Well, well, well – Kim Dotcom was right – here is the mass surveillance


Well, well, well – Kim Dotcom was right – here is the mass surveillance…

New oversight report critical of spies and highlights legal ‘gap’ in GCSB practices
Our spies have been pushing the boundaries of a new law meant to provide greater detail and oversight, according to their oversight body.

Concerns include the possibility the powerful electronic spying agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, is scooping up information including that which belongs to New Zealanders without the proper legal authorisation.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn issued a report today harshly critical in many regards as to how the GCSB and NZ Security Intelligence Service are meeting the demands of the Intelligence and Security Act.

The new law came in last year after a government review of our spies’ legislation.

It provided greater powers to some of our agencies – the caveat against the GCSB spying on New Zealanders was dropped – but also demanded greater transparency when the NZSIS or GCSB sought warrants to legally approve surveillance.

A year after the new law was passed, Gwyn was still in the dark over whether she and our electronic spy agency are even talking about the same thing.

Warrants are sought for activities including surveillance on people and places, intercepting private communications, secret searches of places or items and asking foreign governments to undertake activities which would be against the law for the GCSB or NZSIS.

It is part of Gwyn’s job to review every warrant issued to the agencies allowing spying to take place. Under the new law, she and the agencies have had to decide what the wording of the legislation means and how it fits with the work they want to do.

Gwyn’s latest report covers nine months and 40 warrants and shows the spies have interpreted the demands of the law quite differently to the way their oversight body has done.

Her greatest criticism was reserved for the GCSB, which engages in international intelligence interception and sharing with New Zealand’s “Five Eyes” partners – Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

She said there was a level of uncertainty over what the GCSB was doing under the new law which was “unsatisfactory” after a year.

“On some matters there is inherent uncertainty as to the meaning and implications of key legal provisions, but on several matters I am uncertain even as to whether we have the same or a different view of certain specific matters of legal approach.

“The Bureau continues to put forward warrant applications that reflect legal interpretations, policies and drafting practices I have questioned.”

Among her concerns was GCSB spying which picked up New Zealanders’ information as a byproduct. Her office’s report on the GCSB’s surveillance of the South Pacific showed New Zealanders’ data was scooped up along with those who were targets.

She said the GCSB believed it did not need a warrant to do so while she believe it did.

“In plain terms I think that if the bureau knows it is likely to get New Zealanders’ communications along with the foreign communications it wants, and deliberately goes ahead on that basis, it is intentionally doing a ‘thing’ directly in relation to New Zealanders.”

Gwyn said she believed the GCSB’s interception of communications which included incidental collection of New Zealanders’ data was not covered by the law.

“The bureau’s approach creates a gap, in my opinion, in the legal authorisation of its activities.”

She said if her view of the law was correct then those authorisations should be at a higher level and require greater levels sign-off beyond simply the agencies’ minister, Andrew Little.

Other concerns included the GCSB making broad warrant applications to spy on groups – of “classes” – of targets.

She said the degree of appropriate intrusion varied according to the privacy cost and the value of intelligence which was difficult to measure “if a class of targets was so wide or loose that it was impossible or very hard to tell with any certainty who would and would not fall within it”.

…I love how they can create  entire ‘classes’ of people to spy on…

Gwyn also had “serious reservations” about the GCSB’s practice of cross-referencing one warrant with another, which made it difficult at times to be clear about what was being spied on and why.

Gwyn said she was also concerned about the degree of detail provided by the NZSIS with the agency pitching warrant applications at a broad level for greater intrusion.

The focus of the warrants appeared to be more concerned about “potential adverse impacts on foreign relations and the agencies” if “covert activities were discovered or disclosed” rather than the rights of those subject to spying.

Gwyn said she believed the NZSIS was obliged to provide greater levels of detail in warrant applications for those approving surveillance.

Instead, it produced cookie-cutter applications with “explanations that varied little from one application to another”.

She said the NZSIS position was “untenable given the clear legal language on those matters and the express statements of policy intent” behind the new law.

Gwyn said the NZSIS was slow to make changes and showed a “degree of reluctance” on some issues.

Issues arose around the degree of detail included in NZSIS warrants, with Gwyn saying lawmakers specifically intended the agency to be specific about its agents’ intent.

Instead of saying what it would do, the NZSIS would describe what it could do, she said.

…I have always argued that the oversight of the GCSB and SIS was meaningless because once these agencies could start legally spying on New Zealanders wouldn’t care what the  Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security had to say anymore than state agencies care what the Ombudsman has to say.

The second these agencies gained power they were immediately trying too abuse and push the meaning to the very edges of the law. This toothless watchdog can bark all she likes, but these agencies are now a law unto themselves.

YOU allowed this to happen muddle Nu Zilind. YOU allowed John Key to get away with building a mass surveillance state. YOU now have to live with the consequences of that madness.

Are you feeling safe yet sleepy hobbits?


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  1. And police are spending way to much effort infiltrating way too many collections of hippies who were neither violent or subversive.

