Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!

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Eavesdropping2MUCH SOONER THAN IT SHOULD BE the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill will be the law of the land. Driven through most its stages under urgency, with little or no time for public submissions, the new legislation will usher-in a national security regime of practically unlimited scope and dramatically expanded capacity.

At the heart of this regime will be the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) answerable until 2014, at least, to the incumbent Prime Minister, John Key.

Using the enhanced powers of surveillance bestowed upon it by the new legislation, and operating entirely within the expanded legal parameters it establishes, the “New Zealand Intelligence Community” (as Rebecca Kitteridge calls it) will very soon have the authority to spy upon organisations as old as the trade unions and as new as the groups determined to prevent New Zealand signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. Greenpeace’s latest campaign against deep-sea oil exploration could also be targeted. The grounds? That it poses a direct threat to “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

Protecting the economic well-being of the nation has been one of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service’s (NZSIS) objectives for nearly two decades. We simply do not know how many times it has been used to secure interception warrants directed at the activities of fair trade and environment activists. (The release of such information would, of course, prejudice New Zealand’s national security!)

Whatever the number, the amount of information gleaned by cameras, listening devices and phone-taps will pale into insignificance when set alongside the potentially massive information captures made possible by Key’s amending legislation. Once the GCSB gets involved, every single instance of electronic communication undertaken by a targeted organisation, along with its entire digital database, will very soon be at the disposal of the State.

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From the GCSB the information can then be passed in any number of different directions: to the NZSIS; the Police; the NZ Defence Force; a private corporation; as well as to the various committees and groups operating under the auspices of the DPMC. These include the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (ODESC), the National Assessments Bureau, the Security and Risk Group, the Intelligence Co-ordination Group and the National Cyber Policy Office.

It is highly likely that, once begun, such electronic trawling for information will become dangerously self-reinforcing. The more the Intelligence Community gets to know about the intentions of targeted groups, the more certain they’ll become that they are protecting the economic well-being of the nation.

Suppose ODESC received information from the GCSB that the friends of some Greenpeace activists (whose cell-phone calls had been intercepted) were planning action against a Crown Research Institute involved in genetically engineering certain grass species to survive and flourish in New Zealand’s increasingly drought-prone climate.

How easy would it be for them to make out a case that any attack successfully carried out against the CRI should be treated as a direct attack on the nation’s economic well-being? Presented with such evidence, how hard would it be to persuade the Intelligence Community’s “watchdogs” to authorise further surveillance in the interests of national security?

Where would the line be drawn? At what point would the watchdogs decide that the electronic surveillance net had been spread too wide?

Last week, for example, 10 senior business leaders, representing some of New Zealand’s most powerful business lobby groups, including Business New Zealand, the NZ Chambers of Commerce, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, the Road Transport Forum and the Major Electricity Users Group, released an open letter to the leaders of the Labour and Green parties.

The letter urged the Labour-Green Opposition to withdraw what they called their “damaging” new energy policies. The proposal to establish NZ Power, they said, was already undermining investors’ faith in the economy:

“Rather than remote and intangible, this dampening of investment intentions will have a direct and real economic impact on those of all walks of life who seek to accumulate wealth by working hard to save, invest and grow. It causes interest rates to rise, depletes retirement savings held in KiwiSaver accounts and means that other economic opportunities such as first homes are foregone and new business ventures as savings are unexpectedly reduced. Individuals are less well-off as a result.”

In other words, the Labour-Green policy, in the eyes of these senior business leaders, at least, could very easily be presented as a threat not only to the “economic well-being” but also to the “international well-being” of New Zealand.

With the Secretary of the Treasury represented on ODESC, isn’t it possible that, following the strongest representations from both domestically- and internationally-based business leaders, Treasury might feel obliged to include the policies of the two largest Opposition parties on the domestic and external security agenda?

What would be the consequences for New Zealand as a whole if foreign corporations, believing themselves financially disadvantaged by the Labour-Green energy policies, invoked the penalty provisions of the WTO? How would that affect the country’s international credit rating? What would happen to the value of the New Zealand Dollar? To the domestic housing market? The financial position of the Australian-owned banks? Treasury would want answers to all these questions.

ODESC might very well ask: “How seriously should we take the Labour-Green election promises? Are Shearer and Norman serious?

The temptation to place both parties’ key personal and “information infrastructures” under GCSB surveillance would be enormous.

With New Zealand’s “well-being” at stake, what patriotic Prime Minister could refuse to give the order?

If you think I’m being alarmist, just take a look at the Government’s next brick in the “national security” wall: the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill.

If New Zealanders don’t rouse themselves – and quickly – they’ll soon find themselves trapped in a nightmare from which there is no awakening.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Somehow I can’t see many in the Labour caucus fighting too hard against this. They like these powers, and often use them against the same people that NAct does.
    Mana and Greens are our only real hope.

