Reactions to spy reviews

There is a general review starting this year of the GCSB and SIS as stipulated for in legislation passed in 2013, and the Inspector General of Security and Intelligence has initiated a review of the way the GCSB undertakes foreign intelligence activities.

Radio NZ political editor Brent Edwards in Spy agencies come under scrutiny:

What is most needed from the review is a clear summary of how the intelligence agencies can best work to protect New Zealanders’ safety and interests while not compromising their privacy and freedoms.

Most people accept there is a need for spy agencies.

The challenge is to ensure they are able to do their job without trampling on the rights of the citizens they are meant to protect.

If Sir Michael and Dame Patsy can achieve that they will do much to improve public confidence in the country’s intelligence agencies and ensure those agencies have the appropriate powers to keep the country safe.

In the meantime, too, the investigations by Ms Gwyn might also reassure the public.

Mr Key will argue, with some justification, that this is all evidence that under his government the country’s spy agencies face greater, not less, accountability.

But the critics will wait for the review and inquiries to report back before deciding whether he is right.

Green MP Kennedy Graham in Warning Govt must not influence GCSB review:

Green Party security and intelligence spokesperson Kennedy Graham is happy former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy are leading the review.

“You’ve got two good people undertaking the task, but the precise terms of reference will determine a lot of what the two reviewers can do and can say.”

Graham asserts the most important thing is for the Government to be totally hands-off.

“Subliminal or even explicit messages from the Government as to what the reviewers can or can’t do or should or shouldn’t do…whether the Government signals an advance.

“[It’s to be seen] whether it will take certain aspects of a review seriously.”

David Farrar at Kiwiblog in Cullen to head up security law review:

Having Michael Cullen as one of the reviewers is an inspired move, as he will take a sensible approach to such a vital issue, and it will be very difficult for certain political parties to attack the recommendations if he is part of them.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei in Spy agencies investigated for political gain, again:

John Key’s lack of oversight of our spy agencies has once again made them the subject of an inquiry by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) into their political spying.

The IGIS review is oversight in action.

The IGIS has announced she is looking into allegations that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was spying on Tim Groser’s rivals for the position of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This investigation comes in the wake of IGIS investigations into allegations contained in the Dirty Politics book and allegations of spying in the Pacific.

“It is unprecedented for a government agency to be investigated by a watchdog three times in the space of nine months,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“Once again, the investigation relates to John Key using our spy agencies for his political purposes and gain.

“Every major allegation made against John Key and his spy agencies has been, or is being investigated, by the IGIS; yet John Key continues to deny our spy agencies are out of control.

“It is further evidence that John Key’s hands are off the wheel in his own department.

“We need a comprehensive and independent review of our spy agencies; the two person beltway panel the Government has set up appears to be a stitch up.

“We need independent experts who can fix our spy agencies and make sure they operate within the law,” said Mrs Turei.

The Greens may never be happy as long as there’s a GCSB and an SIS.

Greg Presland at The Standard in Spy watchdog to investigate GCSB’s help for Groser’s campaign:

All strength to Spy watchdog Cheryl Gwynn.  She is probably going to drop off John Key’s christmas card list for doing so but she has announced an investigation into the GCSB’s spying on friendly nations to help Tim Groser’s tilt at the top trade job.

Cullen and Reddy to lead GCSB/SIS review

A requirement of the intelligence and security legislation passed in 2013 was that reviews must be done every 5-7 years, and the first of these reviews is due to start this year. It has just been announced that Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen will lead the review.

Cullen is ex Deputy Prime Minister and has served as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Reddy is a barrister and solicitor with over 20 years of corporate governance experience.

Intelligence and security agencies review – Terms of reference

The purpose of the review, taking into account that subsequent reviews must occur every 5 – 7 years, is to determine:

  1. whether the legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies (GCSB and NZSIS) are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights;
  2. whether the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards at an operational, judicial and political level to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

The review will have particular regard to the following matters:

  1. whether the legislative provisions arising from the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters legislation, which expire on 31 March 2017, should be extended or modified;
  2. whether the definition of “private communication” in the legislation governing the GCSB is satisfactory;
  3. any additional matters that arise during the review as agreed by the Acting Attorney General and notified in writing in the NZ Gazette.

