Snowden Docs: New Zealand Spying On Friendly Neighboring Countries For The NSA

from the Five-Eyes-but-one-master dept

More Snowden docs have been released, covering the extent of GCSB's (New Zealand's intelligence agency) spying on supposedly "friendly" island nations. As is par for the course for intelligence programs, the documents show massive bulk collections of data and communications -- all of which are immediately shared with the other members of the "Five Eyes" club.
Since 2009, the Government Communications Security Bureau intelligence base at Waihopai has moved to "full-take collection", indiscriminately intercepting Asia-Pacific communications and providing them en masse to the NSA through the controversial NSA intelligence system XKeyscore, which is used to monitor emails and internet browsing habits.
This sort of spying -- while apparently "normal," in light of previously-released documents -- indicates many governments enjoy spying for spying's sake, rather than for the justifications they often offer in defense of untargeted surveillance.
The documents, provided by US whistleblower whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal that most of the targets are not security threats to New Zealand, as has been suggested by the Government.

Instead, the GCSB directs its spying against a surprising array of New Zealand's friends, trading partners and close Pacific neighbours. These countries' communications are supplied directly to the NSA and other Five Eyes agencies with little New Zealand oversight or decision-making, as a contribution to US worldwide surveillance.
New Zealand's intelligence agency, along with Prime Minister John Key, have previously refused to acknowledge or deny the use of the NSA's XKeyscore system. A short blurb from the obtained documents renders this Glomar null.


The wording indicates that GCSB is indeed using this system for its collections, which are then immediately accessible to the NSA. NSA analysts must first read through an online ("iLearn") briefing on NZ law and answer a few questions correctly before they're allowed to search the collection.

The collection itself is impressive. It contains phone calls, text messages, emails and social media interactions. In the parlance of the Five Eyes intelligence agencies, this is "full-take," a far more intrusive form of surveillance than skimming metadata off the top.

Even though it's purportedly an anti-terrorism tool, the surrounding friendly nations have given New Zealand little reason to spy on them. But that's how the anti-terrorism game is played by spy agencies: everything from everyone, for as long as possible. What's not legal to "look at" in one country can always be used by another. The built-in "protections" for each nation's citizens are nearly useless, considering the breadth and depth of these untargeted collections. Incidental collections are a certainty, rather than an anomaly analysts should be wary of.

Whatever's being collected had better be doing a bang-up job keeping terrorists at bay. Prime Minister John Key has openly stated that sending his own citizens off to die is foreign warzones is just paying Five Eyes membership dues.
In his strongest hint yet that the Cabinet will approve a deployment of troops to train Iraqis alongside Australians, Mr Key in an interview with the BBC drew heavily on New Zealand pulling its weight as part of "a club".

"Ultimately are we going to say we are going to be part of a club like [we] are with Five Eyes intelligence?

"Even if the contribution is small - of course it will be proportional - there has to be some contribution," he said.

"It is the price of the club."
Of course, Key has also reassured New Zealand citizens that the GCSB isn't spying on them, betting his job against that probability.
Asked if he and GCSB chief Ian Fletcher would resign if there were mass surveillance, he said yes.

"But the facts of life are it won't happen."

For that to happen, the GCSB would have to undertake illegal activity.

He clarified later saying "both" would resign if there was mass surveillance.

"If I wholesale blatantly flout the law as Prime Minister I'm never going to survive anyway."
Key's hedges make it almost impossible to hold him to his promise. Domestic surveillance has been confirmed, both by these documents and previous revelations. The interception points and untargeted dragnet make it inevitable that New Zealanders' communications are being swept up indiscriminately. The problem is that this is likely legal. The only way to violate New Zealand's surveillance laws (and hold PM Key to his promise) is to find proof that GCSB is intentionally targeting its countrymen. By making surveillance programs broad and untargeted, the GCSB can avoid violating the law while still collecting a great deal of domestic data and communications. Minimization comes into play post-collection, but there's nothing built into the system to prevent -- or even minimize -- these "incidental" collections.

Whatever the GCSB offers in assurances about minimization should probably be ignored. It doesn't maintain any control over the communications it grabs. The collection belongs to the NSA. GCSB analysts have to run queries through the American agency just to see what it's gathered from its neighbors.
The documents show that when GCSB staff want to access communications intercepted at Waihopai, they have to log into NSA computer databases. Minutes of a June 2009 meeting at the NSA headquarters, where a GCSB officer was present, show how integrated the GCSB is into the NSA systems. The GCSB officer, manager of an intelligence analysis unit, told the meeting that 20 per cent of GCSB's analytic workforce did not have accounts or access to key NSA databases.
Because the GCSB doesn't control the database, it really can't destroy anything it shouldn't have access to. New Zealanders caught in this dragnet now "belong" to the NSA, which has very few minimization procedures for foreign collections -- even if the actual "collection" utilized another agency and occurred under another set of laws. GCSB analysts may constrain themselves from searching or viewing New Zealanders' communications, but it can't promise to delete unlawfully-obtained "incidental" collections.

