Snowden & Greenwald Reveal PM John Key Lied About Kiwi Mass Surveillance; Key Hits Back By Calling Greenwald 'A Loser'

from the not-very-convincing dept

Over the weekend, Glenn Greenwald made it clear that he was going to reveal evidence of domestic mass surveillance on New Zealanders by the GCSB (the Kiwi version of the NSA). The plan was to reveal it at a political event organized by Kim Dotcom. Before Greenwald even had the chance, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key tried to preempt the story by claiming that the country had considered such options, but never actually went through with it. He also used the opportunity to toss out random ad hominem insults at Greenwald, because that's always convincing.
"Dotcom's little henchman is wrong," says Mr Key..... "I'm probably not going to jump in front of what information he's got," says Mr Key. "It's up to the henchman to go and deliver that information I suppose, but mark my words, he's wrong. I'm right and I'll prove I'm right."
Except he did try to "jump in front" by revealing that there were plans in place for such a system and in promising to "declassify and release top secret documents" that would prove his side of the story.

This morning, Greenwald delivered on his half of the bargain with a detailed look at how the NSA was relying on New Zealand to change its laws to further legalize GCSB domestic surveillance. Greenwald got a further assist from Ed Snowden himself who wrote about how he regularly had access to New Zealanders' metadata, collected by the GCSB. Snowden's really damning point is that there was a simple "checkbox" if he wanted to turn off such searches:

If you have doubts, which would be quite reasonable, given what the last year showed us about the dangers of taking government officials at their word, I invite you to confirm this for yourself. Actual pictures and classified documentation of XKEYSCORE are available online now, and their authenticity is not contested by any government. Within them you’ll find that the XKEYSCORE system offers, but does not require for use, something called a “Five Eyes Defeat,” the Five Eyes being the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and yes, New Zealand.

This might seem like a small detail, but it’s very important. The Five Eyes Defeat is an optional filter,  a single checkbox. It allows me, the analyst, to prevent search results from being returned on those countries from a particular search. Ask yourself: why do analysts have a checkbox on a top secret system that hides the results of mass surveillance in New Zealand if there is no mass surveillance in New Zealand?

Greenwald's piece further details how the NSA was pushing New Zealand to pass a new law last year to finalize the full legalization of this kind of surveillance, noting that the legal change was considered the final blockade on such a program. As we noted last year, while most of the world was passing laws to cut back on domestic surveillance, New Zealand was actually passing a law to expand those powers. While that bill was being debated, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key insisted that it was not enabling broad new domestic surveillance options, even though it was pretty clear from the text of the law.

At the time Key vehemently denied that it was legalizing domestic mass surveillance, responding to such claims by arguing "none of that is true." And yet, Greenwald highlights documents that show that the domestic surveillance program was entirely in place, just waiting for that last legal hurdle to be knocked down:
But in high-level discussions between the Key government and the NSA, the new law was clearly viewed as the crucial means to empower the GCSB to engage in metadata surveillance. On more than one occasion, the NSA noted internally that Project Speargun, in the process of being implemented, could not and would not be completed until the new law was enacted. The NSA apparently viewed that new law as providing exactly the powers that Key repeatedly and publicly denied it would vest.
And, of course, Key did this with pure and blatant FUD. At the time, he went on and on about immediate threats to the nation:
The Prime Minister says the country faces genuine security threats, while his opponents reckon he's being manipulative.

[....] John Key says he has received some briefings from intelligence agencies that have deeply concerned him. "I think it would cut dead some of the most fancible claims I've heard lately from those who oppose this Bill."
Except there doesn't appear to be any evidence to support that. Just evidence that the NSA really, really wanted this bill to pass. As Greenwald highlights with newly revealed Snowden documents:
Critically, the NSA documents note in more than one place that completion of Speargun was impeded by one obstacle: The need to enact a new spying law that would allow the GCSB, for the first time, to spy on its own citizens as well as legal residents of the country. As one NSA planning document put it, completion of Speargun was “awaiting new GCSB Act expected July 2013.”
So far, Key's response is to ratchet up the insults. Beyond calling Pulitzer Prize-winning Greenwald a "henchman" a bunch of times, Key also called Greenwald "a loser," and tried to spin it all as a plot by Kim Dotcom:
"People got really wound up about me calling him Dotcom's little henchman. I would have a modicum of respect for the guy if he had the guts to turn up here six months before the election, or six months after. If this loser is going to come to town and try and tell me, five days before an election, staying at the Dotcom mansion with all the Dotcom people and being paid by Dotcom, that he's doing anything other than Dotcom's bidding - please don't insult me with that."
Except, of course, Greenwald has long explained that Dotcom agreed to pay Greenwald's usual speaking fee to charity (though, he did pay for Greenwald's flight to New Zealand). But, honestly, anyone following Glenn Greenwald for more than about five minutes would know that the guy is not exactly the kind of person who takes orders from anyone, no matter who's paying for what.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:29am

