Intelligence merge is not new

In all but name the Intelligence Review recommended a merge of the key NZ intelligence agencies. The proposal put forward by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy was to consolidate legislation governing the GCSB and NZSIS.

This idea is not new. In 2009 there was talk of merging the intelligence agencies. A Treasury official’s notebook had been found in central Wellington and in the pages were notes about a merge. At the time John Key confirmed a merge of the intelligence agencies was an option, “I drove the decision to have a look (at how they operate) because there is quite a bit of crossover.”  Value for money was also an issue he said. (The Murdoch Report was the result of this review)

Dollar value is a driving force and has already seen the building of the one-stop intelligence building, Pipitea House, in downtown Wellington. Continue reading Intelligence merge is not new

Saturday 26 March – Surveillance Film Festival continues

Saturday’s schedule includes both Kathleen Kuehn and Nicky Hager joining us at different times to help discuss surveillance.
  Poster

Saturday’s schedule is:
11:00 am – The Program (8mins) and ABC Secret Room (9mins) – Nicky Hager will be present for a talk after these two short films
12:30 pm – Operation 8 (110mins)
3:00 pm – Every Step You Take (65mins) – followed by a chat with Kathleen Kuehn about the ubiquitousness of surveillance
5:30 pm – Maintenance of Silence (20mins)
7:00 pm – The Lives of Others (137mins)

The Program and ABC News, Secret Room (2012 & 2008)
William Binney and Mark Klein are names that should be familiar. They are whistleblowers who spoke about mass surveillance prior to Snowden’s revelations. The info was out there for us, but so many chose not to listen. Why didn’t we want to know about the surveillance then? Why are we already ignoring Snowden’s revelations?

Operation 8: Deep in the Forest (2011) 110mins
Eight years ago in October dawn raids woke many people, people were briefly jailed and allegations of terrorism were thrown about based on evidence gained by surveillance. This country has a long history of surveillance, see how it was used in this most public case to hinder and control people and think about what is happening now.

Every Step You Take (2007) 65mins
CCTV and face recognition are examples of surveillance to keep people safe. Ten years ago the technology shocked, now it is old. How quick does it all change and how accepting do we become?

Maintenance of Silence (1985) 20mins
Awareness of surveillance seemed to be more common a few decades ago. Tens of thousands protested against the expansion of police and SIS powers, later the Wanganui Computer was bombed. Then Neil Roberts left the quote from Junta Tuitiva of La Paz, ‘We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity’. What does our silence now resemble?

The Lives of Others (2006) 137mins
Surveillance and oppression on the other side of the iron curtain has been a favourite subject for a lot of films. But how different is that past from the future here?

 

Surveillance Film Festival Starts Today – Friday 25 March

 

The Surveillance Film Festival begins today with a screening of Farenheit 451.

Friday 25th March, –  6pm at Thistle Hall, upper Cuba StPoster

Ray Bradbury’s ‘Farenheit 451‘ is set in a society at war, a war that is easily ignored as only distance noise that always affects other people. Surveillance is total with people living only for the present. The majority of citizens are mindless drones living for instant gratification, they are plugged into ear buds or watching screens. News is controlled in censored second long bites, deep-thinking and analysis don’t happen. War economy rules. Sound sort of familiar?

We too live in a society where war is the norm and the majority of us too, can to easily ignore it. Instead we allow ourselves to be salved by technology and Facebook and Selfies and instant gratification on-line.

Our world is closely surveilled and we are too willing to be part of it.

Come and join Stop the Spies for some cinematic fun and a wee bit of paranoia under your skin – today at 6pm, Thistle Hall, Wellington.

Saturday’s schedule includes both Kathleen Kuehn and Nicky Hager joining us at different times to help discuss surveillance.

Saturday’s schedule is:
11:00 am – The Program (8mins) and ABC Secret Room (9mins) – Nicky Hager will be present for a talk after these two short films
12:30 pm – Operation 8 (110mins)
3:00 pm – Every Step You Take (65mins) – followed by a chat with Kathleen Kuehn about the ubiquitousness of surveillance
5:30 pm – Maintenance of Silence (20mins)
7:00 pm – The Lives of Others (137mins)

For brief blurbs about each film, visit OASIS

Surveillance Film Festival in Wellington this Weekend

Join the Stop the Spies crew for some cinematic fun & a wee bit of paranoia under your skin!