It works out this way: the New Zealand government will provide military support -- including the deployment of troops -- in exchange for whatever the NSA allows it to look at. It provides the intercepts, but the NSA enjoys the greatest share of its "partner's" collection efforts. This hardly seems like an equitable exchange. And now New Zealand is going to be dealing with irritated neighboring countries and more than a few irate New Zealanders. And for what? A massive, untargeted collection that it doesn't even control and which does very little to aid in the country's anti-terrorism efforts.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 10:00am

    I wonder if this has anything to do with Dotcom and all the abuses NZ Govt incurred on the case. We are seeing what Snowden allowed us by his efforts. I suspect the hole is much, much deeper. It's one of those times where no conspiracy theory seems crazy enough...

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:15pm

      Re:

      I think DC should just give it up and head off to Brazil. There's no way anyone can get a fair trial these days, not when one of the parties to it can claim NatSec and not have to tell the court how they came up with evidence. Between that and parallel reconstruction, welcome to Spanish Inquisition 2.0.

      I was reading another story last night where whistleblower Binney admits he doesn't bother using crypto. There's no point in bothering with it when the NSA can, and will, just crack any system it pleases to to get at whatever it wants.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:48pm

        Re: Re:

        This is pretty much what I think as well. It's not that it's impossible to get a just trial in the US, it's that there's a substantial chance that you won't and if the government or a major corporation (but I repeat myself) is mad at you, your chances of a fair trial plummet.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 3:21pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If a corporation, or especially the government has it in for you, your chance of a fair trial don't plummet, they flat out don't exist.

          When one side is allowed to present unchallengable evidence that the defense isn't allowed to see because 'National Security', and use evidence laundering to make it all but impossible for the defense to challenge what evidence they can see, the defense doesn't have a chance.

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

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 3:54pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          For me, this is like seeing those "Superman Killed!!!111" comic books when I was a six year old kid. Between Petraeus/Panetta, HRC & email, NSA+Five Eyes, what they're doing to whistleblowers, and how R vs. D politics are *so* obnoxiously messy to watch, and all the other crazy !@#$ that's going on, ...

          Damn, I'm so sad for my old hero.

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

          • icon
            Padpaw (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 8:37am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I like to think of it as COBRA having infiltrated your government as opposed to them being corrupt evil people to begin with.

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

            • icon
              GEMont (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 8:12pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Imagine, if you will, a marriage between the US Federal Government (and its Military, Taxation, Justice and Spy Agencies) and the MAFIA (and their affiliates in the various drug, prostitution, gambling and insurance cartels), and you do indeed have Cobra, and a much better picture of the current situation on earth today.

              Why fight and likely lose when you can secretly join forces and definitely prosper, by pretending to fight and getting paid for it by the tax payers, while participating in the illegal activities of the "enemy" for a second even larger income?

              The word "Doh!" comes to mind.

              ---

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

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 6 Mar 2015 @ 11:11am

    Stunning

    That's a vast amount of trust to place in any foreign power, even a good ally. At a minimum, the NSA knows every query the NZ analysts make against the database. If they want to, of course, they can provide tailored results to lead those NZ analysts to the conclusions that best suit US interests.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2015 @ 11:22am

      Re: Stunning

      Imagine if it is already to the point where we all get tailored results and are actually in our own little bubble internet with select contacts allowed in.

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

  • identicon
    Ragnarredbeard, 6 Mar 2015 @ 11:26am

    And what is New Zealand"s reward for this cooperation? They get info on their own citizens - who they are not allowed to collect on - from the NSA. Quid pro Quo is alive and well.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2015 @ 11:45am

    The biggest global crime conspiracy to rule them all

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

  • icon
    MikeWestern (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:34pm

    Targeting all vs Targeting individuals

    When a player uses an effect that prevents targeting individual creatures or other permanents, it does not prevent the targeting of All creatures or All other permanents.

    For example:

    A 1/1 White Soldier (let's call him Snowden) might have "cannot be the target of Spy spells or effects" as a power.

    But a card that affected all creatures (Wrath of God, etc) would still destroy him.

    As would any effect that caused his his current player (Russia) to sacrifice him.

    These rules are detailed here, under targeted effects: http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/tcg/article.aspx?x=magic/rules

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2015 @ 1:22pm

      Re: Targeting all vs Targeting individuals

      Haven't played MTG in a while, sold all my double lands and the corresponding fetchers once on a whim because I wanted an electric guitar+amp again but that was funny.

      We still got humour guys, proletariat of the Five Eyes. It's not as bad as those poor slobs that were/are(?) tortured by the CIA (and there's much worse stuff than waterboarding).

      Just make an extract from apple seeds and put it in a gelcap that's readily available just in case.

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

  • icon
    tracyanne (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 8:36pm

    And for what?

    A massive, untargeted collection that it doesn't even control and which does very little to aid in the country's anti-terrorism efforts.

