Do we benefit from Five Eyes?

April 21st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Fisher writes in the NZ Herald:

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Beyond doubt the US (and UK, Australia and Canada) benefit from NZ being in Five Eyes. We get them intelligence they could not easily get elsewhere.

But by the same basis, New Zealand I am sure benefits greatly by being able to access intelligence gathered by the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

This is why countries agree to co-operate on things – when it benefits both sides. And I’d say with this agreement, we gain a hell of a lot more than we give.

We present internationally as a proud, South Pacific country which is forging its own principled path through history. In our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Prime Minister John Key said: “New Zealand has an independent foreign policy outlook that listens to and respects the views of other countries.” Our branding for the bid carried the words: “Integrity, independence, innovation.”

It appears, from the Snowden documents, our “independent foreign policy” is supported by a dependence on the Five Eyes intelligence network of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States.

This argument is made a lot, often by people from the left. But I think it is a nonsense argument to suggest being in Five Eyes is incompatible with having an independent foreign policy.

First I would note empirically that we got elected to the Security Council despite our involvement in Five Eyes known to all UN members. And I am sure those countries no exactly what that means – as they do much the same when they can.

But more to the point an intelligence sharing arrangement is a fairly minor part of overall foreign policy. People judge our foreign policy on numerous things – what conflicts we get involved in, how we vote at the UN, what we say, how we deal with their countries, who we trade with etc etc.

Being independent is not the same as being non-aligned.

Successive Prime Ministers have said New Zealand gets a great deal more our of the relationship than we contribute.

I’d say a huge amount more.

Former Prime Minister David Lange carved a path for an independent foreign policy on nuclear weapons. He said in the famous Oxford debate “we have been told by some officials in the United States administration that our decision (to be nuclear-free) is not, as they put it, to be cost-free; that we are in fact to be made to pay for our action”.

It was a threat made, said Lange, “not by our enemies, but by our friends”.

If we tap the Chinese data link ourselves – assuming we are capable and it is worth the effort – and don’t pass on information, do our Five Eyes partners refuse to tell us of terror plots in our backyard?

That’s being silly, even stupid. Security agencies swap information almost daily to help prevent terror plots. Even unfriendly countries such as China, Russia and the US will share information to help prevent terror plots.

Five Eyes is a formal agreement to share all foreign (not domestic) intelligence information with each other, and (this is important) not to spy on each other. It means we don’t have to ask the US on a case by case basis to access their foreign intelligence, and vice-versa.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

The nation knows about Five Eyes. It will not be a bad thing to debate generally our security arrangements.

But there is a difference between publicising the agreement, and publicising details of specific interception activities. Doing the latter benefits countries other than NZ – the exact thing that it is being suggested the Five Eyes agreement does.

Tags: , ,

We spy on China and China on us

April 19th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Our spies and America’s top government hackers cooked up a plan to crack into a data link between Chinese Government buildings in Auckland, new Edward Snowden documents reveal.

The project appeared aimed at tapping data flowing between the Chinese consulate and its passport office in Great South Rd — and using the link to access China’s computer systems.

The revelation is the most explosive of the information about New Zealand revealed in the Snowden documents — and has sparked a firm Chinese diplomatic response giving rise to concerns our security relationship with the United States is impacting our trade relationship with China.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman told the Herald on Sunday: “China is concerned about relevant report. We attach great importance to the cybersecurity issue.

“We will firmly safeguard our security interests and continue to guarantee our cyber and information security with concrete measures.”

Everyone who travels to China knows they will be spied on. The Chinese Government spies on every official they can of other Governments, and of course we try to spy on them. While we have a positive relationship with China, their interests are very different to ours, and the job of the GCSB is to gather foreign intelligence.

The difference is that if someone in China published details of the Chinese Government’s programme for spying on NZ and the US, they would be regarded as a traitor and executed.

I’m glad we live in NZ where media can publish what they want, without sanction from the state. However I do wish they would consider whose interests are served by publishing such details.

Tags: ,

Salmond on GCSB

March 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Rob Salmond blogs:

I am not a serial apologist for the GCSB. I think,f or example, that their recently-uncovered trick for feeding New Zealanders’ information to the NSA is entirely too cute. I think this morning’s New Zealand Herald story, however, about the GCSB spying for Tim Groser is somewhat overblown.

The most critical question is whether trying to help Tim Groser’s, ahem, optimistic bid to become WTO Director-General falls within the GCSB’s legal mandate. I say it does. Here’s section 7 of the GCSB Act, which gives the Agency’s objectives:

The objective of the Bureau, in performing its functions, is to contribute to—
(a) the national security of New Zealand; and
(b) the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and
(c) the economic well-being of New Zealand.

I can readily see the argument that having our own person at the head of the governing body for world trade, however unlikely he was to actually get the job, would be good for the economic well-being of New Zealand, therefore falling under subsection (c). You could make an argument for (b), too.

If the activity was illegal, then I’m sure the Inspector-General would say so. We have a system of checks and balances to make sure any foreign intelligence gathering occurs within the law. Hager may not like what is done, but that does not make it illegal.

