Monday, March 13, 2017

Intelligence and Security Bill

The week beginning 13 March the Government aims to progress the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill.

Parliament says the “bill seeks to replace the four Acts that currently apply to GCSB, NZSIS and their oversight bodies, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, and the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Act will be a single, comprehensive piece of legislation to cover these agencies and seeks to improve their transparency.”

The bill, in fact though, is a complete rewrite of the four Acts and creates a one-stop surveillance shop with one law to rule all. It strengthens and entrenches state surveillance powers by removing any real meaningful distinction between the SIS and GCSB. The distinction between internal and external intelligence is totally blurred.

It is worthwhile to remember that over the years many people have protested the expansion of surveillance, including both the SIS and GCSB powers. Between 2009 & 2012 thousands of people protested against the Search and Surveillance Bill. In 2013, John Campbell, on 'Campbell Live’, conducted a poll on the then expansion of GCSB powers - 89% said no to increasing the GCSB powers.

The majority of people do not want the expansion of state surveillance powers but are snowed under by the constant law changes and reviews, and the powerful DPMC PR machine. A PR machine that constantly raises the spectre of terrorism and cyber-threat, but they are only spectres - consider the 'Jihadi Brides'.

As this Bill goes through, the PR machine will kick in and it has already begun. On Monday 13 March the new Anti-money Laundering & Countering Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill was introduced by Justice Minister Amy Adams. This combined with  Lisa Fong’s report of 'multiple attacks on NZ’s nationally significant organisations’ (whatever they are) will mean the words ’terrorism’ and ‘attacks’ will be in the media. (Lisa Fong is the director of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) for the GCSB).

But it is not only the surveillance powers within NZ that are expanding, NZ’s role in the Five Eyes is also further entrenched by the Bill.

Rather than heeding what has been uncovered about the Five Eyes over the last few years (thanks primarily to whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden), the Bill ensures we are supporting the continual growth of the Five Eyes. New Zealand is the fifth member of the Five Eyes and our membership means we are involved in an international intelligence and surveillance network built to meet the needs of US national security (the dominant member of the Five Eyes). Membership of the ‘club’ ensures our continual role in war and expansion of the military and surveillance industries. It means we are active in global mass surveillance and social manipulation.

Some people say the Bill will set a better standard for warrants and will improve oversight of intelligence agencies. But for those people who have hope in that, consider just some points in the Bill - it still allows 24 hour warrantless surveillance, the retention of incidental data and doesn't even define national security.

And just like Stop The Spies pointed out at public meetings and Keith Locke stated in the NZ Herald on Friday 10 March, ‘under the new security legislation the head of an intelligence service can withhold from the intelligence and security committee any information he or she determines to be "sensitive”.’

The definition of sensitive is anything that “would be likely… to prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand or the international relations of the government of New Zealand”.

Keith goes onto point out that the Bill also ‘allows overseas intelligence agencies to censor what the intelligence and security committee can see. For example, information the US Central Intelligence Agency provides our Security Intelligence Service can be provided to the committee only if the CIA agrees.’ (Consider the CIA spying and hacking that was recently leaked through Vault 7)

The government's original plan was to have the Intelligence and Security Bill law passed at the start of this year. It will be happening very soon and it will be a day of great shame.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Waihopai - A Public Shame

More than 70 people gathered outside Waihopai Spy Base in Blenheim on 28 January.

The base has been in operation since the end of the 1980s and from Waihopai NZ hoovers up data to give to the NSA. The NSA have said, the GCSB "continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries ... difficult for the US to access".

From Waihopai NZ spies on China, Japanese/North Korean/Vietnamese/South American diplomatic communications, South Pacific island nations, Pakistan, India, Iran and Antarctica and this data is given to the NSA.

Waihopai is the most public emblem of the Five Eyes in this country. It became even more visible after one of the domes was slashed in 2008 exposing the satellite beneath. Later Edward Snowden managed to expose more of the doings of the Five Eyes, Waihopai is not a dirty secret anymore - it is a public shame.