    Did anyone really expect a man who lies and serves his own interests to suddenly stop lying and serving his own interest because he's been called out on lying and serving his own interests?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      Very experienced in dealing with liars.

      They defend their liars vigorously and will not even admit it in the face of exposing truth.

      In short, the average politician in power these days. The only time a liar of this type will ever admit to a small portion of the truth is when that small truth finally suits them better than the original lie. Which incidentally just comes out as another lie.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:10pm

      Re:

      No, but somehow I expected him to be a bit smarter than calling Greenwald a liar when he had to know that Greenwald most likely could actually back up his claims.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Justin Flontek, 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:35am

    Enough Is Enough!

    The Five Eyes must be blinded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Shadow Dragon (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:52am

    Note to Key

    Don't say something stupid when the elections are days away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:57am

      Re: Note to Key

      What makes you think the NZ election result hasn't ALREADY been decided?

      All you need to do is monitor which way a certain section of the population is voting, make sure those are the ones likely to not notice if their vote was mysteriously changed and hey presto! another term for someone....

      In the interests of fairness and balance I'm obligated to say it could be anyone...but its John Key.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 15 Sep 2014 @ 5:05pm

        Re: What makes you think the NZ election result hasn't ALREADY been decided?

        The fact that we have a proportional-voting system, where every vote really does count.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:59am

      Re: Note to Key

      Don't say something stupid when the elections are days away.

      Bad advice. You don't want to change horses in midstream.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hoare (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 11:01am

    remember when....

    Key was apologizing to Dotcom for illegal spying?

    https://torrentfreak.com/new-zealand-prime-minister-apologizes-to-kim-dotcom-120927/

    I guess Key wasn't sincere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 11:01am

    It's refreshing to see such a blunt, plain-spoken, common man in charge of a country's security apparatus. One just knows this kind of man would never gather and use illegal info against his political enemies or bothersome members of the press or...

    ...goddammit. Anyone know how to get derp out of a cotton shirt?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 11:02am

    Again it is demonstrated that you can not trust what you hear coming from anyone in the know when it comes to spying on the populace. Privacy be damned, it gets in the way of all this data collection.

    How very telling that one of the major concerns is the timing of the revelation for Key. I expect it was done on purpose to damage Key as much as possible just prior to the election. Something he himself would not be afraid to do to an opponent were the positions reversed and would be crowing to high heaven about his new 'facts'.

    This alone tells me that Key knows how damaging it is and likely it he sees it as more important to the voters most likely because it's true and knows the exposure damages him worse in his eyes through his own conscience. His reactions are one you would expect from someone guilty.

    It is also telling that the Hollywood side immediately jumped in claiming it was all lies. Would anyone care to bet that emails were being scrubbed while the denial was going on?

    No this is the point where all the lies catch up to the government. Greenwald has not been known for lying in his Snowden releases. They have provided the proof more times than not we were being lied to by the government and suddenly the supporters were caught in their own lies while trying to change the story. If anyone has a shred of credibility in this, it isn't NSA, GCSB, GCHQ, nor the political supporters behind them. Everyone one of that group have been caught in multiple lies and it should be recognized that the truth will not come from them willingly.

