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The Rise and Rise of Daddy State: MSD blackmails NGOs for private data

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Nanny State takes a Shower

What do showers have to do with this issue?

Wait and see.

Spying, Spooks, and Silly Journos

Nearly five years ago, the highly controversial Search and Surveillance Act 2012 was passed by National. As reported at the time;

The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.

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Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm] Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.

Yes, indeed. Police surveillance and seizure powers were being massively extended. But according to the Police Commissioner, citizens could rely on the Police using “pretty common sense” to use them.

Then-Justice Minister, Judith Collins offered this excuse for the extension of police powers;

The new Search and Surveillance Act 2012 brings “order, certainty, clarity and consistency” to messy, unclear and outdated search and surveillance laws.

(Interestingly, the fact that Collins felt the need to use irony-quotation-marks, in her Beehive statement, to enclose the phrase order, certainty, clarity and consistency is revealing.)

This is the same Judith Collins who, in 2009, passed personal phone numbers of a civil servant to far-right blogger, Cameron “Whaleoil” Slater.

A year later,  the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill  was being hotly debated throughout the country.

Essentially, the Bill (since passed into law), would allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens which up to then had been the sole province of the NZ SIS.

National’s  ‘spinned message’ – constantly parroted by Dear  Leader Key – was;

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known

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The advice we have recently received from the Solicitor-General is that there are difficulties interpreting the legislation and there is a risk some longstanding practices of providing assistance to other agencies would not be found to be lawful.

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It is absolutely critical the GCSB has a clear legal framework to operate within.”

In fact, the law was clear with it’s wording and intent and Section 14 of the Act (since altered to reflect the Amendment) stated with crystal clarity;

14Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Some journalists were too lazy to fact-check Key’s lies;

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Journalists who failed to realise that Key was being disingenuous, and simply parroted the government’s official spin, did immense damage to public understanding of the issues involved.

Others, like Audrey Young and Tracy Watkins were sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable to recognise a government ‘stitch-up’ when they saw it;

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“ The GCSB Act 2003 expressly forbids it from spying on the communications of New Zealanders.  But, by a series of snakes and ladders through the stated functions and objectives of the act, it convinced itself it was allowed to help the SIS and police spy on New Zealanders.” – Audrey Young, 26 June 2013

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“ The GCSB’s interpretation of the law was so loose it managed to spy on 88 New Zealanders even though the law specifically stated it was not allowed to do so.” – Tracy Watkins, 3 August 2013

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National ignored strong public opinion wary of extending the GCSB’s surveillance powers. The Bill became law on 26 August 2013.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act was followed by the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act (TICS), made law on 11 November 2013.

The TICS law made it mandatory for all electronic communications companies (telcos) to comply with spy  agencies demands to  intercept and decrypt phone calls, txt-messages, and emails.

The excuse for this piece of intrusive legislation from Communications Minister, Amy Adams;

“ The fundamental reason that I have sought to introduce this bill is to safeguard New Zealand public safety and security. ”

The Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act was, in turn, followed by the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (split into several Bills after it’s Second Reading in Parliament on  9 December 2014).

This Bill, covering  three existing laws, allowed the  SIS  to conduct surveillance on terrorist suspects without requiring a judicial a warrant for up to 24 hours; to conduct secret video surveillance on private property; gave SIS access to Customs Department data in relation to suspected terrorism, and allowed the  Minister of Internal Affairs increased  powers to arbitrarily suspend or  cancel a passport.

The Labour Party were so opposed to this law change  that they voted for it. (NZ First, the Maori Party, and the Greens,  to their credit, voted against it.)

Then Dear Leader  Key used the usual “defending Kiwis against terrorist” bogeyman to justify the State’s growing surveillance powers;

“ The threats faced by New Zealand have grown and it is important that we have the ability to respond to that. The Government has a responsibility to protect New Zealanders at home and abroad…”

Simultaneously in 2014, the IRD signed an agreement to share data with the Police;

Taxpayer information is required to administer New Zealand’s tax system effectively. This information can be supplied by taxpayers, or it can be collected by Inland Revenue during an audit.

Broadly, the government’s current legislative position is that this information is not shared with other government departments on the basis that it is ‘tax secret’.

However, there are instances where sharing taxpayer information relating to serious crime could bring offenders to justice, support the goals of other government departments, and offer the State broad efficiencies.

Up until that point, the IRD expected everyone who earned money – whether from legal or illegal mean – to pay tax. This meant that, for example, sex workers prior to 2003 would be expected to pay tax on their earnings regardless of the fact it was an illegal activity.

The tax department didn’t care where or how the money was earned – they just wanted their “fare share”.

After 2014, the IRD abandoned that policy, and data-sharing with Police was implemented. It means that taxing other illegal activities such as the production and sale of cannabis, is no longer feasible. This has unintentional consequences – such as the hoarding of cash; use of firearms to protect that cash; and violence.

This is part of an on-going wider process of government departments sharing private information with each other.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act, Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act, and Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill all follow on from previous extensions of State power, notably  the  Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

This poorly thought-out law was Labour’s contribution to George Bush’s ill-conceived “War on Terror”.

Throughout National’s three terms in office, it has extended Police powers; widened the scope for the GCSB and SIS to spy on New Zealanders; and created a vast data-sharing network amongst it’s bureaucracy.

MSD, NGOs, and Demands for Data

To date, New Zealanders have been mostly apathetic as the government build up it’s ability to spy and store personal information on us. Most of the government’s “targets” have been so-called “terrorists”, immigrants, criminals, student-debt defaulters, and those on welfare benefits or living in state houses.

Most of Middle New Zealand find it difficult to identify with these elements of our society.

Recently, however, Radio NZ has been running a series of stories and interviews on a disturbing development regarding state aquisition of personal information.

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On 2 March, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed Brenda Pilott, the chairperson  of ComVoices (an umbrella organisation for NGOs).

At issue was the disturbing revelation that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), presumably under direction from National ministers,  was forcing NGOs to collect and pass  private information about their clients back to the Ministry,  in return for on-going funding. This proviso was to be written into new contracts set to take effect in July this year after negotiations had concluded after Easter.

>Kathryn Ryan interviews Brenda Pilott – 2 March<

Accordingly to Comvoices, NGOs were expected  to pass on;

  • names of clients
  • birth dates
  • ethnicity
  • other personal details such as dependent children’s names

NGOs that refused to share this information with MSD would forego funding. The result would be predictable;

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According to Brenda Pilot, the Ministry’s excuse to demand this data was;

“ They want to be able to find out what services are effective. And that this will provide information over time that will  allow sensible decisions to be made about government funding and where to apply that funding.”

Ms Pilot voiced concerns that private, identifiable  information would be used for tracking individuals who used NGO services. She said that vulnerable people needing to use services such as counselling, Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis, etc, would be reluctant to engage those organisations and would “walk away”. Ms Pilot was concerned that passing personal, identifiable data to MSD would force NGOs to violate Privacy Laws.

Ms Pilot said that the Privacy Commissioner was also concerned at MSD’s intentions to obtain such data, and was investigating. She said the Commissioner would most likely report on the issue by the end of this month.