When determining how to conduct the review, the reviewers will take into account:

  1. the need to ensure that a wide range of members of the public have the opportunity to express their views on issues relating to the review;
  2. the need for the law to provide clear and easily understandable parameters of operation;
  3. the Law Commission’s work on whether current court processes are sufficient for dealing with classified and security sensitive information;
  4. previous relevant reviews and progress towards implementing their recommendations;
  5. relevant overseas reviews to identify best practice in areas relevant to this review, including oversight arrangements;
  6. that traditionally, signals and human intelligence have been carried out separately and the Government does not intend to consider merging those functions within a single agency.

Media release on the appointment of Reddy and Cullen:

A respected Wellington lawyer and a former Deputy Prime Minister are to lead the first regular review of New Zealand’s security and intelligence agencies.

Acting Attorney-General Amy Adams announced today that she intends to appoint Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen to carry out the review.

“This will be an important and challenging review, and I’m pleased Sir Michael and Dame Patsy have agreed to lend their expertise to the task. They bring complementary skills and experience to the role. Sir Michael is a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and has knowledge of national security issues. Dame Patsy has extensive governance experience and legal expertise,” Ms Adams says.

“The GCSB and SIS have a crucial role in protecting New Zealand’s interests and it is vital that New Zealanders have assurances that they have a clear and appropriate legal framework to operate within.

“Regular reviews help ensure the law keeps up with changing risks to national security, while protecting individual rights and maintaining public confidence in the agencies.”

Ms Adams says she has asked the reviewers to ensure members of the public have the opportunity to express their views.

“It’s important that members of the public have a clear understanding of the functions of our intelligence and security agencies, and the oversight and safeguards that apply to their work.”

The review will look at the legislative framework governing the agencies and consider whether they are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights. It will also determine if the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

While other reviews have examined aspects of New Zealand’s national security system, such as the 2013 PIF Review, the 2012 Kitteridge review and the 2009 Murdoch review, this will be the first review to look at the broader legislative framework and oversight of the agencies.

The first review will begin in June 2015 and be completed by the end of February 2016. The reviewers will carry out the review independently and report directly to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Future reviews will occur every 5 to 7 years.

The terms of reference for the review can be found at: http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/i/intelligence-and-security-agencies-review

Biographies of the reviewers

Hon Sir Michael John Cullen KNZM (MA, PhD)
Sir Michael is a former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister. While in government he held several ministerial portfolios including Minister of Finance, Attorney-General, Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Deputy Prime Minister. He is also a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Since retiring from Parliament in 2009, Sir Michael has served as Deputy Chair and Chair of theNew Zealand Post Board. He was appointed to the Constitutional Advisory Panel in 2011, overseen by Hon Bill English and Hon Dr Pita Sharples. He is also currently the co-chief negotiator for Ngati Tuwharetoa and advisor for a number of other Iwi.

Dame Patricia (Patsy) Lee Reddy DNZM (LLM)
Dame Patsy is a barrister and solicitor with over 20 years of corporate governance experience as a non-executive director of Telecom New Zealand, Air New Zealand, Sky City Entertainment Group, New Zealand Post and Southern Petroleum New Zealand.

She is currently Chair of the New Zealand Film Commission, Deputy Chair of New Zealand Transport Agency, Independent Director of Payments NZ Ltd and Active Equity Holdings Ltd, and Chief Crown Negotiator for Treaty Settlements in the Bay of Plenty region. She was lead reviewer for several Performance Improvement Framework reviews of government agencies. She also has significant experience in the arts and not-for-profit sectors.

Dame Patsy has previously been a member of the New Zealand Markets Disciplinary Tribunal and a partner in law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts. She has also lectured in the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington.

GCSB watchdog working – inquiry into foreign intelligence activities

Cheryl Gwyn, the GCSB watchdog (Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security) has initiated and announced an inquiry into the way the GCSB undertakes foreign intelligence activities.

