The surveillance debate will take time, fortunately

It’s common for things like policing, surveillance  and spying to be revisited after a major event like the Christchurch mosque attacks. It is impossible to prevent any possible attack, but it is certainly worth looking at what more could be done to minimise the risks bu maximising the chances of identifying potential attackers before they attack.

There are likely to be some changes, but we have to be careful to keep a reasonable balance between protection and persona freedoms.

More surveillance is already happening. RNZ: More NZers under surveillance: Andrew Little authorises spy agencies to do more ‘intrusive’ activities

The country remains on a high threat alert more than a week after the terror attacks in Christchurch.

The actions of the agencies who are meant to protect New Zealand from such atrocities have been under scrutiny since Friday 15 March.

The minister responsible for the two security agencies, Andrew Little told Morning Report he had given authority to spy agencies to do “intrusive” activities under warrant.

“I’ve signed warrants [since the attacks] … I’m not sure I’m at liberty to disclose the number. We typically have between 30 to 40 people under surveillance. That number will be bigger now.”

Referring to the possible ties between a far-right group in Austria and the accused gunman, Little said he suspected it was because “our intelligence agencies are working with intelligence agencies across the world”.

He said work on scanning and building up a profile of right-wing extremism commenced in the middle of last year and was “definitely continuing”.

He also said he didn’t think New Zealand was a soft target in terms of security, but had a “robust system” for assessing “violent extremist risks”.

Asked if the attack was an intelligence failure, he said it was ” too premature to draw that conclusion”.

“The purpose of the Royal Commission of Inquiry is to ascertain whether or not there were failures on the part of our security and intelligence agencies.”

I think that with the attacks fresh on everyone’s minds most people will accept some increases in surveillance – as long as it doesn’t affect them.

Simon Bridges wants more:  GCSB and SIS’s ‘hands tied behind their backs’ – Simon Bridges

New Zealand spy agencies’ balance between privacy and security has tipped too far towards privacy, and should be revisited, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.

Bridges said yesterday New Zealand’s security risk had “changed” and a review of security legislation was needed to make sure people were kept safe.

He said a decision made by the former National government in 2013 to abandon Project Speargun, a more intrusive regime which would have scanned internet traffic coming into New Zealand, should be reconsidered.

“I think we were overcautious in 2013/14,” he told Morning Report today.

“I think the case is what we have right now are security agencies with two hands tied behind their backs.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom) suggests caution – Why sweeping surveillance laws aren’t the answer

National leader Simon Bridges is calling for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies to be given greater powers, claiming our spies currently have their hands tied behind their backs. But it’s far from clear that greater surveillance would have stopped the Christchurch attack, and hasty changes could be disastrous.

Bridges has succeeded in distinguishing himself from Ardern, who said New Zealanders did not want the country to be a “surveillance state”.

But on the substance of whether law changes would do much to prevent a similar attack, Bridges’ argument seems decidedly shaky.

It’s far from unusual for countries to tighten their security laws after a terror attack, with France, Belgium and the United Kingdom among nations to have passed more stringent legislation following domestic incidents.

Perhaps most infamously, the United States pushed through the USA PATRIOT Act after the September 11 attacks, granting sweeping powers to a number of government agencies despite objections from civil liberties advocates.

But there’s little evidence to suggest that more sweeping surveillance powers play a significant role in stopping other attacks.

Reinhard Kreissl, the chief executive of the Vienna Centre for Societal Security Research, has argued that better training of, and organisational structures for, law enforcement experts deliver higher returns than expanding the amount of data they gather.

“More data and more surveillance will not help to find the proverbial needle or needles in the haystack,” Kreissl said, a view echoed in a thorough piece on the New Zealand situation by The NZ Herald’s David Fisher.

There have already been questions about whether the NZSIS and GCSB focused too closely on the threat of Muslim extremism, and not enough on the rise of white supremacy and far-right extremists in recent years.

NZSIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge has said the agency increased its efforts to understand the threat posed by the far-right in recent months, but representatives of New Zealand’s Muslim community have said concerns raised much earlier were not taken seriously.

New Zealand’s current target may be white supremacists and the far-right, but there are no guarantees that future administrations or officials will be judicious in how they use any new laws.

A Royal Commission will undoubtedly take some time, but a painstaking examination is more appropriate than a hasty rush to judgment.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has said of surveillance reforms – arguably a far more contested and complex space than the Government’s gun laws – that “the worst time to be considering law changes is in the immediate aftermath of a monstrous event like this”.

It’s a sentiment Bridges may want to think about before he again tries to leap ahead of the pack.

Bridges and National are not in power so there is no risk of them rushing into making draconian and relatively ineffective changes. The Royal Commission will help slow things down and ensure security issues are at least debated and carefully considered. As they should be.

 

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29 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  28th March 2019

    ”New Zealand spy agencies’ balance between privacy and security has tipped too far towards privacy, and should be revisited, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.”