Tags: ,

SIS and GCSB annual reports

March 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

They are both an interesting read. The SIS report is here. Some extracts:

Our work in 2013/14 had a significant operational focus on individuals with links to groups in both Iraq and Syria such as the Islamic State/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This work has involved investigations into individuals already embedded with terrorist organisations overseas, New Zealand citizens or permanent residents based both in New Zealand and offshore with intentions to travel overseas to engage in politically motivated violence, and individuals who are facilitating others to travel and those engaged in funding terrorist organisations.

By preventing these individuals travelling to engage in violent extremism, the NZSIS assesses that there is a real likelihood that the lives of these individuals may have been saved. In addition, had they managed to get to Syria and fight, the NZSIS has prevented the risk of battle-hardened individuals returning and compromising New Zealand’s security.

I wouldn’t mind them going so much if we could stop them returning. But generally we can’t.

Women comprise 40.5% of the NZSIS. The NZSIS achieved a significant milestone in 2013/14 with the appointment of its first female Director, Rebecca Kitteridge, and four of the nine roles that make up the NZSIS Senior Leadership Team are currently held by women.

I suspect that is very different to the past.

The NZSIS operates within an oversight and accountability framework that includes the Executive, Parliament, and independent authorities such as the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Commissioner of Security Warrants, and the Offices of the Privacy Commissioner and Ombudsman. This multi-layered approach to oversight provides an assurance that the NZSIS’s work is transparent at a number of levels.

The institutional checks are very important.

Fifty-one (51) domestic intelligence warrants were in force. Of those, thirty-four (34) were issued during the reporting period, and seventeen (17) were issued during the previous year but remained in force for some part of the reporting period.

The average length for which those warrants were in force during the reporting period was 134 days.

So a warrant is issued around every 10 days.

The GCSB report is here.

A total of 19 interception warrants were in force during the 2013/14 year. A total of 14 interception warrants were issued during the 2013/14 year.

A total of 59 access authorisations were in force during the 2013/14 year. A total of 48 access authorisations were issued during the 2013/14 year.

So the total number of warrants issued last year for the SIS and GCSB combined were 96. It is not a huge number.

 

Tags: ,

Does Danyl want the GCSB to have the power to spy domestically?

March 15th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Danyl at Dim-Post blogged:

The justification for the expansion of the GCSB’s powers back in 2013 to give them the power to spy on New Zealanders was that there are ‘bad guys’ in our country. Terrorists. Radicals. Evil-doers who would harm innocent civilians or attack the economic infrastructure of the country to further their own deranged agenda.

What the GCSB is actually doing, we’ve learned from the Snowden leaks, is spying on New Zealanders – and everyone else – in Tuvalu, and Kiribati, and the Cook Islands, and the Antarctic research bases. And at the same time the police appear powerless to apprehend an individual or group threatening to murder babies and cripple the New Zealand economy by poisoning infant milk powder.

It is almost beyond doubt that the person or persons responsible is a New Zealander. This means that the GCSB can’t intercept their communications – both under the new and the old law.

So Danyl holding them up as a failure of the GCSB is bizarre. It is like blaming the Ministry of Education for the fruit fly problem.

The recent law change merely explicitly gave the GCSB the ability to provide technical support to other agencies such as the Police and SIS – if there is a warrant.

As no one knows who the person responsible is, then there can be no warrant to intercept their communications, so it is no surprise that the Police have not been able to locate them.

If in fact the GCSB did have the awesome powers and abilities that hysterical people claim they have, then it is possible the person responsible would have been located. So I can only assume this is what Danyl is demanding – greater powers for the GCSB.

Tags: ,

Less surveillance than seven years ago

March 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Some very interesting revelations in the testimony to the Intelligence and Security Committee. Andrea Vance reports:

New Zealand’s foreign spies are gathering less intelligence than they did seven years ago, the country’s top spook says.

Can we banish the term “top spook” especially as they use it for both the GCSB and SIS directors.

Acting director of the Government Communications Security Bureau Una Jagose has been in the job just ten days, following the resignation of Ian Fletcher. 

Jagose was answering a question from Prime Minister John Key, who was chairing Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. It is just the second time the committee has been open to the public.

“As I understand it, today we collect less intelligence than we did seven years ago…there hasn’t been any radical shift upwards as has been suggested in the media.”

Ms Jagose is a lawyer, as is SIS Rebecca Kitteridge. The intelligence agencies have not always acted well in the past, but this Government has in fact gone to great lengths to break down the military old boys network that used to run them.

Not only are both entities now run by lawyers, whose primary focus is compliance, they are both women (also a first) and non-military.

Labour’s Andrew Little tried to get to the bottom of whether the agency carries out mass surveillance or collection, and what is meant by “full-take collection”, as referenced in the Snowden documents. 

“It is very difficult to answer the question about what does it mean because it means different things to different people,” Jagose said. “The connotation that I get from those phrases is some indiscriminate, for no purpose, not necessary collection of information for collection’s sake and we do not do that. What we do is lawful and authorised and necessary and proportionate and all of it…subject to independent oversight and you don’t have to take that from me. The public can take that from the systems that are to test that.” 

Now Jagose has only been in the job a few weeks. I can’t imagine she is lying to cover up – plus the Inspector-General can verify that.