It’s good to see Gwyn proactively doing her job. She won’t be able to report publicly on specific details but should assure us in general that her watchdog role is working as it should be.

MEDIA RELEASE

Inquiry into the Government Communications Security Bureau’s process for determining its foreign intelligence activity – 14  May 2015, 3.00pm

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn has commenced an inquiry into the way the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) considers undertaking foreign intelligence activities.

The inquiry is in response to issues recently raised around a Minister of the Crown’s bid to become Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

“I consider the issues raised about the process followed when the GCSB considers undertaking particular intelligence activity are of sufficient public importance to warrant an own motion inquiry,” Ms Gwyn said.

“While it is unlikely that I will be able to publicly confirm or deny the specific allegations relating to this process, I can inquire more generally into how the GCSB determines, within its statutory constraints, what intelligence activity to undertake and what policies and procedures are in place to regulate its activities.”

The Inspector-General has initiated the inquiry under her own motion powers pursuant to sections 11(1)(a) and (ca) of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996 rather than in response to a specific complaint.

The following questions frame the inquiry. They relate to the amended Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 which was not in force at the time of the specific alleged events. In contrast to its predecessor, the amended Act provides explicitly for the safeguards of political neutrality and the involvement of the Commissioner of Security Warrants.

The Inspector-General will approach the inquiry in terms of the following questions:

  • how the GCSB determines whether proposed foreign intelligence activity falls within its statutory functions and within New Zealand’s particular intelligence requirements;

  • whether and how the GCSB assesses the benefits and risks of the proposed activity;

  • where there may be any issue of potential or perceived political advantage, how the GCSB identifies and manages any issue that may arise from its duty of political neutrality; and

  • how the GCSB keeps the responsible Minister(s) and the Commissioner of Security Warrants informed, and ensures effective ministerial oversight, particularly where the proposed activity involves a potentially contested assessment of the international relations and well-being and/or the economic well-being of New Zealand.

“I have notified the Acting Director of the GCSB of my inquiry and she has assured me of the Bureau’s full co-operation,” Ms Gwyn said.

The Inspector-General will provide a report of her broad findings to the public at the conclusion of her inquiry.

Notes:  The Inspector-General’s office will advise of the likely timing of release of the inquiry report once that is known, but the Inspector-General does not expect to make any other public statements on this inquiry until the inquiry is concluded.

About the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is an independent statutory officer, appointed under warrant by the Governor-General to provide oversight of the GCSB and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, to assist responsible Ministers in ensuring that those agencies act lawfully and with propriety, and to undertake independent investigation of complaints.

The powers and functions of the office were expanded by legislation in late 2013, and its resources significantly increased, with provision for the appointment of a Deputy Inspector and a standing investigative staff. The Inspector-General’s functions and powers include a requirement to conduct an ongoing programme of review of procedures and compliance systems of the intelligence and security agencies. That review work involves scrutiny of warrants and authorisations that have been granted to each agency by responsible Ministers and the Commissioner of Security Warrants and also more focussed review of particular operational activities and the agencies’ governing procedures and policies.

Fisher defends spying ‘revelations’

Senior journalist David Fisher tries to defend the Herald’s ongoing spying revelations – providing a forum for Nicky Hager – in David Fisher: Spying – does the nation need to know?

This suggests the Herald is sensitive to criticisms. The latest spying on China article from Hager How NZ and US agents plotted to spy on China didn’t actually reveal spying on China, just ‘a plot’ or plans to possible spy on China.

Fisher opens by stating the obvious:

It would be surprising if our intelligence agencies were not spying on China in some way.

‘Spying’ is a bit of a loaded statement. It could mean as little as keeping an eye out for information of interest.

And Fisher acknowledges that it can be done legally.

By law there is a path cleared for the GCSB and SIS to carry out intelligence gathering on foreign states. There are even legal exceptions which would allow the sort of “data link” exploit planned for two Chinese government offices in Auckland, revealed in documents obtained by Edward Snowden.