    That from, I hope, soon to be ex National Party leader.

    ”I think that with the attacks fresh on everyone’s minds most people will accept some increases in surveillance – as long as it doesn’t affect them.”

    I think it will affect everyone in some way. These blog are probably scanned thoroughly each day and any little thing red flagged. I saw an armed police officer at the airport yesterday. The guy was twitchy. He was eyeballing everyone. That wasn’t necessary. What was he expecting?

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th March 2019

      Its called policing and its how he does his job.-should he gaze at the ceiling or think about his weekend ? All airport customs and security work the same way- passengers give off clues about behaviour, a drunk will be different from someone meeting a family member and so on. They all have an interest in people acting ‘strangely’ and they may approach such people to see if they then get really strange.
      I passed a mosque last week coming from a hardware store and the police sitting in their car watched me as I passed in my car. This was good as he wasnt distracted by paperwork in the car as they often are and just the speed radar to give a beep if someone is going fast

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  28th March 2019

        ”Its called policing and it’s how he does his job.-should he gaze at the ceiling or think about his weekend ? ”

        No, he shouldn’t be at the airport. The airport has their own security. If they need help they can call out. We aren’t on red alert at the moment. This police officer should be investigating the backlog of burglaries.

        Yeah, I wouldn’t mention the art of observation if I was you. Trolls don’t like to think others see what they don’t. Just a heads-up.

        I guess I’m calling overkill and wrong use of police man power. Even In Christchurch for that matter. It’s a matter of playing the odds. Most of the time if you do your home work you will get things right. However, sometimes long odds go against you. That’s just the way it is.

        When long odds strike a policeman with a gun will make no difference at all.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  28th March 2019

          Armed NZ Police on site ARE the airport security- they have been part of the system there for a very long time -just like all international airports.
          I just dont know where you get those half baked ideas of yours, we all can be wrong sometimes but living in a bubble of complete ignorance takes some doing

          Reply
          • Corky

             /  28th March 2019

            Take a deep breath. I was at a provincial airport. Having travelled twice since late last year through the same provincial airport I saw no armed police. If there were meant to be armed police, I did not see any. Perhaps they were having a toilet break?

            Do you know the provincial rates for burglary? Astronomical.

            Now you have let poor Kitty get egg on her face again. You should think twice before engaging me Duke.

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  28th March 2019

              This is what I wrote yesterday, Duke. It would be hard to describe that in detail if I had been at AIAP..or another major airport.

              ps- I left the lame sense of humour comment to this post for a little chuckle.

              ”Strange things happening in my area. I watched a rescue helicopter land. To the right and left of the copter, just out of rotor range, were two groups of the Armed Defenders Squad. Both groups were in four man siege configurations. The outer perimeter of the heli site had sentries. Near the outer perimeter was a coordination station with ”power people” milling around. I don’t know if it was an exercise or not, but I saw a helicopter crew member start winching something from the copter. That’s all I was able to observe.

              I hope a true blue cocky hasn’t been raided and interrogated for viewing a Leighton Smith podcast.”

              Kitty Catkin / March 27, 2019
              And then you woke up……

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th March 2019

            The Government will be pleased to hear that they’re wrong about our being on high alert as they have said we are; have you told them that we’re not on what you call red alert ?

            Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th March 2019

            Which airport was it ?

            Reply
    • Blazer

       /  28th March 2019

      he was expecting you and your gunslinger mate Arty,swaggering through the crowd with your holsters on.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  28th March 2019

        Poor old Corky’s getting worse; he really seems to think that we believe these stories.

        It’s not so much a bubble of complete ignorance as a bubble of complete inventions that he almost seems to believe himself.

        When I first arrived at Heathrow, there were soldiers with automatic weapons on platforms, fingers on the triggers. This was during the IRA Troubles, of course. Needless to say that this, unlike Corky’s stories is true. It was surprising how soon one became used to it. I remember exchanging smiles with one soldier; he was very young (they were all men, of course)

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  28th March 2019

        Arty and I aren’t talking. He wants to hand in his modified ‘Irons.’ A slinger without irons is like a socialist without a cruel thin upper lip. It just ain’t right. I put it down to too much moonshine and tainted trail slop.

        Reply
  2. High Flying Duck

     /  28th March 2019

    Any party in opposition reacts with far more certainty and calls for fast action than a government party would or could.
    It is the nature of the beast and no different to Labour in opposition.
    The unfortunate aspect is that Simon Bridges has pushed a wrong and unpopular solution. He needs to do better but is continuing to make too many of these missteps.
    Populism is fine in opposition as it builds support, but calling for sweeping surveillance over the citizenry is not going to have the voters flocking.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th March 2019

      Bridges knows that Key was caught out lying about the surveillance he said didnt happen , but Snowdens information ,with NSA documents to back him up, showed the previous ‘not happening’ wasnt true.

