By Patrick Brogan
New Zealand, an island nation known for its rugby, the location of the Lord of the Rings film franchise and the birthplace of Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Mount Everest. However, there is something going on there that we should all pay attention to. It is part of a wider pattern of something very troubling; nations spying on their own citizens at America’s behest.
Like most liberal democracies, the Land of the Long White Cloud has a lot going for it. A creative, multi-cultural society, with beautiful vistas and it has a unique and proud indigenous society. In the 2015 Human Development Index report, the last completed one, it came 9th. In terms of media, it’s up there with the best according to Reporter Sans Frontiéres.
Although the Kiwi media is ranked 5th best in the world by the organisation, it is not without its own problems as reported on their site; “Media freedom thrives in New Zealand but is not entirely exempt from political pressure. The issue of whistleblowers and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources continues to be debated. And the media continue to demand changes to the Official Information Act, which obstructs the work of journalists by allowing government agencies a long time to respond and even makes journalists pay several hundred dollars for the requested information.”
The beautiful scenery New Zealand is known for. This picture and featured image are from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/
GCSB and US Intelligence
Indeed, this restriction on information does not appear to be a two-way street. Governments getting information on ordinary people seems to be much easier than journalists getting a hold of valuable data that is in the public interest. New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is part of the Five Eyes Alliance. This alliance “is a secretive, global surveillance arrangement” between the major English speaking nations of the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Each of their cyber security services shares information that is beneficial to the others. Apart from that, not a whole lot is known about it. What we do know is that this organisation doesn’t always carry out the best practices. As RT reported, the Canadians are temporarily halting its engagements after it gave the NSA metadata about Canadian citizens. This lack of transparency has a lot of Kiwis worried, too. More can be read on this site.
For this reason, Kim Dotcom arranged The Moment of Truth. This meeting in Auckland included Glenn Greenwald, Kim Dotcom himself and even Julian Assange and Edward Snowden through video link. All were concerned about the New Zealand Government’s involvement with the Five Eyes and how much GCSB was spying on its own people. The Guardian covered the event and it can be viewed on The Tube of You. It was no coincidence that the event was staged five days before the General Election.
New Zealand is part of the international cyber chess game. Courtsey of http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/
Kim Dotcom was born Kim Schmitz in Germany to a German father and Finnish mother. He later changed his name to Dotcom in honour of the internet and just to be cool. He then moved to Kiwiland and became a legal resident. During his time there, the Auckland police raided his mansion on behalf of the FBI. Late in 2015, a judge ruled that Dotcom could be extradited to the US on charges of copyright infringement and money laundering through his site Megaupload.
Where Dotcom becomes involved with Snowden and Greenwald is the GCSB illegally spied on him. Whether he is guilty or not, this evidence should be inadmissible in a court. Yet, a number of judges in New Zealand don’t seem to have an issue with it. Since his arrest, Dotcom has become a campaigner against mass surveillance and even founded The Internet Party to protect internet freedom and security.
Edward Snowden said he had access to millions of New Zealanders' information. Courtesy of https://pixabay.com/
What this does highlight is that New Zealand and its citizens have a major issue here. Edward Snowden said that through a tool he used called X-KEYSCORE he and the US intelligence services had access to information on millions of Kiwis. Former Prime Minister John Key has been criticised a number of times for bringing in legislation that paved the way for intelligences services to spy on the people he is supposed to represent. He claims this legislation was designed to clear up ambiguities within the law, but the Law of Society of New Zealand disagreed and went to the United Nations to complain the new laws impinged upon peoples’ rights.
In recent weeks, Snowden’s claim that the NSA had bases on the island nation have been proved to be true. Why do the Americans feel the need to spy on what is a friendly nation and an old ally? The base in Tangimoana, just up the coast from Wellington near an air force base, was built in the early 80s.
The worrying thing is these are hardly new stories. The brilliant Kiwi journalist Nicky Hagar wrote a book on this very subject called Secret Power, New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network back in 1996. This can be downloaded for free from his site. Clearly, the political will to stop this is not in the major parties and you would have to question what they are gaining from allowing the Americans to take its citizens information. What did John Key gain from bringing in acts that gave permission to a foreign power to spy on the very people that elected him?
“What we don’t know is usually what gets us killed.” A great line that from Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones. Perhaps this is the mantra the America intel community lives by. This has spawned a level of paranoia Caligula would be proud of. Really, though, this is about power. Information is powerful and the Americans are nearly God-like at this stage. New Zealand has to my knowledge never attacked the US and so they should have no reason to spy on them other than the pursuit of hegemonic domination.
A Thousand Pieces
If New Zealand is being spied on it is only reasonable to ask the question if the rest of the Fives Eyes nations are under the same invasive practices. And what about the rest of America’s so-called allies? Well, we already know they spy on them too because Wikileaks has already shown us the evidence. Diplomacy with the States is like a Trojan horse. Meanwhile, the supposed bad guys like bin Laden and ISIS are allowed act with impunity until it is too late. As Snowden pointed out and presented us with ample evidence, security and intelligence are directed at suppression of the people, not protecting them. JFK had a good idea when he said he wanted to smash the CIA into a thousand pieces and cast it to the wind. Look what happened him.
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