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

He then targets what may be the crux of the issue.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

And then homes in on the target of concern.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Five Eyes involves three other countries, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Helping Australia or Canada with their intelligence gathering wouldn’t cause so much concern, but in a co-operative arrangement we could just as easily be helping them as the US.

The Snowden/Hager series of ‘revelations’ appear to be targeting the USA, seeing any ‘intelligence’ involvement with them as bad.

We should certainly be interested in our relationships with the US, with China as with other countries.

I’m not sure that Hager reports are the best way to do this.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

Yes this inquiry will be a good place to examine our intelligence relationships and operations (as much as they can be discussed openly).

But Fisher suggests he has a common agenda with Hager with a loaded “Trojan Kiwi spying on China” description. The inquiry should consider much more than one arm of much wider co-operation.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

Nations always make trade-offs. It’s sometimes called called diplomacy.

I’d be interested to know if we gain as much as we give in the Five Eyes relationship. Hager and Fisher could do well to consider all the pros and cons. New Zealand may gain significant benefits as well as risk falling out with trading partners.

Otherwise they risk being seen as little more than anti-American.

Hager reveals spying on China

The latest in a series of spying revelations from Nicky Hager focuses on How NZ and US agents plotted to spy on China.

A plot to spy on China is the most damning revelation from the Snowden documents.

I guess that’s relating to New Zealand. We’ve plotted to spy on China? I’m not very shocked. I’d have been shocked if it was revealed we’d never spied on China.

The files show how, under the John Key National Government, spying has been prioritised against China, New Zealand’s largest and most important trading partner.

A 2013 NSA document placed “collection on China” first on a list of targets monitored by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on behalf of the NSA.

And not surprising that keeping an eye on China is a major priority.

Sure, revelations like this can cause some diplomatic embarrassment. But will they do any more than that?

China is known to be a major perpetrator of espionage on the global stage, and the US Government has repeatedly accused it of hacking into American computer networks.

Last year, China was linked to a hacking attack on a powerful New Zealand supercomputer operated by Niwa, used to conduct weather and climate research.

Wow, China do it too.

But the Snowden documents have shown countries in the so-called “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance – which includes New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia – are just as heavily involved in cyber spying and hacking.

Yeah. Shocking.

Thomas Beagle, Council for Civil Liberties chairman, said the leak of the documents was an important democratic step to allow a level of involvement by the people being governed. “We need to know these things because we can’t practice our diplomatic oversight without it. If we don’t know these things are happening it’s out of the realm of democracy.”

When it comes to ‘spying’ – foreign intelligence – there does need to be some transparency and scrutiny, but there also needs to be some secrecy.

He said other countries used a panel of trusted citizens as the oversight mechanism for intelligence agencies.

Which other countries? How effective is it? Without any details this is meaningless, it says nothing more than ‘New Zealand bad, other countries good’.

What needs to be asked is whether all these drip fed revelations are for the greater good or whether they are potentially damaging to New Zealand.

Hager and Beagle are unlikely to answer that.

The spy wolf is being cried quite a bit. Would we know if something truly concerning is revealed? The Government will be able to bat it off with “that’s just more Hager’.

Listen: Hager revelations and elections

Nicky Hager has a history of launching anti-Government revelations that happen to coincide with elections. Last year he claimed the timing of “Dirty Politics” had nothing to do with the general election but that was as credible as much of his unbalanced assumptions’ based on cherry picked illegally obtained data.

Important messages were largely ignored by voters, or reacted against, amongst a fog of war words.

Undeterred Hager is driving another series of revelations, this time on the GCSB and spying, that happen to coincide with a by-election.

There’s other significant factors in the by-election – the ex-Sabin effect, the Winston effect, the “I’ve got ten bridges to sell you” effect, the large Little Labour capitulation effect, and the Osborne-possum-in-headlights effect.

So it’s going to be difficult to determine whether Hager manages this time to undermine the National led Government or if he again helps motivate voters to react against his aims.

Last week’s Listener editorial covered this well.

