Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the final round for the GCSB Bill

August 20th, 2013

Having tried and failed to sell the GCSB Bill by invoking the bogeyman of terrorism – “PM Justifies Spy Bill : Kiwis trained by al Qaeda” – the government has resorted to its ace card whenever it gets in real trouble, and invoked the PM’s personal charm and credibility. Trust John. Trust John to strike the right and proper balance between privacy and the needs of national security. Trust John to rein in the spooks if and when they seek to abuse their powers. Why, if the GCSB wanted to read private emails, and draw all kinds of dire conclusions about anyone, then Trust John to be so onto it that this would simply never happen. And would he ever exceed his powers and use the GCSB against his political enemies or against say, someone like Kim Dotcom? Trust John. That would never happen. Promise.

A few centuries ago of course, we stopped relying on these kind of personal assurances and proclamations by our Wise and Noble King. In this case, the eagle-eyed bastion of first and last resort would be the same person who allegedly didn’t know about Kim Dotcom, or the planning for the unprecedented FBI/Police raid on a mansion in his own electorate or the illegality of the GCSB surveillance of Dotcom and of all the other New Zealanders unlawfully spied on and referred to in the Kitteridge report. We’re supposed to rely on a guy who professes not to know what’s happening in his own electorate, and in his own portfolio area of responsibility? Hmmm.

In the past could we even Trust John when it came down to the extent of his past links to Ian Fletcher, the guy shoulder-tapped to lead the GCSB? Not so much. On his track record, what you can trust John Key to do is to maintain a plausible deniability – I wasn’t told, I can’t remember, its someone else’s fault, we asked for them, got them but didn’t read them – such that any future abuse of the powers bestowed by the GCSB Bill cannot be sheeted home to him. Count on privacy rights being treated as entirely expendable in the service of that greater good. (He’s only the Minister of the security services, for goodness sake. How was he supposed to know about their operational activities?)

As Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman has pointed out, if there really is no problem here – say, with the collection, use, sharing and storage of meta-data, with GCSB surveillance of private emails etc etc – then why aren’t these protections being written into the Bill? Why is Key – at this late stage – offering himself as a walking talking Supplementary Order Paper to cover over all the cracks in this badly conceived, badly drafted and unjustified piece of legislation? No matter how he spins it, Key has not offered a credible shred of evidence as to when and how the old division of labour between the SIS (focus: domestic security) and the GCSB (focus: external security) has broken down, to a degree where the GCSB must now be turned into an agency of external and domestic surveillance.

After all, the old GCSB legislation was passed in 2003, soon after the 9/11 attacks. Is Key seriously suggesting we face a bigger security threat now, than we did then? What we are seeing looks less like genuine threats facing this country – and a lot more like the security service mandarins seeking to justify their existence, expand their powers, forge stronger kinks with their brother agencies overseas and get more expensive toys to play with, at our expense. Trust John to keep a rein on mission creep by the security services? Not likely.

And here’s how this very same process has played out recently in the US.
A National Security Agency audit obtained by the Washington Post a few days ago – and dated May 2012 – counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months “of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.” Each one of those 2,776 incidents may contain up to several thousand privacy violations of Americans, meaning that millions of Americans’ privacy rights may have been violated by the NSA with searches unauthorized by any judicial body. The Washington Post reported of one of the 2,776 incidents that it “included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.”

Want to be re-assured then, by Peter Dunne’s claim to have gained more transparency about the workings of the GCSB via say, some new annual reporting requirements? Think again. These are self –reporting processes, with no verification by any independent monitor with real teeth. In the US, as this report indicates, the annual reporting process is a sham.

It is a sham because the one incident referred to by the Post above exceeded by a factor of 10 times the quantity of all the phone records the NSA claimed to have legitimately searched throughout 2012 in order to find information about alleged terrorists. How so? Because the NSA tally didn’t include searches carried out by other agencies reporting to the NSA, or carried out by contractors such as Edward Snowden. That explains how NSA Director General Keith B. Alexander could claim in his June 18 testimony before the House Select Intelligence Committee about the number of requests for NSA surveillance under the US Patriot Act that “for 2012, less than 300 selectors were looked at, and they had an impact in helping us prevent potential terrorist attacks.” Right. Yet as mentioned, in just one case among the 2,776 established in the audit obtained by the Post, over 3000 violations of personal privacy were involved. One can imagine how the GCSB will be able to spin its annual reports on its operations. Dunne’s “gains” on the transparency front are quite meaningless.

