Warrantless surveillance: Hook, line, sinker

The media and opposition appear to have fallen for the standard civil liberties play.

Here is how it goes.

Any reduction of civil liberties will be met by strong opposition. ?That’s a given. ? So, if you want to achieve something, make sure you actually make it sound worse.

After some time, “you’ve listened to the people of New Zealand”, and you withdraw the most contentious issue.

The civil liberty campaigners will see it as a victory, and… voila! ?What you really wanted through … is through.

A classic master class in this was the introduction of “ID card”?driving licenses. ? At the time, they pushed the idea it would become a “national identity card”, and “mandatory photo ID”.

Cue?the civil liberty campaigners… ? after “listening”, the government stepped away from pushing it as far as they originally proposed, and… voila! ? They achieved a photo-id database that was unprecedented at the time. ?Not even passports were that “digitised” at the time.

Incidentally, all these civil liberties people were Missing In Action when all my private data was being intercepted and passed around without a search warrant – but I digress…

With that strategy of deliberately overexciting the numpties with a fake bit of policy in mind, I’ve been observing the current outcry about the “Terror” Bill. ? The most contentious of it appears to be the 48 hours of surveillance without a search warrant.

The Government is legislating at breakneck pace to pass a bill it calls “Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation”. It was introduced on Tuesday, its deadline for submissions was yesterday, it is due back from a select committee next Tuesday and the Prime Minister wants it passed before the House rises for Christmas.

It will allow the SIS to conduct video surveillance on private property and to do so for 48 hours without a warrant, and will enable New Zealand passports to be suspended for 10 days or even cancelled for up to three years. All this, in case we harbour aspirant fighters for a fundamentalist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Doubtless we have some. Isis reputedly uses the internet for recruitment and its bitter rants, coupled with beheadings of captives, have attracted dissidents from other Western countries. But we need more evidence of the threat to justify the bill’s drastic measures. It should not be enacted without cross-party support.

Labour supported the legislation at the first reading but remains sceptical about the need for it.

Its foreign affairs spokesman, David Shearer, has been briefed by the SIS and acknowledges new threats to New Zealand. “We have to accept what we hear in the briefings,” he said, “but we’re not going to give a free pass to get this through.”

The whole concept of a 48 hour warrantless window for the SIS to do whatever they like is ridiculous. ?This sticks out like dogs proverbials and is never going to make anyone happy. ? It’s the deliberate item that is over the top, and the deliberate item that is going to need amendment before this bill can be passed.

If you think about it clearly, what’s the problem here? ? Why can’t the SIS get an emergency search warrant? ?It is a simple procedural matter to go and get one.

Now, if this process isn’t streamlined enough to respond to certain threats in this day and age, we need to review streamlining the search warrant issuing process. ? Perhaps they need a “Duty judge” that’s always on-call on a rostered basis.

What we can’t have is Agent Quentin having a bit of a poke about in people’s data, or wandering onto property, and going for fishing expeditions. ? That’s not what we are about, and that’s not needed to fight terrorism, however diluted, in our own country.

But, as I suspect, the Government never intended the 48 hour warrantless surveillance period for the SIS to survive the process. ?And when it is watered down, everything they really want will be sorted.


– NZ Herald