Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The GCSB and the consequences of mass surveillance

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  • Ianmac,

    Valuable incisive discussion re surveillance.
    The clip of Mr Key being unwilling to answer concerns re Security issues is so unpleasant. ("I know some secrets and I'm not telling you. So ha ha ha. Suck on that," said smugly and with arrogant sneer.)
    An open democratic society? Really?

    I like the new look Media Take. Found Dr Pihama's rhetoric almost impenetrable. And there is plenty of room for a new slant on design put forward by Lester Hall.

    Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ianmac,

    Found Dr Pihama’s rhetoric almost impenetrable.

    I understand the words, but using them constantly seems to have the paradoxical effect of limiting the discussion.

    And there is plenty of room for a new slant on design put forward by Lester Hall.

    On one hand, what he does is clearly not the same thing as a corporation nicking indigenous culture to turn a dollar, it's obviously a sincere attempt to work through ideas. On the other, he did himself no favours at all by claiming to be regarded as a "rangatira".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Now that Brazil is getting worked up over being snooped upon by the GCSB, it could just start breaking out of the - ahem - beltway issue that the usual suspects dismiss it as such.

    Would they even be half as enthused about the IRD doing the same thing with tax dodgers, or will they be screaming "KGB" until they're blue in the face?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Rivers,

    "Fewer whistleblowers, more corruption, less stability "

    Another consequence - not directly of mass surveillance but of the mechanisms and legislation that enable it - is that NZ is in danger of becoming a back water in ICT as the heavy handed, poorly drafted TICSA legislation prevents world leading research taking place in NZ.

    There's not a lot of point spending $24M to set up new post-grad ICT courses when another part effectively outlaws the biggest area of new research opening up. Juha Saarinen has written about the decision of Google and others to relocate to Australia as a result of concerns about punitive fines.

    Since Apr 2011 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Jan Rivers,

    There's not a lot of point spending $24M to set up new post-grad ICT courses when another part effectively outlaws the biggest area of new research opening up. Juha Saarinen has written about the decision of Google and others to relocate to Australia as a result of concerns about punitive fines.

    And I feel that the post-grad ICT schools are missing the point, when the real issue is the high barriers to entering the ICT sector for those who are working in other industries or didn't graduate from university, such as myself.

    Proposals for an ICT apprenticeship system from Labour's Grant Robertson are apparently what the industry is after, but Prostetnic Vogon Joyce seemingly thinks they're a solution looking for a problem.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Jan Rivers,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    A reminder from ABC of closing submission deadline:
    Get Your Submissions In To
    The Independent Review of Intelligence and Security
    Submissions deadline: 5.00pm this Friday 14 August 2015

    REVIEW PROCESS
    In brief the terms of reference ask:
    1. whether intelligence and security legislation is ‘well-placed’ to protect security while protecting individual rights and

    2. whether current oversight provides sufficient safeguards.

    How to access the site:
    Go to www.justice.govt.nz , then ‘Intelligence and Security Agencies Review Terms of .. http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/i/intelligence-and-security-agencies-review

    then go to ‘Consultation Material’ and finally, ‘How to have Your Say’ (https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/independent/iris/#say)

    Your submission:

    Use the online submission form https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/independent/iris/consultation/intro/view or
    Email a written submission to IRISsupport@justice.govt.nz

    A. Using the online submission form:
    The online submission form is nine pages but is quick and easy to use. It does require some thinking if you want to make comments. The notes below outline where some pre-thinking would be useful. [The submission can be put on hold while thinking if necessary]
    Note that some comments requested require specialist knowledge but comments are not obligatory.
    In particular, Q17 asks if you think the balance of agency effectiveness and peoples’ rights is appropriate, then Q18 asks you to describe strengths and weaknesses of the system.
    Q19 asks your opinion whether there are adequate checks and balances in the system and if you reply ‘No’ Q20 asks what other checks and balances you want.
    Q21 asks if you think the legislation has kept up with technology and Q22 asks for suggested amendments if you think it hasn’t.
    Q23 asks for any other comments about the legislative framework of the GCSB/SIS.
    Q24 asks if you consider there is sufficient oversight of the 2 agencies, followed, when you answer ‘No’, by Q25 which asks you why you think this.
    Q28 asks for suggestions to improve oversight.

