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The Guardian on Dotcom, GCSB, Key & US power

Written By: - Date published: 9:37 am, October 10th, 2013 - 21 comments
Categories: capitalism, copyright, democracy under attack, john key, national, Spying, telecommunications, us politics - Tags: ,

An article in today’s UK Guardian provides an interesting overseas perspective on the role of Key’s government in the GCSB, Dotcom, surveillance saga.  The author, Antony Loewenstein draws on his interviews with Nicky Hagar, Martyn Bradbury and others. He paints a picture of the NZ state as vassal to the US mega-power, under the influence of Hollywood corporates.  Loewenstein summarises some of the main developments in the GCSB Dotcom saga, plus offers some analysis.


While Washington distracts itself with shutdown shenanigans and failed attempts to control the situation in the Middle East, president Obama’s “pivot to Asia” looks increasingly shaky. Beijing is quietly filling the gap, signing multi-billion dollar trade deals with Indonesia and calling for a regional infrastructure bank.

Meanwhile in recent years, New Zealand has been feeling some of the US’s attention, and conservative prime minister John Key is more than happy to shift his country’s traditional skepticism towards Washington into a much friendlier embrace. Canberra is watching approvingly. It’s almost impossible to recall a critical comment by leaders of either country towards global US surveillance. We are like obedient school children, scared that the bully won’t like us if we dare push back and argue harder for our own national interests.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), warmly backed by Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand, is just the latest example of US client states allowing US multinationals far too much influence in their markets in a futile attempt to challenge ever-increasing Chinese business ties in Asia. German-born, New Zealand resident and internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom tweeted this week:

Dotcom tweet tppa oct 2013

Intelligence matters usually remain top-secret, leading New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager tells me, but this case was different, blowing open the illegal spying on Dotcom. His lawyers scrutinised all the police warrants after the FBI-requested raid on his house.

The article quotes Hagar on the revelations resulting from the subsequent investigations:

“With Dotcom, GCSB helped the police by monitoring Dotcom’s e-mail. What this largely or entirely meant in practice was that the GCSB sent a request through to the NSA to do the monitoring for them and received the results back. This means that the NSA used either wide internet surveillance (essentially “Echelon for the Internet”) or else requests to the internet companies (Gmail etc) directly, ie the Prism type operations. It’s not clear which it was.


I spoke at a public meeting in Auckland’s town hall before the GCSB bill was passed. It was the biggest political meeting I can remember attending, with three levels of the large town hall completely full, and hundreds of people turned away. It’s been a big thing here, becoming one of those issues that is a lightning rod for general unhappiness with the government.”

“Journalist” Martyn Bradbury is quoted thus:

“the case against Dotcom is more about the US stamping their supremacy onto the Pacific by expressing US jurisdiction extends not just into New Zealand domestically, but also into cyberspace itself.”

The article concludes:

This brings us back to China and the US’s attempts to convince its Pacific friends to fear a belligerent and spying Beijing. The irony isn’t lost on the informed who realise Washington’s global spying network is far more pernicious and widespread than anything the Obama administration and corporate media tell us is coming from the Chinese.

Neither China nor the US are benign in the spying stakes. Both are guilty of aggressively pursuing their interests without informing their citizens of their rights and actions. Australia and New Zealand are weak players in an increasingly hostile battle between two super-powers, and many other nations in our region are being seduced by the soft power of Beijing (including Papua New Guinea, partly due to its vast resource wealth).

This is the sort of reporting that NZ’s MSM journalists rarely (if ever) give. It is chilling.  It shows why we need to continue to campaign against NZ’s surveillance state legislation and for TPPA transparency.



21 comments on “The Guardian on Dotcom, GCSB, Key & US power”

  1. deWithiel 1

    Small correction: Loewenstein, who is resident in Australia, is a columnist for the Guardian’s Australian site rather than the UK one which may explain his familiarity with the region. Quite agree with your comment regarding the journalistic failure of New Zealand’s MSM, but that’s been a problem for a very long time; it’s just that it’s been getting worse recently.

    • karol 1.1

      Thanks for making that explicit, deWithiel. I didn’t think I claimed Loewenstein was a Brit, just that the article is in a Brit paper. I did understand from the article that he is an Aussie, and it’s made explicit in his bio on the Guardian site, which also gives a link to his web page.

