A few years back I was interviewed by Rod Vaughan at the NBR about exactly this issue. Although I disagree with some of his conclusions and would modify some of my comments in light of recent events in the US, the thrust of them seems relevant to this discussion: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/why-americans-embrace-nationhood-kiwis-do-not-rv-132371
Yes Tim, that is exactly why it is important to know if Dotcom was approached and what his response was. Having said that, it is difficult to ascertain whether he would answer truthfully to the question about whether he was approached, as it may be easier to play the victim if he sticks to the copyright argument rather than the champion of internet privacy line that the Internet Party has embraced as a policy plank. After all, at least in the view of some official circles, one's right to privacy ends when that privacy cloaks criminal activity, especially when that criminal activity involves cross-border murderous conspiracies. Then again, perhaps this is all a product of post 9-11 US government overreach when it comes to defining threats and identifying enemies. If so, and if he was approached by the USG and refused to cooperate, then Dotcom's lawyers have yet another arrow in their quiver.
You may be correct Russell with regards to the encryption (or lack thereof,) of Megaupload, but then again there may have been more to Dotcom's business practices than meets the eye when it comes to issues of international security. The hard fact is that it is extraordinary that US intel agencies--not just the FBI-- would get involved at such length in a copyright dispute (the money laundering charges are just an add-on based on the distribution of profits reaped from Dotcom's success). For the NSA to devote concerted and focused resources towards Dotcom intercepts, then convince its 5 eyes counterpart in NZ to continue them at the margins of the law (because the decision to illegally wiretap was made in NZ, not in the US), suggests that there was a bit more to the story than some Hollywood-DC political conspiracy.
Lets put it this way since I was asked by Sean if the Dotcom case was about Hollywood money going to a Joe Biden campaign: Joe Biden would not have a clue as to what a "cloud" was other than what he sees in the sky, so the suggestion that his campaign was funded by Hollywood types hating on Dotcom seems far-fetched. Moreover, Biden was the second on a party ticket in 2008 and 2012, dates that do not coincide with the Dotcom timetable in NZ. Nor dos he have any previous discernible relationship with the movie making industry, which is not as monolithic as some might think .
After all, unlike NZ where Hollywood people can get the government to change labour laws to suits their needs, the US is a big and varied place with more than one center of power (in fact, dozens). There are plenty of Republicans in Hollywood and pseudo-libertarians like Rand Paul who would jump at the opportunity to exploit some Obama/movie mogul cronyism for political gain. Yet none of that has happened.
I remain of the opinion that there was more than copyright issues involved in this case, hence the weirdness.
Here is a suggestion for you and other journalists now that I have put the thought of something else driving the Dotcom case into the public domain: why not ask Dotcom directly if he or his minions were ever approached by the US government with regard to installing backdoors on his servers?
Lets hope that your hypothetical proves more or less correct. For what it is worth, on the UK side of things, the issue appears slightly more complicated than a straight thumbs up for Huawei. Take, for example, this report (hat tip to a commentator on the Kiwiblog thread dedicated to the subject):
"BRITAIN’S intelligence services were forced to erect a costly, resource-intensive auditing structure to ensure Huawei did not steal secrets after the Chinese telco was allowed to take part in a British broadband project.
As Foreign Minister Bob Carr moved to soothe tensions with Beijing, encouraging Huawei to expand its commercial operations in Australia in lieu of lucrative National Broadband Network contracts, the country’s top signals intelligence expert, Des Ball, said yesterday there was “no doubt” Huawei partnered with China’s espionage services.
Professor Ball, of Australian National University, said officers from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the country’s top signals intelligence agency, had told him they had to check all the servers, routers, chips and hardware installed by Huawei after the company was allowed to take part in a large-scale broadband project in Britain. “And they still don’t have any guarantee they picked everything up,” he said.
Sources have told The Australian the British experience, and in particular the auditing impost on intelligence services, was a major factor in the decision to exclude Huawei from the NBN."
For the record, Desmond Ball is a world class security analyst, and I would doubt that he would take kindly to being labeled a corporate shill.
Anyway, more grist for the mill, particularly because the security vetting in the UK happened after (at great cost), rather than before Huawei was awarded IT contracts there. Perhaps that is what is happening or is supposed to happen in NZ because the National government believes that even with the costs of ex post forensic auditing the overall cost of the Huawei contracts are less than the bids of other competitors.
If that is the case, then presumably the GCSB/SIS will be up to the job.
Just one small correction to what seems to be a general belief. The CIA did not advise the Bush 43 administration that Saddam had WMD. To the contrary. Its senior analysts told then CIA-director George Tenet and the NSC that Saddam had some old stockpiles that were deteriorating to the point of dangerous unreliability and that they would only be used in the event of an attack. They also said that he had no nukes. Cheney and Rumsfeld were not happy with that and ordered Tenet to cherry-pick snippets of a number of analyses done over the previous decade in order to make a case for war. Many of the cherry-picked analyses were of the "what if" and game scenario variety rather than hard expositions of known facts (since it is the analysts responsibility to futures forecast a range of possible scenarios).
That cherry picked "evidence" was provided to the hapless Colin Powell, who was kept out of the loop by Tenet and so believed that the cut and paste reports that he was provided represented the true thoughts of the analytic community. Rumsfeld's minions in OSD then piled on doctored imagery to support the case, all of which was bolstered by the claims of some dubious Iraqi exiles who said that they were in meetings with Saddam and his military leaders when discussing how to use WMD. These claims were subsequently found to be lies.