Jagose, and Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge, spent time detailing the oversight mechanisms both agencies are subject to.  Jagose says all collection of information by her agency must be done under a warrant

“The very collection of information is authorised… so it’s not that we collect information and then seek authorisation for particular target issues. Everything we collect is authorised… the speculation in the public is that there is this wild collection of information for no purpose and then we have a look at it. In fact, collection is done for a purpose, and authorised.”

Labour’s David Shearer questioned if this applied to all foreign intelligence surveillance. “If we have a foreign intelligence target that we want to intercept, or otherwise access their communications, yes that is warranted,” she said. Inadvertently collected material from New Zealanders is destroyed, she said.

The ODT also reports:

The GCSB acting chief, Una Jagose, said the answer to the real tension between her bureau’s need for secrecy and the public’s demand for greater transparency lay the independent oversight of the agency, New Zealand’s foreign intelligence agency.

The post of Inspector General of Intelligence and Security is held by Cheryl Gwyn, a former deputy Solicitor-General.

“She is entitled to and does, come into the bureau at any time and she can look at anything she likes. She can question any of us under oath. She can ask for any document or explanation.”

The job used to be a part-time job held by a retired judge.

It is now full-time, with a full-time deputy and five investigators.

The checks and balances on the intelligence agencies have been greatly increased in the last few years – which is a good thing.

“In our business transparency and openness is not an easy matter. We have to make sure we do not inadvertently increase our vulnerability to people who don’t have New Zealand’s best interests at heart whether that is by revealing courses, methods we use or the targets we have.

“Actually we don’t want the people we are conducting foreign intelligence on or defending computer networks from to know we are looking at them or how we are doing that.

“And actually we don’t even want them to know what we are not capable of because that also gives insights into vulnerabilities.”

If the agency was more open with New Zealanders about what it did and did not do, people who did not have New Zealand’s interests at heart would have an advantage to act against New Zealand’s interests and give them an insight into its vulnerabilities.

“That would make the job of the Government, the bureau, the service a lot harder and possibly impossible.”

Worth remembering that Edward Snowden is holed up in Putin’s Russia, and oone thing you can guarantee is he won’t be revealing one single word of how Russia conducts intelligence gathering.

Tags: ,

Field on spying in the Pacific

March 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Field at Stuff writes:

It is not paradise out there in the South Pacific and while our friendly neighbourhood might be democratic and understand rugby’s off-side rule, corruption, self-interest and idiocy stalks their capitals. 

And dangerously surprising things like coups, civil war and mutinies happen, and they have a real and direct impact on New Zealand. 

The Snowden Papers suggest spying in the South Pacific is something new, but the reality is that we have been spying on Pacific countries for decades.

Back in 1914 London asked New Zealand soldiers to invade German Samoa. We said yes, but asked if they could give us some details of German defences. London replied we would look it up in an encyclopaedia.

These days acting like that is not on.

Time-shift to today and pick a Pacific country that suddenly finds itself with people being killed, buildings on fire and assorted bad people breaking into police armouries – as happened in the Solomon Islands. 

New Zealand’s Special Air Service was on the way to save lives – what are they expected to do for useful intelligence, Google it? 

Field makes the case that we need to do more than just collect metadata.

In the late-90s the Solomons was still known as the “happy isles” but some astute people were picking up whispers about dangerous people, one in particular, the little known Harold Keke. No one was spying on him but later he became a murderous warlord. 

So was Francis Ona, an obscure farmer who closed down the world’s biggest copper mine and sparked a decade-long Bougainville civil war. Much later into that civil war, New Zealand did a lot of spying there. 

We should have, because we were putting unarmed New Zealand soldiers on the ground.

The Snowden papers suggest we are massively collecting metadata across the South Pacific and sending it to the US. 

If this is the extent of the spying, then New Zealand’s tragedy is that we are not really listening at all to the Pacific.  

So often we have been taken by surprise. 

Foreign intelligence takes two forms. That you get by intercepts, and that you get through working networks, having conversations etc. We need both kinds.

Tags: ,

This is the big revelation?

March 5th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Documents released today with NZHerald.co.nz refer to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, Nauru and Samoa as targets of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

What a stunning revelation. An agency whose mandate is primarily to collection foreign intelligence, collects foreign intelligence.

Tags:

Fletcher resigns

January 13th, 2015 at 4:56 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Government Communications Security Bureau head Ian Fletcher is standing down after three years in the role.

GCSB Minister Chris Finlayson confirmed Mr Fletcher’s resignation this afternoon, saying it was “for family reasons”.

While there may be nothing at all to it, that phrase always makes me suspicious!

The minister said Mr Fletcher had decided that employing a new director would mean the same person could be involved in an upcoming statutory review of intelligence agencies and the implementation of any changes.

Makes sense, but is the the main reason?

Mr Little said Mr Fletcher’s three-year tenure had been a “rocky road” but noted that he had inherited some of the GCSB’s more problematic matters such as the fallout from the Kim Dotcom raid.

He said Mr Fletcher had done a “reasonably good job” leading the spying agency because New Zealand had not experienced the sort of cyber-attacks witnessed overseas.

I agree. The problems in the GCSB seem to have pre-dated Fletcher.