    B. Writing your own submission.
    Writing your own submission will give you much more scope for expressing your ideas about the GCSB and SIS. Evaluation will stick closely to the terms of reference, but innovative or incisive points might get noted if they are clearly relevant and provide new information or suggestions. Quotes from authoritative sources and clearly relevant cases are very useful. Try to relate your points to the terms of reference. Well-written individual or organisation submissions will carry more weight than online ones.

    Final Note: The above represent a personal overview of the proceedings and other comments on the process are welcome. The essential point is to get as many submissions as possible so that the government cannot claim people are happy or uninterested on the issues.

    A few points to consider in submissions: [add your own]

    Cost issues:
    Huge increase in GCSB budget over ten years. Now about $90m p.a. SIS steady about $45m

    Privacy/rights issues
    Loss of hard won rights to privacy and widening invasion of privacy. Likelihood of outage of personal information.

    Political issues
    Potential use of information for political gain.

    Legal issues
    Legislation often broad and ill-defined.

    Oversight issues
    Failure of past oversight and lack of direct Parliamentary control

    International issues
    Impact on NZ reputation and trade

    Independence
    NZ policy is controlled by Five Eyes and works in their interests

    Cyberprotection
    GCSB not the organisation for cyber-security

    Anti-Bases Campaign
    Box 2258, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
    abc@chch.planet.org.nz

    http://www.converge.org.nz/abc

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    So. If you have nothing to hide, on the interwebs, then you have nothing to fear, on the interwebs.
    Solution is simple, don't do anything you want to keep secret on the interwebs.
    But wait....
    Dolphins get spied on too.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    “I’m unable to comment on operational matters”

    7 simple words that could make a difference in terms of curtailing the terror felt by ordinary New Zealanders. 7 words that could undermine attempts to terrorise the population. 7 words that seem to be missing from Rebecca Kitteridge’s vocabulary. I have no doubt that Rebecca Kitteridge is intelligent enough to successfully assess the affect the words she chooses instead, as a public servant I’m certain she would have dotted all her Is and crossed all her Ts to get to the prominent position she is now in. The nature of the organisation’s work does not require a spokesman to provide regular updates, the real proof of that a security agency is achieving its mandate – succeeding in undermining terror – should be its invisibility. Yet they’ve now pushed themselves to the forefront of the national consciousness.

    I’ll admit to be somewhat paranoid, I’m not alone, many in our community are, many in our community suffer from the types of mental dispositions and illnesses that magnify anxiety levels, that magnify terror felt – the Government even spends money in attempts to alleviate these types of personal circumstances. So why is that of all the people employed by this country’s Government, the single individual I feel most terrorised by is the head of the Security Intelligence Service. I can not for the life of me fathom her attempts to raise her own profile to a pseudo celebrity status, I can not understand why she alone has assisted with the issuance of more PR pieces and conducted more media interviews than every other head of our security agencies combined, if you’re doing that job correctly we never have to here from you at all.

    Though she actively engages in promoting ISIS’s terror campaign via repeated admissions about the nature of her organisation’s work, I don’t believe she would see herself as a terrorist and yet after every interview she gives, and after every statement she makes, I feel more afraid, more anxious and more terrorised than before:

    Kitteridge said the rise of IS, along with other geopolitical tensions in Russia and the South China sea, had created a sense of instability that seemed unprecedented.

    […]

    “There are people who are drawn to that because it is brutal and sickening…there are people watching it, getting excited saying what they would do.

    […]

    “There are people who would be looking at this saying ’this is great, and let’s see what we could do that would be similar’…”

    […]

    “it’s absolutely true that there are people who discuss this”.

    Either Rebecca Kitteridge is desensitised to the extent that she doesn’t realise she is actively acting as an unwitting conduit for the terror that ISIS wish to spread, or she knows exactly the effect it would have on more vulnerable members of society.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/71087110/wouldbe-kiwi-jihadists-talk-about-bringing-is-brutality-here–sis-boss

    she talks about “crowd-sourced terrorism”, a new term to describe lone-wolf acts of terrorism conducted by people who show no intent, after exhortation by Isis on the internet.

    […]

    "That is the explicit message and it is to attack the West."

