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.

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Comments on “New Zealand PM Releases Documents… That Don't Actually Discuss GCSB Mass Surveillance”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Another proud graduate of the Carreon school of BS

Key: We absolutely, positively, do not spy on the New Zealand public.

Greenwald: Here’s documents that show the GCSB and NSA had implemented an illegal mass spying program, and were merely waiting the passage of a bill for it to be legalized and fully implemented. A bill that was only passed due to Key repeatedly insisting that it would not increase the powers available to the government/spy agencies beyond what they already had.

Given that the bill was passed due to those lies, and that the absence of the bill was listed as the final stumbling block to full implementation of the mass spying system… well, draw your own conclusions.

Snowden: Oh, and while we’re on the subject, here’s some more information talking about the treasure trove of personal data available on XKEYSCORE, with data gathered on New Zealand citizens most certainly in the database.

Key: (Begin the swearing, personal insults, and screaming of ‘Look, a distraction!’ while pointing wildly in the other direction)

Anonymous Coward says:

seems to me that, like Abbot in Australia, Key is a gutless, useless twat that is only in the position he is because those who backed him knew they could wrap him around their fingers and have whatever they wanted done! he knows what is being said is true and is just trying to brush it off, using the 10 finger shuffle! all of the prime ministers and presidents of the USA and ‘5 Eyes’ nations are the same. security wants something, the heads give it to them! the people only ever find out when the likes of Snowden tells us or someone gets hauled into court because the entertainment industries want to sue someone! fucking pathetic!!

Anonymous Coward says:

“It seems to assume that the New Zealand populace doesn’t actually pay attention to any details, which seems like a risky move.”

Polls have approx this reaction:
45% JK lied
10% Don’t believe it’s happening
55% Well, if spying keeps is safe, then its OK

Unfortunately (election only days away) this has become a “left vs right” and pretty much follows that percentage.

The NZ media here is quite gutless – with loads of headlines reading “Moment of Truth a fizzer” etc. They also seem distracted by KDC’s email reveal. The journalists are next to useless. No one is asking the “hard?” questions. JK is dancing around with semantics, and they all just seem to accept them. I want some journalist to nail JK to the fence with serious questions and who puts him in his place for his repeated “parsing” of the facts. The coverage on TV has been crap and scant as well. The “Moment of Truth” has had like 4 or 5 minutes worth of it’s 1h30m+ shown. There’s been no special broadcasts or in depth discussion – just a few “news” items. I would have thought a new channel would be mad not to do a 2 hr special on it – their ratings would go through the roof.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Grr .. soz

What do you think of claims Kiwis have been misled about mass surveillance?

45% (left/Labour/Greens) = This is an attack on our privacy
55% (right/National) = 10% I don’t believe it + 45% In this age of terrorism it’s an unfortunate necessity

Total: 100%

Anonymous Coward says:

He is probably telling the truth, but again, New Zealand will pick up metadata from Australia and Australia will pick up metadata from New Zealand. The truth about domestic laws are not representative of what actually happens and since the swapping of lunchboxes between the services are so easy to hide these circumvention of laws in, they have become a massive whitewashing machine of “illegal” activity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course NZ does not spy on their own citizens. How preposterous.

NZ only spies on foreigners such as the US, UK, Auz, and Canada. But it does share all that data with everyone in FiveEyes (which just happens to be UK, US, Auz, Canada, and NZ).

Just like UK does not spy on the UK (only spying on Canada, Auz, US, and NZ), and shares all data.

And Canada does not spy on Canadians (only spying on the UK, Auz, US, and NZ), and shares all data.

And Australia does not spy on Auz citizens (only the UK, Canada, US, and NZ) but sharing data with all.

And the US (oh well – oops), but still shares it all with the rest!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Almost correct — except that the US spies on everyone and doesn’t only shares the juicy bits with other countries when doing so is in its best interests. That’s what happens when you actually manage the information sharing infrastructure and host the databases. I still can’t see why the other countries are OK with this lopsided arrangement (other than it saves them money and gives them more intel than they’d otherwise have — completely ignoring the fact that it gives the US MORE intel than everyone else combined, creating an unfair advantage in espionage).

Anonymous Coward says:

It sounds like Prime Minister John Key, authorized tapping into New Zealand’s Southern Cross Submarine Cable in order to comply with the Five Eyes agreement. John Key claims GCSB isn’t collecting the content or metadata with this wiretap, which is probably true.

Most likely John Key has an agreement with the NSA, which allows the NSA to collect all the content and metadata traveling over the Southern Cross Submarine Cable. Similar to the underseas cable tap agreement Germany has with the NSA, code named “Wharpdrive”.

John Key is being extremely misleading. While it’s probably true GCSB, itself, isn’t collecting the content and metadata from New Zealand citizens. He never said the NSA isn’t allowed to collect this data with the help of GCSB installing and deploying the tapping equipment on NZ soil. Just like Germany.

Then once the NSA collects all of New Zealand’s content and metadata. That data is stored in the Bluffdale, Utah. GCSB is then free to search through everything the NSA collected from their wire taps in New Zealand. Searching though the data using NSA supplied search tools such as XKEYSCORE. Just like Germany’s BND does by allowing NSA cable taps inside Germany, such as project Wharpdrive.

Personally, I view allowing a foreign country to deploy cable taps on domestic soil in order to collect metadata and content of a sovereign nation’s citizenry, tantamount to aiding and abetting foreign espionage operations. What John Key and Angela Merkel currently allow foreign nations to do inside their country, is worse then a countries domestic intelligence agency carrying out the espionage operations themselves.

So basically John Key is most likely outsourcing the metadata and content collection of New Zealand’s national communications to the NSA. After it’s collected by NSA. GCSB is then free to search the collected content.

Based on all the spy documents I’ve read, and John Key’s misleading statements. This seems to be the most likely scenario.

Kronomex (profile) says:

We have a drink in Australia called Claytons ( and part of the advertising has become a derogatory terms over the years, “The drink you have when you’re not having a drink.” So when I say that Keys document release is a “Claytons release” you replace drink with file and you have (paraphrased) “The file you get when you’re not getting a file.”

-=rjh=- says:

…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.

This is a fairly safe strategy, as it turns out. Almost everyone, including the media, are focusing on the messenger, are ignoring the big issues and talking about Dotcom instead of the spying. Even Dotcom has had to tell the media, correctly, that they are not doing their job.

For an extreme sample of this have a look at the comments on the Whale Oil blog, NZ’s own little cesspool on the Internet.

On Monday night a past president of the National Party had little to say about the spying, but a lot to say about 2 Americans, a Canadian, an Australian and a German interfering in NZ affairs, suggesting they should mind their own business. The host was in full agreement. ironically, he’s from the UK.

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