    I tend to believe it is the absolute truth in the claims of scheming. Hollywood is no better when it comes to the truth and what is moral than the government and is often at the initial push to make things happen, legal or not. We don't even need to bring up things like Rojadirect, the ICE actions, or the COLP actions in trying to do domain closures without court orders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 11:12am

    Of course John Key is pushing for domestic spying. The Five Eyes contract demands it. How is the NSA supposed to "collect it all" if NZ isn't drag netting their citizens' communications.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 11:42am

    "Dotcom's little henchman is wrong," says Mr Key..... "I'm probably not going to jump in front of what information he's got," says Mr Key. "It's up to the henchman to go and deliver that information I suppose, but mark my words, he's wrong. I'm right and I'll prove I'm right."
    Key then proceeded to say, " Greenwald is a stupid dorky dorkyface," before adding, "Neener neener neener. So there."

    (Seriously, what it is about Glenn Greenwald that reduces grown men to hurling 4th-grade insults? Aside from the fact that they can't actually refute anything in his stories...)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 12:45pm

      Literal forth graders

      I think this is about people generally not learning to discuss things at above a forth-grade level.

      My experience with the internet is that this is typical, though I have presumed that not all of them are actually forth graders.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 11:44am

    It is just a little sad....

    Not if Mr.Key doesn't win; that would be great, but that it has to be done in this way. I kind of feel like this is the dirty way to reveal something right before an election, even if it is true.
    I know it is probably the only way to change things but still i feel like we are using their tactics: the blitz attack. It just shouldn't be necessary in a real democratic society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Sep 2014 @ 12:47pm

      Re: It is just a little sad....

      Well, see where the alternative leads: Humphrey found out just before the election that challenger Nixon had secretly negotiated to have the Korea war prolonged in order to have the incumbent look bad.

      Since polls indicated Humphrey was going to win the election, he decided not to publicize Nixon's clear-cut treason.

      The polls were wrong, Nixon went on to win the presidency. And he continued in style.

      Sorry, but there is no point to let those kinds of crime rest until after election. It is a disservice to keep the voters in the dark about things that deserve to let an enemy of the people lose an election.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 2:39pm

        Re: Re: It is just a little sad....

        Actually, that was Korean War.

        http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21768668

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re: It is just a little sad....

        No you are absolutely correct. I am not suggesting to wait with the story. I am actually just guessing here since it just seems convenient right before the election.
        What I was thinking of, was that if it is the case, they shouldn't hold stories back until just before the election.
        I would like to think that it is just a coincidence that the story was finished and published now, but we see this tactic all the time, so it's hard to trust the motives.
        Even if it was the case I also believe it to be ultimately for the better if this man was replaced, but I still wouldn't like the method.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 1:00pm

    the frightening thing is that just like the various 'Trade Deals' that keep coming into being, this new NZ law is being instigated by on for the benefit of the USA! what it's doing is trying to bring USA laws into other countries! what is even more frightening is that these other countries, UK, Canada, Australia as well as NZ are all doing what the USA wants and says, going against the wishes of their own peoples and when necessary bypassing them completely, just as the UK did when it's government wanted to bring in the new DRIP law! not only did it bring it in, it did so even though it broke EU laws on surveillance! talk about being two-faced and having double standards!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      "the frightening thing is that just like the various 'Trade Deals' that keep coming into being, this new NZ law is being instigated by on for the benefit of the USA"

      Close, but I think you're a little off-track here. The various trade deals and whatnot are not being instigated to benefit the USA (and they don't). They're being instigated to benefit multinational corporations and the extremely wealthy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 2:51pm

        Re: Re:

        Aye, never forget, the first people to suffer from fascist US government actions are the US people themselves.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Sep 2014 @ 2:19pm

      Re:

      what it's doing is trying to bring USA laws into other countries!

      More like trying to bring the U.S.' abject contempt for laws into other countries.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tracyanne (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 2:39pm

    I've been telling friends in NZ

    That they are being spied on, they told me to check my tin foil hat. It doesn't make me happy to be proven right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 3:25pm

    OK so you caught us. We spy. On you.

    But we do it for you. Well not you directly, we do it for multinational corporations mainly.

    But they do it for you.

    Well thats not entirely true I suppose.

    They do it for their shareholders.

    But the Shareholder do it for you. Actually that's an outright lie but there have been so many whats one more.

    Look their are terrorists everywhere.

    There's probably one under your bed right now. Don't bother checking they're probably armed. Oh you did check? There was nothing there?

    Hey hey lets just all calm down and forget about this.