      Reply
  3. Finbaar Rustle

     /  28th March 2019

    Even if every one in the world was controlled
    by a computer chip implant it could malfunction
    or be over ridden or misused by the designers.
    Unfortunately no amount of surveillance will stop
    some one who knows the game.
    Keep a clean police record,
    Don’t post angry threatening comments online,
    Keep your intentions to your self.
    Find a soft target.
    Plan well ahead.
    Life in prison is no deterrent as you will be well looked after for ever
    and become a cause célèbre.
    Solution talk is just that talk.
    The same talk we have after every event
    of this nature these past 30 years.
    Better than nothing but only just.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  28th March 2019

      One of your better efforts, Finbaar. Once the horse has bolted going around closing stable doors is necessary for political butt protection. The rest of us need to be vigilant about whose interests that really serves. It’s as unlikely to be ours as the event was unlikely to happen – in this case a well-resourced and planned lone wolf attack from the most unlikeliest and closest source.

      FWIW, the public reaction to the atrocity is probably the most effective barrier we can devise to a recurrence – the demonstration that evil is entirely counter-productive to the perpetrator’s aims.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  28th March 2019

        World wide publicity and notoriety – aim achieved

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  28th March 2019

          Sitting in a cell for the rest of his life while the world goes on mixing and matching just as before. Even a moron would prefer just to jump off a cliff.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  28th March 2019

            he knew all that – his hero was the Norwegian terrorist who received the maximum sentence in Norway- preventative detention.
            Just putting yourself in his shoes is futile- there are no insights from what we now know are the consequences.
            Its the modern disease – wanting to be famous and those with extreme narcissism will literally do anything to get it

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  28th March 2019

              We don’t know that because we are banned from reading and analyzing what he wrote. So that’s just speculation now.

            • Duker

               /  28th March 2019

              You are just playing games plenty have read it before it was banned

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  28th March 2019

              So it shouldn’t have been banned then? You do realise everyone who read it without getting the Censor’s approval committed a serious offence under the Act?

    • Conspiratoor

       /  28th March 2019

      Some insightful commentary there finbar. Agree with everything except the last line

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  28th March 2019

        He will almost certainly never be free, and could well spend the rest of his life in a small cell with a camera watching his every move, even when he’s using the dunny….he’s 28. He could live another 60 years, and won’t have the chance to top himself, not even a shoelace to hang himself. He killed two children; even the most hardened prisoners hate child killers. He won’t have contact with other prisoners. Hardly a pleasant life.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  28th March 2019

          HE won’t be a cause celebre; that means something completely different. It’s a cause, by definition, one that attracts a lot of attention and debate, it’s not a person !

          Even his family no longer want to know. His own mother seems to have written him off.

          Nothing could compensate for what he’s done, but his fate will be so grim that he’ll probably curse whoever did away with hanging in NZ.

          Reply
          • Finbaar Rustle

             /  28th March 2019

            He will quickly evolve a new persona.
            At his trial his defence will present him as a
            sensitive loving son, brother and friend.
            He will be portrayed as a true blue Aussie
            who just took protecting his nations ethos too far.
            His sister will say no matter what he did she still loves him.
            He will say he is truly remorseful and will spend
            the rest of his life promoting world peace.
            Deny him a computer any books or pen and paper
            a radio any form of distraction.
            Deny him any access to the out doors keep him in semi darkness.
            Do not allow him any visitors especially family.
            But this won’t happen.
            In fact he will be given 1st class treatment.
            Several women will fall in love with him.
            He will marry one or more of these women and
            demand and be given the right to raise a family.
            He will be well fed have all the medical treatment available
            and be totally protected something all the people
            he murdered did not receive.
            He will in time force a return to Australia (prisoner trade)
            Crime does pay at least in NZ it does.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  28th March 2019

              You cannot be serious. No lawyer would be that stupid and expect to be taken seriously. If it was HIS nation’s ethos (and I imagine that most Australians would be grossly insulted at this idea) why come to another country to do a massacre ?

              This was a calculated massacre, not a murder or manslaughter done in the heat of the moment.

              I have a friend who did 7 years for bank robbery, some in solitary, and if you think it’s 1st class, ask someone who has been there, done that. My friend recognised that it was his own doing that he was there and has gone straight ever since. He did not want a repeat. He has seen the treatment that criminals who have abused or killed children are given, and has said that this person will have to be be in solitary for his own protection.

              In NZ, people can only have one wife or husband at a time, and good luck with raising a family in solitary, let alone doing the preliminaries.

              Australia’s unlikely to want him back. He would be deported at the end of his sentence, but as this will almost certainly be life without parole that’s academic. He’ll leave prison in a box.

              His family have shown little sign of the things you mention.

  4. Patzcuaro

     /  28th March 2019

    We wouldn’t need the extra surveillance if the politicians had done their job and enacted more realistic firearms laws.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  28th March 2019

      Yes, but as I noted they are now in butt protection mode rushing around slamming every stable door they can find. Especially ones that the bureaucrats have always wanted to shut.

      Reply

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