The Labour leader hoped the process of finding a new director was more transparent than the appointment of Mr Fletcher, which he said amounted to a shoulder-tap.

Fair to say that it would be better for the PM not to call any potential applicants directly. If he has names to suggest, he should just give them to the SSC to contact.

Tags: ,

It was cyber-war

December 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The FBI has confirmed North Korea was behind the cyber attacks on Sony Pictures.

“As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other US Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” a FBI statement said.

“While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.”

“We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there,” the FBI said in the brief statement.

“Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE (Sony Pictures Entertainment) reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States.”

The FBI said that it had “determined that the intrusion into SPE’s network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications.”

“The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.”

While it has seen a rising number of cyber breaches, “the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart,” the FBI said.

It’s at times like this I recall the official policy of the Green Party is to abolish the GCSB, whose role is to protect the New Zealand Government against cyber-attacks.

Tags: ,

Greens still complaining Key revealed the truth

November 15th, 2014 at 11:09 am by David Farrar

The Greens whine:

New documents released to the Green Party show that Prime Minister John Key used New Zealand’s intelligence services for the National Party’s political ends a few days out from the 2014 election, the Green Party said today.

Documents released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act show that Prime Minister John Key pressured the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) into releasing previously classified documents just days out from the election.

“The Prime Minister has arrogantly used the GCSB in order to assist the National Party’s elections chances,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“John Key knew that investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were going to provide information damaging to his Government.

“In order to counter this damage John Key made certain that the GCSB declassified and released documents in an effort to provide damage control to both himself and the National Party.

“This is a Prime Minister who was using the security services for political purposes.

The Greens have so lost the plot on this.

Are they really saying that when someone makes a false claim based on partial information, the Government should not respond and prove they are wrong?

This just shows how unsuited to Government the Greens are. They seem to be on the side of the foreign journalists and opposed to the Government revealing that they had it wrong.

Tags: ,

Project Speargun was the ditched cyber security project

September 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

story from last week worth highlighting:

The Government Communications Security Bureau has tightened its defence over claims of mass surveillance by confirming the term “Project Speargun” was used to describe an abandoned element of a proposed cyber defence system.

American journalist Glenn Greenwald had accused the New Zealand Government of conflating Project Speargun, which he believed was evidence of mass surveillance, with Project Cortex, a project to defend New Zealand institutions from cyber attack.

A GCSB spokesman told Fairfax that Speargun was a code that referred to “a core component of the cyber defence project in its earlier iterations” and which comprised part of an option set out in a Cabinet paper released by Prime Minister John Key on Monday.

“The prime minister decided the Speargun component specifically would not be taken forward,” he said.

Confirmation that Speargun was a term used by the bureau to describe an abandoned element of its cyber defence system is important for two reasons.

On the one hand, it confirms the authenticity of slides presented by Greenwald at the Internet Party’s “moment of truth” event on Monday, which were the first public reference to Project Speargun.

But it provides a relatively innocuous explanation for the seemingly explosive statements those slides contained.

The most intriguing statement in the slides read: “GCSB’s cable access programme SPEARGUN phase 1; awaiting new GCSB Act expected July 2013; first meta data probe mid 2013.”

The terms “cable access” and “probe” suggest mass surveillance, but the slides could be describing the progress of a cyber defence system.

Detecting malware would necessitate inspecting the metadata of incoming packets of internet traffic. In other words, Greenwald’s smoking gun could be a cigarette lighter that looked quite like a gun.

So the moment of truth was a forged e-mail and a cyber-security initiative that was never implemented.

Tags:

This is a good time to abolish the SIS and GCSB!

September 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Green Party policy is to:

We would therefore institute a select committee enquiry into whether the SIS should be abolished and its responsibilities returned to the police. …

we will abolish the GCSB and close its two signals intelligence bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana immediately.

Meanwhile in Australia:

A TEEN terror suspect under investigation for making threats against Prime Minister Tony Abbott was shot dead by police last night after stabbing a Victorian police officer and a federal police agent.

The injured officers, both from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team, are in hospital in a stable condition. …

Senior intelligence sources confirmed that the terrorism suspect had been among a number of people whose passports were recently cancelled.

It is believed that the man was well known to police, and had displayed Islamic State flags in the local Dandenong shopping centre.

And globally:

A 42-minute audio recording by an ISIS spokesman was released on social media Sunday, in which the group calls on Muslims to kill civilians in countries that belong to the anti-ISIS, U.S.-led coalition.

If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, especially the spiteful and filthy French, or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be,” an ISIS spokesman says.

Note the reference to “any other disbeliever”.

The Herald editorial notes:

What should New Zealand do? Does this country have malcontents who would embrace even ascetic religious fundamentalism for the sake of a cause? Have any been with Isis and returned? Should this country, too, offer special forces to assist Iraqi troops on the ground? That depends on whether the new Iraqi Government is better than the last, and whether US air support alone might be effective, as it was in protecting Kurdistan. The decision must not be influenced by the possibility of terrorism at home. As Australia has shown, good intelligence can keep us safe.

This is worth reflecting on.