We cannot deny that Waihopai and the operations of the GCSB mean we are part of a global mass surveillance, data collection and social manipulation alliance. An alliance established by the UKUSA Agreement at the end of WW2.

The protest outside the base on Saturday 28 January may have been brief but it was followed by a day of workshops in Blenheim where the history of the spybase, the role of the GCSB and campaigning against the base were spoken about.

Waihopai spy base must be closed down and we must dismantle the Five Eyes.

Further Info:
NZ Herald articles on role of GCSB & Waihopai
Snowden revelations / The price of the Five Eyes club: Mass spying on friendly nations

#snowdenNZ / How foreign spies access GCSB's South Pacific intelligence

Snowden revelations: NZ's spy reach stretches across globe

Revealed: The names NZ targeted using NSA's XKeyscore system


Nicky Hager http://www.nickyhager.info/category/intelligence/
Anti-Bases Campaign - http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/

Films
The 5th Eye - http://cutcutcut.com/#

iSpy - The Five Eyes Alliance - http://ispydoc.com/select

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Waihopai SpyBase Protest


The annual protest at Waihopai will take place January 28th this year beginning with a morning demonstration at the base and then continuing with a day of workshops in Blenheim, including talks and discussions covering the GCSB and the role of the Five Eyes, research skills and the history of non-violent direct action, including the nearly 30 years of protests against the Waihopai base.



Further information can be found on http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/

Monday, October 17, 2016

Submissions on the Bill - round one

With minimal media coverage the submission cycle in response to the NZ Intelligence and Security Bill began last Thursday, more submissions will be heard this coming Thursday (20th October).

In 2014 Chris Finlayson described the Select Committee process as 'chit-chat', and for all intents and purpose it appears to be just that.

Not all members of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee were present at the first round of submissions on Thursday, 13 October. And as David Small gave his submissions via a Skype call, another member left the room. Others turned pages of paper - possibly they were reading David's submission whilst he was talking, it is hard to know.

There has been minimal media coverage of this Bill, there may be a little more coverage after the submissions this coming Thursday. But then there will be quiet again.

After the Select Committee hearings close there will be 'in-house' discussions and then the Bill will then be taken back before the Committee of the House before having its third and final reading and being passed into law.

There may be a few tweaks and changes here and there but this Bill will then become law sometime after February 2017.

Over the years thousands of people have protested and given submissions against the expansion of state intelligence and security laws, but each time the Bills are passed. Some of these Bills passing by only a handful of votes, consider the 2013 GCSB Amendment Bill which was passed by only two votes.

The government does not listen to protests nor submissions - so put pressure on the other parties in the House: currently both Labour and the Maori Party support this Bill - tell them not to support it.

Submissions on the Bill can be found on the Select Committee page.




Monday, September 26, 2016

Oppose the Intelligence & Security Bill

Submissions are being called on for the new Intelligence and Security Bill – but we say it is time to draw a line in the sand. The unrelenting expansion of the NZ Intelligence Community must be stopped.

A brief over-view of the last few years shows how relentless the changes have been:
Since 2007 the NZ SIS Act has been amended a half a dozen times. In 2011 the Video Surveillance Bill became law; a year later the Search and Surveillance Bill was passed. This was followed in 2013 by two changes: the TICS Bill (the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security) and the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, a Bill passed by two votes. At the end of 2014 the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill became law.

There has also been a seemingly never-ending series of reports, reviews and a concerted PR blitz:
In 2009 there was the Murdoch Report of the SIS, GCSB and EAB. In 2011 Pipitea House was opened enabling most of the NZ intelligence community to operate under one roof and thus uniting the intelligence culture. In 2012 Paul Neazor reported on GCSB spying in relation to the Dotcom saga, this was followed in March 2013 with the Kitteridge Report on the GCSB and then in 2014 the State Sector Review of the intelligence community was released. In 2015 the Cullen and Reddy Intelligence Review began and there was a lot of talk of ‘Jihadi Brides’.

