s spy agencies are deeply unsavoury people who engage in torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial killings. There’s an obvious political question here about whether we want our spies passing information to an agency which goes around kidnapping, torturing and murdering people. But beyond that, there are serious legal questions as well. Its hard to see how the GCSB’s sharing of information with an agency known to torture and murder is consistent with the agency’s obligations under sections 8 and 9 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which affirm the right to life and the right not to be tortured, which apply to any actions of the government, anywhere in the world, and for which there can be no “justified limitation”

But in addition to probably being unlawful, sharing information with known torturers and murderers is probably criminal as well. TheCrimes of Torture Act 1989 imposes a penalty of 14 years imprisonment on anyone who

(a) commits an act of torture; or
(b) does or omits an act for the purpose of aiding any person to commit an act of torture; or
(c) abets any person in the commission of an act of torture; or
(d) incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit an act of torture.

There’s no suggestion that the GCSB is itself torturing people, or that they’re deliberately procuring it (unlike the CIA and MI6, who seem to do that all the time). But passing information to known torturers seems to fall squarely within clauses 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c). And that means that the GCSB staff who do it are potentially on the hook for a very long jail spell. If you work for the GCSB on the Bangladesh desk, you should really be talking to your lawyer about now.  …

As usual

PM refuses to discuss GCSB allegations

Prime Minister John Key is refusing to discuss new allegations New Zealand spies have been assisting Bangladesh’s draconian security agencies.

Journalist Nicky Hager said it was almost certain the the Government Communications and Security Bureau had helped security forces in Bangladesh torture people. … “There is almost no doubt that the information we have been giving them for almost 12 years now will have been used for torture possibly for extra judicial killings and general terrorising of Bangladesh people.”

But as with the previous allegations against the Government’s foreign spy agency the Prime Minister would not discuss them.

“We don’t comment on the activities of GCSB, the only thing I can say is that I am comfortable on all the advice I’ve been given on GCSB that they act lawfully.

“They’re a foreign intelligence agency, they gather information for reasons of national interest to New Zealand and that’s about all I’m prepared to say.”

If ever there was a case for dropping the “no comment” defence, this is surely it.

19 comments on “Spying for torturers”

  1. Bill 1

    Scratching my head at the tone of some of the reporting here that seems to suggest that Bangladesh is a ‘bad apple’…some kind of special case.

    For example, NRT writes –

    There’s an obvious political question here about whether we want our spies passing information to an agency which goes around kidnapping, torturing and murdering people. But beyond that…

    That overlooks the fact that US agencies the GCSB passes info to are complicit in kidnapping (rendition), torture (world-wide network with facilities in numerous countries) and murder (extra judicial assassinations of US citizens by targeted drone strike)

    I’d hate to think outrage was heightened because on some visceral level Bangladesh is seen as ‘not one of us’. Know what I mean?

    • McFlock 1.1

      Maybe a little bit of the “know what I mean”.

      But also I think it’s more that media-wise we’re conditioned to conflate US interests with our own (more than say German or French interests), and we’re also constantly told that the rendition etc is focused on stopping terrorists.

      With internal Bangladeshi politics, NZers have a clean slate as to who’re bad guys, who’re good guys, and just how many shades of grey cover all involved. So there’s not the immediate and instinctive defense of “yeah, but the people they’re doing it to are bad“.

    • RJL 1.2

      @Bill “I’d hate to think outrage was heightened because on some visceral level Bangladesh is seen as ‘not one of us’.”

      Nice try at distraction.

      Yes, we all know that the US is also complicit in all sorts of Global Wrongness; that’s partly why being in Five Eyes is a problem.

      However, the Bangladesh Intelligence Services are some of the (many) groups that our own governments (NZ and US) say are problematic; because of torture, assassination, etc. And yet here we are apparently providing intelligence support to them.

      • Colonial Rawshark 1.2.1

        However, the Bangladesh Intelligence Services are some of the (many) groups that our own governments (NZ and US) say are problematic; because of torture, assassination, etc. And yet here we are apparently providing intelligence support to them.

        Let’s be clear about this so that we can get past this cognitive dissonance once and for all.

        If a country is an obedient vassal state of the American empire (to use Putin’s terminology) that country might be gently chastised but it will always be materially forgiven all kinds of human rights abuses and civil liberties abrogations.

        Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons on Iranians? No problem. Because Saddam is our kind of bastard. Pinochet making thousands of left wingers and unionists disappear? No problem. Because Pinochet is our kind of bastard. Netanyahu kills hundreds of Palestinian children in a month and still be invited to speak to Congress. No problem. Because Netanyahu is our kind of bastard. Saudi Arabia can launch an illegal war against Yemen and receive new supplies of US munitions, Egypt can execute dozens of opposition political activists and receive half a billion dollars in new military aid, Kiev armed forces can shell towns, settlements and apartment blocks in the east of Ukraine and receive US military training and IMF money.

        Yes they may all be bastards but again, they’re all our kind of bastards.

        Our involvement in supporting human rights abusers in Bangladesh isn’t an exception for the deep state. It’s the norm.