That doesn’t mean that the GCSB should be allowed to do what it wants. Absolutely not. I am against mass surveillance of New Zealanders (which does not occur in NZ). But be aware the Greens are not just against mass surveillance – their official policy is to abolish the GCSB entirely – and look at abolishing the SIS also. They take an unbalanced view on these issues, and that view has dangers as our closest neighbour comes under attack.

Tags: , , ,

Clark and Privacy Commissioner also say there is no mass surveillance

September 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Privacy Commissioner has blogged:

The third development is that I have convened a meeting, which I hope to become regular, of the agencies responsible for overseeing security and intelligence agencies. That includes my office, the IGIS, the Chief Ombudsman, and the Auditor-General. Together we will be able to ensure that our efforts are as informed and coordinated as our respective legislative schemes permit.

To date, I have seen no evidence of mass surveillance being undertaken by GCSB that would contradict this assurance given by the Director at our Privacy Forum [PDF, 83 KB]earlier this year.

I look forward to continuing to play a role in providing assurance to New Zealanders that the activities of our security and intelligence agencies are lawful and proportional.

And Stuff has reported:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has been given assurances by former prime minister and party leader Helen Clark that New Zealanders weren’t been spied on under her leadership.

 

So those saying there is no mass surveillance include:

  • The PM
  • The former PM
  • The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
  • The Privacy Commissioner
  • The GCSB Director
  • The former GCSB Director

I believe them over Kim Dotcom, and his Moment of Truth circus.  Don’t let Dotcom distract from the real issues of our economy, our hospitals, our schools, our welfare system and our justice system.

Tags:

A reader on Five Eyes

September 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

… one point that you might like to make is that it is true that New Zealanders are being subject to mass surveillance.  Multiple governments are listening to every phone call we make, every e-mail we send, and watching every website we visit.  But thanks to the “five eyes agreement” we know that the US, Canada, Britain and Australia are not on the list of governments.  But China, Japan, Russia, Korea, some of the ASEANs, Taiwan, Israel and some of the Arabs all have the capability and incentive to be listening in.  “Five eyes” helps ensure that all they are monitoring are our private conversations because of government communications are subject to the heaviest encryption around.  And “five eyes” keeps an eye on those doing the spying on us.

Of course our own domestic GCSB legislation means our own government is not allowed to monitor our private communications without a warrant.  Of course it is being picked up, every electronic communication in the world is being picked up.  But it cannot be read by our government or the four other partners.

There is no NSA presence in Auckland or north of Auckland.  They may sweep the US Consulate from time to time in the same way GCSB sweeps our Embassies around the world.  And they may have the occasional person seconded to NZ to work with GCSB as we have GCSB people seconded to DSD, GCHQ, NSA and the CSE.  If they are here they are working for GCSB while in NZ.

I note that many of those so worked up about the possiblility of the GCSB or NSA intercepting communications, were loud cheerleaders for the rights of criminals to hack bloggers and have that material published. They’re not very consistent.

Tags: ,

IGIS says no indiscriminate interception of data

September 17th, 2014 at 9:12 am by David Farrar

BxrsXV-CYAAd0qY

This screenshot is from Felix Marwick.

Ms Gwyn is a former Deputy Solictor-General and Deputy Secretary of Justice. Her appointment was made after consultation with Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee which includes Russel Norman and David Cunliffe.

And in case anyone thinks she is some ideological friend of the current Government, I would point out she was a member of the Young Socialists and was involved with the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, which included Nicky Hager and Keith Locke! I trust Ms Gwyn when she says she has not identified any indiscriminate interception of New Zealanders’ data.

Tags: ,

PM on surveillance claims

September 15th, 2014 at 5:55 pm by David Farrar

John Key has done a release stating:

Prime Minister John Key tonight corrected misinformation that has been put in the public domain concerning the operations of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

“Claims have been made tonight that are simply wrong and that is because they are based on incomplete information,” Mr Key says.

“There is not, and never has been, a cable access surveillance programme operating in New Zealand.

“There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB.

“Regarding XKEYSCORE, we don’t discuss the specific programmes the GCSB may, or may not use, but the GCSB does not collect mass metadata on New Zealanders, therefore it is clearly not contributing such data to anything or anyone,” Mr Key says.

“I am setting the record straight tonight because I believe New Zealanders deserve better than getting half of a story, embellished for dramatic effect and political gain, and based on incomplete information.

“The GCSB undertakes cyber security operations to protect individual public and private sector entities from the increasing threat of cyber-attack and this is very important work.

“It does not, however, remotely resemble what has been claimed,” Mr Key says.

The GCSB’s cyber security operations occur within its legal framework and only when the following conditions are met: 

  • Each entity must provide individual legal consent to be protected by the GCSB;
  • The independent Commissioner of Security Warrants must be satisfied each individual case is within the law, and a legal warrant must be co-signed by the Prime Minister and the Commissioner;
  • Warrants are subject to a two-step process, as outlined by the Prime Minister when legislation was passed last year. A warrant is required for high level cyber protection for an individual entity, and the content of a New Zealander’s communications cannot be looked at by a GCSB employee unless a specific cyber threat is identified which relates to that communication. If that is the case, the GCSB must return to the Prime Minister and the Commissioner to make the case for a second warrant in order to access that communication.

