Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Dirty Politics

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  • Alfie,

    Key certainly looked nervous on last night's TV3 News. Apart from claiming a Pulitzer prize winning author was one of Dotcom's "henchmen", he announced that Snowden was merely a "hacker" who had only obtained scraps of documents which didn't show the whole story. Methinks our PM needs to polish up on the definition of "whistleblower".

    TV3 asked Key to confirm he would resign if Greenwald's documents proved he had been lying to NZ. He said "Yes." I'll bet he had his fingers crossed behind his back.

    Greenwald told the Herald on Sunday he would be releasing details on The Intercept ahead of tomorrow's "Moment of Truth" town hall rally.

    "If I were him I would come to seriously regret that pledge given the reality of what his Government has been doing," the American said.

    He would also reveal the New Zealand spy agency was electronically tapping governments considered far from hostile.

    "There's several countries that I think New Zealanders would not view as natural targets for New Zealand to spy on."

    Surveillance intelligence that implicated the GCSB included internal government communications and those between governments and third parties.

    He said his information was based on spy activity as recent as May last year. "It would be better for New Zealanders to have as much information ahead of the election on which they could base choices."

    From what I've heard so far, Key's defense is that the GCSB planned (and set up?) a full scale surveillance programme then somehow changed their minds and didn't go through with it. If that's true, why did he change our law last year to make such mass surveillance perfectly legal?

    Roll on Monday.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1440 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Key also claimed that Greenwald was being "paid" by Dotcom -- Greenwald denies that. The Herald is reporting that Greenwald's appearance fees are being donated to a local charity.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1440 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to nzlemming,

    It’s even more interesting than that. The Minister in charge of the SIS/GCSB is not permitted to use information gained by or about them for political purposes. Which this would obviously be. Gentlemen, start your lawyers ;-)

    If the GCSB has been accused of mass surveillance of New Zealanders, and the Minister in charge releases information to refute that acccusation, how is that using information gained about them for political purposes?
    s8D(3)(c) of the GCSB Act requires that “The Director must take all reasonable steps… to ensure that the Bureau does not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party in New Zealand,” but I don’t think refuting an allegation of improper behaviour would be furthering the interests of the National Party, but rather maitaining the status quo, since deciding NOT to release the information (if it exists) would harm the interests of the National Party.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz,

    Could the Herald’s spin to downplay Dirty Politics get more blatant?

    The article starts by saying

    Eighty per cent of voters say Nicky Hager’s best-selling book Dirty Politics won’t make any difference to their vote.

    To its credit, the Herald does later pick up on the important bit:

    Hager said the fact 14.6 per cent of those surveyed said they would change the way they voted on the basis of his book was “remarkable”.

    [ETA: Then again, it’s Hager who says this, so they downplay it as opinion. Sheesh.]

    But the Herald’s implication is clear: If it doesn’t change a massive proportion of voters’ intentions, it’s to be dismissed. No mention of how the undecided and swing voters can tip the balance of power, then?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to nzlemming,

    It's a hard rein...

    Gentlemen, start your lawyers

    I can see them now...

    their flanks heaving,
    tight briefs concealed
    'neath ebon gowns
    tie-wigs taut and trim

    steamy interjections
    fog and hang
    in electric air

    jockeying up to the bar
    bridled mouthpieces ready

    ...and they're off!*



    *rhymes with trough

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Well, it didn't make any difference to my vote, because I was never going to vote National anyway...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to nzlemming,

    It’s even more interesting than that. The Minister in charge of the SIS/GCSB is not permitted to use information gained by or about them for political purposes. Which this would obviously be. Gentlemen, start your lawyers ;-)

    The IMP are onto it

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    “The Director must take all reasonable steps… to ensure that the Bureau does not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party in New Zealand,”

    The key words are "take any action". While not publishing may harm the interests of the National party, that's not the Director's problem - it's the Prime Minister's, based on statements he has made and actions he has taken. The legislation forbids the Director of the GCSB to take any action that would further the interests of a political party, and declassifying and publishing would further the interests of the National party.

    If we were not in the last week of an election process, it my be an acceptable action to defend the Government of the Day from potential instability, but government agencies and individual public servants have very rigid guidelines about what they can and can't say or do during an election campaign. Key is hoist by his own petard.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    There may be a deeper game here (I admit this occurred to me in the shower so, it's a little slippery). What if Key, knowing he can't declassify and release (technical point - it's the Director who classifies or declassifies, not the Minister), says beforehand that he will and then says, after he knows what Greenwald has on him, that the law won't permit it this close to an election so we'll just have to trust him, akshully?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    The "Dotcom's little henchman" line doesn't seem to be going over well with the media either.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to nzlemming,

    I think that's very likely. He's had plenty of time to prepare for these allegations, he could've had the counter evidence ready but chose not to, it is close to the election and he can simply run out of time to produce the rabbit, if it exists.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    yet they're faithfully including it in stories.
    seem to have learned nothing from Dirty Politics yet.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    yet they’re faithfully including it in stories.