Poster

Has the portrayal of surveillance in films caught up with us? Dystopian Big Brother films from the past show glimpses of a present reality. Spy films and the machinations of spy paraphernalia capture our imagination with fantastical technology. Stasi and Cold War intelligence policing methods shock and titillate people. But Edward Snowden’s revelations opened many eyes to the ubiquitous world of mass surveillance right here and now.

The Surveillance Film Festival is an opportunity to explore the portrayal of surveillance in films and documentaries and ponder the reality of surveillance in our lives today.

Come and enjoy some films and see where the discussion takes us.

Venue: Thistle Hall, 293 Cuba St, Wellington City

Friday 25th March

6:00 pm – Farenheit 451 (112mins) Then onwards for after-film discussion and drinks at the Southern Cross.

Saturday 26th March

11:00 am – The Program (8mins) and ABC Secret Room (9mins)
Nicky Hager will be present for a talk after these two short films

12:30 pm – Operation 8 (110mins)

3:00 pm – Every Step You Take (65mins)
followed by a chat with Kathleen Kuehn about the ubiquitousness of surveillance

5:30 pm – Maintenance of Silence (20mins)

7:00 pm – The Lives of Others (137mins)

Media release: ISC received People’s Review of the Intelligence Services

ISC received People’s Review of the Intelligence Services

Tuesday, 1st March February 2016
Media Release: Stop the Spies

Prime Minister and Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) John Key and fellow members of ISC have been sent the People’s Review of the Intelligence Services today.

The People’s Review was commissioned by Stop the Spies, a coalition consisting of community and civil society groups across Aotearoa New Zealand.
In comparison with Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy’s Intelligence Review, the People’s Review is independent.

“Many people saw the Government’s review of the intelligence agencies as hobbled before it even began. A Dominion Post editorial even went as far as describing the two reviewers as ‘not fit for the task’,” says Stop the Spies member Thomas Beagle.

Unlike the government commissioned review, public meetings were held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and email submissions were also received. The People’s Review was successful in soliciting a wide range of views from ordinary people in New Zealand about the operations of the intelligence services.

The resulting People’s Review shows deeply seated concerns about NZ’s membership in the Five Eyes network and the legitimacy of the GCSB and SIS.
There was widespread distrust of the spy agencies. See the full People’s Review.

“The government needs to understand that people are not happy with the intelligence community. Fundamental change and a curtailing of the agencies’ activities are needed rather than the ineffectual reforms and law changes that are expected as a result of the flawed Cullen/Reddy review.”

The ISC will meet on 8 March 2016 to consider the reports and determine when they will be tabled in Parliament.

Contact:

Thomas Beagle (021-805040, thomas@nzccl.org.nz)

Stop the Spies

Surveillance Film Festival (Wgtn)

Has the portrayal of surveillance in films caught up with us? Dystopian
Big Brother films from the past show glimpses of a present reality. Spy
films and the machinations of spy paraphernalia capture our imagination
with fantastical technology. Stasi and Cold War intelligence policing
methods shock and titillate people. But Edward Snowden’s revelations
opened many eyes to the ubiquitous world of mass surveillance right here
and now.

The Surveillance Film Festival is an opportunity to explore the
portrayal of surveillance in films and documentaries and ponder the
reality of surveillance in our lives today.

Come and enjoy some films and see where the discussion takes us.

Venue: Thistle Hall, Upper Cuba, Wellington City

Friday 25th March

6:00 pm – Farenheit 451 (112mins)

Then onwards for after-film discussion and drinks at a local pub.

Saturday 26th March

11:00 am – The Program (8mins) and ABC Secret Room (9mins)

12:30 pm – Operation 8 (110mins)

3:00 pm – Every Step You Take (65mins)

5:30 pm – Maintenance of Silence (20mins)

7:00 pm – The Lives of Others (137mins)

The films

Farenheit 451 (1966) 112mins
In Bradbury’s dystopian future most people are mindless drones living
for instant gratification, they’re plugged into multi-media worlds with
television screens everywhere. News is controlled in censored bites,
deep-thinking and analysis don’t happen. War economy rules. Sound sort
of familiar?