In addition to this, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security has substantially stronger powers to monitor the GCSB’s activities and ensure they are appropriate and within the law.

“Our cyber security programme began operating this year after a lengthy process of assessing options for protection,” Mr Key says.

“The process began in late 2011 when the GCSB made it clear to me that cyber-attacks were a growing threat to our country’s data and intellectual property and the Government needed to invest in addressing that.

“The Bureau assessed a variety of options for protection and presented an initial range to Cabinet for consideration in 2012.

“These options ranged from the highest possible form of protection to a much weaker form of security, with some in between.

“The Cabinet initially expressed an interest in GCSB developing a future business case for the strongest form of protection for our public and private sectors, but it later revoked that decision and opted for what we have now – something known as Cortex.

“The business case for the highest form of protection was never completed or presented to Cabinet and never approved. Put simply, it never happened,” Mr Key says.

The Prime Minister tonight also released declassified material, including a Cabinet minute to show what occurred.

“I can assure New Zealanders that there is not, and never has been, mass surveillance by the GCSB.

“In stark contrast, the Bureau actually operates a sound, individually-based form of cyber protection only to entities which legally consent to it,” Mr Key says.

The attachments are below.

1 2 3 4

Tags: , ,

Southern Cross Cable on the Dotcom allegations

September 15th, 2014 at 5:11 pm by David Farrar

A press release from Southern Cross Cable:

Claims of cable access total nonsense

The claims made today by journalist Glenn Greenwald that the Southern Cross undersea cables have been tapped into or accessed are total nonsense said the CEO Anthony Briscoe today.

The cables, which link New Zealand to Australia, the Pacific and the United States, are untouched, Mr Briscoe noted.

“I can tell you quite categorically there is no facility by the NSA, the GCSB or anyone else on the Southern Cross cable network.”

“Let’s be quite blunt. To do this, we would have to take the cable out of service and I can assure you there’s no way we are going to do that.

“It is a physical impossibility to do it without us knowing. There is just no way it can be done. I can give you absolute assurances from Southern Cross – and me as a Kiwi – that there are no sites anywhere on the Southern Cross network that have to do with interception or anything else the NSA or GCSB might want to do.”

He added, any breach of the cable would require temporarily shutting down its transmission for hours. Southern Cross has monitoring systems built into its computers watching for any such break and they would be triggered as soon as any attempt was made.

“There isn’t a technology in the world, as far as I am aware, that can splice into an undersea fibre optic cable without causing a serious outage and sending alarms back to our network operation centre, that something’s wrong.”

Southern Cross is obligated to comply with the well-established and public lawful surveillance requirements in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act and related laws in the United States. However there is no equipment installed in the New Zealand or United States landing stations, or on the cable itself, which could result in mass interception of communications.

We are very disturbed that such unfounded allegations have been made and feel that it’s important for all New Zealanders to understand that this outrageous claim is totally untrue.

The so called moment of truth is turning into a moment of farce.

Tags: , , ,

The Press on the Dotcom sideshow

September 15th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The much-promised announcement being staged by Kim Dotcom today must be one of the most ballyhooed in New Zealand political history. It is also one of the oddest.

It has been designed for maximum theatrics by a man who, ever since his arrival in this country, has shown he is well-versed in the dark arts of public relations and knows how to manipulate public opinion to his own advantage.

Coming just five days before most voting in the general election will take place, the timing is cynical. It is clear from Kim Dotcom’s signalling of the event more than six months ago that any information he has could have been released at any time since at least the beginning of this year, if not earlier. If today’s information does turn out to be anything of substance, and not just a damp squib, releasing it now leaves little time for effective rebuttal. Today’s exercise could be seen as a blatant attempt by two foreigners – a German millionaire and an American journalist – to influence the outcome of the election.

As The Press says, this info could have been released at any time, allowing time for scrutiny and rebuttal. This is all about increasing the party vote for Dotcom’s pet party, so they will have more influence in the next Parliament.

According to what Greenwald has already said in interviews, the Government Communications and Security Bureau has engaged in mass electronic surveillance of New Zealanders. That would be contrary to the law and, more crucially, contrary to assurances given by Key. Greenwald’s credentials derive from stories he has written, many based on material given to him by the fugitive American National Security Agency worker now living in Russia, revealing questionable surveillance by the NSA and other western electronic intelligence agencies.

New Zealand is connected to those agencies by the so-called Five Eyes agreement. That agreement was established just after World War II and has been maintained by all governments since, presumably because of its value. Difficult as it may be to prove a negative, the Prime Minister has promised to declassify documents about the GCSB that will show conclusively that any allegations Greenwald makes of GCSB wrongdoing are false. Voters will have to judge for themselves as well as they can.

People who believe John Key is lying, also have to believe Helen Clark was lying – along with successive GCSB Directors, Inspector-Generals of Intelligence & Security, and probably half the GCSB staff.

Tags: , , , ,

Waa waa waa says Internet Mana

September 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

The Internet-Mana Party says the Prime Minister’s reported intention to release documents showing spy officials may have considered mass surveillance is an abuse of his authority.

Waa, waa, waa.

They are seriously claiming that the PM should not release documents which prove their bombshell is a fizzer. What  planet are they on?

