MAIN MENU

Submission to Intelligence Review

 

IRIS Support Team

Ministry of Justice

Level 3, Justice Centre 19 Aitken Street

WELLINGTON

 

Submitted by:

Richard Keller

13 August, 2015

Table of Contents

  1. Information about my submission
  2. Introduction
  3. Historical description of secret and elite focused criteria used by GCSB and SIS
  4. Effects upon society and democracy of secret and elite focused criteria used by GCSB and SIS
  5. Implications for the future of the GCSB and the SIS
  6. Your Submission Form outline
  7. Summary

1 – Information about my submission

 

  1. What is your name?    Richard Keller
  2. What organisation do you belong to (if any)?  n/a
  3. Are you a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident?  Yes, NZ Citizen and USA citizen
  4. What country do you currently live in?  New Zealand
  5. Are you willing to be contacted by the independent reviewers or their support team at the Ministry of Justice to discuss your submission if they have questions?   Yes


2 – Introduction

What should the questions be?

 

The main question surrounding the GCSB and the SIS is: what is their purpose? This must be the focus of the review process. The questions in the public submission form and the way they are mostly structured hide this question, in fact tend to indicate that their purpose is already known and discussion about them is none of the public’s business.

The most egregious example is Question 8: “How much do you know about the purpose of SIS and GCSB and what they do?”

The purpose of this review is to publicly discuss their purpose, and consequently what they do and whether in fact they should exist at all. “how much do you know about” is a question from on high and, with no indication what the questioner thinks is the purpose of these services, is quintessential ‘spook’ speak. Using references throughout to vague concepts of “national security” and “threats to New Zealand’s interests”, illustrate the “spooks” are still invoking, after all these years, a cold war-like fog of fear.

Other examples of preconception

Question 11:   “How comfortable are you . . . . . . following types of information, assuming it will assist to identify threats to New Zealand or its interests?”

What kinds of things would be ‘threats’ and what are New Zealand’s “interests”? The vagueness and presumptuousness of these terms disallows any public right or need to engage in open discussion about what they might mean.

Question 10: Again, ‘threats to New Zealand or its interests” is used in its full presumptuousness.

Question 15: “the nature of national security risks” is offered with no indication of what the questioner thinks this means. The term “national security” has long been trotted out as justification for whatever the GCSB and the SIS are covertly doing and a taboo subject to discuss in public.

Other vague and presumptuous terms

In question 7, the ‘Protect” section, the submission form begins immediately to use terms fraught with undefined meanings. Many of these terms have traditionally been used to define a narrow range of interests which the GCSB and the SIS have pursued.

“terrorist” – the term ‘terrorist’ is fraught as it is applied to different people for different acts. The GCSB and the SIS cannot be trusted to interpret situations consistently.

“New Zealand’s economic interests” – there is no ‘one’ economic interest in NZ and never has been. There has always been a tussle in various directions. And with the continuously rising gap between rich and poor here in NZ as part of the same global situation these differences are more stark than ever, thus making the need to define the term, differentiating more clearly ‘whose interests?’, more important than ever.   Traditionally the GCSB and SIS have pursued the interests of business and political elites and increasingly these days global corporations.

“New Zealand’s international relations” – relationships with other countries have traditionally been defined by the NZ elite’s relationship to powerful nations like the UK and USA. This needs to be discussed openly.

“adverse foreign influences” – what could be more vague than this! Again, what is an ‘adverse’ influence to some might be a help to others. Nothing could be more important than closing the gap between the rich and poor in our time as we look to develop a sustainable future.


3 – Historical description of the secret and elite focused criteria used by GCSB and SIS

Historical targets

Typical targets of surveillance by the SIS and GCSB have been those which elite political and business interests are concerned about:

  • those holding certain political beliefs
  • whistleblowers
  • Tangata Whenua
  • activist groups
  • religious groups
  • overseas countries
  • Note that there is no direct connection in general of any of these categories with unlawful activity; the surveillance interest has been fundamentally political. Recent releases from Snowden, for example, have confirmed that character of this past surveillance.