      • Bill 1.2.2

        It wasn’t an attempt to distract so much as an attempt, for one thing, to shed a little light on what is surely some glaring hypocrisy. If I can take what you’ve wrote and maybe tweak it?

        – “the Bangladesh Intelligence Services are some of the (many) groups that our own governments that themselves indulge in torture and assassination, etc (…) say are problematic; because of torture, assassination, etc.”

        • RJL 1.2.2.1

          @Bill

          Thanks for your concern trolling. Everyone is well aware that our intelligence agencies are hypocrites. That is indeed another criticism of the GCSB and friends.

          However, everyone complaining about our intelligence agencies supporting the torturers and murderers in Bangladesh Intelligence are also complaining about our intelligence agencies supporting torture or murder in other contexts.

          [Accusing a contributor of trolling their own site is….stupid. You could have retracted, but chose not to. I’m also of the opinion that you accusation of trolling is itself… trolling. So I’ll let your comments back through sometime next Tuesday. Bye.] – Bill

          • Bill 1.2.2.1.1

            G’day RJL.
            Here’s how this one goes.
            I’m off to grab me some bread from the local dairy. When I get back, one of two things are going to happen.

            Either – a. You have submitted an apology for accusing me of concern trolling and we move on.

            or – b. I’m going to sign in, moderate, and ban you from commenting for some as yet to be decided span of time.

            Your choice.

            • Murray Rawshark 1.2.2.1.1.1

              I would respectively raise the question of the desirability of moderating replies to your own comments. It seems to me that RJL may have difficulties with comprehension and that it may be better to deal with this in a different manner.

              On the other hand, what the hell would I know anyway? I’m from the anti-democratic hard left which you have often denounced as authoritarian and unrepresentative.

              • Bill

                I wasn’t moderating the reply.

                He was free to argue whatever line he wanted. Throwing in accusations of trolling, or as a previous person found out of being a natbot, will attract bans from me.

                That’s just the way it is.

                edit – P.S. I’ve noted your comment and this is the sole response I’m giving on the matter.

                I won’t be allowing this thread to degenerate into a to-ing and fro-ing about the why’s and wherefore’s of bans. Any attempt by anyone to generate such a debate will be running the risk of a ban themselves.

    • emergency mike 2.1

      Yeah that’s a shocker. So that’s what shrugging your shoulders in the face of dead civilians looks like.

      “”For the most part drone strikes have been an effective way of prosecuting people that are legitimate targets,” he said this morning.”

      ‘Prosecuting’? ‘For the friggin most part‘?

      “He shrugged off responsibility for New Zealand’s role in the programme.

      “That is a matter for others because we are not the individuals that are conducting those drone strikes … maybe, in the odd instance we might be [supplying intelligence] or we might not be, it depends on the circumstance.””

      Yep drone strikes are nothing to do with us. Except sometimes they are. So… al jabiri… or something… are we changing the flag or what?

  2. MrSmith 3

    “If ever there was a case for dropping the “no comment” defence, this is surely it.”

    And the current lot are proposing to take away our right to silence again, hypocrites!

    The labour party though seem to be taking the right to silence to extremes on the Spying issues.

  3. fisiani 4

    Our GCSB does not torture or assist in torturing anyone.

    • Phew, glad that’s sorted now. I was worried for a moment or two, but you’ve totally convinced me. Thanks, fisi.

    • “Secret documents reveal New Zealand has shared intelligence collected through covert surveillance with Bangladesh despite that country’s security forces being implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights abuses.”

      hmm who should I believe a keylovepuppet or these respected investigative journalists…

      ‘Nicky Hager is a New Zealand-based investigative journalist and an internationally recognised expert on surveillance since the publication of his ground-breaking book Secret Power in 1996.

      and Ryan Gallagher is an award-winning Scottish journalist whose work at United States news organisation The Intercept is focused on government surveillance, technology and civil liberties.’

    • peterh 4.3

      How do you know. The slimyone wont tell anyone, what they do ,have you got your own looking glass

  4. Murray Rawshark 5

    This sort of thing is absolutely nothing new. During the Vietnam police action we militarily supported both a regime that routinely used torture and an invading power that slaughtered whole villages of women and children, while doing their utmost to wreck the infrastructure of a third world country. It was slightly embarrassing when Marshall Ky announced his hero as Adolf from Bavaria, but nothing our Tories weren’t relaxed over.

    So yeah, aiding the scumbag torturers of Sri Lanka stinks, but it’s nothing new. I’d be surprised if FJK weren’t helping them, and I’d be pleasantly surprised if Labour in power could put a stop to it. Will this even come up at the squirrel oversight committee, now that they got rid of the troublesome Green tinge?

  5. Sable 6

    No real surprise. Just business as usual for our dirty government and I don’t just mean the current one either.

  6. SMILIN 7

    I suppose 9 years of a NACT govt could be considered a long enough sentence for the voters under the Crimes of torture act then we get our democracy back lets hope

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    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    1 week ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    1 week ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    1 week ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    2 weeks ago

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