    Then we have Anne Marie Brady getting strong armed. And cops fluffing around handing over the case to Interpol. Which means reading between the lines, the perps went international during the wonderful years of GCSB powers.

    • Sam: “Then we have Anne Marie Brady getting strong armed.”

      I don’t doubt that Dr Brady was subject to a break-in of some sort. But we don’t yet know for sure who did it; I haven’t forgotten the case of Aziz Choudry and Dr David Small. For those of you who have forgotten, or are too young to know about it, see this:


      In all such cases, my default position is that incidents of the sort we’re told happened to Dr Brady are likely to have been a local job. Really, we’re expected to believe (without corroborating evidence) that a technologically sophisticated polity such as China would resort to a hamfisted caper of that nature?

      If China is incapable of just hacking into her computer to retrieve information, why on earth has the GCSB told Spark that it cannot use Huawei technology for its 5G network?

      We here need to be very concerned for our own freedoms. Keep in mind what’s happened to Maria Butina in the US. See this:


      “Watching this sad story from Australia, a compliant US ally, I am struck by how easily any naive young Australian political activist of Russian or Chinese background could become embroiled in a similar stitch-up by paranoid Australian national security law enforcement agencies, under Australia’s new foreign influence laws which are closely modelled on the American laws that ensnared Butina.”

      We the citizens must be alert to the risk that legislation of this sort is rushed through our own parliament, thus endangering our ability to be activists.

      • NZ police handed the file over to Interpol ie not local. The issue here, I between the lines is that the GCSB and SIS, like there bigger brothers isn’t Dr Brady. It’s that big brother and little sister can’t pick on any one who’s the same size as them or bigger. They’ve only got the balls to pick on little fish.

        All the 5is network is. It’s just a vehicle to seperate IP and corporates from the justice of the courts. There’s no flash moral or objective behind modern spying. They’re just a bunch of rip off artists.

  2. There was always mass surveillance by stealth anyway. The whole point of the “Five Eyes” network was to dodge the laws of any given country that was being spied upon. We know, factually, that data is exchanged within the network, so there was never anything stopping, for example, Canada trawling NZ internet activity and then sharing that data with the NZ GCSB (because the GCSB didn’t gain said data domestically). In this manner, Australia spies on Canada, NZ spies on the US, the US spies on England, England spies on Australia and all combinations thereof, all without breaking any domestic surveillance laws.
    Of course it’s significantly easier to harvest NZ data ourselves without asking other Five Eyes members for it, but make no mistake this was already happening.

  3. Merry Xmas Martyn,


    “While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern backs Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, she says the fact information contradicts that which was used to base his decision to grant residency to Czech drug dealer Karel Sroubek is “not good enough”.

    It’s sad that while we ask for evidence of a Ministers actions against a drug dealer who came to NZ under false papers, and got citizenship after he was caught importing drugs.

    Then with all that power of the GCSB the minister said he didn’t know that the drug dealer sneaked back to his country to fight in two boxing competitions when he came here originally to escape the alleged that he would be killed if he went back!!!

    And now we don’t have any details about how the guy got accepted here in the first place and Ian lees Galloway keeps all this under wraps now!!!

    But they use GCSB to spy on us and he says he didn’t know all the facts about the drug dealer?????

    Tell us another lie please!!!!!!

    • “It’s sad that while we ask for evidence of a Ministers actions against a drug dealer who came to NZ under false papers, and got citizenship after he was caught importing drugs.”

      The man in question never got citizenship, and appears to have only been given permanent residence after the first decision of the Minister, which has now been reviewed and overturned.

  4. I hear the Sleepy Hobbits hum: “If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”.

    I have known for years that the majority of this population are mere idiots of various categories, blindly trusting their governments, and agencies, and for the rest choosing to be ignorant of anything that may sound or read as being ‘disturbing’.

    Easy going, happy go lucky consumers indulging in ever greater consumerist madness, that is the modus operandi for so many out there.

    • Marc those Sleepy Hobbits are fed crap from MSM, Hollywood and politicians, and continue to run on the myths and mis-information conjured up to keep the lullaby of enslavement to the power of obese wealth of those who have captured the system,

      But they need to woken up, kicking and screaming for changing that system of control.

      The wake up will occur most likely when it is too late.

      Now is the time to collaborate into communities that do not accept that heinous control and its systems.

      • John W: “those Sleepy Hobbits are fed crap from MSM, Hollywood and politicians, and continue to run on the myths and mis-information….”

        Indeed. Today somebody told me that they get news from Al Jazeera and RNZ. Nope, I said, neither is a commenter of record, as the saying goes. Neither is a purveyor of reliable news; especially not RNZ, but Al Jazeera is no better.

        We here in NZ have no specialist foreign affairs journalists; no tradition of it, even. It is to the great disadvantage of all of us, but especially to all those people who get their news – if they bother to get it at all – from the msm. What they get is propaganda.