    If an attack is carried out on New Zealand soil the first question I will have is whether it could have been prevented and whether the head of SIS’s time wasted playing celebrity book club and national scaremongerer - and all the preparation that goes with it - for the good folks at home could have been the crucial difference.

    “Sean Connery, classic, he’s the one and only Bond for me.”

    She likes John le Carre and the novels of Stella Rimmington, the former head of Britain’s MI5."

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11351368

    I suggest that she is so institutionalised that she has lost touch with who she is issuing these statements to and for that matter who she represents

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    There's a story in the Herald entitled Five Eyes gives NZ an advantage in fighting terrorism which includes a revealing quote from Key.

    I wonder whether the right characterisation isn't that they failed but that the terrorists are becoming more sophisticated and quite a lot of the communications they have are what, in the business, we would call dark. In other words we can't actually monitor them.

    That's right. Despite the NSA and their five-eyed friends sucking up every scrap of data they can get their routers across, they admit that they have no real way to monitor terrorists.

    Remind me again why the rest of us need intensive surveillance of all our communications?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1436 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Alfie,

    Remind me again why the rest of us need intensive surveillance of all our communications?

    To keep us safe Alfie, safe.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Alfie,

    Remind me again why the rest of us need intensive surveillance of all our communications?

    To provide evidence when you are charged after committing a crime, and to make it harder for bad people to conspire. The price of making it trickier to organise violence is having all your private shit hostage to the authorities, but one we're all happy to pay, I'm sure.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    AHAHAHAHAHAH

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to chris,

    isn't she the head of the inward-focussed SIS rather than the outward-focused GCSB?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Sacha,

    That’s what I heard, though recently it’s been bandied about that she’s considering plying her trade in other fields:

    Rebecca Kitteridge, NZSIS director, recently said a reality TV show similar to Border Patrol would show Kiwis they had nothing to fear from her agency

    Assuming she can inject this same type of off the wall irreverence it's sure to be a hit.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to chris,

    Yes, I can see how the SIS could follow Customs’ approach
    of an iron fist in a rubber glove:

    “If you’ve nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear —
    Once we check that you’ve got nothing hidden up there.”

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1928 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    And I feel that the post-grad ICT schools are missing the point, when the real issue is the high barriers to entering the ICT sector for those who are working in other industries or didn’t graduate from university, such as myself.

    I think there are multiple real issues, and postgrad ICT schools could potentially address one of them - the movement of top undergraduates to overseas graduate schools, quite often never to return. Though we'd still lose all the people interested in these restricted areas, it seems.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Amy Gale,

    I think there are multiple real issues, and postgrad ICT schools could potentially address one of them – the movement of top undergraduates to overseas graduate schools, quite often never to return. Though we’d still lose all the people interested in these restricted areas, it seems.

    I was recently accepted into DevAcademy, only to be left with no choice but to pull out after being rejected for a Harmoney loan. Besides, I'm wary of 'finance companies' as it is. Guess I'll have to wait for the NZQA to grind its gears, whenever that may be.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Attachment

    Tremain again .... oops wrong thread

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    It's not only our local spies who have trouble monitoring the bad guys. The Intercept reports that the success rate of the US surveillance programme to date has been a massive... er, zero.

    In fact, there’s no evidence that the NSA’s extraordinary surveillance dragnet, as revealed by Snowden, has disrupted any major attack within the U.S. ever.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1436 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    we know that some of the people who are on that watch list of 40 people potentially could undertake a domestic terror action now."

    Sounds familiar right? Of course it does, from last November:

    Government agencies have a watch list of between 30 and 40 people of concern in the foreign fighter context.

    This 30-40 people may or may not be the same 40 people who could potentially undertake domestic terror action now. Possibly it’s the same watch-list of 30 to 40 that Rebecca Kitteridge announced last year were being closely monitored.

    These are nice round numbers 30-40, not forgetting the broader 80 from Key’s 2014 speech to the National Institution of International Relations. All excellent numbers, divisible by 5, and 10 and at their upper reaches all multiples of four - entirely by the by.

    And so how much headway has been made by the SIS in the previous 12 months? A watch list of 40 remains a watch list of 40. Supposing targets have been discarded from the watch list, as many new new targets have emerged.