The US government too, has a response to public concerns. Trust Barack. Trust Barack to exercise proper oversight. There are strong similarities between the personal re-assurances Key is offering here, and what Obama was saying ten days ago. In his White House press conference on August 9, Obama claimed:

I’ve taken steps to make sure they have strong oversight by all three branches of government and clear safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the American people…. If you look at the reports — even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward — all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails.

Ah, but not quite. The NSA sometimes does do those things. As the NSA conceded to the Washington Post when asked for comment about the revelations in its August 15 story:

“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official said in an interview, speaking with White House permission on the condition of anonymity.

The lesson being, you don’t grant these powers in the first place. Not unless the rationale for them has been widely canvassed, and extensive safeguards built in. Trust Barack, or Trust John? Trust the oversight mechanisms belatedly tacked on in piecemeal fashion to the GCSB Bill? You wouldn’t build a refrigerator this way, let alone a national security system. What we’ve seen with the GCSB Bill are token safeguards operated by people who have granted themselves the power to violate our privacy, and who are promising not to abuse that power – even though they can’t explain why they really need this power in the first place.

Again, judging by the US experience, the oversight procedures have been fashioned to fail. Plainly, the US oversight mechanisms – just like the ones contained in the GCSB Bill – have been expressly designed so as not to impede security operations. As the Washington Post noted in its coverage of the NSA report, the more you beef up the ineffectual oversights (that we’re being offered here as a sop) the more cases of abuse actually occur: “Despite the quadrupling of the NSA’s oversight staff after a series of significant violations in 2009,” the Post reported, “the rate of infractions increased throughout 2011 and early 2012.”

That’s just human nature, really. Give people the power to invade your privacy, and they’ll use it. Try to stop the GCSB with feeble oversight mechanisms, and the people involved will drive round them, and relish their ability to do so with impunity. Poor laws breed contempt. In that respect, the GCSB is a lot like its Minister. Could it be any easier to hoodwink people?


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    1. 15 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the final round for the GCSB Bill”

    2. By T.J. Hearn on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      Thank you, Gordon for an incisive and passionate piece. The one element of this deeply troubling debacle that remains to be exposed fully is the extent to which Key is kowtowing to the demands of the Americans as they seek to expand and operate a spying operation that reaches into the four corners of the globe – and for reasons that have everything to do with their interests and their sense of security.

    3. By Sable on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      John Keys the Richard Nixon of New Zealand politics.

    4. By quo vadis on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      Spying by government on citizens is both illegal and immoral.
      But spying on behalf of a foreign power on its, and many other countries’ citizens, is treasonous and a crime against humanity.

      Spying is now ‘justified’ with the spurious ruse of ‘security’ and the ‘war on terror’!

      The fact that the NZ government is in connivance with the USG in spying on citizens world wide needs to be examined more closely.

      The ‘war on terror’ as a spurious ruse was borne out of the 911 terrorist attack.

      But it is unequivocally clear that this atrocity was in fact a planned and executed abomination by the Zio NeoCon crazies in the USG itself, carried out by themselves with the aid of the only other Zio Terrorist nation on the planet, Israel.

      This ‘New Pearl Harbour’, as they euphemistically called it, served as the catalyst for a whole new level of civil liberty destruction and the most invasive, illegal and unconstitutional invasion of privacy and destruction of civil rights in the US, here in NZ and world wide, with the connivance of treasonous and lackey governments to the Zio US tyrants.

      The Zionist US government is out to destroy nation after nation, from Afghanistan, Libya, Syria to Iran and many others in their way of total domination of the Oil rich ME, the entire planet, and strategic location in threatening Russia and China.

