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Two tier strategy on spying

Written By: - Date published: 8:54 am, October 7th, 2014 - 30 comments
Categories: brand key, john key, Spying - Tags: , , ,

As described in Hager’s Dirty Politics, the Nats run a very successful “two tier” communications strategy. Key is Mr nice and blokey, Key’s people run the vicious dirty politics stuff. It’s a stunningly successful formula.

Key ditching responsibility for the GCSB and SIS, and adopting the newly created title of Minister for National Security and Intelligence, is another example of the two tier strategy. Key continues to take the limelight whenever he wants it, while foisting the responsibility, parliamentary questions and so on, on the topics that actually matter to Kiwis (like, say, who is spying on us and why) on to an underling. All the follow up questions to the Greenwald / Snowden exposé (and it’s possible that Key knows that there is more in the pipeline) are no longer Key’s responsibility.

Speaking of the limelight, Key is soon going to be giving a “major speech on terror threat”. The Americans have long known that you can justify anything in the name protection from terrorism, so look to Key’s increasing use of that strategy also during the next 3 years.

Update: Gordon Campbell said it better.

30 comments on “Two tier strategy on spying ”

  1. sabine 1

    We have become Russia and we also have always been at war with East Asia…or was it Eurasia?
    Anyways, move along, nothing to see here.

  2. karol 2

    Gordon Campbell’s analysis on this two tier strategy, shows it’s about Key making him as head of intelligence services, unaccountable.

    In other words, if Key and his government had a track record of being candid and trustworthy on security and intelligence issues this split would look – as intended – like merely a management change. Instead, it is more about political insulation, and about cutting off the avenues of public accountability for the man at the top of our security pyramid.

    • Tracey aka Rawshark 2.1

      Yes, its obvious. When you have been found out for lack of oversight, you dont get more, you get less, dont you?

      This is through tge looking glass stuff

  3. emergency mike 3

    A couple of weeks after the election and Key is handing oversight of the GCSB and SIS to a lawyer who is also AG, and hyping up a ‘coming soon’ speech on terrorism.

    Not good folks, not good.

    • politikiwi 3.1

      Implementation of laws like Australia’s in 3…2…1…

      (Those laws, of course, would see Nicky Hager do a fifteen year stint for his book Secret Power.)

      I can’t believe the public just don’t care.

  4. Bill 4

    On the bright side. Key feels a need to insulate himself from…what? Why the panic? I’m expecting some solid stuff to break through the fan some time soon. Stepping back might not be enough. Stepping aside might be in order.

    Anyone fancy starting a book on the date of the next election?

  5. minarch 5

    here are some examples of “threats to national security” detected by the 5 eyes (mostly via ECHELON )

    Examples of “Five Eyes” espionage:

    1. On behalf of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Security Intelligence Service of Canada spied on two British cabinet ministers in 1983.

    2. The U.S. National Security Agency spied on and intercepted the phone calls of Princess Diana right until she died in a Paris car crash with Dodi Fayed in 1997. The NSA currently holds 1,056 pages of classified information about Princess Diana, which cannot be released to the public because any disclosure will cause “exceptionally grave damage” to the national security of the United States.

    3. U.K. agents monitored the conversations of the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan

    4. In the early 1990s, the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted the communications between the European aerospace company Airbus and the Saudi Arabian national airline. In 1994, Airbus lost a $6 billion contract with Saudi Arabia after the NSA, acting as a whistleblower, reported that Airbus officials had been bribing Saudi officials to secure the contract. As a result, the American aerospace company McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) won the multi-billion dollar contract instead of Airbus.

    5.The American defense contractor Raytheon won a US$1.3 billion contract with the Government of Brazil to monitor the Amazon rainforest after the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), acting as a whistleblower, reported that Raytheon’s French competitor Thomson-Alcatel had been paying bribes to get the contract.

    6. In order to boost America’s domestic automobile industry, the CIA eavesdropped on the conversations of the employees of Japanese car manufacturers Toyota and Nissan.

  6. I disagree with your analysis although I understand your concerns (and those of Gordon Campbell) about Mr. Key trying to insulate himself from accountability.