On 3 March, Radio NZ reported; grave concerns held by at least one NGO, Women’s Refuge;

Women’s Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said agencies would have to abide by the contract change if they wanted to keep their funding.

“If agencies choose not to share this information they won’t be contracting with the ministry. That’s pretty much where it sits.”

Dr Jury said it was not an ideal situation for the refuge but they were not in a position to say no.

“This is not something that we would happily go out and say, ‘yes, this is exactly what we want to do’.

“If it is going to happen, our job now is to make sure we get the sort of safeguards built around that information that we need to keep our women and children safe,” she said.

At least one privacy lawyer doubted the legality of MSD’s demands;

Privacy lawyer Kathryn Dalziel said the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) looked to be on shaky ground.

“This is a potential breach of privacy because they don’t appear to have identified, anywhere, the purposes for which they are collecting that information.

“There doesn’t seem to be any transparency around it … I also don’t think it’s fair,” she said.

“Principle 2 of the Privacy Act says that if you want to collect information from third party, you have to have a good reason.

“You also have to have … lawful and reasonable purposes for collecting that information in the first place. Now, none of that has been done.”

However, what really raised fears was Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive, Murray Edridge’s responses to Kathryn Ryan’s  questions. His answers not only failed to reassure, but raised serious concerns as to MSD’s intentions regarding the storage and end-use of personalised, identifiable data.

>Ministry responds to privacy concerns – 3 March<

Edridge parroted the usual monetarist rhetoric of  “the New Zealand public demands that government spend it’s money well”.

When Ms Ryan  put it to Edridge that MSD was attempting to track NGO service-users, he denied it;

“ No we’re not tracking them. What we’re doing is we’re saying to providers, look, for us to understand the effectiveness of services, to understand where the resources are best invested, where we will decide between priorities in terms of investment we need to understand who the people are and what value they get from the services. For some time we’d had concern that investment’s been made in social services where they’re not the most effective mechanism for the people that require them, and this is part of the mechanism by which we understand the clientele better and we understand how we can serve them better and invest in services that are going to support them.”

When Ms Ryan put it to Edridge that anonymised data would work just as well, Edridge kept referring back to needing to know “who these people are“.

Moments later, Edridge contradicted himself by admitting “we know who the clients are, we know all about them“. If that wasn’t creepy enough, Ms Ryan then asked Edridge why MSD demanded further information about NGO service-users. She asked why MSD needed to know who was approaching  (for example) Women’s Refuge for assistance..

Edridge’s response was further contradictory and throughout the twelve minute interview he could provide no satisfactory answer why MSD was requiring personalised data from NGOs. At one point he attempted to cloud the issue by stating that MSD required “demographic information”.

Ms Ryan dismissed that claim by remind Edridge that MSD was seeking names, addresses, ethnicities, children’s names and that was not simply “demographic information”.

When Ms Ryan suggested that NGO service-users might not want their details passed on to MSD or other ministeries, Edridge could only respond,

“ Well, we need to know where to get the money in the right place.”

Four days later, Rape Crisis draw a line in the sand and announced it would  flat out decline to sign contracts with MSD  in return for  passing private information about service-users in exchange for on-going funding.

>Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts – 7 March<

By 16 March, pressure on MSD and Minister Tolley was such that the ministry caved, and was forced to step back from demanding personalised data from some NGOs dealing with sexual violence.

>Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts – 16 March<

The “reprieve”, however, was only temporary, and would last for only one year until MSD “works out how to securely collect and store their clients’ private data”. It also did not apply to all NGOs.

The Creep of Big Brother and the Daddy State

Up till this point, data-collection has centered on those who come in contact with the Justice system; WINZ beneficiaries; and Housing NZ tenants. These are generally New Zealanders who are usually the most deprived and vulnerable socially and financially, and rely on State assistance to survive.

A person seeking help from WINZ and Housing NZ is forced to supply both ministeries their private data. To refuse means no help. Next stop; the street;

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A citizen in contact with the Justice system has even less option to refuse to provide private data.

MSD’s demand for personalised data from NGO service-users marks a new stage in National’s slow advancement in building a data-base on every person in the country.

NGO service users may not necessarily be unemployed beneficiaries or live in state houses or have broken the law in some way – but their details will still be required to be collected and supplied to the Ministry of Social Development.

The ministry has assumed the de facto role of collecting and storing data on New Zealanders who – up till this point – may never have come into contact with any governmental organisation such as Housing NZ, WINZ, or Police.

The implications of this are staggering.

The net to scoop up data on as many citizens as possible, has just widened considerably.

If you think you – the reader – may never need the services of Women’s Refuge or Rape Crisis, consider for a moment that there are thousands  of NGOs operating in this country and hundreds that are funded by the State.

Victim Support is just one state-funded NGO;

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So if you’ve just become a victim of a crime; Victim Support enters your life;  the State now has your personal data on file;

  • Client: Name, address, gender, date of birth, primary ethnicity, Iwi.
  • Dependents: Name, date of birth, relationship to client.
  • Service Level: Information Programme/service name, start date and end date.”

Middle-class New Zealanders who may never have had cause to have personal data collected on them may soon be on file with various ministeries.  With data-sharing, personal information from MSD can end up throughout other ministeries. Or on the desks of ministers;

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Never mind “Nanny State” – this is the muscular arm of Daddy State flexing it’s strength to reach out to grab more and more of our private information.

And it won’t end with this.

Not until we say “Enough is enough. No more“.

Back to Showers

Remember this?

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In the lead-up to the 2008 general election, National attacked the then-Labour Government for  “Nanny Statism”.

Following on from a disastrous drought in 2007 that cost the country’s economy  over $2.8 billion (in 2008/09 dollars), the then-Labour government sought out ways and means to  conserve water. The alternative was the possibility of further water-shortages or costly storage and irrigation systems. Labour opted for conservation. This included measures to save water in residential areas.

It could be  suggested that water-saving shower heads and energy-efficient light-bulbs are the least of our concerns.  National has surpassed anything that Labour envisaged, as this government  reaches further and further into our private lives.

If there is one thing that history has taught us – governments that spy on their own people do not trust their people, and are fearful of them.

National must be very frightened of us.

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References

NZ Legislation: Search and Surveillance Act 2012

NZ Herald: New police search and surveillance law in force

Beehive: Search and Surveillance Bill becomes law

Radio NZ: Collins defends giving details to blogger

NZ Legislation: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Beehive: John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Legislation.govt.nz:  Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003

NZ Herald:  Spying on NZ: More power to watch us

Dominion Post:  Spy bungles start to entangle PM

Fairfax media: Kiwis do care, prime minister

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill

Parliament: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill

Fairfax: Spying bill passes into law

Parliament: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill — Third Reading

Parliament: Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

NZ Herald: Foreign fighters bill passes 94 – 27

Fairfax media: Labour backs anti-terror laws, despite attacking it

IRD: Information sharing with New Zealand Police

IRD: Cross-government Information-sharing to Identify, Stop or Disrupt Serious Crime

MacNicol & Co: Tax News – IRD to share information with police

NZ Legislation: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

Wikipedia: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

Radio NZ: Government demands private data from NGOs

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Relationships Aotearoa to close; funding models and issues in spotlight

Radio NZ: Govt on shaky ground over data-for-funding contracts, lawyers say

Radio NZ: Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts

Radio NZ: Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts

Comvoices: HomePage

Victim Support: Where does your funding come from?