Now, in 2016, we have the Security Intelligence Bill, and also the review of the Search and Surveillance Act. As soon as people finish submissions on the Security Intelligence Bill, the next round will begin on the Search and Surveillance Act.

We say it is time to say stop the spying. We do not need an expansion of the intelligence communities’ powers. As the UN Rapporteur in May 2016 said, the NZ government had ‘no case for more surveillance’.

But the reality is that this Bill will become law.

In 2013 many of us wrote submissions and thousands of us took to the streets to oppose the GCSB Bill, and we lost. That law was passed with a two-person majority. We know that, with only be a few token changes to the Security Intelligence Bill, this new law will be passed, too. 

The reality is that unless the opposition parties vote against it, the Bill will be passed. Submissions may result in a few changes in the Bill but the key aims of the Bill will be passed: the Bill will bring the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) under one unifying law and remove all restrictions against the GCSB spying on New Zealanders.

You may choose to write a submission on the Bill, but also call upon the parties in opposition to oppose the Bill. Currently, both the Labour Party and Māori Party support it.
Contact them and tell them not to support the Bill – rather than engaging in debate with the government about the 107 recommendations of the review, what is needed is debate on surveillance and its role in society.

Contact both Labour and Māori members of parliament and their electorate offices now:

Maori Party emails:

Labour Party emails:
andrew.little@parliament.govt.nz, a.king@parliament.govt.nz, office@grantrobertson.co.nz, grant.robertson@parliament.govt.nz, haurakiwaikato@parliament.govt.nz, nanaia.mahuta@parliament.govt.nz, phil.twyford@parliament.govt.nz, chris.hipkins@parliament.govt.nz, chris.hipkins@parliament.govt.nz, carmel.sepuloni@parliament.govt.nz, kelvin.davis@parliament.govt.nz, jacinda@jacinda.co.nz, jacinda.ardern@parliament.govt.nz, david.clark@parliament.govt.nz, MangereMP@parliament.govt.nz, sua.william.sio@parliament.govt.nz, palmerston.north@parliament.govt.nz, iain.lees-galloway@parliament.govt.nz, megan.woods@wigram.org.nz, megan.woods@parliament.govt.nz, NewLynnMP@parliament.govt.nz, david.cunliffe@parliament.govt.nz, info@mtalbertlabour.co.nz, david.shearer@parliament.govt.nz, phil.goff@parliament.govt.nz, wainui.eo@parliament.govt.nz, petone.eo@parliament.govt.nz, trevor.mallard@parliament.govt.nz, porthills.mp@parliament.govt.nz, ruth.dyson@parliament.govt.nz, damien.oconnor@parliament.govt.nz, clayton.cosgrove.mp@parliament.govt.nz, suemoroneymp@parliament.govt.nz, sue.moroney@parliament.govt.nz, dunedin.southmp@parliament.govt.nz, clare.curran@parliament.govt.nz, mana.electorate@parliament.govt.nz, kris.faafoi@parliament.govt.nz, : louisa.wall@parliament.govt.nz, stuart.nashmp@parliament.govt.nz, stuart.nash@parliament.govt.nz, murihiku.tetaitonga@parliament.govt.nz, TeTaiTonga.Otautahi@parliament.govt.nz, tetauihu.tetaitonga@parliament.govt.nz, poneke.tetaitonga@parliament.govt.nz, rino.tirikatene@parliament.govt.nz, tairawhiti@parliament.govt.nz, tematauamaui@parliament.govt.nz, meka.whaitiri@parliament.govt.nz, poto.williams@parliament.govt.nz, peeni.labour@labour.org.nz, adrian.rurawhe@labour.org.nz, jenny.salesa@parliament.govt.nz

Friday, July 29, 2016

Review of NZ Search and Surveillance Act underway

The Search and Surveillance Act  2012 is to be reviewed.