    And which may lead to it becoming a target of terrorism.

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 9:07am

      Re: And for what?

      And which, based on past experience, their massive untargeted collection will leave them wholly unprepared except to capitalize on cleaning up the resultant mess, leading to more intrusive massive untargeted collection ... Lather, rinse, repeat.

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

    • identicon
      qyiet, 8 Mar 2015 @ 2:45pm

      Re: And for what?

      So as John Key and his son can play golf with Barrack Obama mostly.

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 8:35am

    One would think that all these various countries cozying up to the USA would notice that allies of the states tend to be screwed over horribly when they stop being useful.

    Just look at Saddam and Iraq as the most glaring example I can think of.

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      The USA didn't invent this, nor are they the worst . The European colonial empires, the Romans, Egyptians, ... It's an old game. I'm disappointed the USA wasn't able to defend itself, so far. The fox got in, and us chickens are being ravaged.

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

      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 9 Mar 2015 @ 4:24am

        Re: Re:

        The USA couldn't be bothered to defend itself, the chickens have convinced themselves they're playing tag with the damn fox.

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

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 7:59pm

      Re:

      Actually, the US is dealing with individuals, not nations - US Taxpayer's cash in hand - and the deal come with an "If you're not with US, you're against US" sub-clause.

      So the crooks that hold foreign political office are simply taking the deal that pays the best, the soonest, and hoping they can get enough cash stashed away in their offshore accounts, that when the US comes to foreclose on the deal and squish their country like a bug, they can catch a ride on a Lear Jet to their castle in Spain and avoid the slaughter.

      Its an ancient story, oft retold.

      ---

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

  • icon
    calude (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 2:37pm

    Snowden Docs: New Zealand Spying On Friendly Neighboring Countries For The NSA

    Oh, my, this is not new, have you not heard of 5Eyes, yes 5 eyes member countries include New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and USA, which let member spy on each other countries citizens without interference for years. The plus here was if there was an arrest to be made by the home country they needed a subpoena to bring the case to court. Although now each of these countries are rewriting the law to spy on their own citizens which is a slippery slope of illegalities by their own governments and the hands that control them.

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

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 7:37pm

    Err... no.... I was born on Europa actually.

    Eventually, like falling off a log while asleep, most people are going to realize that the word Terrorist actually refers to anyone on earth that is not a part of the surveillance and extortion apparatus run by the gang of
    White English-Speaking cut-throats and con-men, known as the Five Eyes, and that the Terrorists that these governments keep referring to - Muslim Extremists, are in fact, little more than paid performers on the Five Eyes payroll, who dance before the camera to produce scary pictures that will hopefully frighten the populations of the Earth into willing slavery.

    Of course, given that we're talking about human beings, this realization will come years too late and the people will not know that there are others out there who also realize it because it will be illegal by then to discuss such things on any public or private non-government forum or medium, such as email or telephone.

    It is always astounding how my own species can embarrass me time and again, and each time more so than the time before.

    To err is human. To err repeatedly is human. To always err, even when its obvious that you're erring is human. To err because the guy next to you erred, is human. To err because its too frightening to not err, is human. To err because you just don't give a shit, is human.

    Homo Saps.

    C'est la vie eh.

    ---

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2015 @ 9:42am

    Obama is the darkest white man I have ever seen. Or are you just prejudiced against whites?

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

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 10 Mar 2015 @ 6:55pm

      Re:

      "Obama is the darkest white man I have ever seen. Or are you just prejudiced against whites?"

      I'll assume this is in response to:

      "...White English-Speaking cut-throats and con-men, known as the Five Eyes..."

      First, I am a white male, and second, yes, I've met more white jerks than all other races combined.

      We don't have the full deed to the Asshole Ranch yet, but we certainly do have a huge chunk of its real estate and are buying up more of it every year.

      But to the point: Obama is a rented Ringer, an employee.

      His employers are all White English Speaking Billionaires, who run both political parties as a very successful business model.

      His color made him perfect for the Not A Bush POTUS selection scam needed to get "their man" back in place to finish off all the fascist legal shenanigans that Bush2 had been hired to do, after Bush2 made it impossible to elect a Republican, even through a fixed vote, as nobody would have believed the results.

      An unknown Democrat-Hat-Wearing confidence man, who was definitely not a Bush, was needed for the job and Obama was the perfect candidate to carry the Fascist Torch back into office, for that necessary final burning of the constitution.

      Who on earth would have even suspected it possible that the infamously bigoted, black and woman denigrating Republicans would place a black man in the oval office?? The only thing less likely would have been them placing a black woman in the oval office.

      Especially since the hired Republican Pundits have all been doing their level best to make Obama look bad since the day he took office, exactly as everyone expected them to do.

      Nobody then and apparently, still nobody now.

      This is what is known in the business as a perfect scam.

      Of course, a fully dumbed-down and gullible population that believes God his-very-self chooses their POTUS, certainly helps in any confidence game.

      ---

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Home Cooking Is Killing Restaurants
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.