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: MSD to require individual client level data from community agencies

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Dominion Post: Minister defends releasing private details

Fairfax media: Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

Scoop: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

NIWA: 2007 – much drier than average in many places

Beehive: Drought costs NZ $2.8 billion

Additional

Fairfax media: UN privacy expert slams government stance on privacy and ‘big data’

Other Blogs

The Standard: Social investment meets the surveillance state

Previous related blogposts

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 March 2017.

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Trumpwatch: Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

6 November 2016 12 comments

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2016-us-elections-broken-parallel-universe

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Two days ago (28 October), FBI Director, James B. Comey, sent a letter to the US Congress disclosing that  the Bureau was investigating newly-discovered emails from disgraced former US Congressman, Anthony Weiner.

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FBI Director James B. Comey

FBI Director James B. Comey

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The new  material  “appeared relevant” to the Hillary Clinton private-server/email case, according to Comey. In an explanatory email to FBI employees, Comey wrote;

“This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation.  Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.  Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.  At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”

The political version of an atomic-bombshell came eleven days before the US Presidential Election (early voting in several states notwithstanding) on 8 November.

Interestingly, Comey himself admitted;

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations…”

Comey tried to justify his disclosure to Congress;

“I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record…”

But in his rambling note, he then revealed;

“…however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails…”

And then pointed out the blindingly obvious;

“I don’t want to create a misleading impression…”

Director Comey had already created “a misleading impression“. By publicly announcing the “re-opening” of the investigation and referencing a “connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation“, irreparable damage had been done to Clinton’s campaign and Trump’s presidential chances suddenly took on new life.

As former Attorney General, Eric Holder, pointed out;

“Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on the existence, let alone the substance, of pending investigative matters, except in exceptional circumstances and with explicit approval from the Department of Justice officials responsible for ultimate supervision of the matter,” the letter says. 

They are also instructed to exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election because, as official guidance from the Department instructs, public comment on a pending investigative matter may affect the electoral process and create the appearance of political interference in the fair administration of justice.”

Current US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, also opposed Comey’s decision to formally write to Congress;

Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

The response from both Republicans and Democrats has been unrestrained anger. Senate minority leader Harry Reid  was unequivocal in condemning Comey’s behaviour;

“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.

My office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan action, you may have broken the law.”

What is even more startling is that at the time that Comey made his disclosure to Congress (28 October), it was not until two days later that the FBI  obtained a warrant to actually look at the emails on Weiner’s computer.

So on what basis did Comey feel the need to advise Congress?

When Comey sent that letter, he had no way of knowing what the emails contained. For all he knew, they could have been recipes for apple pie.

In which case, Comey has single-handedly interfered in an election process by using the power of his position.

Which would be an abuse of power.

Which would be a situation that we here in New Zealand would be intimately familiar with;

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sis-brief-phil-goff-warren-tucker

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As the NBR reported over this incident in November 2014;

Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge has made a formal apology to former Labour leader Phil Goff for the way in which the SIS released “incomplete, misleading and inaccurate information” in response to an OIA request from Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater.

In 2011 Mr Goff said he hadn’t been briefed about alleged Israel spies being caught in the Christchurch earthquake earlier that year, a contention Prime Minister John Key and then-SIS director Warren Tucker disputed.

Dr Tucker’s briefing notes were declassified, then swiftly released to Mr Slater after he requested them under the Official Information Act.

The notes appeared to confirm Mr Goff had been briefed on the matter but Ms Gwyn’s investigation has established this was not the case.

The apology to Mr Goff is one of the recommendations in the report of inspector-general of intelligence and security Cheryl Gwyn, which stated “These errors resulted in the misplaced criticism of the then leader of the Opposition, Phil Goff. Phil Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service.”

Although Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the SIS, its actions did have a politically partisan effect and she found the agency had failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.

The NZ Herald reported;

Prime Minister John Key is “in denial” over a report which backs Dirty Politics allegations his staff used information from the SIS to orchestrate a smear campaign against former Labour leader Phil Goff, the Opposition says.

Inspector General of Security Intelligence Cheryl Gwyn’s report yesterday found primarily that former SIS director Warren Tucker was at fault for supplying “misleading” information about Mr Goff to the Prime Minister during a 2011 war of words between the pair.

Mr Goff claimed he had not been briefed by Dr Tucker about suspected Israeli agents in Christchurch at the time of the earthquakes earlier that year. However, based on the information supplied by Dr Tucker, Mr Key said he had been briefed.

The report found Mr Key’s former senior communications adviser Jason Ede helped attack blogger Cameron Slater obtain that misleading information from the SIS which Slater then used to embarrass Mr Goff in blog posts.

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Ms Gwyn’s report said the information supplied by Dr Tucker about the briefing was “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading” and “resulted in misplaced criticism” of Mr Goff. It also found that after learning of the information, Mr Key’s deputy chief of staff and primary point of contact with the SIS, Phil de Joux, suggested to Mr Ede the information “might prompt an OIA request”.

Mr Ede then gave that information to Slater, discussed how an Official Information Act request should be worded, and provided Slater with draft blog posts attacking Mr Goff.

Ms Gwyn’s inquiry found Mr Ede was on the phone to Slater when Slater emailed his OIA request to the SIS.

Patrick Gower from TV3 was his usual ‘delicate’ self when he expressed his assessment of the politicisation of the NZSIS  by the National government;

3 News understands the spy agency and Prime Minister John Key’s office were found to be in cahoots with Slater to get the information out.

It was sensitive information that embarrassed Mr Goff, pertaining to the issue of supposed Israeli spies Mr Goff said he didn’t know about, though he had been briefed about it.

The report deals with how the information got out, and that is through former SIS director Warren Tucker. Mr Tucker is found have been unfair and politically partisan in the way he dealt with the Prime Minister’s office to get it out, according to 3 News’ understanding of the report.

Then-head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, used his position to embarrass the Leader of the  the Labour Party, just months out from the 2011 General Election. It was done with the full knowledge of members of John Key’s staff. Our esteemed Dear Leader was probably fully aware of the plot.

No wonder the Comey Affair seemed so hauntingly familiar when news of it broke.

Because FBI Director Comey has his own political affiliations;

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fbi-director-says-hes-no-longer-a-registered-republican

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Even though he has been a registered Republican for most of his adult life, FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that he is no longer a registered member of the GOP.

“Although our politics are different — I gather you’re a Republican — that correct?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked Comey in prefacing his remarks.

Comey responded, “I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer.”

The FBI director, who previously served as deputy attorney general in George W. Bush’s administration before President Barack Obama appointed him to his current position, donated to the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Mr Comey – meet Mr Warren Tucker.

You two would appear to have a bit in common.

