I rarely see the Listener magazine these days. We ended our subscription several years ago when it started to read like a National Party newsletter.
But today I came across the latest issue delivered to some friends and was amazed at the editorial.
I’m often quite genuinely surprised at the level of ignorance amongst editorial writers about the role of the GCSB and its relationship with the US National Security Agency. In part this will be because over the years I’ve followed this debate more closely than most and have a good basic understanding of the issues.
Even so I was left speechless at the basic factual inaccuracies, the half-baked assumptions and utterly implausible interpretations of the working of our spy agency as presented to the Listener’s readers.
I’m sure English teachers sometimes feel the same way after reading a 13-year-old’s interpretation of a scene from a Shakespearean play but the student has an excuse – the Listener doesn’t.
And of course – as befits a National Party mouthpiece – the magazine includes its best effort at character assassination of investigative journalist Nicky Hager.
So if you want to read some incredible child-like drivel about our GCSB spy agency and its role in mass surveillance then here it is.
The magazine headlines its editorial with the bizarre claim that Nicky Hager and Edward Snowden have timed the latest release of information about GCSB mass surveillance of Pacific countries to coincide with the Northland by-election. They say “Northland voters could be forgiven for feeling resentful, as the by-election should be a platform for their concerns…”.
They suggest the reason New Zealand spies on the Pacific is as part of our “role and responsibility to watch out on their behalf for terrorists or criminals trying to establish a new beachhead”. If this fanciful notion had any credibility then surely Pacific leaders would have been kept informed about this supposed “service” the GCSB provides for them. Instead we learn today that the GCSB targets are Pacific leaders and their key staff rather than terrorists and criminals.
The Listener gets more carried away in suggesting the GCSB conducts mass surveillance to protect us “not just from terrorists but from crime, epidemic, biosecurity threats, child sex rings, drugs and all manner of menace”.
Pure bullshit. Even John Key doesn’t make such ridiculous claims. The police conduct surveillance for those purposes and if the GCSB had assisted materially in any such investigations we would have heard direct from Key as a way to justify the GCSB’s existence.
In similar vein the magazine goes on to say “the news of a threat to contaminate baby formula surely underlined the need for surveillance”. This is meant to imply the GCSB keeps threats like this at bay. It doesn’t and never will. Not only are “lone wolf” operations like this notoriously immune from mass surveillance but again it’s the police whose job it is to investigate and conduct surveillance in these cases based on court-approved warrants.
Just to be clear the GCSB’s role is to conduct mass surveillance of our close neighbours in the Pacific for the US National Security Agency. It is a US operation in all but name. As Snowden revealed the GCSB sends this as raw data streams to the US National Security Agency – unchecked and unfiltered. Meanwhile the NSA does the same thing for all New Zealanders’ electronic communications by tapping the Southern Cross cable (between Auckland and Los Angeles) which carries 80% of this country’s internet traffic.
The real role of the GCSB in the US-dominated “five eyes” network is to advance a US global agenda and the predominant use of the information is for US political and military objectives.
The Listener editor surely knows the role the GCSB played at the time the US was planning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. There the five eyes countries were specifically asked to target non-permanent members of the UN Security Council to gain intelligence to be used to embarrass and pressure those countries to support a UN resolution approving the invasion.
We can thank UK whistle blower Katharine Gunn for leaking this information in an attempt to stop an illegal war while the mainstream media were content to report the lies of George Bush and Tony Blair as justification for war.
The Listener is playing the same role in 2015 on behalf of Key and the National government as they prepare to support another war in Iraq.
In a blog last week I wrote about the two important factors John Key has on his side as he continues to deny mass surveillance of New Zealanders despite proof to the contrary. One of those factors is the mainstream media which routinely plays down criticism of the GCSB, exaggerates the agency’s role in security while ignoring its critical role in supporting US political and military strategies.
In doing so the media generally has become an apologist for the Prime Minister’s various obfuscations and smelly red herrings designed to confuse and scare New Zealanders into unquestioning support for mass surveillance while keeping New Zealanders in the dark.
The Listener performs superbly in this role for John Key. It might mean plenty of brownie points for the editor on the cocktail circuit but it is a grave misuse of the freedom of the press which exists to tell the truth rather than massage the lies and obfuscations of the rich and powerful.