Intelligence Review out on Monday
The Intelligence Review will be tabled on Monday and there will be yet more rhetoric around the dangers of terrorism and how we can keep 'ourselves' safe. The reality is though, it is the Five-Eyes and surveillance that we should fear.
The far from independent Intelligence Review is due to be tabled before the government on Monday, 29th February. Many people are looking forward to its release, but some of us see it as a review that was hobbled before it began and fear what it will herald.
For the outcome of the Review will be law changes. A recently released 2014 'top-secret' briefing said law changes were the aim.
The two reviewers cannot be relied upon for they are also far from independent. Sir Michael Cullen is a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and Dame Patsy Reddy is a flaunted state-sector lawyer and member of many boards. A scathing editorial by the Dominion Post condemned the reviewers as 'not equipped for the task.'
The Review's frame of reference is narrow and superficial and the official submission form was prescriptive and leading. Nicky Hager described it as 'a primary school level questionnaire' by people who 'treat the public as children.'
The results of the Intelligence Review are feared because the Review assumes the necessity and legitimacy of the GCSB and SIS. It will not question their purpose or practice.
Consider what has come to light in only the last decade about those agencies: declassified SIS files show that children as young as ten were spied on and the fall-out from the Dotcom raid revealed the GCSB spied illegally on 88 New Zealanders.
More recently there's been information leaked by Edward Snowden. The Five-Eyes and surveillance programmes such as PRISM have become public.
A PR-blitz has been the government response and the Intelligence Review will be the icing on the cake. It will strengthen surveillance powers to make us safer.
But safer from whom? The history of surveillance can explain.
Intelligence policing was developed to ensure the ‘preservation of the political regime’. Many countries practised surveillance at the time of the French Revolution. At one time every item of mail going to, travelling through, or coming from France was purported to be opened. People employed to deliver mail obligingly helped. A diplomat at the time wrote, 'every word can be interpreted in a bad sense; paper is nowadays an evil treasure, at any moment it may become a red-hot coal'.
Over time the role of surveillance has barely changed, what has is the technology. Taps into fibre optic cables are now the equivalent of letter openers. Ex-GCSB director Bruce Ferguson explained what the GCSB does is '...sort of like whitebaiting and trying to catch one whitebait, you can't do it and within the net you'll get all sorts of other things - it's a mass collection.'
In Europe letters were monitored, the equivalent now is the TICS (Telecommunication Interceptions Capability and Security) Act. Interception capability is built into the servers and networks. The GCSB have the power to surveil all NZ digital traffic.
PRISM and back-door access mean Five-Eyes agencies, of which the GCSB is one, have access into the corporate world. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype and Facebook collect huge amounts of personal data and intelligence agencies have access to it.
But the Five-Eyes do even more extreme surveillance, including espionage, sabotage and dirty politics.
Over the decades some surveillance scandals have become known: Margaret Thatcher used Five-Eyes to spy on two MPs, Kissinger used Five-Eyes to discredit a political opponent, the Five-Eyes monitored the European Airbus company to ensure US companies got the deal.
Snowden revealed actual dirty politic programmes: WARPATH, a programme for 'mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign', similar to BADGER, a 'Mass delivery of email messaging to support an Information Operations campaign'.
UNDERPASS, used to 'Change outcome of online polls' and GATEWAY, the 'Ability to artificially increase traffic to a website'. Also SLIPSTREAM, the 'ability to inflate page views on websites', GESTATOR, an 'Amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (Youtube)'.
There is CHANGELING, the 'Ability to spoof any email address and send email under that identity'. There is also PREDATORS FACE, the 'Targeted Denial Of Service against Web Servers' and ROLLING THUNDER, the 'Distributed denial of service using P2P' or WILLOWVIXEN, a programme to 'deploy malware by sending out emails that trick targets into clicking a malicious link'.
There are many more programmes, including honey-traps to 'destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt' targeted people.
As the 18th Century Europeans knew, spying is about social control. And that is what the NZ Intelligence Community is involved in.
Information leaked by Snowden confirms that the GCSB spies on Pacific countries and everyone residing, passing through or holidaying in that area. They also spy on numerous other countries, including Vietnam, China, Mexico, South Korea, Iran and Bangladesh. The NSA describes the GCSB as the 'lead agency' spying on Bangladesh.
The GCSB spied on Tim Groser's rivals for the position of director-general of the WTO.
Information given by the GCSB is used in drone strikes.
It is not only the GCSB though, the SIS cannot be ignored. Released files prove the SIS spies on political dissidents, groups, children and vulnerable refugee communities. The SIS also use dirty tactics, for instance they were caught breaking into Aziz Choudry's home in 1996.
In 2014 the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security investigated and upheld allegations that John Key's office had used information from the SIS to gain a political advantage in the 2011 general election.
Surveillance is a threat to democracy.
If we want a safe world, we need to question the purpose of surveillance.
But the role of surveillance and our intelligence agencies will only be glossed over by the Intelligence Review. Michael Cullen and Patsy Reddy are consummate insiders and their recommendations will be pre-ordained by the terms of reference and the official public submission forms.
In the coming weeks we will hear more fearmongering rhetoric about Jihadi brides and terror attacks. But rather than being fearful of Jihadists, terrorism, or for that matter burglars and rapists, we should be fearful of where the Five-Eyes and surveillance is taking us.
For more information about surveillance:
OASIS - Organising Against State Intelligence & Surveillance
Stop the Spies