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References

Washington Post: Read the letter Comey sent to FBI employees explaining his controversial decision on the Clinton email investigation

Wikipedia: Anthony Weiner

Politico:  Polls show battleground map tightening

The Hill: Holder, ex-Justice officials question Comey’s ‘breach of protocol’

The New Yorker: James Comey Broke with Loretta Lynch and Justice Department Tradition

The Guardian: Clinton emails inquiry – FBI gets warrant as Comey told he may have broken law

NBR: SIS report equals egg all over Key’s face – Goff

NZ Herald: Dirty Politics – John Key ‘in denial’ over SIS report

TV3: SIS to say sorry for Whale Oil OIA release

Politico: FBI director says he’s no longer a registered Republican

Additional

Radio NZ: Phil Goff receives apology from SIS over release of information to Whaleoil

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Timeline – Key responsible for SIS release

Wheeler’s Corner: SIS Forced to Apologise to Phil Goff says leaked report

The Pundit: John Key – The buck doesn’t stop with me

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2016.

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Coming soon: A terror alert near you!

19 March 2016 7 comments

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threat-level - nz (1)

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Setting the Stage for to Dis-information, Deception, and Distraction

Right about now, National is in very, very, VERY deep trouble.

Dairy-farmers, with associated down-stream support businesses, are facing severe economic hardship as Fonterra reduces the pay-out from $4.15 per kgMS to $3.90 per kgMS.

Dairy farmers’ debt has reached unsustainable levels;

About 10 per cent of the most indebted dairy properties owe a combined $11 to $12 billion, about 30 per cent of total dairy debt.

[…]

About 20 per cent of the most indebted farms hold  45 to 50 percent of the total debt – $15b-$38b.

The value of farms and sale numbers is falling (thereby placing many farmers into a negative gearing situation). As Rural Value’s national manager, David Paterson, said on Radio NZ;

“Unless there’s some bright light on the horizon I think there’ll be a continuation of slow sales and we’ll continue to see a reduction of farm values particularly on the dairy farm sector.”

On 18 March, Bill English admitted that real national disposable income-per-capita fell 0.4% for the year;

“You’ve got a big drop in national income, because dairy prices are down.  At the same time you’ve had surprisingly high migration numbers. So it’s not surprising that when you work the figures you get a drop in national disposable income.”

Not for the first time in his political career, English boasted that low wages were keeping a lid on inflation;

“The labour market turned out to be quite a bit more flexible than we were expecting.”

The Reserve Bank – recognising that a major economic “correction*” is looming on the horizon – has lowered the OCR from 2.50% to 2.25%. The RBNZ’s 10 March media release paints a gloomy economic picture for the foreseeable future;

The outlook for global growth has deteriorated since the December Monetary Policy Statement, due to weaker growth in China and other emerging markets, and slower growth in Europe. This is despite extraordinary monetary accommodation, and further declines in interest rates in several countries. Financial market volatility has increased, reflected in higher credit spreads. Commodity prices remain low.

Domestically, the dairy sector faces difficult challenges, but domestic growth is expected to be supported by strong inward migration, tourism, a pipeline of construction activity and accommodative monetary policy.

[…]There are many risks to the outlook. Internationally, these are to the downside and relate to the prospects for global growth, particularly around China, and the outlook for global financial markets. The main domestic risks relate to weakness in the dairy sector, the decline in inflation expectations, the possibility of continued high net immigration, and pressures in the housing market.

Retail banks, however, seem reluctant to participate in any plan to stimulate economic activity. The 25-point fall in the OCR has yet to be passed on to bank customers.

If the economy enters recession, expect inward migration to reduce, adding to a slowdown in domestic growth and rise in unemployment.

Setting the Mood

In November last year, our esteemed Dear Leader announced – almost casually – that New Zealand could be targeted by terrorists;

“I think every country in the world is potentially vulnerable, we’re probably less vulnerable than others.  We have in this instance the advantage of distance, we’re a long way away, [but] i just couldn’t say to you we’re completely immune.”

And;

“There’s no question about what their motivations are and that’s the tragedy of the Isis story is that you get some very dysfunctional people, for want of a better term, who want to associate themselves with Isis.”

However, on 8 December last year, an entirely ‘new dimension’ was added to the ISIS bogeyman with this dramatic revelation from  SIS director, Rebecca Kitteridge;

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SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge

“Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of.” – Rebecca Kitteridge, 8 December 2015

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The media, rather unsurprisingly, went nuts on the story;

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NZ women going to IS areas on rise - SIS

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As Tracey Watkins and Tommy Livingstone reported for Fairfax Media;

In evidence to the committee, Kitteridge said the past 12 months had seen a significant increase in the global terrorism threat.

“When I started as director of security in May 2014 the so-called Islamic State was barely talked about in New Zealand. Now a day rarely goes by without news of some act of violent extremism associated with IS.”

The threat to New Zealand’s domestic security posed by foreign terrorist fighters and other extremists was real and continued to develop.

“The number of New Zealanders fighting alongside or supporting IS remains small but has increased.”

That included the rise in the number of New Zealand women travelling to Syria and Iraq.

In the same story, Watkins and Livingstone wrote;

Kitteridge said after the committee hearing the numbers leaving from New Zealand were small but significant – but declined to give further details.

As events were to transpire three months later, the suggestion that women were “leaving from New Zealand” was to be proved  a false assertion.

Yet, during those three months, SIS director, Rebecca Kitteridge, maintained silence on the issue and she did nothing to correct the (mistaken) belief that New Zealand women were departing from New Zealand.

This prompted the usual feeding-frenzy and rantings from the ill-informed rabid-right who vent their ignorance on right-wing fora such as Kiwiblog;

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kiwiblog comments - longknives - Jack5

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Kiwiblog editor and National Party apparatchik, David Farrar, did nothing to bring reason to the discussion. Indeed, a few voices of sanity on the blog had their moderate views dismissed and voted down;

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kiwiblog comments - andrei

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Protestations

Following Kitteridge’s comments, lone voices of calm and sanity were barely reported and given much less prominence;

Hazim Arafeh, a spokesperson for he Islamic community, said he was surprised to hear women from New Zealand may have left the country to join ISIS. 

“We are not aware of New Zealand Muslim woman going over to Syria to get married. If it is happening, we still don’t know if it is a genuine case, or are they joining ISIS,” he said.

Islamic Women’s Council issued their own rejection of Kitteridge’s comments;

The national Islamic Women’s Council is not aware of any New Zealand jihadi brides heading to war torn regions to join the fight with Isis.

Council president Anjum Rahman told Paul Henry that although it was happening overseas there was no indication the same thing was happening here.

Ms Rahman said she listened carefully to Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge yesterday and she didn’t mention the women leaving were jihadi brides travelling to Syria to marry and support fighters.

“All she said was the number had been growing and because it was a war torn area that was a concern,” she said.

“We don’t know the ethnicity of these women, we don’t actually know the religious background of these woman, whether they just converted before they went, whether they converted at all, and we definitely don’t know what they’re doing while they’re over there.”

Asked if the council had information on women travelling overseas to marry and support Isis Ms Rahman said: “No. We don’t have any knowledge or indication of that happening.”

