Govt knew there was no hack

June 7, 2019

The government knew there was no hack  before Gabriel Makhlouf made his public statements last week:

. . . The Government’s spy agency made urgent calls to the Beehive before Makhlouf’s public statement – we reveal today what they told at least one senior Government Minister. The new details come as Makhlouf faces a State Services Commission investigation over the way he handled claims the website had been hacked. It later transpired that Budget details could be uncovered using the Treasury’s search engine.

The Government Communications Security Bureau phoned the Beehive last week in a desperate 11th-hour bid to stop Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf from saying publicly that his department had been hacked, the Herald understands.

But it was too late.

The GCSB had already told the Treasury that it did not believe its computer system had been compromised.

The GCSB was sent a copy of Makhlouf’s statement just before it was due to be released on Tuesday night last week. . . 

This just gets messier and messier and needs a wider inquiry than just the States Services Commissioner’s one which won’t ask questions of Ministers.


Spies spy

March 6, 2015

Our spies are spying.

That isn’t news, it’s what spies do.

If there’ sandy news, it’s that some people appear to be surprised by this. Rob Hosking writes:

So. It seems we have a spying agency which, we learned today, spies on foreigners.

If anyone is surprised, let alone shocked, by this, they really are too gentle a soul for this cruel world.

Spying on foreigners is pretty much what comes on the label when you set up a spying agency. It’s what they do.

Unless you thought David Lange’s Labour government set up the Government Communications Security Bureau to run the country’s pest destruction boards, or to play Farmville on their neat new computers, what on earth did you think the agency has been doing?

The fact GCSB is spying on “friends?” First, those friends have some rather dubious friends and matters such as money laundering of criminal and terrorist activity are key parts of law enforcement these days. . .

We need to know what’s happening in our neighborhood.

To do that we must keep an eye not only on our neighbours but those who might be trying to influence  them.

If there’s anything to raise concern it’s not that our spies are spying, it’s about the oversight of them.

One can accept that, in today’s technologically advanced era, spy agencies are in a permanent race to keep up.

The unspoken assumption of Mr Hager and his excitable supporters seems to be that New Zealand’s GCSB is under some sort of obligation to not do what everyone else – government, citizen, criminal, lobbyist, activist – can do.

That is just silly.

But if a government agency is – as it clearly has done – is now undertaking the kind of surveillance on the scale in which one would expect in today’s world, there needs to be a stepped up level of independent oversight to match the increased spying activity.

There has been some increase, in the amendment legislation passed in 2013, but it is small compared to the rise in activity.

The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, as the old wisdom has it. This applies to the activities such as the GCSB in two ways: one is we need to expect it to be vigilant in New Zealand’s interests, especially in our “backyard.”

But such vigilance also needs to be applied to an agency with such sweeping, and increasing, powers as the GCSB – especially if it is acting, as it appears to be, at least as much for other governments as it is for our own.

Our spies need to keep their eyes on our neighbourhood and someone needs to keep an eye on them.

 


Foulers cry foul

September 14, 2014

Internet Mana  is complaining about Prime Minister John Key’s decision to declassify documents which will prove accusations against him are baseless.

. . .In a joint statement, Mr Harawira and Ms Harre say the reported intention of the Prime Minister “to arrange the selective declassification and release of documents for his own political purposes” represents an abuse of the Prime Minister’s authority in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS. . .

If the PM didn’t release documents they’d accuse him of hiding something but when he says he will release documents they’re still complaining.

This is a case of the foulers crying foul.

They’re the ones who’ve allowed themselves to be bought by Kim Dotcom who is doing his best to interfere in the election.

The PM not only has the right to release this he has a duty.

This isn’t just about him. It’s about New Zealand, New Zealanders and our security.

Those who don’t understand that should read Charles Finny’s excellent guest post at Kiwiblog:

. . .  The Labour Government that saw us through World War II, and those from 1957-60, 1972-75, 1984-90 and 1999-2008 have not sought to change our position in “five eyes” because the leaders and senior Ministers of those Governments have realized how lucky we are to be part of this agreement and knew how fundamental the intelligence derived from it was to the security of New Zealand.  Ultimately the most important function of government is to protect the people.  “Five eyes” plays a very important role in our ongoing security.  There was a wobble under Lange which saw New Zealand denied access to some processed intelligence from the US, but access to the raw communications intercepted by the four allies continued throughout.  Under Helen Clark the full flow of processed intelligence resumed.

