GCSB complicit in NSA/GCHQ spying on Kiwis


About a year ago I used Wikileaks’ website to find out what the US Embassy in Wellington had said about me in dispatches back to Washington. There were several references. The one that amused me the most reported the Embassy’s belief that I had “an incontrovertible and unwavering mistrust of United States foreign policy.”

I now know that people like me accessing the WikiIeaks site were being monitored by Britain’s electronic spies in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Our GCSB knew this was going on, and that all Kiwis searching the Wikileaks site were being monitored. The GCSB was told about it at the Five Eyes annual SIGDEV Conference in 2012. A GCHQ Power Point presentation to that conference outlined how its “ANTICRISIS GIRL” program enabled “targeted website monitoring” of those accessing Wikileaks. [The slides, from the Snowden documents, can be found on a new investigative journalism website, The Intercept.]

Britain’s Privacy International has challenged the GCHQ over this. “How can targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate,” its director, Gus Hosein, told Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher. “These are innocent people who are being turned into suspects based on their reading habits.”

Greenwald and Gallagher report that the NSA has considered designating Wikileaks as a “malicious foreign actor”, which would then allow extensive surveillance of Wikileaks officials and supporters. Wikileaks’ American supporters would not be exempt from this targeting, but if this happened it would have to be mentioned in the NSA officers’ reports. One NSA document said that if the targeting was of “foreign individuals outside of the US and [who] do not hold dual citizenship…then you are okay”. In none of the documents is there any suggestion the citizens of the other four Fives Eyes countries (UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand) are to be exempt from NSA spying. Any Five Eyes agreement not to spy on each other seems to apply only to the governments of those countries, not to their citizens.

It is probable that a lot more New Zealanders are being monitored by the NSA, mainly through internet surveillance, than are monitored internally by the GCSB – despite the new powers granted to our local spy agency under the GCSB Amendment Bill.

Many New Zealanders are being caught in the Five Eyes dragnet for reasons that have nothing to do with crime. Daring to access websites (like Wikileaks) that expose Western government wrongdoing might be enough to put you on a list of “suspects”. As Privacy International’s Gus Hosein says, “The fact that [UK] ministers are ordering the monitoring of political interests of Internet users shows a systematic failure in the rule of law.” It is a failure of the rule of law that New Zealand’s GCSB knows about, and is complicit in.


  1. It really makes you wonder how it all got so out of control, or should I say when? I have visited the wikileak website before so I guess I have also been monitored. I much preferred when USA wasn’t our friend at least then we clearly knew who the enemy was.

      • Do you realise that the leader of the Opposition could find this out as he is briefed on matters of security like this. If David Cunliffe is not asking these sorts of questions why isn’t he?

  2. “Many New Zealanders are being caught in the Five Eyes dragnet for reasons that have nothing to do with crime …. It is a failure of the rule of law.”

    And that’s what it is. And that’s the really scary part. Thanks Keith.

    Where will we be in 10 years time? Where are you, future generations?

  3. ” . . . The one that amused me the most reported the Embassy’s belief that I had “an incontrovertible and unwavering mistrust of United States foreign policy.”

    This suggests to me that you are a rational being.

  4. The scary stuff is how operationally the NSA and GCHQ (as the two lead agencies within the network) operate on at least a “two hops” protocol or “contact chaining” authorisation.

    Knowing what this means is crucial to understanding how innocent people get caught up in surveillance.

    The Guardian describes the two hops as this:

    One function of this internet record collection is what is commonly referred to as “data mining”, and which the NSA calls “contact chaining”. The agency “analyzed networks with two degrees of separation (two hops) from the target”, the report says. In other words, the NSA studied the online records of people who communicated with people who communicated with targeted individuals. (see: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/27/nsa-data-mining-authorised-obama )

    If you really want to go deep, for your convenience I’ve uploaded the NSA IG report (that’s mentioned in that Guardian paragraph) to Dropbox and you can download it by clicking here.

    But let’s place this within a NZ context…

    Remember when it became know that Keith Locke had been under surveillance by NZ’s security agencies while he was a Member of Parliament? This became known in 2009 when SIS files were released to Keith by the then director of security Dr Warren Tucker.

    At the time, both Prime Minister John Key and his predecessor, Helen Clark, said they were never told that the SIS was spying on MPs (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10555609).

    So how could this be?

    Two hops protocol.

    Basically, Keith was corresponding with a person from Sri Lanka, a person from the northern Tamil area who had arrived in NZ after seeking asylum and a place of refuge far away from the tyranny dished out by Sri Lanka’s government.

    That person, it appears was under surveillance. And it is understood the SIS had obtained a warrant to surveil that person through the normal channels i.e.; the warrant was signed ultimately by Helen Clark as the PM at the time of the operation.

    Under the two hops protocol NZ’s security agencies placed the target under direct surveillance, and also surveilled, and filed data originating from, those who were in communication with the target. The agencies then looked for spatial patterns (in a data sense) among the communications of the people and groups that those, like Keith Locke, were also in contact with.

    So, in a human intel sense, it appears two hops has been used in NZ at least since 9/11 and perhaps earlier.

    In a SIGINT sense, in the wake of the Snowden revelations, some say the dragnet has gone as far as three hops. See the Guardian’s piece on that aspect here:

    Hope this doesn’t give you all nightmares 🙂

    PS: I added a bit and made this comment into a post here:

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