Major security shakeup just a prelude
This week’s announcement by the government of the creation of the new Minister of National Security and Intelligence is just a prelude to the serious ramping up of war-mongering, fear-mongering and loss of rights.
Part one: get rid of accountability
The Prime Minister has created the new role in a joint effort to detach himself from two things. First, Key wants to put some distance between himself and day-to-day management of the GCSB and NZSIS. This is in order that any of the coming criticism from the Inspector-General’s investigation into his role in the release of material to the WhaleOil blog about Labour leader Phil Goff can be easily dismissed upon arrival. He also puts plenty of distance between himself and ongoing Snowden revelations and the Dotcom case that have caused him considerable grief in the past term. As blogger No Right Turn notes:
> “…the real reason is to be found in the outline of portfolio responsibilities:
Parliamentary questions and Official Information Act requests will be dealt with by the appropriate Minister.
Key has created a whole new Ministerial position so he can retain control of the spies, while no longer having to answer questions about them (something which has exposed him in the last two years). And if any dirt emerges from the Snowden leaks, the new Minister (Chris Finlayson) gets to be scapegoat, while Key gets to walk away from the agencies he was supposed to be overseeing.
Part two: the new security state
More importantly, however, is that this new role is part of a carefully crafted agenda to expand the security state vis-à-vis the United States and Australia. Let’s be clear here. The last time that New Zealand dealt with a ‘foreign terrorist threat’ was in 1984 when the Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French secret service agents. That was 30 years ago. We’re now 13 years on from the start of the ‘war on terrorism’ and we are being primed to believe that the situation is worse now than it was after 9/11. It’s an astonishing sleight of hand. The Prime Minister is now demanding to re-write the NZ Security Intelligence Service law just three years after major amendments that dramatically expanded its powers.
The Prime Minister continues to invoke the vision of ‘foreign fighters’ coming home to New Zealand and bringing their tools and tactics with them. He says that there are far more people than most New Zealanders would imagine.
This is precisely the rhetoric that is being trotted out in London and Canberra now to justify a whole new suite of so-called anti-terrorism laws. In a beautiful piece of fascist choreography, just one week after Tony Abbott introduces anti-terror laws, the Australian Federal Police conduct dramatic over-the-top anti-terror raids involving 800 police that ultimately end in one person charged with the rather vague notion of beheading a random member of the public.
No doubt there are New Zealanders who are fighting in Syria. Against the backdrop of the murderous regime of Bashir al-Assad, the desire of some local NZ Muslims to join forces against what has always been a brutal sectarian religious regime is hardly surprising. Moreover, much of the armed resistance to Assad has been well-funded and armed by the CIA, operating as they do with the old adage that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend.’ Phil Goff for his part has acknowledged that moves to automatically criminalise people who have fought overseas fails to make any distinction in who or what they are fighting for.
Along the same vein, the fear-mongering about ISIS has largely failed to acknowledge that at the core, the leadership is comprised of former secular Iraqi Baathist soldiers who have not only vast knowledge of the capabilities of the Iraqi state, and its vital resources, but are people who have a deep well of hatred for the US and its imperial remaking of their country. ISIS is less about an Islamic revolution or the establishment of a caliphate than it is about the reestablishment of control by Sunni Iraqis.
What comes next?
John Key has said that he has adopted a model of management and oversight for the security-intelligence complex in New Zealand that mimics that of Australia and the UK. We have heard him invoke the same kinds of threats to New Zealand as David Cameron, Barack Obama, and Tony Abbott. We know that he is already contemplating what ‘assistance’ can be given to the US ‘coalition of the willing (redux)’. Although he has said that deploying NZ troops on the ground in Iraq is at the edge of his comfort, he has not ruled it out.
In 2001, under Helen Clark, New Zealand deployed the NZSAS under the cloak of secrecy to assist the US ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’. She deployed the Navy frigates and Air Force Orions to patrol the Gulf of Oman. She was afraid of the political backlash from the left of participating in a mission that did have UN sanction. In 2003, she resisted the initial call for the invasion of Iraq in March, but by June, she had committed a company of combat engineers.
Key has been much less constrained in what he has divulged about the NZSAS, and about New Zealand’s participation in Afghanistan. He has been little concerned about public opinion knowing that the end was in sight for NZ’s involvement. It remains to be seen what tools the State will offer up in the US’s new campaign of conquest, and it remains to be seen whether we will find out.
### No truth, all power
Most troubling of course, is that the very people likely to tell us, the couple of real investigative journalists that we have in this country – Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson – have both been deeply bruised and battered. Nicky in his most recent and fresh battle with the National party, and Jon in his defamation case against the Defence Force, a case that arose largely from Jon’s reporting of human rights abuses of Afghan detainees by the NZDF.
The 10-hour police raid on Nicky’s house can only be seen as a threat to anyone seeking to hold power to account. Similarly, the co-ordinated spin doctoring by the NZDF has smeared Jon’s name affecting his ability to work.
The questions from before September remain: Will we ever know what the GCSB’s Project Speargun and Cortex were? Will we ever know if there was a conspiracy to entrap Kim Dotcom? Will we ever know who the 88 people are who were illegally spied on? Did the NSA write the new GCSB law as Snowden said? Are NZ’s intelligence services involved in ongoing drone war programmes?
The questions about the future, however, are in many respects far more troubling: Are NZ intelligence services involved in black ops? Are they being deployed against the political enemies of the ruling party? Will journalists be silenced by new anti-terrorism laws? Will NZ make people stateless by revoking of passports?
It isn’t just time that will tell us the answers. It is what we choose to do about it in the meantime that matters.