NZ laws and global surveillance

This is a pretty interesting time for New Zealand to be dramatically changing our surveillance laws. The Key Government has chosen (albeit somewhat forced to after the Kim Dotcom saga) to make significant changes to the GCSB and TICS bills at the same time as serious global conversations continue about government mass surveillance.

Thanks to the Snowden leaks this year, the world has learned about secret surveillance programmes operating out of the US and Europe. The fallout from these leaks has been huge. It’s been described as ‘the most significant leak in US history’ and the ‘most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever’. The revelations have shocked the world and have sparked huge debates about the role of government and the balance between national security and personal privacy.

One of the internet surveillance programmes exposed through these leaks is Prism, a top-secret system used by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect emails, documents, photos and other material from the public. NZ investigative journalist Nicky Hager has described Prism as “a level of intrusion never seen before” – billions of people’s communications being captured and monitored.

So where does New Zealand fit in?

It’s been revealed that some of the information collected through Prism has been given to countries within the Five Eyes intelligence network, which New Zealand is part of, including the Waihopai spy base. What the Key Government won’t confirm, is whether this co-operation with the US means that New Zealanders’ information has been obtained by Prism and shared amongst the spy agencies. However, Edward Snowden has revealed that ECHELON and Five Eyes were part of the collecting of the huge communications grab. We seem to be an absolute part of the massive global communications surveillance.

Former Green MP Keith Locke has helpfully outlined the unanswered questions about where New Zealand and the GCSB fit within the NSA’s global surveillance programme. My colleague Russel Norman has put some of these questions directly to Prime Minister John Key in the House, but with little luck.

What we do know is that New Zealand’s intelligence agencies – the GCSB and the SIS – operate in a cloud of secrecy. There is very limited oversight of our intelligence services and the way they operate, and scarce accountability. And with the passing of the GCSB bill and the soon-to-be-passed TICS bill, the powers of these agencies are being dramatically widened.

All of this matters because it goes to the heart of the fundamental rights and freedoms of New Zealanders. It’s about democracy and democratic rights of freedom of expression and the right to live free from state surveillance. And that’s why the Green Party so vehemently opposes the TICS bill, and the GCSB bill that came before it.

9 Comments Posted

  1. Border control stopped x-raying all luggage of arriving air passengers, then they started again. As of a few weeks ago, they have stopped again. Mine was not x-rayed, coming in from Australia.

  2. It is obvious that recent law changes are designed to shut down democratic dissent, not terrorism.

    Terrorism is a useful excuse.

    We have the potential for huge losses to NZ from bio-security breaches.
    Terrorist acts are highly unlikely in NZ.
    Where would a sensible Government direct finding and effort?
    Our useless bunch are busy shutting down dissent and legal protest using terrorism as an excuse while abandoning and underfunding previous border bio-security measure.

    Terrorism in NZ has caused two deaths. Both actions were by people opposing democratic protest. And one was investigated and solved by normal police methods, (one, the trades hall bombing, remains unsolved), not by extra powers of surveillance and breaches of privacy.

    We have pocket knives confiscated at airports by over egged security, while steam cleaning of containers arriving in NZ has been abandoned.

  3. I imagine we were spying and part of spy rings before Key, he has only upped the amount of info we allow others to receive. Our only solution to the Key problem is vote against his party next year and persuade our apathetic countrymen to join us. I have never seen so much damage done to a nation in such a short time. Lord help us, Douglas and Prebble were bad enough, but this lot are like something from a Stephen King horror story. If we give em any more free reign they will be sending gas vans around to sweep up all the poor and those thrown out of work by National Party greed.

  4. Nobody raised in New York would trust Key, the sensitivity to a con job is built in. We don’t expect dishonesty from our politicians, but he exceeds all expectations.


  5. PS; BJ, the Businessman that survives in me senses a most undemocratic agenda – this Government NEEDS to go – not quite as badly as we need them to do so.

  6. Sorry michaela – I should underline that I make no distiction between what Terrorists wear. Uniforms or not. There comes a point when Civil disobedience becomes a duty…. regards Mark

    BJ; Indeed – I was watching Parliament one day when the PM gave five different answers to the same question in as many minutes. Hansard will have it on Record, but I was amazed at the effrontery – I’ve lived in third (and 1st) world countries, but never seen or heard anything like it – always with that smile… won’t surprise me if he starts patting people on the head and telling them not to worry – what’s next? – Nursery Rhymes I guess…regards mark

  7. One of the most important differences is that the money markets were dishonest when Key was making his killing in them. He wasn’t paid anywhere near as much as he made, was he? The PM of the country is supposed to be honestly working for the good of the COUNTRY, not himself, not his wealthy mates.

  8. Eyes on the Ball are at make or break status now.
    Good on you Steffan.
    Imo these laws are largely in place to make legal, surveillance the Government has been doing illegally forever (an 11 year old Keith Locke – really?). Shades of tyranny,

    Also, these laws hope to tax, Largely things that are simply gone – thus the break with conscious realizion of how poor our people truly are – rampant nonsence.

    They’d find themselves at the top of the list I’d think (but never know)
    To complain of such matters in NZ is, ime, fulfilling a death wish.

    As long as our Government deals in injustice, we will continue exporting our free thinkers – ie; people who wouldn’t Vote for this Regime in a pink fit. The Gnats are happy to have that lot gone…..

    Doesn’t solve the underlying problem of eroding the Tax Base and selling the Country off instead – it is not working.

    My last Burglars stole food!

    To survive – humans need food and shelter – that we cannot look after our people thus is disgracefull.
    Didn’t like Malcolm Fraser much – but (surpisingly) he threw open the doors to migrants – Taxation Wealth followed – Australia is now rich beyond our hopeless form – how a money man like the PM missed this is still a mystery to me – all our broadsheets are in the minus Column.

    There are serious differences between running money markets. and running a Country
    We can afford to house and feed 4 million people in luxury – this failure alone is negligent

    I have no problem with surveillance per-se. But this has a not-so-funny paranoid factor….Best, Mark

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