I Spy a By-Election

The Pavlovian response can work in reverse, as peace researcher Nicky Hager demonstrates, again seizing on an election campaign to prosecute his latest accusations against a government.

Voters’ clear message when he attempted this in last year’s general election was “Don’t try to railroad us”. His Dirty Politics allegations not only failed to dent the Government’s re-election chances, but may have backhandedly assisted them. Yet Hager has chosen the heightened atmosphere of the Northland by-election to drip-feed more leaked information purporting state malfeasance.

He has taken a different approach this time, drip feeding his claims week by week. Last election he tried one big hit with his book dump of selected data.

However interesting and potentially concerning Hager’s information may be, his timing puts his work at an inevitable discount. Northland voters could be forgiven for feeling resentful, as the by-election should be a platform for their concerns, not to further an activist’s minority agenda. Also galling is the way Hager uses the tactic of rationing information, ensuring he and American whistle-blower Edward Snowden can frame discussion on their terms, rather than allowing all the facts and implications to be judged. Hager seems as oblivious to these concerns as he is to the double-standard of his using illicitly obtained data to accuse others of illicit data collection.

Not just Hager. His fan club is so devoted to eliminating spying and eliminating the Key Government they either willingly or blindly ignore the double standards.

What galls most, however, is his apparent lack of perspective. This tranche of evidence that the Government Communications Security Bureau routinely hoovers up information about Pacific neighbours, allies and New Zealand citizens alike in a blanket take-all trawl of data has so far failed to “shock” voters as he predicted. This is because the subsequent sieving of that information is precisely what most citizens want and expect security services to do, in order to protect them not just from terrorists, but from crime, epidemic, biosecurity threats, child sex rings, drugs and all manner of menace.

Hager, in contrast, appears to start from the position that all or most surveillance is unnecessary and predominantly a stalking-horse for malign political purposes. In this he is hardly alone, as regular, well-attended protest meetings attest. However, Hager’s is still the minority view.

That minority thinks either that all they need to do is reveal “truth to power” to win over majority support, or that the general population are too dumb to see what they can see.

It may very well be that the GCSB exceeds its legal bounds. It would be astonishing if it did not at times test the spirit of its governing legislation. This needs close watching and robust accountability, and the public questioning Hager engenders is healthy and valuable.

Sort of valuable. By over playing his hand Hager could as easily be as counter-productive to the cause of holding to account as he is saviour of the surveilled.

However, an enduring majority of voters see a reasonable amount of state surveillance as necessary. “Reasonable” is a hard balance to strike where incursion into civil liberties is an unavoidable means to the end. It can be a Hobbesian choice. But this week’s news of a threat to contaminate baby formula – a terror-grade response to the Government’s continued use of 1080 poison – surely underlined the need for continued targeted surveillance. It is unquestionably the role of security intelligence to protect people from vengeful zealots who might conceivably act on their agendas and harm others, either physically or by economically ruinous acts. Such vigilance scarcely makes the GCSB the tool of self-interested political forces.

So far the debate over Hager’s latest revelation has eddied around the distinction between wholesale blind collection of data, and that which is sifted from among that information to be physically inspected. The Government says the mass trawling is a merely mechanical first step in a carefully targeted intelligence-gathering system. Critics like Hager say the data collection is illegal, full stop. It’s not a debate on which either side will agree to differ anytime soon.

Glen Greenwald joined in the war of words regarding the definition of mass collection – see The Orwellian Re-Branding of “Mass Surveillance” as Merely “Bulk Collection” – and Orwellian interpretations are as prevalent in his arguments as those with differing views.

If, as he again hints he will, Hager can produce evidence our spies or their political masters are misusing data, then the whole country will listen with concern. Prime Minister John Key’s dismissive and at times high-handed responses to Hager’s allegations may yet set him up for resignation, if it is proved our spies have exceeded their bounds.

Key doesn’t help his own cause with his at times “dismissive and at times high-handed responses”.