      • David H 1.1.1

        And yet another excellent article from Karol.

        It makes me wonder when you sleep, what with working. then researching and writing, excellent article, after excellent article. The MSM need to come look at your work, and remember what true journalism looks like. I thank you for the highly informative articles you write.

  2. Chooky 2

    +100…great post Karol…increasingly I am not reading my local newspaper The Christchurch Press for informed and critical discussion of important issues affecting New Zealand and New Zealanders…in fact not infrequently it remains unopened around here…one day we are going to reconsider subscribing

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    Excellent effort karol. May I say tho that I picked up on this article in a small way yesterday 😉


    • karol 3.1

      Thanks, CV. Sorry, I missed that – had already left home to do some chores and head to the TPP debate.

      Important points that you highlighted about the futile NZ & Aus governments attempt to tug their forlocks and support US’s bids for dominance in the region, in the light of China’s investments there.

  4. Rogue Trooper 4

    Grooooooooooooveeeee. 😎

  5. Ad 5

    Great stuff Karol.
    When we look back from November 2014, will the GCSB fiasco be the tipping point against National? I believe so, because these days when you lose internet users and internet-based businesses, you have lost most people who use a computer. It’s so different even to the 2008 election.

  6. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 6

    Yes, thanks Karol for sharing the article.

    I am increasingly noticing the level of critique that British newspapers display and shocked at the candyfloss like lack of critique provided by out mainstream media.

    The thing that has just dawned on me, though, is the British media can be as insightful as they wish, yet the British political system is such that there is little chance to change anything, whereas NZ has MMP and therefore if we get our act together and stop reading the junk information (as in junk food; it has no substance) provided by our media and start reading from better sources and making informed choices we have a greater chance of shifting things for the better here.

    • tc 6.1

      ‘the British media can be as insightful as they… ‘ are allowed to be.

      Guardian is owned by a trust with an independant mandate, the rest are Murdoch etc

      As for people getting their acts together and being informed and educated don’t hold your breath. It’s a personal choice and shows like The block, biggest loser, NZ got talent, The vote, best bits, 7 sharp, anything on TVNZ6 before it was axed show there’s alot of dumbing down out there.

      • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 6.1.1

        One can only hope 🙂

        It seems like you missed my point a little. Brit newspapers like the Guardian can be insightful, the people can be insightful, but what can they do when their political system is one that is easily captured and discourages variety of choice?

        I am told that our political system too has been captured, however it appears that the main form of control here is not the political system it is the way the media has been captured and, as you say, dumbs down.

        There is an easier way around the problem in NZ than there is for the way British people are being controlled.

  7. ianmac 7

    Thanks Karol. Me too.

  8. Wayne 8

    Seems like the usual protest against TPP, which now seems to act as a perfectly good indicator of each persons political beliefs. Mind you opposition to TPP seems to be more a concern of the Greens and those who would have been the Alliance. The centre and the right of Labour seems to accept TPP.

    I would guess the writer of the article did not vote for Mr Abbott, but many of his fellow Australians did. And by and large Aussies seem to be prepared to give Mr Abbott a go, in that he is not generating deep hostility, as some on the left anticipated.

    Some on the Standard are of the view that the world has moved left over the last few years, but the evidence is quite mixed. Certainly incumbents have struggled, but in that regard it has not mattered whether they were left or right.

    But there have been some notable exceptions; President Obama being reelected, same with Mrs Merkel and Stephen Harper (and John Key).

    Overall competence matters to voters, these days probably more so than the left/right divide.

    • miravox 8.1

      “Seems like the usual protest against TPP, which now seems to act as a perfectly good indicator of each persons political beliefs”

      A bit simplistic, Wayne, if you’re assuming the TPP opposition is leftist…


      • lprent 8.1.1

        …if you’re assuming the TPP opposition is leftist…

        It doesn’t seem to go down the political divides from what I can tell. Some of my solid conservative friends are expressing (without me prompting) considerable disquiet about what they have heard.

        It is just that the leftist opponents are more organised, vocal, and if full “scare-mongering” mode. Since they are the only voices being heard apart from some vague and undetailed statements from the PM and a few others that pretty much state the all “free-trade” is good. Of course for some reason we have considerable restriction in some kinds of free-trade (heroin, plutonium, sarin gas for instance) so that argument rather falls under its own weight.