The Program and ABC News, Secret Room (2012 & 2008) 17 mins
William Binney and Mark Klein are names that should be familiar. They
are whistleblowers who spoke about mass surveillance prior to Snowden’s
revelations. The info was out there for us, but so many chose not to
listen. Why didn’t we want to know about the surveillance then? Why are
we already ignoring Snowden’s revelations?

Operation 8: Deep in the Forest (2011) 110mins
Eight years ago in October dawn raids woke many people, people were
briefly jailed and allegations of terrorism were thrown about based on
evidence gained by surveillance. This country has a long history of
surveillance, see how it was used in this most public case to hinder and
control people and think about what is happening now.

Every Step You Take (2007) 65mins
CCTV and face recognition are examples of surveillance to keep people
safe. Ten years ago the technology shocked, now it is old. How quick
does it all change and how accepting do we become?

Maintenance of Silence (1985) 20mins
Awareness of surveillance seemed to be more common a few decades ago.
Tens of thousands protested against the expansion of police and SIS
powers, later the Wanganui Computer was bombed. Then Neil Roberts left
the quote from Junta Tuitiva of La Paz, ‘We have maintained a silence
closely resembling stupidity’. What does our silence now resemble?

The Lives of Others (2006) 137mins
Surveillance and oppression on the other side of the iron curtain has
been a favourite subject for a lot of films. But how different is that
past from the future here?

 

Media Release: Race relations & human rights commissioners should discipline John Key

“Prime Minister John Key’s questioning of SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge at yesterday’s Intelligence Committee hearing about so-called ‘jihadi brides’ was racist fearmongering of the worst sort. His comment was also sexist and derogatory to women. Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy and Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford should publicly denounce the Prime Minister’s attempts to stir up racial hatred and entrench sexist stereotypes of Muslim women,” said Valerie Morse from the Stop the Spies coalition.

“The Prime Minister is intentionally breeding hatred and fear in New Zealand. He is using this fear to justify ever-greater expansions of power to the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). His racist demagoguery is a tried and true strategy for securing public consent for ever-more invasive and repressive surveillance.

“Key is very clever about his racist and sexist remarks, but let’s make no mistake that is exactly what they are. He is painting a picture of Muslim women as an oppressed, subservient people who need the West to come and save them. Prior to the US invasion in 2003, Iraq was one of the most advanced countries in the Middle East with extremely high levels of education and participation of women across society. That country has been destroyed, with the help of troops from New Zealand, and the enslavement of women there now must be understood as a direct consequence of the US-led war. Much of the same could be said of Syria where the US has been fighting a proxy war for the past 5 years.

“The government’s so-called ‘intelligence review’ is due in February, and Prime Minister Key has already signaled that changes expanding the powers of both agencies are on the cards. The Stop the Spies Coalition calls instead for the closure of the GCSB and the SIS. Throughout the West, there is growing Islamophobia fed by this racist rhetoric. The Prime Minister is feeding this and playing a very dangerous game. People in New Zealand have very good reasons to be distrustful of the spy agencies, and we need to see this government propaganda for what it is.”

IGIS Report Confirms we Must Stop the Spies

“The IGIS’ annual report only confirms that the spy agencies can’t be trusted,” said Anna Thorby from Stop the Spies. “This report is effectively the state admitting what we already know: GCSB surveillance information is targeted by partner agencies, communications from New Zealand are intercepted, and ‘accidental’ interception of NZ communications by a partner agency does occur.

“The report particularly highlights failures of the SIS, this is not new. The SIS has a long history of breaking the law and surveilling anyone who dares to try and rock the boat.

“In this report the SIS is revealed to be badly managed with an inability to do one of its core activities, security clearances, in a well organised and fair way. The SIS also failed to follow the law when using its new visual surveillance powers, and even kept this failure secret from the Minister who was meant to be providing oversight.

“The IGIS’ annual report is meant to alleviate our concerns about the intelligence world, but in effect it confirms that the intelligence community operates in a world unto itself,” said Thorby.

“Despite consistent reviews over previous years stating that the intelligence agencies need to learn to follow policy and procedures and work within the law, the IGIS report highlights that nothing has changed: the agencies have difficulties following rules and regulations.