However, the mere fact of our spying on our Pacific neighbours is hardly proof of that, as most of their leaders have acknowledged. Our close relationship with these much poorer nations means it is our role and responsibility to watch out on their behalf for terrorists or criminals trying to establish a new beachhead.

That’s something Hager fails to recognise or acknowledge – spying on the Pacific is probably more for their benefit that something for them to be concerned about.

In so consistently failing to persuade most New Zealanders to his perspective, Hager may conclude most people are complacent about their civil rights. He might more usefully conclude that most are simply less complacent than he is about genuine threats to the security of our sphere.

He and a few anti-spying idealists – like the four Green co-leader candidates who want to scrap the GCSB and withdraw from Five-Eyes. See Green leadership contenders on spying.

Hager, Greens and a few others think we will be able to rename New Zealand to New Nirvana if we drop most of our spying and security measures.

The Greens didn’t stand a candidate in Northland. Part of the reasoning for this may have been to avoid splitting the anti-Government vote. Labour has thrown their candidate under a bus in a much clumsier attempt to do likewise.

It would be interesting to know if the Greens were aware in advance of the Hager by-election campaign.

If the Sabin stench wasn’t hovering over National in Northland and if National had chosen a strong candidate (there’s suspicions they selected Osborne on the basis he was least tainted by Sabin associations) then the Greens/Labour/Peters gambit alongside the latest Hager hit job might have been a revolution in vain, again.

But the Northland by-election result will be conflicted by the mess of National’s own making versus the combined anti-Key anti-spying informal coalition.

The voters of Northland are pawns in a much bigger game of political chess.

BAD SPYING…and justified spying

It’s the Herald’s turn to publish Hager claims on Pacific spying from the Snowden files.

This time spying on the Solomon Islands is revealed, but you have to read way past the shock horror headlines and lead paragraphs…

Surveillance on Pacific ‘betrayal by a friend’

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.

…to find belated acknowledgement that  “The main category on the target list where New Zealand officials had clear justification for monitoring”.

The Herald on Sunday today reveals the first insight into the GCSB’s precise surveillance targets in the Pacific. The document was obtained by the investigative journalist Nicky Hager and The Intercept, a US news site specialising in stories about the intelligence community’s surveillance.

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.

Afuga reacted with horror at the prospect of sources who had acted as whistleblowers having their identities known to anyone other than himself.

“People who trust me and have confidence in me reporting unethical practices. They usually send these through email.”

There’s some irony in that with both Afuga and Hager being happy to publicise confidential information but expressing concern over revealing the identity of their own confidential sources.

Dated early 2013, the document lists names that have been identified as the inner circle of the then-Solomon Islands government led by Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.

Lilo’s Chief of Staff, Robert Iroga, – whose name is one of six on the targeting list – said the revelation would damage New Zealand’s image in the Solomon Islands.

“I’m shocked to hear about the intrusion of the New Zealand government into the sovereign affairs of a country like ours. I would like to condemn the [New Zealand] National Government for its actions. This creates a pretty bad image of New Zealand as a friendly government in the Pacific.”

He may be shocked but shouldn’t be surprised that other countries spy.

More details in:

Can’t take my eyes off of you, neighbour

Why did the GCSB intercept emails to and from Solomon Island officials? Nicky Hager and Ryan Gallagher report.

New Zealand spies programmed an internet mass surveillance system to intercept messages about senior public servants and a leading anti-corruption campaigner in the Solomon Islands, a top-secret document reveals.

They like using the term “mass surveillance” but it’s always unclear how ‘mass’ the surveillance is.

Mass surveillance is the intricate surveillance of an entire or a substantial fraction of a population.

While there are specific claims there are also typical Hager-type assumptions.

XKeyscore would have searched through the South Pacific communications intercepted by the GCSB and highlighted those containing the specified Solomon Islands target names and search terms.

In the case of the Solomon Islands, the government and civil society targets appear to be respectable people working in the best interests of their country.

The Solomon Islands have suffered from civil war in the last twenty years and the Solomons was described by some as a ‘failed state’. New Zealand and Australia were involved in sizable security mission there early this century and again in 2006.

