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.

Norman versus Key, collection versus surveillance

At Question Time in Parliament today Russel Norman quizzed John Key on the differences between mass collection and mass surveillance.

It adds a bit to the ongoing dispute but not much. Key is adamant again that the GCSB is not involved in mass surveillance of New Zealanders as governed by the law. But Key refuses to explain what mass collection might mean.

.

3. Prime Minister—GCSB Surveillance

[Sitting date: 10 March 2015. Volume:703;Page:3. Text is subject to correction.]

3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does the Prime Minister still stand by his answer that he will resign if the GCSB has conducted mass surveillance of New Zealanders; if so, what is his definition of mass surveillance?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and there is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). To me, mass surveillance would involve surveillance of an entire population or a substantial part of that.

Dr Russel Norman : With regard to his answer that it would involve a significant proportion of the population, is he aware that there have been 1.6 million visits by New Zealanders to the Pacific from 2009 to the current day, whose private communications have been intercepted by the GCSB, and does this not meet the definition that he just gave of mass surveillance?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member is making assumptions he should not actually make.

Dr Russel Norman : Is mass surveillance different from mass collection; if so, how?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Mass collection is not a term used in the Government Communications Security Bureau Act. It would mean different things to different people. But I think people understand what mass surveillance would mean. Mass surveillance is if you surveil an entire population. That does not happen. It is against the law. The Act makes it quite clear, and in fact it spells out clearly under what circumstances the GCSB can collect information about New Zealanders. It is largely set out in sections 14 and 15B of the Act.

Dr Russel Norman : Which one of the Prime Minister’s statements is correct—his statement this morning: “I don’t even know what you mean by mass collection. I’ve got no clue. It’s not a term I’ve ever seen, nor a term I’ve ever used.”, or his statement in September 2014, when he said: “There is no mass collection—not of New Zealanders.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The point I was making is that mass collection is not a term used by the GCSB. It is not a term that I use. That was in relation to a particular issue about Speargun, but it is not a term that the GCSB uses.

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : Will he be straight with New Zealanders—if they travel to the Pacific Islands, will their electronic communications be captured by the GCSB and sent to the National Security Agency, or not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not going to go through the operational details of the way that the GCSB operates, except to say that it operates within the law. The law is extremely clear about under what circumstances the collection of data about a New Zealander could occur. That is in sections 14 and 15B. But I will make this exact point. There is absolutely no—zero—change in the way things happen under this Government from what happened under Helen Clark’s. So if you want to ask these questions, I will give you her number in New York and you can give her a ring as well.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is just too much interchange between both front benches.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Prime Minister aware of the statements by Sir Bruce Ferguson that mass collection and mass surveillance are basically the same things, when Sir Bruce stated on the radio: “it’s the whole method of surveillance these days. It’s … mass collection,”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not responsible for the comments that Bruce Ferguson makes. I think the member is actually misrepresenting him. But I go back to the single point. Mass surveillance is not occurring against New Zealanders; it never has. It does not matter how many times the member says it; it is simply not true. The law is very clear about what can occur when it comes to New Zealanders, and the law is subject to oversight by the inspector-general. The inspector-general actually makes their findings public, in terms of what they do, and there are no examples that have been brought to my attention where the GCSB has acted in breach of the law, with the exception of the Kim Dotcom situation. It does not matter how many times Nicky Hager, the anti-American view, and the Green Party want to tell New Zealanders that they are being surveilled en masse, they simply are not.

Dr Russel Norman : Has it not been brought to his attention that the GCSB is engaged in full-scale collection of all the data coming out of Pacific Island nations and that many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have visited, or have lived in, those Pacific Island nations during the period that all that data was collected?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : One of the problems when a member wants to rely on stolen information is that they get a very, very warped sense of reality. I would have thought, given that the member was part of the Intelligence and Security Committee for 3 years, he would have a basic understanding of the way the GCSB works. The GCSB has to establish a warrant; a warrant has to have a particular reason. The Government Communications Security Bureau Act makes it completely clear that information cannot be gathered against New Zealanders with possible exceptions that are spelt out in sections 14 and 15B of the Act. The inspector-general has total responsibility, complete opportunity, and insight to review not only the warrants but the actions of the GCSB. Just because someone goes on a holiday somewhere means absolutely nothing, and it will not matter how many times the member says that, he is simply not right. I make the point to the members opposite that nothing has changed under this Government from the previous Government. If they have got complaints or they do not like things, I will give them Helen Clark’s mobile number and they can give her a call.

Dr Russel Norman : If mass collection and mass surveillance are two different things, as the Prime Minister has been claiming, what has changed since the Prime Minister admitted on Campbell Live in August 2013 that, under the law, to go and look at someone’s email is the same as collecting their email?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, the law has changed, actually, in that time. But—[Interruption] Well, the law has changed. Mass surveillance of New Zealanders does not happen. There are only—

Hon Member : The story’s slipping.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, the story is exactly the same as when Helen Clark was Prime Minister. I hate to tell you the bad news. The question has always been posed by members in the Green Party that mass surveillance of New Zealanders occurs. It does not.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is with regard to the answer. It was a pretty specific question and I do not believe the Prime Minister has addressed it. I was using one of his own quotes.