    One of the hallmarks of liberal democratic intelligence oversight is the decentralisation of it. Concentration of oversight responsibility in the hands of one individual, especially one that has myriad other tasks such as the PM, is anathema to that concept. Delegating daily oversight of the SIS and GCSB to the Attorney General while maintaining overall leadership of national security and intelligence is a good, albeit small step in the right direction towards fully accountable intelligence oversight. It is a variant of what the US and the UK (among other liberal democracies) currently have in place and should serve as the first in a series of intelligence community reforms to help reduce the politicisation and manipulation of intelligence for partisan reasons.

    To be sure, Mr. Finlayson does not inspire the type of confidence in terms of integrity and professionalism than a generally accepted honest interlocutor may have received (and I am struggling to come up with someone who would be accepted by all sides as an “honest interlocutor”). But as I said, it is a small step in the right direction.

    It is ridiculous to say, as David Parker did, that it was tradition to have the PM entirely responsible for intelligence agency oversight. There might be reasons to oppose this particular move but standing on tradition is not one of them. After all, there are many traditions that have warranted a well-deserved end (feet binding anyone?), and it is precisely the institutional tradition governing GCSB and SIS oversight that has produced a series of scandals and miscues running from the Dotcom raid to the Urewera 18 and Zaoui cases.

    I fully understand why people do not trust Mr. Key to do the right thing given his misrepresentations, denials and falsehoods with regard to intelligence matters and what he knew about them. But this change and those that may follow may in fact have more to do with the long-needed need for major institutional reform in both main intelligence agencies in light of the evolving threat landscape and NZ’s role in it. As things stand, there are a variety of intelligence “shops” working in a number of government agencies with often overlapping or cross-cutting responsibilities, and the coordinating mechanisms for their work (most notably the National Assessments Bureau) are not fully capable of discharging their duties to the best extent possible. When we add in the disfunctionalities and excesses of the SIS and GCSB, the need for overall reform becomes apparent.

    The appointment of Rebecca Kitteridge as Director of the SIS (of Kitteridge Report on the GCSB fame) and Cheryl Gwyn as Inspector General of Intelligence and Security just might signal that a turn towards serious reform is imminent. I hope so, and also hope that eventually additional oversight authority will be delegated to a non-partisan parliamentary department that serves a Select Committee on Intelligence and Security that has real powers of compulsion and compliance when it comes to scrutinising, before and after the fact, the activities of the NZ intelligence community.

    For those who may be interested, I have offered some further thoughts on the subject here: http://36th-parallel.com/2014/05/03/analytic-brief-a-primer-on-democratic-intelligence-oversight/

    • r0b 6.1

      Thanks for stopping by Paul, and for your comments. Had this change been carried out in different circumstances I would probably have agreed with you. In the current, I think it is just cynical politics as usual. Alas, not about until late tonight to discuss further.

    • framu 6.2

      all ture – but key, in his own words, cares more about his own reputation than any kind of legal or convention view

      so its pretty clear why hes doing this
      nothing we have seen so far re: sis/gcsb/JK appears to have been concerned with correct process and sensible reform

      motivations matter – and key isnt motivated by doing whats right or doing it properly – ergo, the result wont be the reform that you say is needed. IMO

    • Tracey aka Rawshark 6.3

      “has myriad other tasks such as the PM, ”

      And the attorney general does not?

      Wasnt having the PM intended to;

      A. Lessen the number of people in the loop for security purposes
      B. Have the highest office holder accountable because the consequence of them fucking it up in some way would, in a liberal democracy have grave consequences for that person?

      “do the right thing given his misrepresentations, denials and falsehoods with regard to intelligence matters and what he knew about them”

      So you are saying he is doing the right thing for the wrong reason? Can you explain what you mean about finlayson not having integrity?

      “… The appointment of Rebecca Kitteridge as Director of the SIS (of Kitteridge Report on the GCSB fame) and Cheryl Gwyn as Inspector General of Intelligence and Security”

      Who had a part to play in those appointments?

      Thanks for posting.

      • Tracey:

        The new division of labour does not necessarily increase the number of people “in the loop” beyond the one new minister. It does place the onus for adhering to legal requirements on the Attorney General, who presumably has the legal background to interpret the law in the strictest rather than loosest sense possible (as now appears to be the case). As it is, the new role fits in with the other tasks the AG has to do, so is not like having the Minister of Tourism also serving as Minister of Intelligence and Security (as has been the case until now). Let’s be clear: the PM has a lot on his plate and operates in a super charged partisan environment. Removing him from day to day intelligence decisions is a a good start towards restoring some professionalism to oversight–assuming the AG behaves with the national interest rather than partisan concerns in mind. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for full independent oversight, which is why I think it is a good small step in the right direction–but on its own not yet enough.