Three days later, The Wireless illustrated the  predictably dire results of the demonisation of muslim women;

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the wireless - I'm not a jihadi bride

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Hela Rahman, a 25-year-old who has been a NZ citizen for more than 20 years, says these comments aren’t backed by evidence and are causing more harm than good.

A few weeks ago, she returned from a trip visiting her family in Iraq. When she arrived at Auckland Airport she says she was instantly made to feel like she’d done something wrong.

“I was going through with my E-passport and it was automatically declined. I had to go over to the counter.”  

The Border Control officer asked Rahman why she’d been in Iraq. 

“I told her I was there to see my family. She just looked at me with an awkward uncomfortable expression. She didn’t say anything and just drew a red line through my arrival card.”

Rahman continued to the customers area where the officer, after taking a look at her card, told her to go down the far side. 

“Everyone else was being let through, even my parents. I was the only one in that lane.”

She was told to unlock her bags and was put into a holding room for a “long time” while the staff talked about her behind double-sided glass.

“The thing is, they make you feel so uncomfortable that you start questioning yourself. You start wondering if you have done something wrong,” she said.

She was asked a series of questions about why she’d gone to Iraq, what she had done there, and who had bought the flights for her.

Although Rahman had travelled to the Middle East with her mum and dad, she was the only one who was pulled aside for questioning.

“I thought my parents would be questioned too, but they weren’t. I wanted to ask ‘why me’ but I couldn’t. The opportunity never came up. I was just feeling so uncomfortable.”

Rahman spent the next few weeks confused about what had happened. Her Iraqi friends reassured her that it was just standard airport security Muslims have to face now.

That incident took place here, in good old relaxed, laid-back, give-people-a-fair-go, New Zealand.

All that was missing was requiring muslim’s to wear a red crescent stitched to their clothes to identify them in public – a practice very popular with a certain fascist regime and occupied nations,  in the the 1930s and 1940s…

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badges of suppression

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The Truth Will Out

On 16 March, of this year, the truth of the matter was revealed when Radio NZ – bless them – lodged an Official Information Act request and discovered;

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radio nz - kitteridge - SIS - NZ's 'jihadi brides' left from Australia

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“Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of,” she told MPs.

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

In response to an Official Information Act request, SIS, the domestic spy agency, said the women concerned “did not leave New Zealand.

“They were New Zealand citizens domiciled in Australia and they left from there.”

In response to charges of misleading the media and public, the Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, denied that National and the SIS had  wilfully deceived the country;

“If you go back to the statements that were made there were no implications or ‘winks and nods’ that they were not resident in New Zealand.”

Consider Kitteridge’s statement on 8 December 2015;

“Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of.”

Where else would “New Zealand women” travel from – except New Zealand – unless specifically stated otherwise?

Remember that Kitteridge owned the problem by stating, “which is something we haven’t seen previously or been aware of”. She made no reference to receiving the information from any Australian intelligence organisation.

A day after Radio NZ breaking the story, Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson still refused to issue an apology for National’s and the SIS’s deception;

Chris Finlayson, the Minister in charge of the SIS, told reporters today where the women left from was irrelevant.

“I would have thought the critical issue is were they New Zealand citizens, whether the left from Kingsford Smith airport or Auckland Airport is by-the-by.”

Mr Finlayson said he was due to meet with about 100 members of the Muslim community tomorrow night, and had regular discussions with that community during the process of the intelligence and security review.

“And I’m very happy to proffer an apology on behalf of Metiria Turei who started all this nonsense. I think her performance is lamentable… You just don’t go round handing out apologies willy-nilly.”

The Radio NZ report stated that “the SIS said it had no comment“.

The SIS’s mission was completed; the public was spooked. National’s planned deception had succeeded  – nothing further need be said by the spy agency.

It is also worth noting a noticeable lack of follow-up coverage on Kiwiblog by David Farrar on this issue. Perhaps the discovery that Key and Kitteridge had mis-led the New Zealand public and smeared the Muslim community in the process was not as worthy of a comment as Kitteridge’s innacurate initial comments, three months earlier?

A Happy Confluence of Purpose?

On 8 December, Audrey Young wrote in the NZ Herald;

Meanwhile, Mr Key questioned whether that a proposal he has previously rejected – attaching the Cortex cyber security programme to the Southern Cross internet cable linking New Zealand to Australia and the United States – should be revisited to give wider cyber protection to New Zealand companies.

He made the suggestion while questioning the acting director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, Una Jagose, who gave a detailed speech recently about Cortex as part of a new policy of openness in the bureau.

Mr Key said he had canned the original proposal because of the potential anxiety of it being seen as mass surveillance but he asked if an argument could be made, with enough public debate for it happen to protect smaller companies.

At present, the GCSB uses Cortex to mount cyber defence on Government agencies and strategically important private companies – and only with their permission.

Ms Jagose said the “hard ground work” by the GCSB needed to be done to be more open about the GCSB’s cyber defence work.

She acknowledged the possible anxiety over “mass surveillance.”

It could safely be argued that  stories of “jihadi brides” would scare the bejeezus out of the public, in the process softening opinion to welcome extending the powers of the SIS and GCSB.

If so, this would be a cynical ploy by National and our spy agencies to manipulate public opinion to accept the unpalatable; a massive increase in state surveillance and mass-gathering of data on all New Zealanders.

They just never counted on anyone actually asking a fairly simple question; where did those so-called “jihadi brides” migrate from?

Implausible Deniability

During last year’s  Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee meeting on 8 December, where Rebecca Kitteridge uttered her now (in)famous references to “New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria“, Key made reference to “Jihadi Brides“.

Yet, on TV3’s The Nation, Key tried to evade responsibility for using the term “Jihadi brides” on 8 December;

Lisa Owen: All right. One other issue this week has been the so-called ‘jihadi brides’. Muslim leaders that we spoke to said that they were victimised and confused as a result of your comments around jihadi brides. Do you owe them an apology?

John Key: I don’t think so, and the reason for that is, I think, if you just look at the sequence of events, the first thing is that- I’m not distancing myself, but I didn’t raise the issue. The SIS directed it, and I wasn’t-

Lisa Owen: No, you used the phrase ‘jihadi brides’, Prime Minister. I’ve looked at the transcript. It was you that used that phrase, not Rebecca Kitteridge.

John Key: I didn’t coin that phrase. That phrase is used all around the world.

Lisa Owen: But you were the first one to use it.

John Key: Not around the world, I’m not. It’s a common term.

Was our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, aware that none of the so-called “Jihadi Brides” had actually departed from New Zealand, and were actually residing in Australia at the time?

Yes, according to Gerry Brownlee’s own admission in Parliament, on 17 March;

Metiria Turei (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Was he advised, prior to 8 December 2015, that the so called “jihadi brides” he referred to during the Intelligence and Security Committee meeting were all resident in Australia and did not leave from New Zealand?

Hon Gerry Brownlee (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Metiria Turei: So the Prime Minister can confirm that he knew that none of those women had left for Syria or Iraq from New Zealand?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes, and the member needs to be aware that as New Zealand citizens it does not matter where they left from. If they pose a security risk to New Zealand on their return, then that is something we are concerned about.

This time Key cannot feign memory loss; erroneous advice;  misinterpretation, or a mistake. According to one of his own senior ministers – Key knew the facts.

For reasons of his own, he chose not to disclose that information.

Key’s Lie By His Own Words

On 17 March, Key refuted any willful attempt to mislead the public by inference that so-called “Jihadi brides” had left New Zealand. As reported on Radio NZ;

Today he denied any attempt to create a misleading impression that the 12 or so women referred to by Ms Kitteridge left from New Zealand, rather than from Australia.

We didn’t say that, it was the Director [General] that made the statement, and what she said was there were jihadi brides.

“The fact that where they leave from is irrelevant, if they’re New Zealanders, they’re New Zealanders, they may return to New Zealand and so we have to deal with those issues.

And remember the Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, who categorically denied that National and the SIS had deliberately created a deception;

“If you go back to the statements that were made there were no implications or ‘winks and nods’ that they were not resident in New Zealand.”

Yet, that is precisely what Key said on 10 December last year, as this video clearly shows;

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Kiwi jihadi brides a reality - PM - yahoo news

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John Key: “And it’s just a reality that there are women that we know that left New Zealand, ah, and we suspect that they have gone and got married and we know that this concept of Jihadi Brides is not, it’s not my term, it’s an international term, and you pick up the World’s Section of the newspapers today, a couple of newspapers, and see them reporting on that, hundreds and hundreds of women from around the world, ah, going off and, and potentially marrying these guys before they undertake Jihadist activity.”

Reporter: “Do you think it’s strange that, that, um, that New Zealand muslims don’t… aren’t aware of any of their women going over and, and, marrying men in places like Syria?”

John Key: “Yeah, well, I mean they don’t know everybody in the community, um, and you know, they obviously have a, you know, be [unintelligible word] as anyone can on these things, but we can just tell you by what we see. Y’know, people travel out of our country, and people who turn up, through other reporting, and otherwise, in Syria or Iraq.”

Key was as crystal-clear as his garbled-style of speech permits him to be. He cannot claim he was mis-represented in the media: he stated categorically that “there are women that we know that left New Zealandpeople travel out of our country“.

At the same time, according to Minister Brownlee, Key was perfectly aware that  “jihadi brides” he referred to during the Intelligence and Security Committee meeting were all resident in Australia and did not leave from New Zealand”.

This was no “mistake” on the part of the media. Brownlee and Key stand convicted of their duplicity, by their own words.

Coming soon: A terror alert near you!

This is now the second (that we are aware of) mis-use of our spy agencies for National’s own political agenda.

Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, found that in 2011, then-Labour leader, Phil Goff, had been mis-led by  then-SIS director, Warren Tucker, at a briefing meeting.  Inaccurate information had also been provided by the SIS to right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater that was used to damage Phil Goff’s reputation.

As the Herald reported in November 2014;

Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn said this morning the inquiry found the NZSIS released “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to Mr Slater’s request, and provided some of the same incorrect information to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s office”.

Ms Gwyn said she found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that the NZSIS “failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality”.

Ms Gwyn said the having released misleading information both to Prime Minister John Key’s office and then to Mr Slater, Dr Tucker “had a responsibility to take positive steps to correct the interpretation”.

“He failed to do so.”

On that basis, Ms Gwyn said Mr Goff was owed an apology.

Ms Gwyn said information about a briefing Mr Goff received from Dr Tucker about suspected Israeli agents in Christchurch following the quakes was “not an accurate description of what happened at that meeting”.

According to revelations in Nicky Hager’s exposé, “Dirty Politics“, the smearing of Phil Goff was orchestrated from the Beehive’s Ninth Floor, by Jason Ede – a National Party “black ops” apparatchik.

The SIS was party to this covert plan to smear Phil Goff  and undermine his election chances in 2011.

Unsurprisingly, Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei, condemned both the SIS and our esteemed Dear Leader for willfully  deceiving the public;

“They were using information for political purposes, and that political purpose was to encourage New Zealanders to accept greater surviellance by spy agencies.

The SIS has proven time and time again they can’t be trusted with the powers that they have. They don’t follow the law that they’re required to, and John Key is using spy agencies to pursue a political agenda.”

It is now a matter of time before another dramatic “terror alert” is issued by this government, to further frighten and manipulate the country into submitting to National’s agenda to increase powers for our spy agencies.

The “terror alerts” will most likely come to nothing; no arrests will be made; no details of any thwarted “terror plot” will ever be released to the public – but the ultimate goal of fomenting fear will be achieved.

A frightened populace is a compliant populace.

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Postscript1

“Correction” = polite euphemism for shit-about-to-hit-the-fan.

Postscript2

Did the SIS/GCSB ever keep track of New Zealand women travelling to Northern Ireland, during “The Troubles”, who may have met and married men from that province?

Were they ever referred to as “IRA Brides”?

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References

Fonterra: Fonterra revises 2015/16 forecast milk price

Fairfax media: Small farmer group holds nearly $12 billion of dairy debt

Radio NZ: Dairy farm values set to keep falling

Radio NZ: Incomes dropping despite GDP growth, English admits

Fairfax media: Low wages ‘advantage’ for NZ – English

Reserve Bank: Official Cash Rate reduced to 2.25 percent

NZ Herald: Banks keep their slice of OCR cut

Fairfax media: Distance, spy network means NZ less vulnerable to attack – John Key

Fairfax media: John Key ‘scaremongering’ with details of security threats: Andrew Little

Radio NZ: NZ women going to IS areas on rise – SIS

Fairfax media: Kiwi Jihadi brides on the rise

TVNZ:  ‘The worse the attack the more excited they are’ – Kiwi women leave to be jihadi brides

NZ Herald: Q&A – Why do women want to be jihadi brides?

Otago Daily Times: ‘Jihadi bride’ fears over Kiwi women

NZ Herald: Rise in Kiwi women heading to Iraq, Syria

Kiwiblog: Kiwi jihadi brides

NZ Herald: Islamic Women’s Council – It’s news to us

The Wireless: ‘I’m not a jihadi bride’

Radio NZ:  NZ’s ‘jihadi brides’ left from Australia

Radio NZ: No apology from govt over ‘jihadi brides’ claims

NZ Herald: Rise in Kiwi women heading to Iraq, Syria

TV3: The Nation – Interview with John Key

Radio NZ: No apology from govt over ‘jihadi brides’ claims

Parliament Today: Questions & Answers – March 17 – Intelligence and Security Committee – Advice

Yahoo News: Kiwi jihadi brides a reality – PM

NZ Herald: Dirty Politics – John Key won’t apologise to Goff

NewstalkZB: Kiwi women heading off to join ISIS, Key insists

Additional

“I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy (hat-tip: Nitrium)

Other blogs

Kiwipolitico: Threat Distortion as Fear Manipulation

No Right Turn: Caught fearmongering

The Daily Blog: Key wasn’t just scare mongering with Jihadi Brides – he used it to distract from Tim Groser GCSB spying

The Dim Post: The struggle

The Standard: The Jihadi Brides lie

The Standard: Nats refuse to apologise for targeting Muslim community

Previous related blogposts

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

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headless-chickens

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 March 2016.

