GCSB boss at Privacy Forum

May 8th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ report:

Government Communications and Security Bureau () head Ian Fletcher has emphatically denied his organisation carries out mass surveillance.

Mr Fletcher, speaking at a seminar organised by the Privacy Commission in Wellington on Wednesday, said the state had legitimate concerns with the prevention of terrorism, organised crime and nuclear non-proliferation. …

But he said this was a small list affecting few people.

Very small. In 2012/13 there were 11 interception warrants in force and 26 access authorisations.

Mr Fletcher denied this involved mass surveillance, which he said would be a huge task requiring his bureau’s salary budget to be increased 100-fold.

As well, it would be completely impractical; it would take 130,000 staff to listen to people’s phone calls and read their text messages, without even doing anything about them.

True.

The ODT also reports:

He also offered an assurance that neither the GCSB or any foreign agency was engaged in the mass collection of metadata or information about communications which can be sifted for patterns that might point to areas of interest for authorities.

He also said the GCSB does not receive funding from any foreign government.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards was pleased by the speech, saying he hoped Mr Fletcher’s comments might dispel what he called conspiracies and misinformation.

Its a good thing that the GCSB Director was invited, and accepted.

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24 Responses to “GCSB boss at Privacy Forum”

  1. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    So how much does this service, that has so very little to do, actually cost us each year?

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  2. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (895 comments) says:

    Now sit back, relax and wait for the socialist Greens, defender of democracy Kim DotCon and No Mana Horny Hone to scream that GCSB is feeding information through Five Eyes, three noses and six ears programme blah blah crap…..

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  3. dave_c_ (223 comments) says:

    SCS – They should be screaminng it loud and clear, because they actually are doing that !

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  4. nickb (3,696 comments) says:

    As well, it would be completely impractical; it would take 130,000 staff to listen to people’s phone calls and read their text messages, without even doing anything about them.

    Does he take the NZ public for utter morons?

    No-one really believes the GCSB is listening to every piece of communication in NZ. It doesn’t take 130,000 spooks for the GCSB to break the law (as they have readily shown in the last few years).

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  5. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    Why is it wrong to want to know how much the service costs us?

    Are we getting value for dollar? How much crime/terrorism have they stopped, compared to how much it is cost us to run the outfit?

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  6. unaha-closp (1,180 comments) says:

    He also offered an assurance that neither the GCSB or any foreign agency was engaged in the mass collection of metadata or information about communications which can be sifted for patterns that might point to areas of interest for authorities.

    A less than assured assurance.

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  7. Yoza (1,913 comments) says:

    Fletcher’s reflexive denial doesn’t square with the US security apparatus’ doctrine of ‘full spectrum dominance’. The GCSB is a subordinate module of the NSA and, as such, it will do whatever its foreign bosses demand. The paranoid arrogance of the US establishment coupled with the stratospheric level of technological sophistication ensures all potentially hostile data is hoovered up and stored for future analysis. New Zealand’s security officials are not going to question the authority of US phishing expeditions and Ian Fletcher would never openly admit his agency was involved in anything that has surfaced in the Snowden revelations.

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  8. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    @Judith – if you’d bothered to do about 3 seconds of searching, you would see that the 2012-2013 budget was $63 million.

    You’d also see many years worth of annual reports outlining its activities, such as running the national cyber security centre to protect govt IT systems, network security services, assisting with stopping transnational organised crime, people smuggling, illillegal fishing, and lots more.

    But as you’ve deemed this “very little to do”, I guess you don’t care about such trivialities.

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  9. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    @ queenstfarmer (699 comments) says:
    May 8th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    My question was ‘results orientated’, after all, that is how most of the financial world works. ;-)

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  10. get a grip (10 comments) says:

    Have to keep smiling at the diversionary statement about it would need 130,000 staff to listen in and read messages.

    Totally ignores the capacity to run the lot thru filtering computer systems and spit out relevant “suspects” to a handful of operators for further analysis/followup.

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  11. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    @Judith: saying that an agency has “very little to do” is quite different from asking whether it is good value for money.

    Your uninformed bias is perfectly clear – you will never see “value for dollar” because you think they have very little to do in the first place.

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  12. RRM (10,026 comments) says:

    Privacy Commissioner John Edwards was pleased by the speech, saying he hoped Mr Fletcher’s comments might dispel what he called conspiracies and misinformation.

    :lol: LOL – yes because conspirowhackies so often go away and re-think things when they are confronted with facts.

    Let me know how that works out for you…

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  13. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    @ queenstfarmer (700 comments) says:
    May 8th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    The results indicate there is very little for them to do in essence. Of course they could spend forever chasing their tails and doing whatever keeps them busy – but do we want to pay for that? Do we need to pay for that?