        My comments about Finlayson have to do with his partisanship rather than integrity per se. I understand that he has served very well as Treaty Minister and those traits may be part of why he was brought into the new job. I hope that he understands his role and “grows into” the job rather than play the role of lackey and interference-runner for the PM.

        As for the rest of your questions. I believe that it is possible that our intelligence partners might have made some “suggestions” regarding intelligence community reform in light of the debacles of recent years and the evolution of threats. I happen to believe that the appointments of Kitteridge and Gwyn were legitimate and on the merits, and that they are not toadies of Mr. Key (the issue of GCSB Director Fletcher is a bit more complicated). The proof will come with Gwyn’s report on the Slater/Tucker/OIA affair and whether Kitteridge undertakes reforms in the SIS as presaged by the PM at his presser yesterday (his speech in a few weeks should speak to that). It also remains to be seen if Mr. Fletcher will adopt the Kitteridge Report recommendations in full.

        I completely understand the cynicism regarding Mr. Key’s motivations and intent, given his apparent incompetence or negligence in discharging what I believe to be his most important responsibility–that of overseeing our intelligence and security network. But I also think that, beyond the “suggestions” of partners, there may be an organisational imperative at play within the NZ intel community that sees the need for reform as essential for the continued viability of its component parts. After all, long after Mr. Key is gone from the scene, it will be the public servants in those agencies who will be saddled with his legacy when it comes to the most serious matters of state. Perhaps even he realises that, hence the move towards reform.

        As for the proposed legislative changes regarding foreign fighters–that is a slippery slope so I do not think so.

        • Tracey aka Rawshark 6.3.1.1

          Thanks paul

          I guess my concern is that whether it is Key or the AG any legal interpretation should have been done before it comes to them. I do get that a lawyer will get the legalese.. Having said that the former justice minister and minister of police was a tax lawyer with apparently no understanding of COI or privacy laws.

          • greywarshark 6.3.1.1.1

            @ Tracey aka Rawshark
            ‘A lawyer with no understanding of COI or privacy laws’ – I don’t know what secondary students are being taught about politics and civics these days. We should be properly informed on this vital part of our education, knowing about and fully understanding our political system, so important in a country that was once hysterical about the horrors of communism, (Just been reading Margaret Thorn.)

            Then the framework under or over which we build our government and its powers would be known by all in the basics at least.

    • Anne 6.4

      7 October 2014 at 3:01 pm
      Thanks Paul Buchanan (will read your link later). Your analysis is impressive (as always) and close to faultless in a well functioning democracy. But we are not living in such a democracy at present, and there have been far too many instances of deeply cynical political actions/decisions coming from this government. Indeed, I would go so far as to say the rot set in the day John Key became prime-minister six years ago.

      While the long term outlook for the proposed changes may be advantageous, it seems to be so very convenient for Key to be able to suddenly opt out of all responsibility at a time when we know there are more exposures coming.

      Add to the above a shallow and acquiescent media pack – who act more out of self interest than informing the public – and the immediate future looks depressing.

      • Tracey aka Rawshark 6.4.1

        Yes, the key words, to me, are liberal democracy. There is sufficient evidence, for those who open their eyes, that is being undermined over the last decade or so and past behaviour is a good indicator of future performance.

        • Colonial Rawshark 6.4.1.1

          The “liberals” (and liberal institutions) which are supposed to be upholding the values of a “liberal democracy” have proven themselves – with some notable exceptions – weak, compromised, corporatised and self-serving.

          Chris Hedges writes about this in his book “Death of the Liberal Class.”

    • Murray Rawshark 6.5

      One of my worries about this development is that the Attorney General is supposed to provide some overview of other departments from a legal point of view, and provide disinterested legal advice. It probably shouldn’t be a party political position anyway, but Key is making it more like the US and A, where I think the AG effectively runs the FBI. Finlayson cannot run these departments and provide oversight and non-partisan legal advice to them at the same time.

  7. JanMeyer 7

    Sounds like a few commentators here are annoyed that Key has done the right thing; that they would prefer the status quo so they can more effectively harp on about Key’s alleged defficiencies in discharging his previous responsibilities. How about this idea: accept the change is good but continue to point out those alleged defficiencies?