        Wayne’s arguments the other day are literally the first statements I have seen supporting the TPP at a detailed level. Quite simply the TPPA will probably fail under the burden of its own secrecy.

    • karol 8.2

      Wayne: Overall competence matters to voters,

      I’m in a rush, but some questions:

      How do you know this is what matters most to voters?
      What about the people who have stopped voting?

      How is “competence” judged?

      Generally, this seems to repeat the managerialist approach that has become embedded in the dominant “neoliberal” discourse of the last few decades. It masks and diverts from issues of democracy, the wealth/income gap (is it competent government that results in a lot of families living in inadequate housing and struggling to survive – living in garages etc?)

      What of issues of surveillance, democracy, sovereignty, etc?

      And if competence matters most for voters, why do we still have a Key government?

      • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 8.2.1

        I agree with Wayne, I believe competence is a skill looked for in candidates for Prime Minister.

        “And if competence matters most for voters, why do we still have a Key government?”

        I suspect the answer is horribly Machiavellian, Karol.

        I was going to respond that it is the appearance of competence that is required. Yet this can’t be all that is required, because Mr Key’s government has the appearance of extreme incompetence…

        So perhaps a strange logic needs to be cultivated that a candidate who has accumulated a fortune for themselves, through whatever means, is the same set of skills that is required to make a country and a people prosperous. That it makes no difference whether said fortunes have been accumulated through the most swindling ridden sector in the world and without a need for any understanding of public interest…

        In conclusion I guess the answer to your question is that misleading the public about the required skill set of a candidate has been required in order to have Key seen as competent and voted in and this has been successfully achieved in NZ, what’s more, despite plenty of evidence that Key’s skillset coming without an understanding of the many principles required to create a healthy society is causing serious damage.

        Hand on heart, Wayne, and tell me you honestly believe that Mr Key is managing this country competently?

      • Wayne 8.2.2

        Karol, My comment on competence is really just an observation of what I see, not scientific as such.

        I know that many commentators on this site think that John Key is essentially disconnected from political management, but his main focus, and that of the govt generally, has been economic management. Which at least for most of the recent past has been the major concern for most people.

        And for most voters he is seen to have done a reasonable job on this; debt not out of control, unemployment not too high, enough growth to give hope. People are acutely aware of the impact of the GFC, and can see what real mismanagement looks like (Europe). So they are prepared to accept things are not easy. This is not to say that people accept everything that john Key does.

        One of Labours challenges is not to be against everything the govt does that is intended to generate growth. And to be fair, I note that David Cunliffe and David Parker are being more selective in their political targets than was David Shearer. Which means bigger impact on the selected goals.

        • karol

          Wayne,thanks for answering. So your point about what voters want, on top of Lynn’s comment above, is part of the way things are presented in the mainstream these days. meanwhile, increasing numbers of people have given up on voting because they feel no connection to mainstream politics.

          The competence thing: it still comes back to how you judge “competence” – partly what Blue Leopard says above.

          But is it great economic management to have a high proportion of the population struggling to survive on low incomes, living in garages etc.? Maybe good for business, but is it good for the wider sociatye?

          The kind of economic management that has become the focus in the last couple of years, basically is led by a right wing view of how it’s measured – see for instance the work of Marilyn Waring on how economic performance is monitored, what counts as economically relevant etc.

          So underneath that veneer of it only being about comeptence, are assumptions that can broadly be categorises as right or left wing (more or less). And the focus on”good economic management” these days, sweeps all kinds of things under the carpet – eg the wealth/income gap, unfair employment practices etc.

          And in terms of general competence: how competent has was the arrest of Kim Dotcom, or many matters connnected with state surveillance?

          And with the secrecy of TPP, how can we judge it’s competence. At heart there is a right wing assumption that business does things more competently than state services.

          So managerialism masks the way things can be allocated on the poltical spectrum, while favouring a right wing agenda.

          • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill)

            Well articulated and insightful Karol, I really got a lot out of this comment, thanks.

  9. thechangling 9

    Great stuff Karol. Need to get your stories into the MSM somehow!

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