NSA and PRISM and GCSB and the UKUSA Agreement - join the dots
PRISM is shedding more light on state surveillance - however it's not only the NSA that should be in the spotlight. There are four other agencies that are part of the international surveillance network and the GCSB is one of them.
It is no longer just the GCSB that is in trouble for spying on its own citizens, but the US spy agency, NSA, is also in trouble.
Over the last few days there have been several leaks about NSA spying but the most damning has been the publication of an internal NSA powerpoint presentation which lays bare the scope and ability of the NSA to basically spy on everyone everywhere. PRISM allows NSA to access and collect user data from Google, Facebook, You-tube, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Skype, AOL and PalTalk. That is, the NSA can indiscriminately access all electronic communication data such as emails, chats, videos, photos, video conferencing, that pass through any of these nine internet companies. All of this, of course, is being done by the NSA, as Obama put it: for the 'good of Americans'.
However, just like the GCSB, the NSA and the other three spy agencies (the British GCHQ, the Canadian CSEC and the Australian DSD) that make up the UKUSA Agreement are not allowed to spy on their own citizens. The official mission for all agencies is to spy on foreign communications. But PRISM shows that like the GCSB, both the NSA and GCHQ have been spying on their own citizens and / or permanent residents.
As to links between the GCSB and PRISM, the GCSB are refusing to comment as it is an 'operational matter' (NZ Herald 8/06/13). They also refused to comment last month when it came to light that ThinThread had been trialled in NZ between 2000 and 2001. Their reason then was also that it was an 'operational matter' (NZ Herald 25/05/13).
And we can assume that PRISM is only the tip of the iceberg. It is only one of the latest schemes to join a list of known surveillance systems or programmes used by the five intelligence agencies (the Five Eyes) that make up the UKUSA Agreement. One of the most famous surveillance systems is Echelon, other programmes coming to light are Trail Blazer, ThinThread and now Boundless Informant. Who knows what the next acronym or name will be and what form that surveillance will take if the ever increasing networks of state surveillance are not stopped.
In New Zealand at the moment we have two Bills going through Parliament that will dramatically increase the surveillance powers of the GCSB: the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill and the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill. Submissions on both Bills are due this Thursday, 13th June.
With the current uproar about the level of surveillance exposed by PRISM, it should be apparent to all that both these Bills need to be stopped and there should be wider debate about getting rid of not only the GCSB itself but ensuring the end of the UKUSA Agreement.