    • McFlock 7.1

      I think it’s more a case that a few commenters are annoyed that Key has made yet another shallow act to distance himself from immediate accountability, while others have pointed out that in his eagerness to dodge any blame he might have accidentally taken a small step in the direction of greater accountability over the longer term.

    • Tracey aka Rawshark 7.2

      How about this idea… Explore the decision, reasons and implications before deciding if its good or bad. Paul is an expert so it seemed a good opportunity to put some questions to him which he has helpfully answered.

      Or you could do what 47% of the voters do, and just accept if mr key says it is good it must be. Sorry if critical thinking is upsetting for you.

      Mr key through his own words, choice of political partners and ministers like bennett to name one, preaches personal responsibility to others while running from it themselves.

  8. These changes don’t let Key escape responsibility for GCSB/SIS at all.

    He keeps oversight on National security (what else is there?).

    The point is that he is already immune from accountability.

    Not because of any 2 track role of Government that weakens opposition, but because that Government is not accountable to the electorate in the first place. It now shapes the news and is moving to gag alternative media.

    When and there is no informed citizenry there is no ‘liberal democracy’.

    There is something else that takes its place…

  9. Overall responsibility for how the intelligence community conducts its business will remain with the PM, as he sets out the policy under which the intel shops do their thing. This is similar to other countries, including the other Five Eyes partners. Responsibility for warrants etc. goes to the AG but he operates the policy guidelines of the government. If the AG goes outside the policy guidelines then the responsibility falls on him; otherwise, should he adhere to the law, the onus is on the PM to explain things.

    Key is not immune from responsibility under the new scheme if and when the intel agencies exceed their authority. He might throw the AG under the bus but that is exactly why it behooves the AG to act with propriety.

    The discussion about the erosion of liberal democracy in NZ is on target but just symptomatic of the tenor of the times, as similar erosions of fundamental freedoms and rights are the hallmark of the post 9-11 era (which means that Osama et. al. have in some measure accomplished what they set out to do). As Dave intimates, the only way to reverse the trend is to get informed and resist the incremental authoritarianism that is now the bane of political democracy as a form of rule.

    • JanMeyer 9.1

      Or we accept that there is a balance to be struck and that some level of “erosion of … freedoms and rights” is the price we have to pay given the reality of the post 9/11 world we inhabit?

      • Colonial Rawshark 9.1.1

        That’s a lot of meaningless propaganda memes you have packaged up in one sentence.

        Why would you cede victory so easily to the terrorists, JanMeyer? Why do you so quickly excuse the undermining of the very civil liberties that they hate so much? Why grant them that win over us?

        Of course that’s not the point at all. More Americans die every year of shootings than died in 9/11. The entire exercise has been one of American military empire and the setting up of a security and surveillance state to rule over us.

        • JanMeyer 9.1.1.1

          There always has been and always will be a balance between freedom of the individual and the power of the state. The debate is where to strike that balance having regard to a robust assessment of global and internal risks to the safety of a country’s citizens. The critical thing is to ensure there is transparency and open debate around the process of striking that balance, which has typically not occured.

          • tc 9.1.1.1.1

            At the end of the day its a process with checks and balances and rigorous oversight culminating in a recommendation that delivers a balanced outcome that ticks all the boxes.

            see lots of words with no meaning at all, too easy anyone can play.

  10. greywarshark 10

    r0b
    Nobody says it better. But you could put the r in Hager in your opening para. Then it would be perfect.

  11. Bill 11

    Not entirely disconnected from this thread, and I can’t see a more appropriate place to drop this wee nugget.

    Bristow (director general of the National Crime Agency in the UK) warned it would be wrong to grant the greater powers to access email and call data without public agreement. Some may see that as an implicit criticism of how previous secret mass surveillance powers, revealed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, were enacted.

    He said: “If we seek to operate outside of what the public consent to, that, for me, by definition, is not policing by consent … the consent is expressed through legislation.”

    You get that? If it’s legal, it’s okay. And if it’s legal, you consented….great stuff.

    Seriously, go read the entire article. So much horse shit being dumped, that even Augeas could never have hoped to shovel it all away.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/oct/06/digital-freedoms-terrorism-crime-uk

  12. Richard AKA RAWSHARK 12

    Everyone normal in NZ seems to have come to the same conclusion. WOW.

    Mr key is running wide and has a blocker.

    Fearing he will be more bold with anonymity so to speak.

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