From today’s NZ Herald – a letter to the editor from New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond.
In assessing the Prime Minister’s performance on Campbell Live, rather than admiring the style, it is important to weigh what was said. He assured New Zealanders that if the GCSB bill is passed, they will not be subject to wholesale spying.
In the bill, however, it says that the Director may apply in writing for an interception warrant or an access authorisation, and the scope of these permissions is sweeping.
In the case of warrants, the communications that are intercepted may be “made or received by 1 or more persons or classes of persons” – all teachers, or nurses, or trade unionists, perhaps, plus all the people with whom they communicate?
In the case of access authorisations, the Director may seek access to “1 or more specified information infrastructures or classes of information infrastructures” – all telephone or internet services, for example, or the Southern Cross Cable?
If XKeyscore is used, with its capacity for 3-hop analyses, a warrant for an individual (let alone a class of person) gives access to the communications of tens of thousands of people. If the Guardian is to be believed, New Zealanders are already subject to surveillance under this system.
Contrary to the Prime Minister’s assurances, it seems that the GCSB bill does make wholesale spying on New Zealanders legally possible. This further undermines trust in the oversight of our intelligence system.
The Prime Minister has added that in the first instance, he would not allow the GCSB to access the content of the communications that are intercepted. Are we supposed to be grateful? Metadata can still be analysed. For such assurances to be relied on, they must be written into law.
More than ever, I think that a thorough and independent review of the intelligence agencies, and those who authorise the surveillance of New Zealanders is needed before any new legislation is drafted. Our democratic rights are at risk, and must be defended.