    Or at the very least lets attack the messenger. Look at him and his henchmen. That Snowden gets my goat. he lives in Russia you know. He's a communist. i mean he has to live there because he said something his government doesn't like.

    Now thats the country I want to live in. Anyone says something you don't like. Bang, they're gone!!!

    And thank god for John Key.

    Cause that's where he's taking us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 15 Sep 2014 @ 3:25pm

    A case of "Methinks he dost protest too much." Then again our Prime Minister and his cronies are doing the same thing here in Australia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lostalaska (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 4:35pm

    What do you do when the facts speak for themselves...

    ...you give up on deflecting criticism and move directly to character assassination, maybe if you can undermine a persons credibility people will disregard the facts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 15 Sep 2014 @ 5:07pm

    Watch The Presentation

    I watched it here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    KevinEHayden (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 7:37pm

    Pot, Kettle, Black

    Key must be the biggest hypocrite going. He has the nerve to call Greenwald Kim Dotcom's little henchman while at the same time selling his own countrymen out to the NSA. That makes him the US's bought and paid for own little henchman.
    GET THIS NEWS OUT TO THE MAINSTREAM NZ PRESS NOW, BEFORE HE GETS RE-ELECTED!! This guy needs to be turfed out, then charged with treason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Raging Alcoholic, 15 Sep 2014 @ 8:42pm

    What in the "wide, wide world of sports" does the NSA have to do with New Zealand and the surveillance of its citizens. Are the Kiwis suddenly a hotbed of terrorism?

    If they know what we are doing all the time it is a lot easier to rule us. Except I don't want to be ruled. I will submit to government authority that I have had a hand in making but this is something much more nefarious. Where are our governments going with all this surveillance.

    In a war two things give one side an advantage. If they know what the other side is doing and if they can destroy the other sides ability to communicate.

    What does it all mean?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 9:19pm

      Re:

      I wonder what'll happen when automation reaches the point that a global population of billions isn't needed to get things done anymore? The rulers of the world are being increasingly blunt about the fact that they could care less about the general public. What will they do if and when they no longer need us? Mass genocide?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 9:39pm

        The Robot Labor Revolution

        I'd been wondering about that after CGP Grey's video Humans Need Not Apply* On one hand, we could see a post-scarcity world economy in our lifetime. On the other hand, the people with all the money may be too greedy to allow for that to happen without a lot of Michael Bay level explosions.

        * I'm too lazy to make a link right now but it's easy to Google and has its own Wikipedia entry.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Sep 2014 @ 12:42am

    An important point

    An important point was brought up during the presentation, and that was that the only legitimate reason to classify a document top secret was that if it had a direct connection to national security and the safety of the public. That is the only valid excuse to classify something would be if it's release would provide a direct threat to the public or the country. And yet...

    promising to "declassify and release top secret documents" that would prove his side of the story.

    With that statement, there's only two real possibilities. Either the documentation should never have been classified in the first place, and it was only classified in order to hide the actions of the government from the people, or, it was legitimately classified, and he's releasing it, despite the threat the information going public poses to the public, as nothing more than a political ploy to try and defend himself.

    It goes without saying that neither option makes Key look good.

    If this loser is going to come to town and try and tell me, five days before an election

    This? This all but reeks of desperation and lashing out at what he knows is a perfectly timed release.

    Releasing the information after the election wouldn't do any good, people might get upset, but unless it was so massive as to force him to resign, he could just weather it out.

    Releasing it months before the election likewise wouldn't do much good, as that gives them plenty of time to spin it in his favor, or just wait for the uproar to die out. Not exactly going to work very well.

    However, releasing the information less than a week before the election? Perfect timing. It will be fresh on people's minds, there's not enough time for him to effectively spin it or try and bury it under some other inconsequential distraction, both of these increase massively the odds that he can, at least in part, be held accountable for his actions and lies, by people refusing to vote for him and giving him the boot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tweak (profile), 16 Sep 2014 @ 9:07am

    One hopes that there is equivalent information in the Snowden files for the apparatus used to spy upon the American citizenry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2014 @ 3:05pm

    According to Snowden, what you have seen so far is only the icing on the cake, and the real nasty stuff about the US is yet to come.

    Stay tuned. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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