I cannot believe what I have just heard saying about today.  What we now call is as much a creation of Labour as it is the National Party.  It is crucial to our continuing security.  It protects us against the hostile actions of foreign governments, terrorist organizations, and international criminals.  Of course the same foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminals hate the ‘’fives eyes agreement” and want it dismantled because it stands in their way.  I can’t believe that a Labour Leader would align himself with these forces and put this agreement and our position in it so much at risk.  If his senior colleagues do not call Cunliffe on this, shame on them too.  Our national security is too important to be put at risk by short term political opportunism.

Even when Helen Clark thought we lived in a benign strategic environment her government didn’t short-change  or subvert our security the way the left is now attempting to.

 

 


Compare and contrast

August 21, 2013

What’s the difference between National’s GCSB Bill and the one passed into law by Helen Clark’s government in 2003?

Given the emotion generated by the current Bill you’d think that someone in the mainstream media would have compared and contrasted the two pieces of legislation.

No-one has so Kiwiblog has done it:

Helen Clark GCSB law 2003 John Key GCSB law 2013
Inspector-General sole independent oversight two person advisory panel to assist the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
Inspector-General has no staff resources Inspector-General has a Deputy
Inspector-General role is essentially reactive Inspector-General to proactively annually review GCSB procedures, policies and compliance and do unscheduled audits
Inspector General not informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander Inspector General is informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander
GCSB can’t intercept the communications of a NZ citizen or permanent resident but can assist “any public authority” on any matter relevant to their functions, and unclear if the former prevents the latter GCSB can’t intercept the communications of a NZ citizen or permanent resident but can assist (only the) Police, Defence Force or SIS even if it involves a NZer.
No reporting of assistance given to other agencies GCSB will be required to report annually on the number of instances when it has provided assistance to the Police, SIS or NZ Defence Force
No reporting on number of warrants and authorisations GCSB will also be required to report annually on the number of warrants and authorisations issued
Intelligence and Security Committee has secret hearings to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the SIS Intelligence and Security Committee will hold public hearings annually to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the SIS
ISC does not have to publicly report to Parliament ISC to report annually to Parliament on its activities
No regular reviews of GCSB An independent review of the operations and performance the GCSB and the NZSIS and their governing legislation in 2015, and thereafter every 5-7 years
GCSB has a function to protect any information that any public authority or other entity produces, sends, receives, or holds in any medium GCSB function to protect any communications that any public entity processed, stored, or communicated in or through information infrastructures
No specification of limits of GCSB assistance Specifies that GCSB can assist Police, Defence Force and SIS, but only for lawful activities such as where warrants have been granted
IPCA has no jurisdiction Gives the IPCA and the IGIS jurisdiction to review any assistance given to Police and SIS respectively
No references to according to human rights standards Specifies all functions of GCSB must accord with NZ law, and all human rights standards recognised by NZ law.
No references to not undertaking partisan activity Specifies GCSB can’t be involved in any action that helps or harms a political party
No requirement to brief the Leader of the Opposition GCSB Director required to brief Leader of Opposition regularly on major activities of GCSB
Requires GCSB to destroy any records not relating to GCSB objectives or functions Required GCSB to not retain any information on NZers collected incidentally as part of foreign intelligence operations unless relates to serious crime, loss of life or national security threats
No special protection for legally privileged communications Legally privileged communications explicitly exempted from scope of an interception warrant
No requirement to have a policy on personal information retention and use GCSB required to work with Privacy Commission to have a policy on personal information retention and use 
No restrictions in GCSB Act on retaining personal information GCSB can only retain personal information for a lawful purpose, and can’t keep longer than required for any lawful purpose

The law currently being debated and roundly condemned has a lot more protections than the one it will replace.

Where were all the protesters in 2003?

More to the point why are opposition MPs who voted for the 2003 law opposing the new law with greater protections?

And another question – if the opposition knows this law is so bad why haven’t they laid out exactly what they’ll replace it with when they are eventually in government?


GSCB Bill explained

August 15, 2013

In between interruptions and attempted justifications from John Campbell, Prime Minister John Key explained the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Amendment Bill.

Do people care?

“We got 124 submissions on the GCSB bill, and 30,000 on snapper,” he says.

Mr Key says he spends a lot of time touring the country, but the GCSB bill is not a topic that comes up in his discussions.

“People do not raise GCSB. I have public meetings, I have question sessions at everything I do. I probably have half a dozen meetings a day with public engaging with people…People don’t raise this issue,” he tells Campbell Live. . .

Whether or not people care, doesn’t change the facts:

*  The GCSB will need to obtain a warrant from the Commissioner of High Security Warrants – a retired court judge appointed by Mr Key.

* The surveillance of] Kim Dotcom was illegal under the old law and it’s illegal under the new law.

* Mr Key says some discussion around the bill has been misrepresented, and the organisation will not be able to spy on New Zealanders.