  2. The linkage between politics and the promise of public safety is fraught with misgivings. One of the manufactured consents to secretly police us all, and based of ‘fears’ where there should be none is found in our drug policy, the very same policy that by its enorcement creates and feeds the molloch politicians are saving us from…. a state of perpetuam absurdum. We see this incestuous paradigm expressed in our body politic, just look at how we recycle MP’ s through Justice, Police, and Health portfolios. Current Health Minister (under who’s WARRANT ALL drug policy enforcment is exacted ) is fmr Justice spokesperson. Now I understand the need for a Ministerial Commitee on Drugs, Interagency and other perfunctionary’s riding the grift wave we now call the Prison Industrial Estate. Now no one is secure in their private personage. Anywhere, Anytime. Let the record show……

  3. Yeah , well I’m hiding under the kitchen table . Welcome to ‘ 1984 ‘ and ‘ Thx1138 ‘ . If you think about it , it’s a ‘natural’ progression of things really . It’s a case of the con artists and mafioso getting their way . Again .

    Chris , if I may address you by your first name ; You say New Zealanders must rouse themselves .

    Yes they must … but how ? How are we to rouse ourselves ? I feel pretty roused right now I can tell you but now what ? I could kick the cat . I could shout at the television . I could harrumph and smolder . ( Fuck ! That ad for credit card insurance is annoying . Fuck off Kiwi bWank ! What with the blinking , leaping , greedy fucking thing you do . Fuck off ! )
    So , where was I ? Oh yeah . So I’m well roused , now what ?

    There has to be a creative strategy for defeating this new enemy ?

    I think I have the answer . Lets not do debt . Lets make do . Lets not consume for the sake of consumption . There’s no law against NOT buying shit . Ok , you’ll eventually look funny and some of you may get a little wiffy but so what ? It won’t be the end of the world and you might find you have more time with your whanau and friends . You might find you don’t need them SSRI’s . You might find that you don’t need to get pissed to chase away the fear . You might actually like to fix things instead of racking up the Visa . You might also like to send communications via the actual human mail person . And by doing so , you might find that your perception of time passing is perceived as passing more slowly therefore you perceive your life as being longer . I woke up the other morning saying ‘ Oh my God ! Where the fuck did April go ? ‘

    We’re being bullshitted . Digital this and that’s are great but if they’re going to be wanky about it then they can go fuck themselves . Fuck the GCSB ! What a pack of cunts ! Who the fuck do they think they are ? Eaves drop this jonky-stien … GO ! FUCK ! YOUR! SELF !
    If those nosy , sneaky little fucks are going to listen in , give them a good show . Talk about nothing other than bombs , guns , drugs , dissidents , plots , schemes , plans , terrorism , murder , mayhem , sabotage and mix it up with knitting patterns and cake recipes . Talk guinea pig illnesses and how best to set explosives within the same sentence .

    You do know what’s happening don’t you ? All this shit being foisted on us . We’re being colonized . We’re in the middle of a bloodless coup . Our wonderful country is becoming someone elses . It’s slipping away from us while we stand around , slack jawed wondering what to do about it . Text book Prof Stanley Milgram . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

    What lets the traitors down . What gives away their game is that they’re being cruel about it . They’re that bloated with power and ego that they get a fiendish thrill out of hurting us in the process . They’re so soulless that they can’t imagine a coup without pain . Look at them ! They’re dumb as clay but cunning . Unbelievably cunning .

  4. New Zealand has sleepwalked from an fairly open democracy into a fascist state in just four years – it will be a few more years before the population wakes up when they find something they don’t like is happening in their own backyard and they don’t have the least power to fight it

  5. Working on the instinct that things are not quite bad enough yet to wake the distracted masses from their digital sleepwalk, the answer is “4 more years” of John Key.
    He is the only option for all the disaffected semi socialists to vote for if they don’t want more of what we have now by getting Shearer and his bunch of neo liberals in.
    We need to hope that Key and his cohorts won’t be able to help themselves and will introduce more slashing of the economy instead of these slow death of democracy by a thousands pieces of anti humanity legislation.
    As modern history has shown this slow death does not stir humanity until it is too late, the best hope for a bloodless reform is that NZ gets Key back in and that they go absolutely power hungry and wake up NZ.
    Of course if the Nats read this they will play along, win the next election and then continue to make small changes so it does not wake up the masses from their digital slumber.
    I didn’t say that there wasn’t a flaw in my plan…..
    “Aaron Gilmore for President” viva le presidente

  6. This bill/law is one more incremental step towards the lunatics running the asylum – and locking us all in our rooms. I’m currently being drawn into fighting Auckland Council over their draft unitary plan and the ineptness on show in the way that has been cobbled together is presumably reflected on a national scale with legislation such as this GCSB situation. On one level I expect that NZ will muddle through in the way that semi-works on the roads – does anyone stop at Stop signs any more? And does anything ever get done about it? The real worry is that some machiavellian person will get their hands on the levers of power rather then the seemingly ineffectual people currently ‘up there’. Then it turns ugly.

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