    Yes, but they're usually following it with "Pulitzer-prize winning journalist", which they wouldn't have bothered with before. So, that's something.

    Another thing I noticed last night was both the newsreader and Gower referred to the plain "Key", rather than "Mr Key" or "the Prime Minister", which is always indicative that the gloss is off.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to nzlemming,

    The legislation forbids the Director of the GCSB to take any action that would further the interests of a political party, and declassifying and publishing would further the interests of the National party.

    Whoa... a few hours later and we've changed our mind.

    Prime Minister John Key says he will not release documents that show that spy agencies do not conduct mass surveillance on New Zealanders until after journalist Glenn Greenwald tries to prove there is substance to the claim.

    There's more waffle from Key about cyber security to muddle the waters. Otherwise it's "You show me yours..." and I'll see what we can come up with to minimise any damage.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1440 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Alfie,

    The two companies have since signed up for GCSB cyber-protection, which is a two stage process that requires a warrant to look at emails, Mr Key said.

    "Nice little company ya got here. Be a shame if somethin' were to happen to it, eh, Muggsy?"

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Seems to me that you don't have to release the document to release the underlying secrets, and that's what Key has done today - he's told us the secret while first saying he'll release the documents, then saying he wont.

    Either way it's the secrets that the law really protects, not the documents - surely he's broken the law here?

    Either that or he's telling fibs to get reelected, neither is a good look.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    surely he's broken the law here?

    Dear Patrick, Tova and Brook

    Do you ever watch TV3? They have some good movies on. Last night it was Frost/Nixon. I hope you caught it.

    "When the president does it, it is not illegal."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    But the Herald’s implication is clear: If it doesn’t change a massive proportion of voters’ intentions, it’s to be dismissed. No mention of how the undecided and swing voters can tip the balance of power, then?

    The Granny makes no breakdown at all of how many National/ACT voters are unconvinced by Dirty Politics, or how many Labour/Green voters have had their vote reinforced by it.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5443 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Braunias delivers a cracking detailed interview today with Greenwald. Preamble goes until 2nd photo if you have less time. Recommended read.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Indeed. Much more detail is required if the journalist was actually going to make a good fist of analysing the poll result. Who is changing their voting preferences? Is it National supporters? Is it undecideds? Who?

    While many will be entrenched in their voting intention (for good or bad), the fact that 15% are changing is really quite significant.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    Too right. 400,000 or so voters admitting having their vote affected by Nicky's book - that is way significant!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Sacha,

    Braunias delivers a cracking detailed interview today with Greenwald.

    The 'Campaign Diaries' are mostly gold. (Just finished the previous one: DAY EIGHT: IN WHICH THE LAST REMAINING INDIANS OF THE ACT PARTY TRIBE ARE DISCOVERED – AND OUR CORRESPONDENT STEALS A DINGHY

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Alfie,

    I’ve been wondering whether in fact the Five Eyes partners merely have an agreement whereby they analyse each others’ data. That way each state could claim full deniability, as Key has done many times, while enjoying the “benefits” of massive surveillance operations being conducting against their own citizens. So Waihopai could be processing all US data (for example).

    Deferring to nzlemming, and just for the the record, there doesn’t seem to be much leeway there.

    The general point I would make Chairman is that uh, uh, absent an appropriate authority, um, GCSB does not go, of, certainly of its own will to go off and collect bulk data. The point about lawful and then authorised is an important one.

    Um, uh and certainly the second point I would make is that, uh, we do not, and indeed, careful reading of some of the documents which we’ve been, uh, disclosed in the media recently will show, um, there this argument being made, um. We do not use partners to circumvent the legal arrangements in New Zealand and indeed our partners don’t use us for the same purpose either.

    Ian Fletcher at First Public Intelligence and Security Committee Meeting

    Full video(?)

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to mark taslov,

    Deferring to nzlemming, there doesn’t seem to be much leeway bar throwing Fletcher under a bus:

    There's definitely a bus with Fletcher's name on the bumper. I think the key phrase is "certainly of its own will to go off and collect bulk data" - if the NSA require them to do it under the UKUSA agreement (which is the former, more official name for 5Eyes), then it's not of "it's own will".

    The second para is equally ambiguous:

    we do not use partners to circumvent the legal arrangements in New Zealand and indeed our partners don’t use us for the same purpose either

    But wait, Snowden evidence about the USA, Canada and UK shows that those countries did exactly that and more. Why should NZ be exempt from fulfilling their obligations under the agreement? Perhaps because they're already doing it themselves and don't need someone else to do it for them? Seems to make sense. Greenwald's interview indicates that we do indeed target other countries at our partners' "request", particularly countries where the US feels unable to penetrate, because of diplomatic troubles.

    I feel a long night of reading lies ahead tomorrow. Can't wait.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to nzlemming,

    Thanks for these clarifications Sir, very telling, and immensely helpful in preparing us to better grasp the implications of whatever’s coming.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

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