    So what does this mean for us as a people? Obviously knowing that there are 40 people among us who could undertake a domestic terror action right now, is a cause of anxiety, though we’ll try not to feel actual terror, the repeated broadcasts of that figure take me closer to a feeling of terror than anything anyone on the watch list has yet to accomplish. On the other hand the more skeptical might disregard it as part of a PR beat up to help justify our sending troops.

    For any would be New Zealand terrorists who might have recruited more members in the interim, it’s great news, especially if they are connected enough to know that their numbers are well above 40. In fact if they’ve been paying attention to Snowden, Greenwald, Kitteridge and Key, they’ll be well aware that in supporting ISIS in whatever shape or form that they’ve opened themselves up to having their digital communications surveilled indiscriminately and would most certainly have taken steps to minimise the effectiveness of this surveillance. A spot of counter-counter-terrorism. Furthermore, having followed Kitteridge’s numerous interviews they’d be well aware that to fly under the radar in committing a lone wolf attack, things will be considerably easier if they simply avoid ISIS related data. Don’t watch the videos, don’t read the literature, simply prep in isolation, fueled by their evident disdain for this way of life – like a *lone* wolf.

    If a successful attack is carried out, people will obviously want to know what happened. If the attacker was one of the forty why weren’t they stopped in advance? If the attacker wasn’t one of the forty then why were the SIS wasting valuable resources focusing on those 40? You’d have to be totally confident you’ve got this in hand before throwing numbers around.

    At the end of the day, one has to ask for whose benefit they keep repeating this number 40 on the TV? It certainly doesn’t help with putting the wee ones to bed. So Kitteridge and Key and Finalyson and whoever else liked to reminds us of the number of threats on a regular basis has made this country just a little more of a shit place to grow up in than it was a generation ago.

    Well done team and Merry Christmas – may your children not have nightmares.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to chris,

    All excellent numbers, divisible by 5, and 10 and at their upper reaches all multiples of four – entirely by the by.

    Exactly Chris. Yesterday Rebecca Kitteridge told Parliament that the number of jihadi brides leaving NZ was "less than twelve". On TV3 News that evening, John Key put the number at "one or two".

    While "one" and "two" are both less than twelve, this feels mightily like a mathematically-challenged attempt to justify the government's increased surveillance of the rest of us and the $100m+ annual budget our spies have to play with.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1436 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to chris,

    At the end of the day, one has to ask for whose benefit they keep repeating this number 40 on the TV?

    Probably for the benefit of all the journalists, and those they're writing for, who keep asking "so just how many of these people are there?"

    If they gave no number, presumably the complaint would be that they say they're watching people, but not how many, so how do we know there's any of them, or that the budget isn't for just one or two people, or conversely, for those at the Trump end of the spectrum, that there's hundreds and thousands of them liberally sprinkled throughout the country.

    I would also expect 40 to be a round number. In regard to complaints the number doesn't seem to change, well, I wouldn't expect it to change much. Why should it?

    As for the jihadi brides - I put very little stock in anything else JK says, so I would take Rebecca Kitteridge's numbers as more accurate than JK's. But overall I suspect it's a case of "we're 100% certain these two left to be 'jihadi brides', we're more or less sure these other 5 did, and there are another 5 where we think it's a possibility but we're less sure. So it's less than twelve, but more than 1."

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Probably for the benefit of all the journalists, and those they’re writing for, who keep asking “so just how many of these people are there?”

    Perhaps my question lacked emphasis, what is the benefit? Journalists get paid to file in and hold their mics and report it, including the numbers means their arms get a little heavier, perhaps that adds muscle tone but I’d be hard pressed to quantify the benefit of a couple of extra seconds of this type of exercise. As for those who keep asking, I’ve yet to meet one, though I don’t dispute that you may know some, and yet once again I’m hard pressed to pinpoint the actual benefit of being told a number.Diminishing our sense of security in this case is enhancing the sense of terror, is achieving exactly what the terror troops set out to achieve; to make us feel less safe in our home countries. I know it’s a cliché but that’s arguably one of the main reasons we have what this organisation, i.e so that our children aren’t lying in bed at night worrying if their Muslim classmate’s mum is one of the 40 people who could potentially undertake domestic terror action right now.

    There are so many many ways to die, they could set up a watch list of people who could potentially drink a crate, get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and kill a family in a vehicular accident, right now, and the SIS would have as good a shot of averting preventable deaths, but then there’s always one who slipped under the radar.