Mr SPEAKER : Part of the question asked what had changed, and the Prime Minister said that, well, for one thing the law has changed. The question was definitely addressed. [Interruption] Order! It is very difficult for me to hear the answers with the constant barrage that is coming from my left-hand side. If it continues, I will have to ask someone to leave the Chamber.

Key on mass collection versus mass surveillance

From John Key’s Monday media conference a sort of differentiation between mass collection of data and mass surveillance.

Question: You’ve said you’ll resign if there’s mass surveillance by the GCSB.

Key: Yep.

Question: Does that promise apply to mass collection of information as well?

Key: No, because in the end I was asked a very specific question, without re-creating history, and that was: are we conducting mass surveillance of New Zealanders?

And the answer is: No. That’s the advice I’ve had from GCSB. It’s not capable of doing that, and legally it’s not allowed to do that.

Question: But you’ve just said no to the question “Does it apply to mass collection?” So mass collection would not trigger, if it was proved there is mass collection, it wouldn’t trigger a resignation under the promise you’ve given?

Key: No.

Question: So the possibility is surely, I don’t know why this can’t be clarified but, the way the GCSB operates, that it hoovers up a whole lot of information and then just drops out the material that relates to New Zealanders.

Key: Well that’s your assessment of it, and look, in the end the law is pretty clear. The law says you can’t collect information about New Zealanders unless there are certain circumstances, and in the event that you collect incidental information about New Zealanders, ah then you know there’s a way of treating that.

And so my view is look, we have the law. We have a purpose of what it’s allowed to do.

And actually you have an Inspector General that’s both had the resources massively increased, and the power significantly increased, and so far in the twelve months that the Inspector General’s been in the job, she hasn’t raised with me concerns.

Ah I’m sure she’ll continue to do her work. Ah she’ll continue to look at these matters. No other previous Inspector General has raised concerns with me.

Um the assurances I’ve had on a repeated basis is as the former Minister I’ve asked them on numerous occasions, especially when the questions were being asked some time ago.

And the absolute assurances I’ve had from the Minister, they do not undertake mass surveillance against New Zealanders.

That’s all I can tell you.

I expect from that the paranoid will remain paranoid – they don’t believe anything what Key says about surveillance anyway – and the apathetic won’t have any idea he said it let alone understand what he said.

From about 13:38:

– source Scoop: NZ PM John Key’s Post Cabinet Press Conference – 9 March 2015

(Note to those who don’t understand New Zild “hoovers” means “vacuums” as in a cyber vacuum cleaner).

Our spying coukd benefit Pacific neighbours

There’s been a mixed reaction to the ‘revelation’ that New Zealand spies on Pacific countries, both locally and from the Pacific. I’d like to add some points I haven’t seen brought up (but probably have somewhere).

There’s obvious cons to spying on generally friendly nations.

But there could very easily be pros as well.

Potential terrorism could be detected from the Pacific. And detecting that could benefit New Zealand and also other Pacific countries – I’m sure if our GCSB detected warning signs of an impending terrorist attack on say Rarotonga or Niue then helping them protect themselves or helping protect them would possibly be appreciated.

And it’s also possible our relationship with Five Eyes and access to intelligence from other participating countries could help to protect not just us and other Pacific countries.

Spying in the Pacific has it’s dangers and intrusions, but it could as easily have benefits. And possibly more benefits than risks.

Spy ‘revelations’ a flood or a trickle?

Yesterday John Key tried to pre-empt the flood of spy revelations due today. TVNZ reported:

PM: Discount massively everything Nicky Hager says today

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager has promised a big reveal today about New Zealand’s secret spying operations, but the Prime Minister shot down the allegations before they were even made yesterday.

Mr Hager begins a series of revelations from today which he claims show which countries our spies have targeted, when and why.

He said he had spent the last year working through information collected by ex-US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

NZ Herald didn’t cover that but are leading the revelation charge this morning.

#snowdenNZ : Leaked documents show New Zealand spies on its Pacific friends and sends the data to the US

EXCLUSIVE: GCSB collects phone calls, emails and internet data from NZ’s closest and most vulnerable neighbours, secret papers reveal.

New Zealand’s spies are targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country’s closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours, according to documents supplied by United States fugitive andwhistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden’s files reveal a heavy focus on “full-take collection” from the Pacific with nearly two dozen countries around the world targeted by our Government Communications Security Bureau.

Information from across the Pacific is collected by New Zealand’s GCSB but sent onto the United States’ National Security Agency to plug holes in its global spying network, the documents show.

Being ‘exclusive’ makes this look like a carefully managed and packaged release.

That New Zealand collects information from across the Pacific is not a revelation, it would have been very surprising if they didn’t.

Mr Key said it was “bizarre” to reveal details about intelligence at a time when New Zealand faced a terror threat. “We’ve got the situation where we’ve Isil reaching out to cause harm to New Zealanders.”

