New Zealand PM Releases Documents… That Don't Actually Discuss GCSB Mass Surveillance
from the wait,-what? dept
So we had just posted New Zealand Prime Minister John Key insulting the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, referring to him as a “henchman” and “a loser” for showing up in New Zealand to reveal that, contrary to Key’s own claims, the country’s GCSB (local equivalent of the NSA) had been engaged in mass surveillance of New Zealand residents. The documents Greenwald revealed showed how the Kiwi government was being pressured by the NSA to pass a law to fully “legalize” the program for mass surveillance of metadata. Further support to Greenwald’s claims was provided in an article written by Ed Snowden, discussing just how easy it was to go surfing through the metadata collected on New Zealanders by GCSB.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Key had said that once Greenwald revealed what he had, he would declassify a set of documents proving that Greenwald was wrong. Well, now Key has, in fact, declassified a set of documents from the GCSB… and they don’t actually discuss what Greenwald or Snowden were talking about. Instead, they look like some internal discussions of why GCSB needed a (dangerous) program that would allow GCSB to try to spot and deal with foreign cyberattacks (similar to what the NSA wanted to do in the US, but which banks on Wall St. rejected).
So, basically all that Key has revealed is that GCSB supported an overly broad cyberattack plan that would let the GCSB take it upon itself to deal with cyberattacks — a plan so insane that even the US has rejected it — in part because it would massively increase surveillance. So, Key has revealed secretly approved plans to increase GCSB surveillance, while pretending he’s debunking increased GCSB surveillance. And, yet, the documents don’t even address any of Greenwald and Snowden’s actual claims. When asked about that Key appears to have done his standard childish pouting, refusing to answer about specifics:
“There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB.
He would not discuss 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 said.
Frankly, this is a bit of a let down. Given the documents that Greenwald revealed on Monday, there was still the slight possibility that changes had happened along the way and people had rethought a bad plan. So I was wondering if Key might actually reveal something miraculous like that. Instead, it seems like he’s trying a sleight of hand trick by declassifying and releasing unrelated documents (that actually reveal a secret surveillance expansion different from the one Greenwald revealed) and hoping no one notices. Interesting strategy. It seems to assume that the New Zealand populace doesn’t actually pay attention to any details, which seems like a risky move.