The Search and Surveillance Act is to be reviewed and a one-stop intelligence shop could come closer to realisation. Number 4 of the terms of references for the review is that it must look at whether the Act (or any related legislation) needs to be amended to enable broader use of the capabilities of the GCSB and /or NZSIS to support police investigations.

This would tie in nicely with the recommendations by Michael Cullen and Helen Reddy in their ‘Intelligence Review’ that the intelligence community operate under one Act, that is, in all but name there be a merge of the intelligence agencies.

The review of the Search and Surveillance Act is a statutory one required by law to look at the ‘operation of the provisions’ of the Act since it began, to see ‘whether those provisions should be retained or repealed’, and ‘if they should be retained, whether any amendments to the Act are necessary or desirable.

Implicit in Amy Adams announcing of the review however, is that the agencies and institutions covered by the Act need more powers.

Amy Adams (Minister of Justice and member of the Intelligence and Security Committee) states in her press release that technology has changed and therefore the powers of the Search and Surveillance Act need to also change.

A spokesperson for Amy Adams further said, “We can't anticipate the outcomes of the Search and Surveillance review so don't know what new search powers they might look at, or privacy considerations.”

What Amy did not cover in her press release though was the fact that the terms of reference also state that the review must look at the use of the Act (or any related legislation) in relation to the GCSB and /or NZSIS.

The Search and Surveillance Act has been around since it was passed in March 2012 by a narrow majority. But the Bill took a long time to weave its way through parliament - it was introduced first by Labour in 2007 before finally being passed by National. Throughout that time there were wide-spread protests against its passing; the Act drastically extended the powers of not only police but many state agencies to spy and surveil. They gained more power to do unwarranted searches and surveillances. The Act also legalised past police practice that had been illegal, including the police illegal use of hidden cameras during Operation 8 (the operation that resulted in the October 15th 2007 police raids and the jailing of Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara for two and a half years).

The Act also removed the right to silence and the right not to self-incriminate through the introduction of Examination and Production Orders.

When the Bill was going through parliament (there were two rounds of submissions), many people protested and spoke against a ‘Residual Warrant’ clause in the Bill. Residual Warrants were to cover as yet uninvented, unknown things - for example, it could use a technique not yet invented to surveil data stored in a way not yet known. Residual Warrants were removed in its final reading and replaced by ‘Declaratory Orders’ (clauses 65-69). At the time Judith Collins, then Minister of Justice, described Declaratory Orders as “an innovative regime that recognises the pace at which technology is advancing … Declaratory orders allow agencies to obtain a judicial view as to the reasonableness of a new device, technique, or procedure before using it…” Maybe Amy and Judith need to talk.

An overview of the Act can be read here.


Public submissions will be called for and along with consulting various government and private sector agencies and organisations there will also be an expert advisory panel. The brand new Auckland University Law School’s ICT Law Centre is assumed to be one of these ‘experts’. The Law Commission and Ministry of Justice will present the final report on or by 28 June 2017.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"The 5th Eye" Documentary on Waihopai Domebusters & GCSB

New Zealand is very much a member of a western spy network that is quite capable of reading and recording every shred of electronic communication you've ever generated.
The 5th Eye is the story of the events that underpinned so much of the farcical goings on at the 2014 general election, threaded through with the only-in-New Zealand yarn of the three men who – armed with a pair of cheap bolt cutters and a statue of the Virgin Mary – managed to break into and the Waihopai spy base and deflate the dome that covered one of the satellite dishes. A pity John Oliver wasn't paying attention to New Zealand back then. He would have a had a ball with that story. Wright and King-Jones assemble their material – new and archival – into an intelligent, informative and entertaining film. This is serious stuff, deftly done. Recommended.              
Source: Stuff.co.nz


The long anticipated documentary, THE 5TH EYE, that follows the story of the Waihopai Three and the GCSB premieres this month in the New Zealand International Film Festival.