He said he would not reveal details of intelligence but said it was done for “really, really good reasons”.

When quizzed mid-afternoon he said he had no idea what would be revealed. But, pointing to Hager’s election bombshell Dirty Politics, he said: “Nicky Hager was wrong last time. His information is old. I guarantee you it will be wrong this time.”

Challenged on claims of fabrication, John Key’s office couldn’t point to any basis for the claim.

Hager and the Herald have been researching this for months – Hager said “he had spent the last year working through information “. Key is just finding out today what they have chosen to uncover. We can expect him to fight back some more.

Also:

#snowdenNZ / The price of the Five Eyes club: Mass spying on friendly nations and sending vast amounts of intelligence to NSA

Another headline leading with a hash tag followed by a Twitter sized bite, obviously targeting a wide social media audience.

Leaked Snowden files show most of GCSB’s targets are not security threats to New Zealand, as Government suggests

New Zealand’s electronic surveillance agency has dramatically expanded its spying operations during the years of John Key’s National Government and is automatically funnelling vast amounts of intelligence to the US National Security Agency, top-secret documents reveal.

Since 2009, the Government Communications Security Bureau intelligence base at Waihopai has moved to “full-take collection”, indiscriminately intercepting Asia-Pacific communications and providing them en masse to the NSA through the controversial NSA intelligence system XKeyscore, which is used to monitor emails and internet browsing habits.

NZH balances this coverage with a link to something they published in September last year.:

John Key ‘comfortable’ that NSA is not spying on NZ

Prime Minister John Key says he can’t give an absolute assurance New Zealanders are not subject to mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) but he is “comfortable” that is not happening.

Mr Key this afternoon said he was “sure it’s absolutely true” that former NSA analyst Edward Snowden had the capacity to see information about New Zealanders when he worked for the agency, but that information would not have come from mass surveillance programmes run by this country’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

They highlighted:

- Key concedes claim NZ data may be accessible through XKeyscore
– Says NZ contributes some information to Five Eyes databases
– “But not mass, wholesale surveillance as people might say”
– No evidence of mass surveillance, says security chief

These claims will no doubt be compared to the current flood of revelations.

This is all going to take some digesting and thrashing over to see if there’s anything damning to New Zealand.

And expect John Key to keep playing it down and claiming things have moved on from when Snowden got his data anyway.

It will take a day or few to work out if there are any remarkable revelations,or if it’s a trickle rather than a flood for Key and his Government.

Or if it’s little different to same-old spying that at the most most people will shrug at it and carry on with their lives, clinging to their mobile phones and tablets to keep them connected to the world wide web of intrigue.

“Mass surveillance is being pushed on us”

Anthony Robins posted about The mathematics of surveillance saying it can’t work. Obviously it can never be 100% successful.

But Robins also implies that mass surveillance is “being pushed on us” and “that it is being used for unstated goals”.

But there’s not proof of mass surveillance in New Zealand and ikt is illegal.

Mass surveillance cannot accomplish its stated goals. It is likely that many within the security / government system understand this full well. But mass surveillance is being pushed on us anyway. This means of course, that it is being used for unstated goals.

It’s been stated a number of times that we don’t do mass surveillance in New Zealand.

Key releases GCSB documents

Prime Minister John Key has released a series of documents ‘setting the record straight’ over claims the GCSB had spied on New Zealanders.

Mr Key responded quickly to Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald’s freshest claims – that “if you live in New Zealand, you are being watched” – this afternoon.

“Claims have been made tonight that are simply wrong and that is because they are based on incomplete information.

”There is not, and never has been, a cable access surveillance programme operating in New Zealand.

“There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB.

And…

And GCSB spies respond to mass surveillance allegations

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has responded to election week allegations it carries out mass surveillance on New Zealanders, denying its programmes are for anything other than cyber security.

It’s been likened to scanning of everything on your computer with virus protection but on a country scale. It’s also been said that large companies and organisations have been assisted in cyber protection.

Early September this year, somewhere in the world unknown computer hackers set their sights on New Zealand. Boffins in charge of security at Telecom, now called Spark, saw a cyber-attack coming in, a big one.

Its internet and email system went down on the Friday and stayed down for 72 hours.

The experts are still trying to work out exactly what did happen when foreign hackers took control of 120 home computers.

Cyber-attacks happen across the world every hour of every day. It’s these sort of attacks the GCSB says it is trying to prevent – shadowy hackers from all over the world, sending out complex viruses to damage big businesses or Government departments, or even getting inside and taking them over.

My guess is that most people would be happy to have their home computers protected from being taken over.

There is no direct proof that the GCSB is hovering up the metadata of ordinary New Zealanders, but the cable programme 7148 and the approach to Spark are possible indications that last year it was on the cards and it may be again.

Mass surveillance/collection of all metadata of New Zealanders by the GCSB is illegal. There are very specific legal processes involved in allowing targeted surveillance.

Not legal. No proof.

Mass surveillance is not being pushed on us. What is the unstated goal of implying that it is?

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