    Feeding paranoia is not a a benefit to society, paranoia is sometimes a symptom of very serious functional disorders. Feeding paranoia exclusively against Muslims, as is the case, is a divisive action. I have little doubt that there is a causative relationship between the SIS’s continued emphasis that potential terrorists must be Muslim and the opposition to the increasing the refugee intake, for example, as we saw on this very site not 3 months back:

    I think you over complicated my comment about a potential threat, what I meant was that people who do not possess legitimate documents to verify who they really are, or if they are associated with terrorist groups. New Zealand is a peaceful country, and the last thing we need is a potential threat, which can be diffused if proper documents are provided.

    Because it’s never simply 40 people. It’s 40 Muslims, in every press release and every interview. We don’t hold their purse strings, we have as much chance of cutting SIS funding as delaying another MP payrise, whether they conduct themselves secretly or keep insecurely broadcasting their work on the 6 o’clock news, regardless it sucks to be one of the 40k+ Muslims in New Zealand because man, women or child they are reminded once every two months that there’s a 1/1000 chance that they’re on the Government watch list.

    Is the number for their benefit, or is it for the benefit of their potential non-Muslim friends, lovers, employees. Is the benefit to remind us that every time we meet a Muslim there’s a 1/1000 chance that they are one of the 40 who could potentially undertake a domestic terror action right now. Meanwhile it remains patently obvious that for a terrorist to succeed the first thing they need to do is simply drop their religious affiliations, because the NZSIS’s PR campaign is so focused on the dreaded Muslims that it’s standard practice for journalists to also include a quote or two from some or other Islamic spokesperson to provided some much needed perspective to the SIS’s scaremongering, is Hazim Arafeh on the watch list? Who knows, odds are 1000 to 1.

    I would also expect 40 to be a round number. In regard to complaints the number doesn’t seem to change, well, I wouldn’t expect it to change much. Why should it?

    Rebecca Kitteridge is best placed to answer that question:

    The SIS was seeing online radicalisation, where groups and individuals use social media “to connect with susceptible people and distribute material that incites or encourages extreme violence”.

    On this conveyor belt of terrorism the number being radicalised would appear to be almost exactly equal to those being deradicalised, an abstraction which conforms with her statement:

    Kitteridge had told the committee that the number of Kiwis on a terrorist watch list remained about the same, but the seriousness with which they were viewed had escalated.

    Are they terrorists or are they radicals that we are now viewing with more seriousness? Are they viewing propaganda or are they researching bomb making? Are they watching the wrong videos, reading the wrong literature, thinking the wrong thoughts or are they making comprehensive plans to kill us all by extracting enough of the radioactive substance polonium-210 (a decayed form of the element radium contained in the mineral Apatite which is used in the fertilizers on the radioactive tobacco that we can buy from the dairy and which the Government derives a healthy profit from) in order to build a bomb or poison a spy? Terry Jones comes to mind.

    As Sacha asked above:

    isn’t she the head of the inward-focused SIS rather than the outward-focused GCSB?

    In terms of our national security it’s an important question because that does still appear to be the official brief and yet this does appear to have expanded to also include chasing honeymooners around the world like Carmen Sandiago. I have grave doubts that these honeymooners have the capacity to enact acts of terror via telepathy so I’m at a loss to pinpoint exactly what threat they present to New Zealand’s domestic population or infrastructure from 16,000 km away and why the head of the NZSIS has expanded her role to speculating on peoples’ relationship status.

    Andrew Little seems convinced by the intelligence so Kitteridge deserves the last word.

    "It’s not your average person going out to work and happily married and raising kids… it’s a pattern of people who are kind of disengaged in some way with a productive life."

    So paraphrasing, watch out for Muslims, especially unemployed single Muslims, without kids, whether they’re divorced or just haven’t yet met that special someone yet – and if you happen to know a Muslim who’s recently gone through a divorce or a difficult break up, whether they lack virility or are infertile, do take the opportunity this ‘silly season’ – as the white people are prone to call it – in the spirit of the event, to invite them over, make friends, let them know they’re not alone and without attempting to ply them with alcohol do attempt to help them forget just how much energy our Government and our security services have put into vilifying and alienating them from the fabric of our society over the last year.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

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