    That would be like posting tax payer paid police officers outside every bank, just in case someone robs it. I simply want to know if I am getting value for money – or would my tax payer dollars actually be better spent perhaps on equipment to monitor the boarders, and prevent infectious diseases, drugs and other harmful substances/materials/ articles from entering our country – thus preventing something that there does seem to be a lot of evidence of actually being a real threat !

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  14. davidp (3,588 comments) says:

    >He also offered an assurance that neither the GCSB or any foreign agency was engaged in the mass collection of metadata or information about communications which can be sifted for patterns that might point to areas of interest for authorities.

    I don’t see how he can make this claim. It has been widely publicised that the NSA sucks up metadata from services like GMail and Skype that are used by NZers. Is Fletcher saying that NSA do geolocation based on IP address and don’t log any usage of these services originating or terminating in NZ? That seems very unlikely.

    >Mr Fletcher, speaking at a seminar organised by the Privacy Commission in Wellington on Wednesday, said the state had legitimate concerns with the prevention of terrorism, organised crime and nuclear non-proliferation

    Raising nuclear non-proliferation as an area of concern seems a bit strange. Is there any non-proliferation issue in NZ that requires intelligence gathering, rather than normal industrial regulation? Has anyone ever been prosecuted for a nuclear proliferation crime?

    Did anyone ask Fletcher about cyber security? It still seems strange to me that an agency that wants to read people’s communications (even if you believe this is an occasional event) is responsible for securing those communications. It looks like their partner agency NSA have been weakening encryption algorithms and engaging in other activities that make us all less secure. It’s as if the Police decided that the best way to fight crime was to enter people’s homes covertly in order to look for evidence of wrong doing. And to do this they had to make it illegal to fit door locks that couldn’t be picked. Would we accept the inevitable high level of burglaries if it meant catching the occasional terrorist, organised criminal, or nuclear proliferator?

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  15. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    Would we accept the inevitable high level of burglaries if it meant catching the occasional terrorist, organised criminal, or nuclear proliferator?

    A nuclear proliferator – you mean like the USA?? That would be a little like catching a tiger by the tail, wouldn’t it?

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  16. rouppe (983 comments) says:

    As well, it would be completely impractical; it would take 130,000 staff to listen to people’s phone calls and read their text messages, without even doing anything about them.

    Who thinks that the things would be monitored by people listening and reading? This sort of task is best suited to computing power. Then only those that trigger alerts based on the scanning software have to be read or listened to.

    One thing I learned early on is to examine what politicians and police DON’T say, and if there is a specific example – like ‘read’ and ‘listen’ – then to look at what alternatives they are trying to direct you away from.

    Do I think the GCSB is conducting mass surveillance? No. But I don’t trust the bastards either.

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  17. dime (10,125 comments) says:

    Dime lives life assuming his emails/txts are being read by some poor bastard.

    Cant say i love it. But people continue to vote for big government so thats what we get.

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  18. RRM (10,026 comments) says:

    It’s just an extension of the thing about how you don’t even joke about bombs at the airport – don’t even joke about drugs or kiddie porn on facebook or in txts.

    (Hi there GCSB guy! Give Mr Fletcher my regards when you see him, and remind him his golf game with RRM is still scheduled for this Sunday at Pine Harbour…)

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  19. peterwn (3,309 comments) says:

    Sorry Green MP’s and activists – you guys are just small fry. GCSB has bigger fish to fry than you lot. Do not bother applying for a copy of your files under OIA – you will probably be disappointed.

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  20. Kea (13,359 comments) says:

    nickb, they are not listening and reading everything. But they can store it for retrieval. Every noticed how many questions are asked when you go to Telecom and buy a phone ? No credit asked for and no plan. Ever wondered why ?

    They are breaching the privacy Act and collecting information for the authorities, if they request it.

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  21. RightNow (7,011 comments) says:

    @Judith, not sure if anyone has actually answered you, but there’s a budget of $64 million listed on their wiki page.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_Communications_Security_Bureau

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  22. RJL (148 comments) says:

    As well, it would be completely impractical; it would take 130,000 staff to listen to people’s phone calls and read their text messages, without even doing anything about them.

    Or it would require a computer, a connection to the tel-com providers, and some data storage capacity. And then a small number of staff to run database queries.

    Kind of exactly what GCSB does have.

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  23. Ross12 (1,456 comments) says:

    I think the GCSB seems to be kids stuff in comparison to what Google & co are up to for their advertisers. I am continually amazed at how quick I get an ad thrown up on my screen even after looking up a quite obscure subject and when you consider how many computers etc. are operating at one time around the world.

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  24. goldnkiwi (1,545 comments) says:

    I imagine lots of ‘boarders’ have infectious diseases ‘Judith’, though some might be preventable others are probably just a fact of life. ;)

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