      This crazy Zio regime has fabricated every insurgency, civil unrest, sectarian violence and every lie told about Gaddafi and Libya, Assad and Syria, about Iran and its nuclear intentions, all in order to pursue its crime wave of terrorism and illegal wars of conquest and subjugation.

      That NZ should cooperate with such a terrorist nation, the US, the enemy of freedom and democracy, is a crime against humanity in itself.

      All spying must immediately stop, against NZ citizens, against any citizen of any country, the only spying should be by the people on governments since they are the ones perpetrating all acts of terrorism, atrocities and crimes against humanity.
      Close down all spy stations and instruments if oppression and intrusion into privacy and civil rights.

      Further, NZ must not entertain any further trade agreements with the US of Terror, these are a ploy to perpetuate the reign of Satan’s currency, the US$, which finances all these crimes against humanity.
      These agreements are designed to trap trading nations into the use of this doomed and immoral currency to perpetuate its facilitation of terrorism.

      Instead NZ must put its fortunes with the BRICS countries and join the Gold based Trade Settlement system coming to pass very soon, which will spell the death knell to the hegemony of Satan’s Dollar, and with it the demise of the US and all its client lackey states like NZ, Australia, UK and the European stooges in the grip of the Zio tyranny of the US.

      NZ must sell any US Treasury holdings now and immediately buy Gold to be prepared for the total implosion and demise of the iniquitous $ Fiat Currency Racket, which has exploited the planet for centuries by forcing everyone to use Satan’s $, printing it into oblivion with trillions of this confetti paper, and buying real goods from around the world and financing all the criminal wars of aggression.

      We realise that the Zionist controlled MSM has had a total grip on the little minds of politicos and the population as a whole, but the facts are indisputable and anyone still prescribing to the conspiracy theories proffered by the USG and other co-conspirators should wake up from this Zio MSM induced stupor and get real with the stark reality; the real enemy are the US/Israel Zio tyrannies.

    5. By Delia Morris on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      Well in my experience in life (now almost 56) anyone who says trust me, cannot be trusted and yes Sable you picked the correct comparison there.

    6. By cav39 on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      ‘Trust John’ indeed. John Key lies about everything. The way he lies makes me think it probably started when he was a small boy and found lying came easily to him. Many of us have known a child who lied as a matter of course.

    7. By Patrick on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      When a fascist is allowed to consolidate power we end up with autocracy and dictatorship. New Zealanders have fought hard to keep such people in check across the world or so we are told but when it comes to our own country we are expected to just roll over and take a little tummy rub for the greater good…

      Why the dichotomy? We fight the good fight overseas as professional and highly sought after contributors on behalf of the “downtrodden” and powerless but in our own backyard we are just more concerned with putting fish on the bbq?

      The level of contempt for the intelligence of New Zealanders is excruciating. Key wants to to believe that he knows best and that we can trust him. he wants to to believe that the Prime Minister of New Zealand should also be the Spy Master of New Zealand and the authoritative decision maker on the level of threat that anyone in New Zealand poses to the Government or wider public.

      Obama has a kill list and decides on which drone strikes and when. Netanyahu is constantly threatening to launch premeptive nuclear attack on Iran or any of their other regional neighbours. Kim Jong Un, Putin, Assad, Khomenie, Mugabe, Hollande, Abe excercise their own options on a regular basis too. If we give Key the authority to conduct complete totalitarian surveillance he will want that toy next. After all what good is monitoring people if you don’t have the right to also push the button…

    8. By John S on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      Thanks Gordon for taking the time and energy to nail this shill of a PM. Keep the heat on this guy, as well as Shearer. No doubt you’ve heard of his ‘secret’ meeting with the PeeM about the GCSB Bill.

    9. By Pukeko on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      I’ve been collecting the adjectives used by various respected members of our society to describe the GCSB Bill.

      Here’s some: Scurrilous, a travesty, odious, obnoxious, anti-democratic, outrageous,repugnant,abhorrent,opprobrious, reprehensible, threatening, objectionable,unacceptable, deplorable..

      Here’s one more: perfidious.

    10. By Myles Thomas on Aug 20, 2013 | Reply

      What say we give the GCSB budget to RNZ? Much better use of our taxpayers money.

