Listener editorial on GCSB Bill

The Listener editorial is perhaps the most sane of any media on the issue of the GCSB Bill. It’s just a pity they couldn’t say it before the bill was passed in order to deal with the more extreme left opponents of the bill.

The Government was right to ignore the more hysterical opposition to its new spying legislation, but it may yet pay a price for the pace at which the bill was passed through the House.

There are times when a patiently plodding belts-and-braces approach is the best one in politics, and never more so than when a law concerns the rights of a private citizen against the mighty institution that is the state.

I doubt the government will pay a price for the bill.

The Government insists it has done no more than correct irregularities in the existing legislation, passed in 2003 under a Labour-led government to govern the GCSB, which at all times believed it was acting legally, as did the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and successive Prime Ministers, including Helen Clark. However, the fact that the Government was only able to pass the tidy-up with a two-vote majority in Parliament shows it did not make that case convincingly to Opposition parties relishing a rare opportunity to pressure Key.

David Shearer incurred the wrath of Helen Clark, who ultimately helped dispatch the fool as he played politics with national security. Same with Robertson. Helen Clark realises the long term damage done to the party by cuddling up tot he extreme left lunatics and the fat German fraudster in seeking to get some hits on the Prime Minister. She knows just how important GCSB is to the nation and was aghast with Shearer’s stupidity. 

Shearer excuses of resigning after the GCSB bill was passed don’t wash…if it was so important to Labour then why were his speeches so pathetic? The reality is he failed.

There is no doubt the Government mishandled the debate. It may have misread the campaign of activism against the bill as being a continuation of general anti-National activism, rather than a groundswell of concern from New Zealanders. If so, it underestimated community concerns in an era when, after the recent revelations by Edward Snowden, individual privacy has never felt more vulnerable. It underestimated, too, the inherent mistrust the community has in government agencies, and therefore the public’s willingness to believe that their rights were probably being eroded.

There is not an inherent mistrust in the community. There is a small, incredibly small group of disaffected smelly hippies who have a voice louder than they should, who along with a tam media were able to shout even louder. If anyone in New Zealand conducts privacy invading spying on citizens more than anyone else it is the media…and they think they are guardians against the state…pfft…the next time they run exclusive photos of some celebrity papped form afar we can all point and accuse them of “spying” on citizens.

In fact, the measures in the new GCSB legislation are not as sweeping as critics allege. Although the new law does clarify the GCSB’s powers to spy on New Zealand individuals and organisations, there are substantially more robust checks and balances to prevent abuse or overuse. The provisions make the process for the GCSB to get a warrant more rigorous than those established under Labour, not less.

Primarily, the GCSB has three functions. One is protecting government organisations and others from cyber-attack. This is a growing threat, and a growing vulnerability. We are told that already this year, the number of incidents logged with the National Cyber Security Centre is more than for all of last year. Second, the GCSB collects foreign intelligence – the traditional spying role. Third is the GCSB’s role in assisting other state agencies when they need the specialist skills of the GCSB.

Although the old legislation said the GCSB could assist other agencies, exactly who or how many were not specified. The new legislation makes it clear the GCSB may assist only the SIS, Police and Defence Force, and only in circumstances where those agencies themselves have already obtained a warrant for surveillance. In its own right the GCSB cannot access private communications or obtain metadata – information generated as people used phones, computers and the like – without first obtaining warrants.

It was all very sensible, but now you have assorted lunatics telling everyone how to encrypt their emails so the government won’t spy on them…virtually assuring that the government will now take a very close look at them because of the encryption..duh.

The public is mature enough to understand that the nature of spy agencies’ work means it is mostly conducted covertly in the shadows. But that makes it even more important that there are adequate checks and balances.

Although the gravity of the threats we face mean new powers may well be necessary weapons in the battles against terrorism, child pornography, people smuggling and economic sabotage, New Zealanders are entitled to the reassurance that there will never be political or other opportunistic abuse of the powers and information obtained under them.

I said to one of the fools who spoke at the small town hall meeting against the GCSB bill that what he was asking is for the Police, SIS, and GCSB to find criminals who are using technology and all available methods of technical obfuscation, stop them committing crimes whether they be violent or fraudulent without any tools to do so just in case those tools might one day be used to “spy” on them.

This is the same as asking the Police to go into a gunfight with a short baton.

The terrible pity is that the Labour party allowed themselves to kneel before Kim Dotcom in submission, he used them to further his PR campaign to try and buck extradition laws. If he claims he is innocent then get on a plane and go prove it instead of cowering. I’ve never knew that Germans could exhibit such cowardice..normally they show the cold face and tough things out…not Krim DotCon.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.