Intimate connection to an alliance

All of the history, technology, and political influence of the Waihopi spy base of the GCSB has come through what is now known to be called the Five Eyes Alliance, headed by the NSA of the USA. It has been impossible to maintain any independent viewpoint throughout this process and there has been no indication of any desire to develop any independent New Zealand perspective on this process.

 

 

4 – Effects upon society and democracy of the secret and elite focused criteria used by GCSB and SIS

 

Effect on historical targets of their right to participate in the democratic process

 

Investigating possible criminal activity is one thing but harassment through surveillance and other intimidatory activities inevitably limit the ability of individuals and groups to participate publicly in discussing the issues of the day and efforts to influence political processes and public opinion.

Effect on everyone of their right to participate in the democratic process

Within a democracy ‘freedom of expression’ is fundamental. With the ever increasing ability for mass surveillance there is an increasing fear within individuals and groups throughout the country regardless of their affiliations that they will be monitored if they say anything at all. This is one of the most fundamental threats to democracy imaginable. Being covert helps create an atmosphere characterized by a cold war-like fog of fear.

The old saying “if you have nothing to hide” has long been used as an excuse to overcome public concern about surveillance but with mass surveillance this has been exposed as a new threat to privacy. The surveillance agencies show a fear of freedom.

Effect on democracy of the history of warrantless searches, even illegal activity of the GCSB and SIS

 

The GCSB and SIS have a long history of illegal activity. Denials abound, and when exposed, excuses readily constructed, even laws changed with little discussion. Warrantless searches encourage an expectation of impunity within the two organisations. This undermines public confidence in pronouncements about the GCSB and SIS and about the laws governing them, and again increase an atmosphere of fear and fog.


5 – Implications for the future of the GCSB and SIS

 

Legislation and Oversight

Legislation which is broad and ill-defined can be seen as both a cause and effect of secrecy. Oversight has been almost non-existent, again both a cause and effect of this atmosphere of fear and fog. Real public oversight, through the elected legislature in the form of a select committee made up of members of most parties, is required in order for a full public discussion to emerge over time.

Can the GCSB and the SIS be reformed?

 

A view of the history of these organizations would indicate that no, they probably cannot be reformed. The ‘spooks’ nature of their very being probably would indicate they would rather die away than be reformed. The attitude of the current government, illustrated by Chris Findlayson’s classic description of reform discussions as ‘chit chat’ shows how desperate they are to avoid any meaningful reform. Clearly they wish not to involve the public in such a democratic exercise.

What are the real threats facing New Zealand?

 

Climate change and the continued existence of global arsenals of nuclear weapons are the greatest threats to New Zealand, and everywhere. How could organizations like the GCSB and SIS assist in dealing with these threats?


6 – Your submission outline

 

General questions

  1. On a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (critical), how important do you think it is for the government to do the following:
  2. How much do you know about the purpose of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and what they do?

 

Both of these questions are basically unanswerable as indicated through the previous discussion. Note that protection from cyber attack is a technical matter which has never been the focus of the GCSB so should be considered elsewhere outside this review.

 

  1. In your opinion, do the NZSIS and GCSB act in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders?

Yes No

Mostly Don’t know

Sometimes

 

  1. In which circumstances do you think the GCSB or NZSIS should be able to access information about the following people:

 

This question is basically unanswerable as indicated through the previous discussion, though clearly my overall view is that the GCSB and SIS cannot be trusted at all.

 

  1. How comfortable are you with the GCSB or NZSIS having access to the following types of information, assuming it will assist them to identify threats to New Zealand or its interests?

Comfortable Not comfortable

Neutral Don’t know

  1. b) The locations or IP addresses where emails, phone calls or text messages are sent/made or received

Comfortable Not comfortable

Neutral Don’t know

  1. c) The content of emails, text messages or phone calls

Comfortable Not comfortable Neutral Don’t know

  1. d) Internet browsing history

Comfortable Not comfortable

Neutral Don’t know

  1. e) Social media posts

Comfortable Not comfortable

Neutral Don’t know

 

  1. How comfortable are you with private companies such as Facebook and Google collecting your personal data (for example, the websites you visit or products you look at)?