    11. By rational on Aug 21, 2013 | Reply

      Right on the money particularly the paragraph about the mandarins `public servants` yeah right.The anglophile security agencies have effectively gone rogue & done an end run around democratic process.Gross empire building at its worst- appalling!

    12. By onenzer on Aug 21, 2013 | Reply

      spy bill not only for the usa but also their main allies israel. israel will always and forever be keys first loyalty. he said he would be visiting israel as PM during his first election campaign. he would of course be hailed there as as a famous son coming home. he is a phony through and through

    13. By Darryl on Aug 21, 2013 | Reply

      I do not trust John Key or Obama:

      “When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

      Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.”
      – Dr Ron Paul.

      Obama is waging war on whistleblowers, and John Key will do the same. These laws are designed to hunt down those who expose the truth, not to fight “terrorism”.

      “You are 9 times more likely to choke on your own vomit than die from a terrorist attack”.

      “You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than from a terrorist attack”.

      Don’t spout your “terrorist threat” garbage Jonkey.
      Remove your head from Obama’s butt hole. That is all.

    14. By Jum on Aug 23, 2013 | Reply

      America’s man John Key is simply working on a plan and the pattern is obvious.

      Firstly, get yourself a poor boy back-story and a wealthy backer with connections (Lord Ashcroft and Global Conservative interests) exactly as Thatcher did with Rothschild; connive your way into Helensville and the ruthless body count to leadership begins, by the ‘nice’ Mr Key.

      Secondly, ‘swallow a few dead fish’ (including the far more egalitarian and worthy David Shearer).

      Thirdly, when in power put everything into urgency including the combined Auckland bill 1 and 2, without select committee process for bill 1; this enables government to remove 75% agreement by voters to sell Ports of Auckland and Auckland Airport, steal all district council assets and form Auckland Council with secretive CCOs, including water supply, which is important because Auckland is New Zealand’s BUSINESS district.
      Business is all American interests care about. People are just the drones that supply the labour and the profit for capitalism.
      They forget labour came before profit; it appears Kiwis have forgotten that simple premise.

      Destroying what is left of any working people’s rights and their energy to protest their conditions is also forced through, interestingly with little complaint from those in well-paying jobs, which reminds me of the ‘First they came for the beggars’… morality story.

      Ignoring the other many and varied attacks on democracy, we move forward to the sale of assets which once belonged to all New Zealanders.

      Roger Douglas and his little gang and Ruth Richardson and her little gang, aided by NZ business roundtable (now called ‘The New Zealand Initiative’ – a cunning euphemism for greed) with buckets of cash had already begun that betrayal in the 80s and 90s. Never, ever forget these betrayals. People like John Key and the NZ initiative/business roundtable hope you do).

      Now, the first power company is sold, 49% of it – and private business boardroom control, apparently, even if as little as 25% is sold. Then, a second, on credit. Can ya believe it! John Key is laughing so hard by now at Kiwi stupidity.

      More importantly WATER use is now in the grip of private owners. Water is the new Gold.

      Globally private business owns many a country’s water whether by long contracts or by title, which means little chance of economic survival, for those countries’ powerless citizens.

      Undemocratic ECAN commissioners already control decision-making over huge tracts of water and land.

      Then, some thinking Kiwis begin to really protest out loud.

      ****So, Key brings in the GCSB Bill and the TICS bill, as a control mechanism, as probably planned with American interests in the IMF, World Bank, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and the American Federal Reserve, which invited him in – I doubt the Reserve would bother if there was no monetary advantage to them.

      Now, of course, protestors will face real problems when they then protest against the signing of the American corporate-controlled TPPA, later this year – Key’s real goal.

      Then, America’s man John Key’s New Zealand takeover plan is complete and the next stop is the plunder of Antarctica; New Zealand’s reputation as a principled country has already been shredded and their protection of Antarctica from corporate America is gone, because New Zealand is then American-owned.

    15. By Jum on Aug 23, 2013 | Reply

      NZX is now pressuring Councils to sell off/float New Zealander-owned Council assets.

      Sale of New Zealanders nearly done.

    16. By Mack on Sep 4, 2013 | Reply

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