* the original problems with the GCSB stem from a section passed by the Labour Government in 2003.

Another couple of points from the video (at about 18:15)
* The only legal things they [GCSB] can do is provide assistance, and they do that about nine times a year.
* Anything else they might do in cyber searches would require a warrant, they wouldn’t have access to content and it would be a bit like virus protection.
Some other points not covered in the interview:

The Bill clarifies the law that the GCSB operates under.

* The GCSB had been assisting other agencies like the NZSIS, Defence and Police for years, under the previous Labour Government as well as under the National-led Government. The Labour administration knew about this activity and signed off on it.

* The GCSB believed that it was operating within the law at all times, but it is now clear that there are difficulties in interpretation in the law.

* The Prime Minister is responsible for for national security and takes it seriously. That’s why the Government is moving to clarify the law so that it is legally clear the GCSB can assist other agencies, as it has done for years.

This Bill won’t change what can be done, the SIS can do anything the Bill would permit the GCSB to do.

This isn’t a debate about whether a particular New Zealander will have intelligence gathered about them and about their activities.

It will happen with appropriate oversight and safeguards.

The question is whether the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) does it, or if GCSB does it under a warrant gained by the SIS.

The GCSB has the capability to do it now, the SIS doesn’t. If the Bill isn’t enacted what would have been done by the GCSB will be done by the SIS, more expensively.

I thought the Prime Minister won the debate, so did Gravedodger who reviews the interview here.

But it’s not only those of us in the blue corner who weren’t impressed with the interviewing.

Whaleoil found this on Twitter:

@JohnJCampbell Raving is not interviewing, John. A graceless and embarrassing performance. This from your greatest fan. Brian

 

 

 

 


When the ex comes back

August 7, 2013

In even the best relationships it can be a bit difficult when the ex comes for a visit.

It’s hard for the new partner not to feel second-best and that the ex is more articulate, more respected, more popular.

Labour leader David Shearer would be forgiven for feeling a bit like this when Helen Clark, the woman he succeeded, returns to New Zealand and is fêted by the media.

This week he has even more reason to feel that way because in the interview on Q & A she undermined the opposition to the GCSB Bill.

. . . Helen Clark told Corin Dann that there is a need for a GCSB and she’s urging dialogue across the political divide.

“The answer is yes, you do, because you need that foreign intelligence, and not least for safety and security reasons. I think the real issue is, is there a gap in the law, which the Kitteridge Inquiry apparently found that there was, and if so, how do you deal with that and do you take the opportunity at the same time to write in more controls to protect the privacy of the individual? That, as I see it, is the debate raging at the moment.”

Ms Clark says when her government brought in the 2003 GCSB legislation ”that actually took GCSB out of the shadows and made it a government department with its own Act, which was good. But, you know, in retrospect, as Miss Kitteridge has found, perhaps there was a gap in the law. So that has to be dealt with, but I think it’s really important to try to reach across the political divide when you’re dealing with these issues.”

Ms Clark says, “Try and take the politics out of it and look at what do we as Kiwis need to protect our interests and how do we protect the privacy of individual Kiwis who should never be caught up in a giant trawling exercise across their communications.”

Shearer and Labour had the opportunity to be the grown-ups in opposition by acting like a government in waiting on this issue.

Instead they’ve just been playing political catch-up to the Green Party and Winston Peters who know they’ll never have to lead a government.

They’ve missed their opportunity to get better legislation and because of that have been wasting their time and our money filibustering on the Bill which will eventually pass anyway.


Labour policy: whatever

July 28, 2013

The headline says Labour would repeal GCSB law: Shearer.

But read on and you find that’s not quite the policy he’s espousing:

Labour leader David Shearer says the proposed GCSB bill is “bad law” and would be repealed if the party was successful at next year’s election.

However, he said the law would not be rolled back until an independent inquiry into New Zealand’s intelligence services was carried out. . .

But he said the bill’s days would be numbered from the moment Labour came to power, were it successful in the next election.

“We would have an independent review and legislation would come out of the review. The current legislation would need to be repealed, modified or whatever.”

Repealed, modified or whatever – what sort of policy is that?

Labour says it won’t vote for the Bill. It must have strong arguments for that stance because unlike the wee parties which know they’ll never lead a government, Labour aspires to do so and knows it can’t play games over security legislation.

It should be quite clear on what it objects to in the Bill and and how to improve it in which case it should have a very clear policy on what it would do.

Repeal, modify or whatever is anything but clear.

It does however, give a good indication of the state Labour’s in.

A party which can’t come up with better policy than whatever isn’t fit to lead the opposition let alone ready to lead a government.


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