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.