Then Karl Rowe got Scooter Libby to out former human intelligence collector Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband's (a former ambassador) report that Iraq had no huge yellowcake supplies that it was refining into weapons grade material. Outing Plame, a twenty year non-official cover (NOC) operator, exposed all of the intelligence networks she had cultivated in the ME during her time there (mostly posing as an oil executive). Within days many of her contacts in places like Syria and Egypt simply vanished.
My point being that, from my experience in and outside the machine, the intelligence community works hard to get the facts without prejudice. They report the good news, the bad news and everything in between to the political decision-makers who oversee them. The decision-makers make the final call on any assessment, and should take responsibility for that call if things turn to custard.
Bush 43 did not, and instead blamed the intelligence for "faulty" information. That, coupled with the Plame outing, caused an open revolt within the clandestine services that only began to be repaired once he left office.
The moral of the story is that although Western professional intelligence agencies operate in a highly political environment, their relative autonomy and neutrality when making threat assessments is vital for strategic planning and appropriate tactical responses. Prejudice does not fit into this picture--it is professionally anthem to color reports wit racial or ethnic prejudice. What politicians do with the information provided is another matter, and as I said before, they often are not as honest, dispassionate or professional when doing so.
I realize that there are many who think that it is all a matter of US corporate interests pulling the strings to secure market share in the face of foreign competition, but from my perspective the issue is a bit more complex than that.
Be they right or wrong, the US and Australian assessments on Huawei should have been shared with the GCSB and SIS, who presumably informed the PM about the concerns in some classified detail. It would therefore be nice to know if this did in fact happen and if so, why the PM chose to ignore those concerns. He may have strong reason to support the Huawei contracts, but it would be good to hear how he came to that position in light of the suspicions about Huawei serving as a SIGINT front of the PRC.
Russell: I suggest you do some more reading on Huawei's connections with Chinese intelligence. There have been several reports done by US, UK and Australia security agencies outlining their concerns. These are not done out of anti-Chinese prejudice. Government security and intelligence agencies do not deal in cultural prejudice (although some policy-makers might). They deal in facts, and as far as NZ's major security partners are concerned, the facts speak to Hauwai being a possible front for SIGINT intercepts of behalf of the Chinese state as it moves to assert its global presence. Remember: unlike NZ and its Echelon partners, the PRC has to be completely self-reliant when it comes to SIGINT and TECHINT and is playing catch-up in those two fields. It cannot be a great power without them.
As for Echelon, I was at pains to tell the reporter that--should the suspicions about Huawei prove true, and that remains to be seen--Huawei's entry to the NZ IT market would be an indirect, rather than direct way of accessing Echelon-related intelligence (as well as commercial and diplomatic intelligence not related to Echelon). If they provide the platforms on which Crown agencies operate and/or on which individuals or private agencies of import conduct their personal and commercial business, then the field is opened for SIGINT collection via both front and back-door entry to these communications.
I do agree that Ms. Adams was out of her depth, especially when she said that she did not know about the Australian security concerns.
Ok Rich. Understood now. Given the vilification that Hager is being subjected to bythe government and its lap dogs like Espiner and Small (who seem to think that their all expenses paid PR junkets to a secure bubble in Afghanistan qualify them as war correspondents), I feel compelled to jump in to defend what is a meticulously researched book. And again: I do not share, by a country mile, Hager's ideology. I just repsect honest reporting (sans the editorialising).
Answer to Rich's question, succinctly: never. It is the defining attirbute of democratic civil-military relations that, for better or worse, the security agencies subordinate themselves to the government of the day, everday, even if speaking in generalities as I have mentioned above. Misleading and lying to the civilian elected leadership strikes to the heart of democratic governance.
I have personal professional experience with this issue at some length, and must say that comments like Rich's make me dispair over the quality of democratic knowledge in NZ society. Plus, here again, it is clear that Rich has not read the book so is allowing his ideological prejudices to speak for him. To which I say: forget the messenger, concentrate on the facts as outlined in the book that you have not read. Geez.
Hager's beef (as was that of Jon Stephenson) is not with the field commanders or the troops but with the HQ brass. Hager editorialises a bit too much to my liking since I do not share his ideology, but he has been pretty clear about where the blame for the disjuncture between the NZDF rheotric and the reality regarding Afghanistan (and the War on Terrorism) really lies. What is alarming is that PM Key appears to not be concerned that there has been a decade of PR lies and spin coming out of HQ regarding the mission (as defined in the SOFA and ROEs that both Labour and National agreed to at the point of deployment).
It is precisely the SOFA and ROE authorised by the respective governments of the day that was systematically violated by the NZDF (the authorisation of the GCSB to detail personnel to front line positions is more murky). The evidence in the book is pretty damning on this point.
And well documented and voluminous the evidence is. As I said in my prior post on this thread, the material Mr. Hager has gathered is extremely rich and detailed, comprising a mix of government documents, interviews, wikileaks material, secondary sources and even Facebook records. They are not mere snippets, but are, in fact, near encyclopaedic.
This leads me to believe that your assertions are made without having read the book and instead are made from having read newspaper reports of its contents. That is no substitute for a full read, and opining without having done so leaves you vulnerable to accusations of being ignorant of the material you comment about. Not a good look.
I hesitate to use rough language in mixed country, but you sir, appear to be what you you label Mr. Hager to be.