ONE News understands John Key will release documents showing spy officials may have considered mass surveillance but the proposal never went ahead.

How dare John Key reveal the truth. He must be impeached.

In a joint statement, Mr Harawira and Ms Harre say the reported intention of the Prime Minister “to arrange the selective declassification and release of documents for his own political purposes” represents an abuse of the Prime Minister’s authority in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS.

Seriously, these people have lost their marbles. They think it is okay to release stolen classifed documents as part of their election campaign, but it is not okay for the Prime Minister to declassify a document in response, to show they are wrong.

Tags: , , ,

Finny on Five Eyes

September 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post from Charles Finny:

On 3 September 1939 a Labour Government in New Zealand declared war on Germany in support of the UK and others following Adolph Hitler’s decision to invade Poland.  Until the war ended in 1945 New Zealand made enormous sacrifices and as we all know, and as happened in World War I a disproportionately large number of New Zealanders were killed and wounded.  From 1941, the war became as much a war in the Pacific as a war in Europe. 

One of the developments of this war was signals intelligence and cryptography.  New Zealand and New Zealanders played as big a role in these areas as we did in the wider conflict.  Because of this, and because of the staunchness of our commitment we found ourselves part of what is now known as the “five eyes agreement”.  As technology has developed we have received the same signals intelligence as the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.  And our own communications have been protected by the highest grade encryption technologies developed in association with these other four countries.  For a pipsqueak little country of only a few million people located in a distant corner of the globe we have been in an incredibly privileged position.

The Labour Government that saw us through World War II, and those from 1957-60, 1972-75, 1984-90 and 1999-2008 have not sought to change our position in “five eyes” because the leaders and senior Ministers of those Governments have realized how lucky we are to be part of this agreement and knew how fundamental the intelligence derived from it was to the security of New Zealand.  Ultimately the most important function of government is to protect the people.  “Five eyes” plays a very important role in our ongoing security.  There was a wobble under Lange which saw New Zealand denied access to some processed intelligence from the US, but access to the raw communications intercepted by the four allies continued throughout.  Under Helen Clark the full flow of processed intelligence resumed.

I cannot believe what I have just heard David Cunliffe saying about GCSB today.  What we now call GCSB is as much a creation of Labour as it is the National Party.  It is crucial to our continuing security.  It protects us against the hostile actions of foreign governments, terrorist organizations, and international criminals.  Of course the same foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminals hate the ‘’fives eyes agreement” and want it dismantled because it stands in their way.  I can’t believe that a Labour Leader would align himself with these forces and put this agreement and our position in it so much at risk.  If his senior colleagues do not call Cunliffe on this, shame on them too.  Our national security is too important to be put at risk by short term political opportunism.

David Cunliffe is now trying to buddy buddy up to Kim Dotcom and his hired speakers. If Dotcom’s allegations are correct (which of course they are not), then this happened under the Cabinet David Cunliffe sat in. Is he saying Helen Clark lied to New Zealand? or is he just desperately trying to win back some votes on the left?

Tags: , , ,

IPCA on Police investigation of GCSB complaint

July 18th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The IPCA have investigated the decision by the Police not to lay charges over the GCSB illegally spying on Kim Dotcom. Their report is here. Some extracts:

As has been noted above (para 22) the Police decision was based squarely on an opinion provided by the Solicitor-General, and it was an opinion that Police Legal Services recommended ought to be followed. As also noted above (para 26), it is not within the jurisdiction of the Authority to review the validity of that opinion or to determine whether the test used by the Police to determine legal liability was legally accurate: our task is confined to determining whether Police actions were appropriate. In our view they clearly were. The Police were entitled to rely upon advice as to the law provided by the Solicitor-General. Indeed, having received the opinion it would have been surprising if they had proceeded on any other basis.

However, even if the Police had proceeded on the basis that criminal liability did not depend upon proof of an intent by GCSB officers to act outside their statutory authority, we take the view that a decision not to prosecute would nevertheless have been warranted. There are two reasons for this.

First, the one interception of Mr Dotcom that the Police found to be unlawful in fact contained only metadata (being data embedded in a communication that relates to its form and time, date and circumstances of transmission rather than its content). As noted below (para 47), the report by the IGIS in May 2013 had expressed the view that the law was uncertain as to whether metadata fell within the scope of a private communication by a person. In the light of that uncertainty, a decision not to prosecute on that ground would not have been unreasonable.

Secondly, the Solicitor-General’s Prosecution Guidelines require not only that there be evidential sufficiency for a prosecution, but also that it be in the public interest. The evidential sufficiency threshold would have been met, but arguably the public interest threshold would not have been.

This is pretty resounding. First they say that to suggest the Police should ignore the advice of the Solicitor-General is stupid, as Dr Norman said. Then they point out that the law around meta data was unclear anyway, and thirdly there would be no public interest it is likely.

Kim Dotcom did have his rights broken by an illegal act by the GCSB. But this needs to be out in context. The Police were legally entitled to put him under surveilance and intercept his communications. The GCSB just shouldn’t have assisted them with this.

On the alleged conflict of interest:

As she interpreted her terms of reference, Ms McDonald’s role was a limited one. It did not involve the provision of advice about the law that was to be applied to the facts of the case.

