The GCSB – where life imitates comedy


19908-bigthumbnailIf you were writing a comedy script for a series lampooning the stupidity and incompetence of a spy agency you couldn’t do better than follow the real-life antics of our own GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau).

After a call from their boss organisation in the US, the National Security Agency, the local spies set up illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom before taking part in a keystone-cops midnight raid on the millionaire’s mansion. Lots of helicopters, spotlights, guns, ninja suits and dogs. Such excitement, such adrenalin, such incompetence.

When the case gets to court they get a policeman to lie and say they weren’t there but the lie doesn’t seem to be working. They could still be found out so they get a dour Southland farmer (who will believe any rubbish they tell him) to sign a ministerial warrant to keep their identity secret from the court. That will do the trick. But no, too late, they will be outed in court anyway so they tell the Prime Minister that they illegally spied on a New Zealand resident and the shit is about to hit the fan.

They tell the PM they briefed him about the spying by showing him a photo montage which included a picture of Dotcom when the PM visited their office for a cup of tea eight months earlier. The PM can’t remember but they need a cover story. Desperately they say they were confused by the legislation because even though it said they couldn’t spy on New Zealanders they thought it would be OK because they’d always done it before and they weren’t really spying themselves, they were only helping out their real boss, the US, and their other spy mates. They forget to say they’d been so busy they’d forgotten the legislation was even there.

The PM fronts for them and tells us he’s disappointed. He apologises to Dotcom and tells us that it was only illegal if the GCSB didn’t spy on New Zealanders. Because they did break the law he will change the law so they won’t have to break it again.

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Meanwhile it turns out the GCSB leader is an old school chum of the PM but the PM tells us he hardly remembers him. However after an epic media battle the PM admits to having had a couple of breakfast meetings with his mate in the last few years although he’s hazy on the details. (The media put it down to political amnesia – a cousin of plausible deniability)

More battles and the PM finally confesses that he phoned his old school mate to tell him to apply for the top spy job. His sales pitch was simply – a huge salary, listening into private conversations and watching the action from secret cameras installed in people’s bedrooms – it’s called sharing information between spy agencies. What’s more no real decisions needed – just follow the orders from the US. And to top it all off the PM tells him – strictly no accountability. It’s was an offer the PM’s mate couldn’t refuse.
But back to the law changes. The spies are delighted at the PM’s support and tell him they don’t want to have to worry him with lots of requests to spy on us so when he changes the legislation he could let them spy on whole groups of people at once – the PM could call them classes of people so it would sound OK to parents. What a coup, what brilliance, what deceit.

They are getting their confidence back now so they ask their tame pensioner watchdog to check the rules again. He’s forgotten his glasses so they read the law to him and he’s confused too – nothing to do with the medication – so they write him a note to sign saying they didn’t break the rules after all because he’s confused as well.

But the polls are bad – they show most people don’t trust the GCSB so the spies need something new or a new twist on an old trick – scare the pants off everyone.

So yesterday the chief spy tells us the spying we thought was illegal (silly us) was in fact protecting us from “potential weapons of mass destruction development, people smuggling, foreign espionage in New Zealand and drug smuggling.”

That should shut them up. George Bush would be so pleased.

And just in case anyone thinks the spies are having a rest after their hard work on Dotcom the chief spy tells us – “We are continuing to work hard to implement the recommendations about GCSB in the compliance review, and I will be delivering my first report on progress by the end of June.”

That’s so good. We only have to wait a month or so for more laughs.


  1. There’s a political satire on RNZ National called “Down the List” (11am Sunday, 5am Monday), but recently they haven’t had to make anything up, and it’s become almost indistinguishable from “The Week in Parliament”.

  2. The scary thing is that they can be so incompetent yet still remain as a threat to the (largely illusory) democratic fabric of society. They’re probably quite happy to be laughed at.
    The whole saga, up to and including Fletcher telling us what Neazor had written in a report on Fletcher’s illegal activities, is disgusting and completely unacceptable. What we have is a situation analogous to a courtroom where the chairperson of the jury hands the verdict to the accused, who then tells the judge what it is, and eats the paper it’s written on. The jury are sworn to silence.
    This sort of crap should be unacceptable in the corporate world, let alone government, where there are formally supposed to be checks and balances. Another day, another step closer to fascism.

  3. It is not okay for the GCSB to spy on Dotcom, but it is unclear whether it was okay for the GCSB to spy on Kiwis. Can someone please explain how this works? Everyone should be told they were spied on and have the opportunity to claim monetary compensation as Dotcom is.

  4. Still waiting for Key to try and make money out of this..
    PPP movie based on your script John..
    If I was the Casting Director .. I would simply use the Flight of the Concord boys and Rhys Darby in every single role ( padded for Kim obviously)
    The most frightening thing however is that Kiwis are treating it like that..
    To me more like SolyentGreen meets Brave New World and the latest K2 high
    is still ‘arguably comfortably legal’ here too?
    Someone pinch me please.
    I asked if I was on that list just to see if they did actually have a filing process since they keep ‘records’ of so little else, rely on amnesiacs and interpretations of ‘arguably’ that in themselves would be deemed contradictory in London?
    No answer..
    I’ll take that as a NO since I have Mr Fletcher and Neazor’s word on it..

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