The film will screen as part of the festival in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Timaru. Other regional screenings will be announced by the Film Festival in coming weeks.

Details about ticket sales are at www.The5thEye.com – Please be sure to get tickets early.

We also need your help: word of mouth and social media are currently our only promotional tools. So please join our facebook page, follow us on twitter, and please share our posts, tell your friends about the film and forward this email around to your contacts! Thanks and we look forward to seeing you at the upcoming screenings!
https://www.facebook.com/The5thEye/photos/a.839891559414987.1073741828.832972370106906/1071469812923826/?type=3&theater

Errol Wright & Abi King-Jones

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Intelligence merge not new

In all but name the Intelligence Review recommended a merge of the key NZ intelligence agencies. The proposal put forward by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy was to consolidate legislation governing the GCSB and NZSIS into one Act.

This idea is not new. In 2009 there was talk of merging the intelligence agencies. A Treasury official's notebook had been found in central Wellington and in the pages were notes about a merge. At the time John Key confirmed a merge of the intelligence agencies was an option, “I drove the decision to have a look (at how they operate) because there is quite a bit of crossover.” Value for money was also an issue he said. (The Murdoch Report was the result of this review)

Dollar value is a driving force and has already seen the building of the one-stop intelligence building, Pipitea House, in downtown Wellington. Now we will also see the agencies in a one-stop shop legal merge. One law to rule all.

The GCSB and NZSIS operating under a single comprehensive Act would ensure the agencies have the same purpose, same processes, same functions, same powers, same over-sight and even the same single co-ordinator. All the modern surveillance tools could then be shared inter-agency; it would also save time and money consolidating the powers because intelligence is a costly business. The Murdoch Report forecast the aggregate cost at $123million by 2013 for the intelligence community. It was noted “it is worth considering this level of expenditure not just as a cost in budget terms but in the context of the annual 'subscription' paid by New Zealand to belong to the 5-Eyes community.” (The 2015 Budget had the cost at $140million.)

The 5-Eyes were mentioned by Cullen and Reddy in the Intelligence Review but only from the aspect of how 5-Eyes surveillance affected New Zealanders, there was no looking at the role of the 5-Eyes and why we should be part of it. In fact, Cullen and Reddy praised the Five Eyes as “by far New Zealand’s most valuable intelligence arrangement, giving us knowledge and capability far beyond what we could afford on our own.”

It is this 'knowledge and capability' that the Intelligence Review recommends be consolidated and shared inter-agency.

It could be pondered how much influence the 5-Eyes had on the Intelligence Review: days after its release James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, was in town It is also interesting that the week the Intelligence Review was being analysed by the Intelligence Select Committee, the head of the FBI was in Wellington.

The Intelligence Review could have been a chance to look at the role of surveillance in society and especially at New Zealand's role in the 5-Eyes. Instead we will have a consolidation of the intelligence agencies and an expansion of surveillance and data-sharing between all agencies and ultimately an embedding of our role in the 5-Eyes.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Surveillance Film Festival



Has the portrayal of surveillance in films caught up with us? 

Dystopian Big Brother films from the past show glimpses of a present reality. Spy films and the machinations of spy paraphernalia capture our imagination with fantastical technology. Stasi and Cold War intelligence policing methods shock and titillate people. But Edward Snowden’s revelations opened many eyes to the ubiquitous world of mass surveillance right here and now.


The Surveillance Film Festival is an opportunity to explore the portrayal of surveillance in films and documentaries and ponder the reality of surveillance in our lives today. 
 

Come and enjoy some films and see where the discussion takes us.


Venue: Thistle Hall, Upper Cuba, Wellington City 

Friday 25th March

- 6pm - Farenheit451 (112mins) – then onwards for after-film discussion and drinks at a local pub. 