Even if Ms McDonald had had a more extensive role, it is hard to see how this would have created a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest cannot arise from the mere fact that she was acting for or providing advice to the Police in two respects in relation to the same set of events. The Police investigation that she was overseeing was an independent investigation into the activities of the GCSB; the fact that she was acting for the Police in proceedings in which the GCSB was  involved as a separate party cannot preclude the ability to provide impartial advice in relation to that investigation.

And the third issue:

The other four interceptions that related to content all involved assistance to the NZSIS in the execution of a lawful issue of an intelligence warrant under the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act. Section 4D of that Act allows the NZSIS to obtain assistance from another agency to effect the execution of an intelligence warrant. Although there was some doubt about whether the GCSB was allowed to provide such assistance within the ambit of their Act as it then stood, there was sufficient statutory ambiguity to raise doubts about whether any unlawfulness was involved.

The Police determined, on the basis of that report, that the additional intercepts were not unequivocally unlawful and would clearly not reach the threshold to justify prosecution.

The Authority agrees with this view. Dr Norman argues that, since it can be said that there was, in the words of the IGIS, “arguably no breach”, it could equally be said that arguably there was a breach, and New Zealanders who were spied upon deserve to know whether the actions were lawful and justified. That may be so, but a full Police investigation into the GCSB’s activities in those cases would have been unable to provide such clarification, since the Police would not have been in the position to reach a determinative view on the statutory ambiguity. Only the courts could have done that, and the criminal prosecution of individuals in an attempt to clarify an inherently uncertain law would have been unjustified.

It is worth noting that there have been consequences for the GCSB failure. The Deputy Director was let go. The Inspector-General’s role has been beefed up, and there has been wholesale change due to the Kitteridge Report. And these things should happen. But that is different to saying that a staff member should face criminal prosecution for an honest error over someone’s residency status.

 

Tags: , ,

Two reports by the Inspector-General

May 30th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security has published two reports, both interesting.

The first report is into the incorrect data in the GCSB annual report. It had previously been disclosed and corrected. This was a pretty serious error, and to be honest if it occurred again you’d expect the responsible staff to resign.

Frustratingly we are not told how the error occurred. The IG says “any worthwhile account of the processes involved carries severe security risks”.

The second report is about the SIS and their interactions with a resident whose house they had a warrant to search. The resident is not named, but it has been widely reported to be Rajesh Singh – a former Fiji Minister who was suspected of being involved in a plot to kill Commodore Frank Bainimarama. It is somewhat ironic that the official policy of the NZ Government is that the Commodore is an illegitimate traitor, yet they also help protect him from assassination plots (which is the correct thing to do).

Anyway Singh has multiple complaints about the SIS behaviour during the raid. The Inspector-General dismisses all but one of them, noting that the evidence of Mr Singh is less credible than those of the two SIS agents and two police officers.

The one thing the IG does ping the SIS for is Agent A saying:

“would not tolerate [redacted] whether in New Zealand or not. Anyone involved in planning would be dealt with by the NZ police … A told [the complainant] he should be careful who he spoke to about the topics which had been discussed.”

The IG says that the role of the SIS is to gather intelligence only, not enforce security.

Basically the SIS agent should have got the Police officer to tell Mr Singh not to get involved in assassination plots, rather than tell him directly. It’s not a huge issue, but it is important to have the roles clearly defined.

Tags: , ,

The Campbell Live Dotcom conspiracy episode

May 20th, 2014 at 8:33 pm by David Farrar

You have to all go and watch Campbell Live tonight and try and stop laughing.

It’s classic conspiracy theory stuff. It sort of goes like this:

  • Key appoints Mateparae Governor-General to create vacancy at GCSB – March 2011
  • Director of US National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, visits one week later and meets John Key
  • McCully visits Hillary Clinton May 2011
  • PM has breakfast with Ian Fletcher in June 2011
  • Key visits Obama July 2011 and shock horror asks Fletcher to apply for GCSB job the SAME MONTH!
  • Oct 2011 – Key, Fletcher, SIS Head, MFAT Head, NZDF  and DPMC Head have a meal at British High Commissioner’s place!
  • 12 Dec 2011 – Key meets GCSB (one of 10 meetings that year) and meets Ian Fletcher who is in NZ
  • 16 Dec 2011 – surveillance of Dotcom begins
  • Obama invites Key to White House – May 2014 – THE PAYOFF!

You especially have to like the spooky sinister music they played. They say they’ve been working on the story for three years. Seriously? They even make it sounds sinister that a civilian instead of military was made GCSB Head and an outsider was made MFAT Head. Yes Allan and Fletcher were both plants by John Key, so that they could all conspire with the US to spy on Kim Dotcom!!

Also part of the conspiracy is that Fletcher had worked for the UK Government (also in Five Eyes) in the Intellectual Property Office (which ties in to Dotcom!).

This is the funniest episode ever. Please please watch it, so you can laugh.

Kim Dotcom tweeted:

The answer is a lot more than that. More wet than Winston’s water pistol.

Tags: , , ,

GCSB boss at Privacy Forum

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

Radio NZ report:

Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) 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.

Tags: