Thursday, June 22, 2017

GCSB Director wanted to be useful - offered spies to Groser

"Mindful of the importance of being useful", GCSB Director Ian Fletcher offered the GCSB's services to Tim Groser.
When information about the GCSB spying on Tim Groser´s competitors for the job of Director of the WTO became public in 2015, the general assumption was that this was a case of the government leaning on a supposedly politically neutral agency to advance its agenda. 
Instead, what the IGIS´s report portraits is an agency taking it onto itself to do some extra-curricular spying in order to be in the good books with the government. 

The report by Inspector General Cheryl Gwyn is similar to Ian Fletcher´s memory - very specific in some details, but extremely vague in others. It states that it was Ian Fletcher´s idea to approach Tim Groser and offer him some extra spying to help him get the top job at the WTO. The report explains this by Fletcher being "mindful of the importance of being useful", i.e. he wanted to lick Groser´s boots, possibly because there was some public concern about his appointment (he had been appointed by personal recommendation from the PM, somewhat bypassing the usual selection process). 

Groser agreed that it was a good idea and told Fletcher to go ahead ("expressed his acceptance"). This is where the report becomes fluffy. This "acceptance" is subsequently equated with a ministerial approval, for which Groser - then Minister of Trade - was not authorised. The Minister in charge of the GCSB was the PM John Key. The report is silent on whether Fletcher thought that Groser had the authority to approve the spying or whether he just didn´t care. And because record keeping is not the GCSB´s thing and Fletcher´s memory suddenly stopped working after that meeting with Groser, we will never know. 

So it looks like Ian Fletcher used the tools of his organisation to buy himself favours with the government, or to express his gratitude for getting a job for which he wasn´t really qualified. That is the essence of it and it shows how easily a spy agency can be used for personal gain. This is why many of us campaigned so hard against giving these agencies more powers. 

The remainder of Gwyn´s report is interesting, but insignificant. 

There is some consideration given to the question of whether the spying was in the interest of NZ´s national security, as required by the GCSB Act. Gwyn quotes the law, which allows for spying being done for "economic well-being", but only if it advances national security. But then it turns out that this ominous national security isn´t really defined anywhere: "The lack of a statutory definition gives scope for the government to determine as a matter of policy what its approach to national security will be." In other words, the government is free to declare anything it wants to be a matter of national security. Again, this is what many people pointed out as a real danger when all the anti-terrorism legislation was introduced and the powers of the spy agencies were expanded.

Gwyn then refers to the New Zealand National Security System (NSS) framework, which declares "sustaining economic prosperity" to be important for national security. And voilĂ , Tim Groser becoming head of the WTO is suddenly a matter of national security, because with him in that position, NZ might secure another free trade deal or two. Surprise, the economy is political. The strange thing about the report is that Gwyn clearly describes this circular argument, but then concludes that because it is that way, there is nothing wrong here. 

Another aspect the reports spends some time on is that of the political neutrality of the GCSB. First it turns out that at the time this concept wasn´t actually part of the law. It was, however, mentioned in both the GCSB´s and the DPMC´s internal manuals. 

But Gwyn only looks at this issue from a domestic perspective of party politics. She argues that because Groser´s nomination had been supported by both National and Labour, there was no political advantage here for the government. The issue of international politics doesn´t enter here. As Paul Buchanan points out in an interview with RNZ, the issue of NZ spying on allied countries (who put up their own candidates) is at least problematic and should have been considered. 

And the argument with bi-partsianship for Groser´s candidacy falls short - because it suggest that if Labour had not supported Groser, then the spying would have `arguably´ been illegal. It seems strange to define political neutrality via the absence of an effective opposition. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Protest Tillerson's Visit - Unwelcome the US Secretary of State

Action alert: On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson is landing in Wellington to meet with the NZ Government. 350 Aotearoa have organised an for him at 12:30 pm at Parliament. 

350 Aotearoa are asking people to help 'provide the opposite of the warm welcome Wellington normally gives: we need to unwelcome Tillerson from our Parliament, and protect our Government from climate denial and warmongering.'

If we do want to protect this country from warmongering, one thing to do would be to withdraw from the Five Eyes.

As a member of the Five Eyes we are involved in an international intelligence and surveillance network built to meet the needs of US national security. Our 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.

Our membership in the Five Eyes means we are following Donald Trump.

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
Anti-Bases Campaign -

The 5th Eye -

iSpy - The Five Eyes Alliance -

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