Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Key, the GCSB, and spying

John Key was asked more questions about the GCSB this morning, and admitted for the first time that Edward Snowden may have leaked documents about the GCSB. But naturally, he's relaxed about it:

Prime Minister John Key says he won't be surprised if Edward Snowden has more documents on New Zealand's spying activities, but isn't worried about what they may contain.

Appearing on Firstline this morning, Mr Key said New Zealand's spy agencies operate within the law and have good reasons for undertaking the activities they do.

"At the end of the day, they're an intelligence agency. They gather intelligence… So I don't think it's really going to be shock-horror that they've actually gathered intelligence, if that's what he ends up," says Mr Key.

"What we always do though is make sure we abide by the law and make sure that we're doing it because there's a particular reason, and that's really the safety and security of New Zealanders, or the protection of New Zealand's intellectual property, whatever it might be."

Firstly, up until a few months ago, the law said that intercepting the communications (including metadata) of New Zealanders in any way was illegal. If the GCSB has run the sort of metadata-trawling operation we're seeing in other countries, heads should roll - including that of the Prime Minister, and any MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee who failed to immediately inform the public of this illegal activity.

Secondly, its pretty obvious from Key's response that when the dirt comes out on who we've spied on, he's going to go for the Abbot response of refusing to apologise for anything. Which isn't working out very well. So he's willing to wreck our relations with South-East Asia and the Pacific (GCSB's area of surveillance within the Five Eyes) in order to toady to the Americans.

Finally, while Key is relaxed, the New Zealand technology industry shouldn't be. Blowback from the NSA's activities is directly hurting US companies, losing them sales, preventing overseas acquisitions, and threatening tougher regulation. When the GCSB's dirt comes out, the New Zealand tech industry will suffer the same fate. But I guess they're not dairy farmers, so they're just not important in National's worldview.