The Government was insolvent in 2002.

So keeping an eye on them sounds like sensible foreign intelligence gathering, depending on the type and degree of surveillance used.

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.

Further through the article acknowledges possible justification for some surveillance.

The Solomon Islands went through a period of ethnic violence and unstable government in the late 1990s and early 2000s known as “The Tensions”. This led to the 2003 deployment to the Solomons of New Zealand, Australian and Pacific Island police and military peacekeepers. Most recently, in 2006, allegations of government corruption sparked riots in the capital, Honiara, with much of Chinatown destroyed.

This means some intelligence collection, relating to the violence and militant groups, is understandable. However, full monitoring of the government, public servants and even the anti-corruption campaigner, especially by 2013, appears disproportionate.

The main category on the target list where New Zealand officials had clear justification for monitoring, as part of the peacekeeping mission, was militant groups. The list includes “former tension militants”, “malaita eagle force” and “malaita ma’asina forum”.

This was in the last quarter of the article. “The main category on the target list” was far from the main focus of these revelations, it was only mentioned deep in their coverage, after all the shock horror headlines and lead paragraphs. This is unbalanced reporting.

Some holding to account of spying is important although it can be idealistic to expect spies to be able to only monitor justifiable targets and not see anything else.

Questions need to be asked about what purpose revealing this level of detail serves. New Zealand has been a significant contributor to helping the Solomon Islands in difficult times in the recent past.

If another civil war or uprising occurs security of the Solomon Islands may depend on good intelligence having already been gathered.

Spying bad, except when it does some good is a difficult balance to achieve.

And if the Solomons government doesn’t trust New Zealand and Australia due to revelations like this and rejects their help then their security situation could become much worse.

Surveillance and security do not have simple and clear boundaries.

Little less worried about GCSB

Andrew Little sas he is “more assured about the activities of the GCSB” but continues to sound a little critical in an awkward situation where he now gets secret briefings he can’t talk about.

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports Little a bit less worried about GCSB activities:

Labour leader Andrew Little says he is more assured about the activities of the GCSB than he was a week ago, but he said Prime Minister John Key and the minister responsible for the spy agencies, Chris Finlayson, had a duty to explain to the public what was and wasn’t happening.

Mr Little was critical last week of suggestions that the GCSB, the Government Communications Security Bureau, was undertaking mass collection of communications in the Pacific to pass on to the United States’ National Security Agency, claims based on documents taken by Edward Snowden from the NSA.

“From the public session I take a greater level of assurance than I had perhaps a week ago,” Mr Little told the Herald.

But…

…he said questions remained “and I still maintain that it is for political masters of those agencies to be accountable to the public about what is and isn’t happening”.

They are accountable, via him and other MPs on the committee and via the independent Inspector General.

He was speaking after the acting head of the GCSB, Una Jagose, and the director of the SIS, Rebecca Kitteridge, appeared before the Intelligence and Security Committee on which Mr Little sits.

See GCSB – less intelligence now (Una Jagose told the committee ” today we collect less intelligence than we did seven years ago” and “What we do is lawful and authorised and necessary and proportionate and all of it…subject to independent oversight”.

A bit bizarrely Little has been told more in a secret briefing but can’t talk about it – but keeps saying that the Government ministers should talk more openly about it all.

After the public sessions, the directors and MPs on the committee headed for a secure room in the Beehive where classified material could be discussed.

Little,,,

…said later he could not discuss what was discussed in the closed session.

So Little is less worried about the GCSB activities than he was a week ago, he thinks Ministers should reveal more but he can’t reveal what he has been told in secret.

He seems to be trying to sound like he’s holding to account while conceding things aren’t as bad as he has previously thought and said.

GCSB – less intelligence now

The new (acting) GCSB head Una Jagose claimed they gather less intelligence than seven years ago, not more.

“As I understand it, today we collect less intelligence than we did seven years ago…there hasn’t been any radical shift upwards as has been suggested in the media.”