Comfortable Not comfortable

Neutral Don’t know

 

  1. Are you more comfortable with your personal data being available to private companies or the GCSB?

More comfortable with private companies

More comfortable with the GCSB

Comfortable with both

Not comfortable with either

Don’t know

 

Legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies

  1. Do you think the functions and powers the GCSB and NZSIS have under their governing legislation strike the right balance between allowing the agencies to effectively protect New Zealand’s interests and ensuring people’s rights are respected?
  2. Do you think the legislation contains adequate checks and balances on how the agencies exercise their powers and functions?

Yes

No

Don’t know

Please describe what you see as the strengths and weaknesses with the current system in terms of striking this balance, and how you would suggest any weaknesses could be addressed.

 

Lack over public oversight through the legislature has been a clear weakness for as long as the organizations have existed. This is consistent with my contention that this is part of their fundamental character and probably indicates they are unreformable. Is there a chance for reformation with proper public oversight?   A concern would be that any individual or party involved with the select committee might themselves become compromised through association with the deep and fundamental anti-democratic nature of the two organisations.

 

  1. Do you think the legislation has kept up with changes in technology and the nature of national security risks?

 

This question depends upon the notion of what is ‘national security’, which, as I have pointed out earlier in its vagueness and bent toward the needs of elites, is unhelpful in evaluating this question.

 

Oversight of the intelligence and security agencies

  1. Do you think the current oversight arrangements are sufficient to ensure that the GCSB and NZSIS operate within the law and act appropriately?

Yes

No

Don’t know

If you answered no, please explain why

I have discussed this earlier. Note that there has been practically no public oversight of the GCSB and SIS and your question improperly hints that there might have been. A select committee with members from most parties would be required to even suggest such oversight might exist. Even with such a select committee, there would be a concern that any individual or party involved with the select committee might themselves become compromised through association with the deep and fundamental anti-democratic nature of the two organisations.

 

 

  1. Do you think the current oversight arrangements give members of the public confidence that the activities of the GCSB and NZSIS are adequately scrutinised?

Yes

No

Don’t know

 

My answer to this must be qualified to the extent that the public is treated to such a fog of fear that their response may be similarly uncertain and fearful.

 

  1. Are there any improvements you think could be made to the oversight arrangements?

Please explain

 

A proper legislative oversight is required to lift the fog and hopefully eliminate the fear accompanying the fog.

 

Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters Legislation

  1. Do you think some or all of the current provisions should continue in their present form beyond 31 March 2017?
  2. Do you think some or all of the current provisions should be continued beyond 31 March 2017 but in a modified form?

Yes

No

Don’t know

 

Illegal activities, including violent ones, are already covered in other laws and there is no need to have separate legislation for so called ‘terrorist activities’. ‘Terrorist fighters’ can be difficult to differentiate by intent and activity from mercenaries, volunteer ‘freedom fighters’, or even government forces acting overseas.

 

Definition of “private communication” in the GCSB Act 2003

  1. What type of information do you think should be covered by the definition of “private communication” (and therefore protected under section 14)? For example, should only the content of communications be protected, or metadata (eg, the date and time of an email) as well?
  2. Do you have any other comments about the definition of “private communication” (for example, any problems with the current definition or suggestions for improvement)?

 

Both content and metadata should be protected. The advancement of capability in analysing as well as capturing digital data has increased so rapidly in recent years that there can be no sureity that any data or data type would not be used to invade a person’s privacy. This includes the use of such data to track individuals engaged in political activities.

 

7 – Summary

 

The Waihopai Spy Base must be dismantled; it is fundamentally compromised as a tool of empire. GCSB and the SIS must be put under legislative oversight (a proper select committee with representatives from most parties in Parliament) at least, though both are probably beyond salvage and should be disbanded.

 

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s