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= fs =

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

13 November 2015 5 comments

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dear-leader-is-watching

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This piece by Dita DeBoni on TVNZ’s website is worth re-posting in it’s entirety – just in case it ‘mysteriously vanishes’ into the ether. Not that I’m implying the New Zealand is now more-or-less a quasi-Police State…

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Dita DeBoni Privacy right is not a right when not 'right' - nicky hagerWhether it be information about our household digital television account, or my child’s ear infection medication, or a text message, say, sent by a Prime Minister to a highly prominent sportsman or blogger, “privacy” is often the reason trotted out for stonewalling.

Sometimes it’s legitimate. Goodness knows what might happen if a complete stranger paid my household bills for me, or felt inclined to impersonate me at the chemist.

And do we really need to know that the Prime Minister and prominent All Blacks are in cahoots over the new flag design?

Some might say yes, but I reckon I could have figured that out by the sheer number of photographs we’re subjected to day after day featuring them gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes.

It seems the main reason a journalist – or even a citizen – is denied ‘official’ information much of the time is either that releasing it is going to unleash a torrent of (metaphorical) excrement, or getting the information you’re after would be a pain in the posterior for the person being asked for it.
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The exception to this is if the police are asking.

It now seems as though certain institutions are more than happy to hand over incredibly personal financial and other information if the plod request it, even if they’ve skipped the part where they’re supposed to get the proper legal documentation to do so.

Some institutions actually wait for a formal, legitimate request before complying with police fishing expeditions.

Others, notably Westpac Bank, do not.

We know this because it emerged this week that Westpac handed over 10 months of data from three of author Nicky Hager’s accounts when police were investigating the hacking of Cameron Slater’s blog and social media accounts at the end of 2014, willingly complying with detectives who simply explained it was part of their investigation into ‘criminal offending’.

There is nothing whatsoever to suggest the criminal offending they were investigating was anything to do with Nicky Hager.

Hager began the investigation as a ‘suspect’ but became simply a ‘witness’; he is not accused of stealing anything.

He did what good journalists do on a daily basis – was given information on nefarious wrong-doing that he believed the public needed to know. Then he published it.
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He’s been treated extraordinarily for a witness in such a case – had his house raided for ten hours, had personal files uplifted, been wire-tapped, had his records requested from as many as 20 different companies and sources, and been vilified by the government.

But whether you like Nicky Hager or not, whether you agree with what he set out to do or not, there is something rotten about the way the police acted in the case – and something profoundly out of order about the way Westpac Bank rolled over and gave away Hager’s bank records and other personal information on the strength of an unsupported request by police, without even telling their client they were doing so – which is also something they are required to do.

It now emerges Nicky Hager has complained to the Privacy Commissioner about what’s happened and also wants a ‘full and frank’ disclosure from Westpac.

It will be more than anyone else has had. Westpac say they won’t comment on what they do with customer information because it’s an ‘internal policy’.

Again, you may think Nicky Hager deserved the treatment he’s had. You may not agree with him in general.

But remember that whatever treatment’s been handed out to him can be handed out to anyone with the ‘wrong’ connections, the ‘wrong’ information, and the ‘wrong’ intentions.

Privacy increasingly seems to be only your right if you are on the ‘right’ side.

 

In case anyone has missed the point, Dita DeBoni’s column is a direct warning to the citizens of this country.

When the security apparatus of the State – in this case the New Zealand Police – can access private and confidential details without a search warrant, then we have reached a truly frightening stage in our nation’s developing history.

The only place where police have had such unimpeded access to the private information of citizens has been – up until now – the province of military junta-controlled regimes; Soviet-style “people’s republics”; and various banana republic dictatorships. Think of Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Pinochet, Papa “Doc” Duvalier – it’s a very long list. (And I haven’t even gone through the entire 20th century!)

Though New Zealand is not *yet* a One Party state – which is only one national “crisis away, before a “state of emergency” is declared – we have taken a further step toward the nightmarish society envisioned by C.K. Stead in “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs“. (That nice man, Prime Minister Volkner, had such a horrid time caused by those nasty terrorists. Why couldn’t they just all get a proper job?)

It might well be that the release of Nicky Hager’s private information to the police was an inadvertent slip-up by an ill-informed Westpac employee.  Or it could be that there is now a nascent culture developing in New Zealand of fawning, unquestioning obeisance to Authority.

In a space of thirtythree years, we have gone from massive street protests and struggle against an increasingly authoritarian National government led by Robert Mudoon – to meekly accepting increasing State surveillance and seizure powers.

And in just seven years, we have gone from this;

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Showers latest target of Labour's nanny state

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– to this;

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various spy bills

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Yes, in just under a decade, National has taken New Zealand from complaining about reduced shower flows and ecologically-sound lightbulbs (!!) being “Nanny Statish” – to mass surveillance of the population; increased powers for spy agencies and police; forcing telco’s to keep client information for the State; and warrantless search and seizures.

In my youth, I visited my parents’ homeland whilst it was still under communist rule, and within the ‘sphere of influence’ of the Kremlin.

I can say, with a fair degree of confidence tinged with sadness, that New Zealand has moved closer to being a South Pacific replica of a former Soviet ‘satellite’ state. Only the Gulags are yet to be built. (Our Australian cuzzies have them already at Christmas Island and elsewhere.)

I can think of no other way to see this country. We have spy agencies monitoring New Zealanders; spying on our Pacific neighbours and trading partners; and harassing journalists who are critical of this government’s actions. Phil Goff’s political career was almost destroyed by National’s abuse of the powers of the SIS.

What else do you call a country where police can gain access to a citizen’s private information – without arresting him – and with no warrant? The term, I believe, is Police State.

If National Party supporters are “relaxed” about this, then I have this piece of advice for them; remember that governments change. Sooner or later, Labour will be in office.

And the Labour Prime Minister, with perhaps a few scores to settle, will have all the powers of search, surveillance, warrantless seizures, that John Key has gradually amassed since 2008.

Laws like these;

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

There may even be a new Minister for the GCSB and SIS. Perhaps Phil Goff. Or David Cunliffe.

Then the shoe will be on the other foot (the Left one). At that point, National and it’s supporters may start to regret the encroachment of State power into our lives.

I believe light bulbs and shower nozzles will be the least of their worries.

