Wednesday, July 3, 2013

John Key living on the spy-cloud

Prime Minister John Key gave an insight into his lack of understanding of the role of state agencies at the GCSB Bill hearings today. In his world, everything is a business and cost cutting is the only thing that matters.

On two occasions he likened giving the GCSB the power to spy on people on behalf of other agencies to the act of outsourcing a part of a business. He didn’t seem to have any awareness that spying on people is not just another business, but a highly intrusive act for which there must be clear rules and regulations. Any oversight regime headed by Key is likely to be a joke.

He also showed his arrogance towards submitters.

Key shamelessly used his position as Minister in charge of the GCSB to ridicule submitters. When several submitters stated that NZ had not been the target of terrorist activities since the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, in each case he asked if they had any documents to prove that. Of course, no one except him and Ian Fletcher would be able to prove or disprove such a statement. 

In another rude comment, Key said after Kim Dotcom had finished his submission: “That’s it, we’re out of here,” ignoring the fact that several more submitters were scheduled to speak. However, his call was heeded by the raft of media who left the room with the star of the show.

There were 9 groups of submitters today and most spoke strongly against the Bill, stating that people had a right to privacy.

Two key points were made today. First, the assertion that meta-data (i.e. data about data, such as who spoke on the phone with whom for how long) was just as ‘valuable’ to spy agencies as the actual content of a conversation. Therefore there should be no distinction between the two as far as the need for warrants and regulations are concerned. A particular concern was that the Bill contained no definition of meta-data while the amount of information contained in meta-data was ever increasing. Today’s cell phone meta-data contains the exact location of both caller and receiver during the entire call – information which was not available ten years ago.

The second concern raised by a number of people was that there had been no cost analysis done on the benefit of ‘outsourcing’ spying jobs to the GCSB. The main reason behind the Bill is that it would be too costly to replicate the technical infrastructure of the GCSB for the SIS and the police and therefore the GCSB should be able to act for the SIS and other agencies. However, no figures are available as to how much the alleged cost savings are.

The hearings will continue on Friday, July 5 at 10am in Bowen House.

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