Is the GCSB using the NSA’s XKeyscore data search to spy on our phone calls, emails and internet use?


Parliament is debating a Bill extending the powers of the GCSB when its members are not aware of the extent to which it already breaches our privacy.

Today’s new Snowden revelations (via Guardian journalist Glen Greenwald) gives us an insight into the huge reach of the NSA into lives of everyone on the planet –  and the help provided by our GCSB.

In the NSA’s XKeyscore document – released by Greenwald today – New Zealand is listed as a collection site for a massive NSA database of phone call, email and internet search data. Presumably XKeyscore’s mention of New Zealand refers to the Waihopai satellite communications interception station’s collection of millions of international phone records.

The Waihopai-sourced phone data joins the billions of bits of phone, email and internet search metadata collected and stored by the NSA for later searching. Greenwald mentions an NSA report, which said that in 2007 1-2 billion such metadata records were added to the NSA’s database each day.

The massive privacy implications for New Zealanders of XKeyscore have been hidden from us by successive New Zealand governments. The main XKeyscore presentation published by the Guardian yesterday is dated 25 February 2008 and the notation on the top – “Top Secret/Comint/Rel to USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL” – presumably means it was made available to the GCSB. Presumably that also means the then Labour government knew about it.

We need to know whether the GCSB can search the XKeyscore data base with the same ease as could an NSA-authorised analyist like Edward Snowden. If so our privacy is seriously endangered. The GCSB, like the NSA, is not supposed to spy on its own citizens, but as Greenwald points out, “XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyist.” That situation might apply here, particular as the GCSB doesn’t have particularly good oversight systems. In any case, under the GCSB’s existing mandate if a New Zealander is phoning or emailing people overseas, their aggregated metadata (including internet searches) might be judged as “foreign intelligence” and thus legal for spying via the XKeyscore search tools.

Think of the NSA and the GCSB if you are using Facebook today. One of the NSA slides is headed “Facebook Chat V4 Appid Example” and explains how easily the analyst can monitor you by entering into an NSA screen your Facebook user name and a date range. Is the GCSB checking Facebook too?  We don’t know that, but we do know that the GCSB received that NSA Facebook document referred to, because “NZL” is notated on the top. There are plenty of questions yet to be asked of our government.


  1. Questions? The time for asking questions is over. It’s time to put the people that have allowed this to happen behind bars. Pretty simple.

  2. This new revelation absolutely confirms the Waihopai being used for US drone targeting , which implicates NZ in Crimes against Humanity with over 1500 innocent citizens killed.

  3. I would edit the headline. This spying stuff is turning into information overload for Jo Public, which is great for political geeks (me included). However for simplicity, I suggest:

    Is the GCSB using NSA’s tools to spy on us?

  4. Intellectually I know that spying is wrong, but I am afraid that emotionally I just cannot generate the requisite outrage. Perhaps this is because, as an animal activist, I have acted under the assumption I am being spied on anyway. Not by the state, who – unfortunately for my ego – are not actually interested in me (my most recent police report pretty much said I am so safe I am boring), but by the animal industries, who are very interested.

    The other reason is because most spying is so incompetently done it is more a joke than a threat. The police spy for the animal rights movement was so stupid that he handed his computer to a computer expert to fix, and the private enterprise spy (who I actually miss, because she used to give us lifts to protests in her father’s BMW), was outed because her email message ID was Thompson and Clark. The pork board also tried to find information on me, but failed utterly (they did not think of trying Google – I am on it), and then they used the official information act on MAF to get a copy of my submission on sow stalls. If they had rung me up and asked for one I would have sent it.

    So it is not exactly John Le Carre. More like the squabbling orcs in Mordor and Isengard, as one comentator has already pointed out.


    The BBC and other news media have just this night reported:

    “NSA spy leaks: Edward Snowden leaves Moscow airport”

    “Ms Harrison is a member of the Wikileaks legal team and has been helping Mr Snowden.

    Mr Kucherena also said he had been awarded temporary asylum and showed a photocopy of the document issued to his client.

    The document, which resembles a Russian ID card and features a fingerprint, shows an issue date of 31 July and expiry date of 31 July 2014.”

    Edward Snowden has revealed a lot of what the US NSA and other agencies have been up to, spying and harvesting metadata and more on a massive scale. He has now apparently been granted a form of asylum by the Russians, who themselves are not really a country honouring freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

    But one may understand why Snowden has accepted a temporary solution, to allow him to get out of the airport at Moscow, and recover, re-assess his situation, and perhaps plan a longer term political asylum elsewhere, possibly in Venezuela.

    So here in little, forgotten New Zealand, our “leader” is rushing to follow the US and introduce spy laws and abilities similar to those the NSA in the US enjoys, and in other parts of the world people are up in arms about what goes on in the US!

    John Key is leading us into a society of mass surveillance, while the rest of the world may due to public pressure soon move in another direction.

    Why the hell does New Zealand and do governments here always have to try again, what has failed overseas?

    We had the Chicago Boys economics, social and economic engineering, we bring in backward, dark age resembling welfare “reforms”, and now also spying on a massive scale. What next???

  6. We are waking up to this uncomfortable truth thanks to the whistle blowers and the release of once classified documents.

    Adolf Hitler used fear as a weapon to toss out Germany’s constitution, and we need to take a lesson from what happened there. Add to this the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt being warned days before the attack on Pearl Harbour and how he agonised during that time about his speech and declaration of war.

    Then we have 9-11 where from Susan Lindauers testimony we know that the Bush administration was forewarned and allowed the twin tower disaster so the patriot act could be passed and today we see the militarisation of the US police and scaremongering going on there.

    John Key’s scaremongering is just that, but Kiwis need to wake up as the GCSB is simply a bill to legitimise what the govt has been doing for many years on behalf of the US & UK corporate masters. But if there is too much resistance to the bill, don’t be surprised if something gets blown up to make people feel really scared.

    The level of spying by the US & UK shows what’s to come here.

    On John’s agenda is to revert to the two party electoral system, (hence the planned referenda). This allows for the manipulation of elections and situations like the Bush coop in 2000 to take place here.

    But is this unstoppable?

    If we take note of what John Pilger says and look at our modern history you can see the trend bringing us to this point in time where political control is complete.

    The next step is social control which is what the GCSB and NSA is all about.

    My fear is that to be proactive in determining our own future, we are waking up so far after the horse has bolted, that we’re going to be hard pressed to stop this.

    Politicians are in the pockets of the corporations or the CIA, an agency Obama once worked for. Sadly so many conspiracy stories have been dismissed but are now being found to be true.

    Will New Zealand simply let the corporate Mafia take over completely?

    As the country stands at present, no. The silent majority are too tied up in their own short-sightedness and addictions to take note or care. They will wake up and find they are unable to survive without wearing his mark.

    Perhaps we need to ask the question; how do we survive and raise our families living under a fascist dictatorship?

    An lets not forget the US administration has replaced many democracies with its own puppet dictators..

    References – fdr & Pearl harbour. John Pilger on our masters

  7. Thank you David, you have renewed my faith that there is a glimmer of hope left. Although the horse may have bolted, I am positive in thinking we can fix this! New Zealand will not let this happen. or maybe I too will be seeking asylum in Russia.
    Lets not let something blow up! I love our beehive!!

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