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.
Filed Under: ed snowden, gcsb, glenn greenwald, insults, john key, kim dotcom, metadata, surveillance, truth