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References

TVNZ: Dita DeBoni – Privacy right is not a right when not ‘right’

National Party: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

NBR: Ferguson confirms ‘mass surveillance’, Key reiterates GCSB acting lawfully

NZ Herald: Warning as second part of spy bill passes

NBR: ‘Undemocratic’ Search and Surveillance Bill made law

Fairfax media: Spy bill passes into law amid wide criticism

Newstalk ZB: PM won’t confirm Pacific spying

Fairfax: Private data deserves greater respect than Westpac showed Nicky Hager

Techdirt: New Zealand Spy Agency Deleted Evidence About Its Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom

Yahoo News: English didn’t know GCSB spied illegally

NZ Herald: GCSB report: 88 cases of possible illegal spying uncovered

Other Bloggers

Kiwipolitico: Confronting executive branch excess

Kiwipolitico: Some questions about the Stephenson case

No Right Turn: An unwarranted demand for information

No Right Turn: The banality of intrusion

The Daily Blog: Police plotted to arrest and spy on Nicky Hager – the most interesting parts of 1 year on from Dirty Politics

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The Daily Blog: Why what the Police are doing to Nicky Hager is so extraordinary

The Standard: Technology and the law – and going after Hager

The Standard: Angry at Westpac

The Standard: Dirty Politics was in the public interest

The Standard: “A creeping authoritarianism from the current government”

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It is 1984. It is ALWAYS 1984

National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

Those who love Big Brother

Welcome to new glorious People’s Republic of New Zealand

From the Horses mouth

Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

Weekend Revelations #2 – Michelle Boag has a whinge

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2015.

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Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

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big-brother-is-watching-you

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Either Rodney Hide is taking the piss, or Karma has well and truly caught up with one of the National Government’s previous political flunkies;

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NZ Herald - Rodney Hide - ACT - Why am I under investigation - SIS - GCSB - surveillance - police state - nothing to hide nothing to fear

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In case the story mysteriously disappears, here is the full text, from the NZ Herald;

The state apparently has me under covert investigation.

It began two weeks ago. My Christchurch friends and colleagues were served, some at home, some at work. They were summonsed by a senior insolvency officer who explained they could be apprehended should they refuse. Such notices are a detention, an arrest without charge.

The guys are motor mechanics, engineers and motor engineers.

They turn up the following Wednesday as ordered, each at separate times. The deputy official assignee swears their oath.

They are interrogated by private investigators from a firm called InDepth Forensics, Hamilton.

I have the recordings.

On Thursday I email and ring the PI firm. “Why are you investigating me?” They hang up.

I email and leave messages for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment manager Mandy McDonald.

She won’t return my calls.

On Friday I go to the MBIE office in Christchurch. The boss can’t answer my questions: she doesn’t know what’s happening. She says she will speak to her solicitor and get back to me. She doesn’t.

I ring Minister Steven Joyce’s office. I make no progress.

I return to MBIE’s office on Monday. I’m refused an appointment. I’m told the deputy official assignee “only administered the oath”. But the deputy official assignee signed the recording as “interviewer”. I’m asked to leave. I refuse.

I wait quietly in the foyer for 2 hours.

Joyce’s staffer emails: But because the “Official Assignee [is] an independent body, and also under Hon [Paul] Goldsmith’s responsibilities, I do not think I can assist you further.”

Goldsmith is in Paris explaining how he’s making “it easier for businesses to increase productivity and innovate”.

I ring the Institute of Private Investigators. Useless. I email the Private Security Personnel Licensing Authority. Ditto.

I complain to the Privacy Commissioner. I don’t hear back.

I provide a two-page summary for local MP Nicky Wagner. She rings. Finally someone is taking my complaint seriously.

On Tuesday I drop in a letter to the Christchurch MBIE. Now there’s security. The guard tells me he’s there to see his girlfriend. I tease him.

Keith’s still there an hour later. He admits he has been called because of me. He wants to know if I will be back.

Tuesday night. Wagner must have kicked butt. Mandy McDonald sends a clearly hurried email. She assures me I am not under investigation. It’s taken nearly a week.

But why the questioning under the detention powers?

The next day I get a letter from another MBIE staffer warning me that reporting the content of their examinations of my friends and colleagues would render me liable to a year in prison plus a $5000 fine. But, according to the email from McDonald, I’m reporting a non-investigation.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, Rodders. That’s what John Banks kept telling us. That’s what John Key kept telling us. So obviously, the extension to the powers of the GCSB, SIS, and other government departments – which was supported by ACT – should be a non-issue, right?

Really, Rodney, you’ve been part of the growth of the Surveillance State in this country and now you complain that you’re being surveilled?

Really?

Well, my little cherubic,  Right Wing mate, you oughtn’t. It was inevitable really. After all, in the early days of the USSR, the nascent totalitarian State’s security arm (Cheka/NKVD/KGB) devoured many of the high-ranking Communist Party officials. They fell foul to their own pernicious State power.

Welcome to reality.

When Dear Leader’s security thugs throw you in jail for whatever transgression you’ve incurred against the State, remember to remind your   cell-mates that you were partially responsible for the following laws increasing the power of the State;

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

Eventually, it all catches up with those in power – an intimate lesson Rodney has learned.

I bet he never thought it would happen to him?

Karma. I love that gal.

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References

NZ Herald: Rodney Hide – Why am I under investigation?

Additional

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

Parliament: Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

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Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland (Part Toru)

The “man ban”; animal testing; GCSB Bill; and compulsory miltary training

David Cunliffe announces Labour Govt will repeal GCSB Bill!! **Updated**

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

TV3 – Campbell Live’s GCSB Public Vote

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part tahi

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!


 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 April 2015.

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Letter to the editor – Time to milk a tragedy again, by our Dear Leader

17 December 2014 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Tue, Dec 16, 2014
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Once again, predictably, our esteemed Prime Minister has exploited a tragic situation for his own political ends.

I refer to his comments on Radio NZ, on 16 December, where he referred to the lone gunman in Sydney as the product of an “ISIS outreach programme”.

There is no evidence whatsoever of any ISIS or any other organisational involvement. Thus far, the gunman appears to have been a narcissistic, deranged individual facing criminal sex-related charges in Australia.

Then Key justified the increase of SIS/GCSB surveillance powers by referencing this lone gunman.

Though good gun-control laws help, no amount of legislation will ever fully curb determined, lone nutters, as David Gray in Aramoana in 1990 showed. Or Martin Bryant in Port Arthur in 1996.

If this is his justification for turning our country into a Police surveillance state, then we have been grievously misled.Shame on Key for exploiting this tragedy and mis-stating the facts for political opportunity.

I would have thought he had learnt his lesson from his Pike River Mine involvement and broken promises.

-Frank Macskasy

 

[address & phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ:  A tragedy for the Australian families – Key


 

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No more anarchy

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Letter to the editor – through a mirror, crack’d?

10 December 2014 Leave a comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <editor@star-times.co.nz>
date: Wed, Dec 10, 2014
subject: Letters to the editor 

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times
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I think the Greens will have no problems distancing themselves from the Labour-National Grand Coalition after both major parties voted to  increase the powers of the SIS.

I would not be at all surprised if the Green Party builds on this issue and receives a boost in poll ratings as a reward.

Then again, maybe I’m hopelessly naive and don’t realise that 21st Century New Zealand loves the idea of a Surveillance State (to protect us from Muslim jihadists; uppity brown people; Kim Dotcom; communist Greenies; martians, pod people, Uncle Tom Cobbly…)

In fact, somewhere along the line, I slipped through a tear in quantum realities and ended up in a Parallel Universe where the Rise of the Surveillance State is proceeding with hardly a murmur.

Clearly,  this is not the country I grew up in.

It is a hopelessly-apathetic; easily-led; twisted variant.
-Frank Macskasy

 

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Libcom: 1982 – The death of Neil Roberts

 


 

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