Saturday 26th March 

- 11am - The Program (8mins) and ABC Secret Room (9mins) - Nicky Hager will be present for a talk after these two short films.
- 12.30pm -  Operation 8 (110mins)
- 3pm - Every Step You Take (65mins) - followed by a chat with Kathleen Kuehn about the ubiquitousness of surveillance
- 5.30pm - Maintenance of Silence (20mins) 
- 7pm - The Lives of Others (137mins) 
Film synopsis: 
Farenheit451 (1966) 112mins
In Bradbury’s dystopian future most people are mindless drones living for instant gratification, plugged into ear buds or watching screens. News is controlled in censored bites, deep-thinking and analysis don’t happen. War economy rules. Sound sort of familiar? But in Farenheit451 all books are banned, is that the only difference?

The Program and ABC News, Secret Room (2012 & 2008) William Binney and Mark Klein are names that should be familiar. They are whistleblowers who spoke about mass surveillance prior to Snowden’s revelations. The info was out there for us, but so many chose not to listen. Why didn’t we want to know about the surveillance then? Why are we already ignoring Snowden’s revelations? Operation 8: Deep in the Forest (2011) 110mins Eight years ago in October dawn raids woke many people, people were briefly jailed and allegations of terrorism were thrown about based on evidence gained by surveillance. This country has a long history of surveillance, see how it was used in this most public case to hinder and control people and think about what is happening now. Every Step You Take (2007) 65mins CCTV and face recognition are examples of surveillance to keep people safe. Ten years ago the technology shocked, now it is old. How quick does it all change and how accepting do we become? Maintenance of Silence (1985) 20mins Awareness of surveillance seemed to be more common a few decades ago. Tens of thousands protested against the expansion of police and SIS powers, later the Wanganui Computer was bombed. Then Neil Roberts left the quote from Junta Tuitiva of La Paz, ‘We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity’. What does our silence now resemble? The Lives of Others (2006) 137mins Surveillance and oppression on the other side of the iron curtain has been a favourite subject for a lot of films. But how different is that past from the future here?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Intelligence & security report a dream come true for the Five Eyes

The release of the Independent review of intelligence and security recommends a range of changes that are dangerous to ordinary people, both within NZ and elsewhere, and represents a massive concentration of state power.

The major recommendation is the consolidation of the two acts governing the GCSB and the SIS into a single law.  As Radio NZ reported, “A single piece of legislation would mean both agencies operated under the same objectives, functions and powers and warrant authorisation framework.” This is deeply problematic.

It must be understood at the outset that both GCSB and the SIS are essentially political police: they exist to identify threats to the New Zealand state, essentially “national security.” These agencies do not exist to root out criminal activity, that is the job of the Police. And, although in 2013, the GCSB was given the power to assist police with any matter, it is not an objective of that organisation (or the SIS) to prevent, detect or prosecute criminal offending.  While the definition of criminal offences are spelled out quite clearly in law with identifiable components and evidentiary thresholds, threats to “national security” are at best vague and difficult to define. Even the Law Commission, an eminent body of NZ legal practitioners, struggled to explain what the national security is, noting “While the New Zealand courts have not yet been called upon to define national security, we expect that they will also face difficulties in pinning down the concept although there are varying definitions in use.” (National Security Information in Proceedings,_ p.14).

Historically, the GCSB and the SIS have been organisations with quite different functions within the ambit of political policing. The SIS has been responsible for internal security, monitoring Maori, political dissidents, refugee and migrant populations,  and extremist groups. The GCSB, on the other hand, is entirely a child of the US National Security Agency, is New Zealand’s contribution to the Five Eyes Network, and until relatively recently, worked on external signals intelligence (satellite, radio and internet).