        Our news media do an abysmally poor job of either keeping us informed, or of holding the government of the day to account, in respect of foreign affairs and policy. As we have seen over all of my considerable lifetime.

  5. All this important stuff & I am writing about apostrophes. All through the italicised quotes excellent, I associated Martyn with this. But really Martyn is hopeless – refers to NZers (plural)as New Zealander’s. Better not to use apostrophes at all.

  6. Gary Lin is only sleepy because he had to work so hard for the 200K that daddy gave him to set himself as a slumlord in No Zealand… calling him a hobbit, well… that’s a bit low, Bomber.

    “Our” spies are so good that they let a foreign spy become an MP… shaking in my boots…

  7. It is high time we returned the powers of the GCSB to pre-surveillance on kiwis. They have shown a wilful disregard for the law and cannot be trusted. “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” smacks of Big Brotherism. It may have been the norm for nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, it cannot be allowed to take hold in this country.

    I wonder how right wingers would respond if it were discovered that the GCSB-SIS-Police was spying on THEM!! They’d be screaming blue bloody murder!!! My response? Take it up with fucking John Key. It was that grinning proto-fascist who widened surveillance laws in the country.

    • MJOLNIR: ““If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” smacks of Big Brotherism. It may have been the norm for nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia….”

      A member of this household did some research into the issue of government surveillance in that part of the world during that era.

      It wasn’t the norm for either polity. In the case of Nazi Germany, the Gestapo maintained only a small surveillance unit. At that time, Germans for the most part supported the Nazi ideology; the number of dissenters was very small, so there was little call for surveillance. In any event, the technology of the time didn’t allow for large-scale monitoring.

      As for Stalinist Russia: as above. The technology of the time didn’t admit of it.

      On the other hand, the former German Democratic Republic took advantage of technological developments and made an art form out of spying on its citizens. The Stasi is notorious for it. Other Soviet states – Russia included – came nowhere near what the Stasi managed to do.

      Truth to tell, the term “Big Brother” is an apt characterisation of both US and UK societies. Australia too; and we’re catching up.

  8. How to tell if your GCSB has gone rogue;

    1. They collect evidence in ways that make it inadmissible in court

  9. “…asking foreign governments to undertake activities which would be against the law for the GCSB or NZSIS.”

    Like asking them to kidnap and interrogate and intimidate a New Zealand citizen Tim Grocer or the like they did not like and did not agree with?

    What does that mean exactly?

  10. Merry Christmas Martyn and thank you for your efforts. A bit harsh on Cheryl, as she has put her head up and delivered a critical report. It is unacceptable and the govt should fix it straight away! lol. Are YOU a happy or unhappy sheep?

  11. Nice article Martyn. The NZ intelligence agencies are supposed to increase the security of NZ not diminish it. Behaving like little toadies licking the feet of the school bully does nothing for NZ. As any “prepper ” begins to understand individual security and resilience really depends on establishing a neighbourhood of mutually supportive people. Extending this to the international geopolitical situation the USA is the last country that deserves our support. They have systematically acted in a selfish aggressive deceitful way towards other countries while manipulating the media to make them appear honest moral participants in global affairs. They are governed by an impotent idiot who started off with good intentions but has been completely emasculated by the NeoCon forces that Clinton and Obama did not even try to control. The 5 eyes network is a travesty of the term “Intelligence” agency. They work in concert to deceive their own citizens because their obeisance to the British and American bankers and military industrial complex is complete. Never mind that these people are responsible for most of the wars on the planet. Lets demonise Russia and China because they represent a threat to “our” global hegemony. Lets pretend Huawai is going to spy on our telecommunications while 5Eyes actually does spy on our communications. Lets pretend Russia is the aggressor in Ukraine and Syria when the USA funds and illegally supports insurrections in these countries Lets pretend the skripals were poisoned by the Russians for no reason whatsoever while Sergei Skripal’s “handler Pablo Miller and
    entirely believably Sergei Skripal himself https://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/12/the-strange-mind-of-christopher-nigel-donnelly.html#more
    were involved in creating the false allegations against Trump that have rendered him impotent in regard to creating rapprochement with Russia. The SIS and the GCSB need to take along hard look at themselves and decide are they in the business of protecting NZ or is their priority bending over for their partners. Perhaps they should be renamed 5 eyes 2 dicks and 3 arseholes

    • Ian Kiddle: “Perhaps they should be renamed 5 eyes 2 dicks and 3 arseholes”

      Much laughter in this household at that characterisation. You have nailed it.

      I agree with G.A.P.: this entire comment is brilliant. I do hope that members of the government – especially the PM and Winston Peters – read and take note of it. I enjoin you to send it to them. Although perhaps you have already? And got the same anodyne response I did when I wrote to Peters last year in a similar (though not so neatly-phrased) vein.

  12. I also thank you for your efforts Martyn, and wish you and yours a very happy xmas.
    In the words of Ed Snowden,
    “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

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