Stuff reports in GCSB spies ‘collecting less intelligence’

And Jagose tried to respond to questions on mass collection of data asked in just the second time the GCSB has appeared in public before the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Much of the committee was dominated by whether the security agencies are undertaking indiscriminate collection of emails, telephone calls and social media messages.

Labour’s Andrew Little tried to get to the bottom of whether the agency carries out mass surveillance or collection, and what is meant by “full-take collection”, as referenced in the Snowden documents.

“It is very difficult to answer the question about what does it mean because it means different things to different people,” Jagose said.

“The connotation that I get from those phrases is some indiscriminate, for no purpose, not necessary collection of information for collection’s sake and we do not do that.

“What we do is lawful and authorised and necessary and proportionate and all of it…subject to independent oversight and you don’t have to take that from me. The public can take that from the systems that are to test that.”

On “full-take”, Jagose opted not to answer directly, citing a “tension” between the bureau’s need for secrecy and the public demand for transparency.

“I will not discuss matters that are or are not operational, details of the bureau, because that is not safe to do so… it is very difficult to say ‘yes we do some things, we don’t do some things.’ That is exactly the sorts of things that people who don’t have our interests at heart – and I don’t mean New Zealanders when I say that – people that are acting against New Zealand’s interests will find that information useful so we keep it close.

“But we don’t keep it from the Inspector General, the Commissioner [of Warrants], this committee.”

Jagose, and Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge, spent time detailing the oversight mechanisms both agencies are subject to.  Jagose says all collection of information by her agency must be done under a warrant.

“The very collection of information is authorised… so it’s not that we collect information and then seek authorisation for particular target issues. Everything we collect is authorised… the speculation in the public is that there is this wild collection of information for no purpose and then we have a look at it. In fact, collection is done for a purpose, and authorised.”

That’s certainly not what some of the more suspicious (or paranoid) anti-spy activists think. Some claim everything is collected and everything is stored by the USA forever.

David Shearer asked if it applied to all foreign intelligence surveillance.

“If we have a foreign intelligence target that we want to intercept, or otherwise access their communications, yes that is warranted,” she said. Inadvertently collected material from New Zealanders is destroyed, she said.

Little and Shearer also wanted details about how information was shared with countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the US, Britain, Canada and Australia.

“We share training, we share resources but we don’t collect information for them. We collect the information for New Zealand and New Zealand purposes,” Jagose said. “Our Five Eyes partners also need to show why they need to see information, show it that it is lawful that they can look at that information.”

Kitteridge…

…says she takes into consideration factors such as a country’s human rights record when deciding whether to share information.

“There is quite careful consideration given in each case.”

These explanations didn’t satisfy Andrew Little who says that more clarity is required from the Ministers involved.

Latest Snowden revelations could be damaging

The latest installments of Snowden revelations from NZ Herald could be damaging.

Spy agency’s cyber tactic revealed

New Zealand’s spy agencies hacked into government-linked mobile phones in Asia to install malicious software to rout data…

Snowden revelations: Nicky Hager and Ryan Gallagher: New Zealand’s spy reach stretches across globe

Documents expose discrepancies between country’s secret agenda and official foreign policy.

New Zealand spies on Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan, South American nations and a range of other countries to help fill gaps in worldwide surveillance operations by the United States National Security Agency (NSA), documents show.

One camp will probably be happy to damage New Zealand’s credibility and ability to do international surveillance on the extreme end of this camp they don’t want any spying and will do what they can to undermine it.

And the other camp will have concerns about the possible negative impact on New Zealand’s (and the South Pacific’s) security.

I presume the Herald will have thought carefully about the possible impact of publishing this – and in any case if they didn’t have the scoops someone else would have published it.

And disclosing information confirming our spy agency GCSB spies will not surprise many, although it could cause some diplomatic issues.

The revelations confirm to some that we’re doing things they think we shouldn’t be doing.

And they highlight why spy agencies and their Governments try to keep what they do secret so it may strengthen the case to maintain secrecy.

Revealing details could be damaging to both sides of the debate as well as to New Zealand’s security.

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