Now, however, the argument goes, because of the global reach of the internet, the lines that existed between internal and external no longer matter. Thus, rationalising the two agencies into one makes sense. This reasoning dovetails nicely into the review’s recommendation that  the current restriction on the GCSB to intercept the private communications of New Zealanders for its intelligence function be removed. The enormous powers of the GCSB can then be unleashed to capture all electronic communications freed of the restrictions on nationality, legalising all of the programmes that Edward Snowden told us were happening (XKeyscore, Prism, etc), but which the government has consistently denied for the past three years. These capabilities can be coupled with that of the SIS who can now install a video camera in your home for up to 24 hours with no warrant to provide “total information awareness”.

Michael Cullen’s ridiculous argument that the GCSB needs to spy on New Zealanders to protect them, providing the example of how hamstrung the GCSB would be should someone be lost at sea ignores the fact that the GCSB can already provide any assistance to the Police (with no thresholds whatsoever about what the Police are doing). And it is most likely that the Police would be the agency leading any missing person investigation. Cullen’s example demonstrates either a stunning lack of knowledge of the GCSB’s current powers or a desire to promulgate false examples of how such additional powers would be used. In either case, this person should not be leading a so-called “Independent review.”

After all, we should ask, just exactly how many New Zealanders lives have been protected by the GCSB/SIS ability to spy on them already? We have no evidence of any people being brought to justice for attempts to undermine national security – and surely if there was evidence of such offences, they would be followed up by both police and the courts. One New Zealander whose life was most definitely not protected by the GCSB’s ability to spy on him was Daryl Jones, a NZ citizen killed in a US drone attack in Yemen. He was subject to an intelligence warrant (we must assume a GCSB interception warrant as it is the agency with such capability) that provided the NSA with at least some data about him. Whatever your view about Daryl Jones, he was not an existential threat to New Zealand (or the US for that matter) nor did he receive any due process of law (e.g. he was never brought before any court or accused of any crime).  So the evidence we actually do have is of these agencies violating the rights of New Zealanders, not protecting them. There is a list of other violations of rights regarding both agencies that have been well canvassed in the media.

The recommendation that existing laws were “inconsistent, and a lack of clarity meant both the agencies and their oversight bodies were at times uncertain about what the law does or does not permit, which makes it difficult to ensure compliance" also beggar’s belief. The GCSB law was totally overhauled in 2013, the SIS Act has been amended a half a dozen times since 2007 – and somehow at none of these points were the “inconsistencies and lack of clarity” identified and cleared up? In fact, clarity was a major issue in the GCSB Act of 2013 debate: people could see that the law allowed the agency to spy on them in a way that had previously been unlawful. The idea that the GCSB interpretation of its law makes it "risk-averse" as the review notes, (in other words, unwilling to spy on people they aren’t sure they are allowed to) is a GOOD thing that should be applauded not something that needs to be amended to widen its scope even further.

Curiously, the government is hot-footing it to change the law to eliminate this “lack of clarity” but no such urgency has been extended to the Solicitor-General’s 2007 view that the Terrorism Suppression Act was “unnecessarily complex, incoherent…and almost impossible to apply to a domestic situation’”. Rather it seems the government wants clarity to spy but not clarity on the reasons for its spying.

One final note is the commentary about the need for “bipartisan” support for intelligence law changes, such support ostensibly giving legitimacy to, and public confidence in, these agencies. But from their start, these agencies have been shrouded in secrecy and half-truths (if not outright lies). The public is hardly able to make an “informed decision” under these circumstances. What the public does know, however, has given rise to significant public unease – and that unease is not something new. In 1977, tens of thousands marched against the expansion of the SIS. In 2013, such demonstrations were repeated. These agencies act in the shadows and as such, most New Zealanders are unaware of what they are doing. It is not that they are unconcerned, but rather that other things are more obviously of urgent pressing concern: health, education, welfare and work. But when the realities of these agencies are exposed, it takes little for the public opposition to be mobilised. It is unlikely that this would ever be a make or break election issue, but that doesn’t mean that people in New Zealand consent to these agencies or to these powers, or that cross-party support gives them any legitimacy with ordinary people.

[This article was first published on indymedia]