“The strengthening of the role of the IGIS was a ploy by the National government to deflect public outrage from the revelations of wide-spread surveillance by the intelligence agencies and NZ’s role in the Five-Eyes. But like the on-going Intelligence Review headed by former deputy-PM Michael Cullen and lawyer Patsy Reddy, it is all part of a PR exercise to ensure public faith in these agencies. This is confirmed in the recently published ‘top-secret’ in-coming Ministers brief:’…critically, we need to build public trust and confidence in the intelligence community.’

“Stop the Spies has adopted a no compromise position that these agencies should be disestablished. For us, these agencies are political police and the official revelations in the IGIS’s report only make that more stark. Moreover, these agencies are anti-democratic. They determine threats based on a set of assumptions about the legitimacy of the current system. The fact that a sitting member of parliament was a continued target of SIS surveillance shows just exactly how that set of assumptions plays out. Because when the state invokes ‘national security’ or ‘NZ security’ what it really means is the security of those who have power to maintain that power. It is a deeply political term – there is no politically neutral ‘national security’ – and under the current economic and political paradigm in this country, the continuation of security for some is at the expense of security for others.”

The Stop the Spies coalition calls for the closure of the GCSB, the closure of the SIS, and for New Zealand to get out of the 5 eyes.

On GCSB propaganda and other issues

GCSB Director Una Jagose cancelled her speech after our protest action describing it as a “Five Eyes propaganda exercise”.

Why did we refer to the speech by GCSB Director Una Jagose as a “propaganda exercise”?

The majority of the GCSB’s efforts (and historically over 90% of their budget) is spent on spying on neighbouring countries in the Pacific as well as some in Asia and South America on behalf of the Five Eyes spy network.

Doing public addresses on the cyber-defence part of their job while deliberately avoiding the rest of its work gives the public a distorted impression of the GCSB’s mission. This counts as propaganda.

The GCSB has been totally unwilling to address any of the issues raised by the Snowden leaks or any of the other issues that have come to light in the past three years. These include:

  • NZ supplying intelligence to the Bangladeshi Security Services (who have a well documented reputation for violating human rights and torturing activists).
  • The GCSB supplying all captured information to and accessing XKeyscore, a database that allows virtually unlimited access to the electronic communications of everyone online.
  • The GCSB supplying intelligence for drone strikes, possibly against NZ citizens.
  • The GCSB’s illegal surveillance of 88 New Zealanders.
  • the GCSB spying on the political rivals of Trade Minister Tim Groser for a job at the World Trade Organisation.

We also note that the wave of recent activity in the media from both the SIS and the GCSB to coincide with the Intelligence Review. Is there anyone who doesn’t believe that this is part of a concerted media campaign to influence public opinion?

The spy agencies haven’t undertaken this public relations campaign because they care about openness. If they did, they would address the issues we have outlined above. Instead they have undertaken it because so much damning information about their work has come to light in the past three years that they have been forced to undertake a media offensive in an attempt to create a positive public perception of their work.

But the cyber-defence material is new and they’re finally telling us about it, isn’t that worth hearing about?

We believe that the GCSB is the wrong agency to be charged with the cyber-defence role. The cyber-security role should be moved to a different agency

Firstly, the GCSB work under overly-stringent levels of security and therefore we end up with this farcical “openness” for material that we should already have access to. Cyber-security is not like spying and requires cooperation and openness more than secrecy.

Secondly, we don’t believe that an agency in charge of spying can also be charged with cyber-security. The two roles are incompatible – will they ever recommend security measures that will stop their own ability to spy?

We note that the text of Una Jagose’s speech could now be requested under the Official Information Act and there would be no security grounds to refuse it.

Doesn’t Stop the Spies want more openness from the GCSB?

We want the GCSB to be closed down.

We don’t think that New Zealand should be spying on our neighbours on behalf of the Five Eyes. We support New Zealand having an independent foreign policy and acting with decency and respect towards friendly nations in the Pacific, South America and Asia.

The GCSB has no democratic mandate, nor does the Five Eyes treaty. The treaty has never been debated in Parliament, and the formation of the GCSB was conducted entirely in secret. The committee that “overseas” the work of the GCSB is not a Parliamentary select committee, but rather a special committee under the control of the Prime Minister – and even that committee has no right to know anything “operational” about the agency, effectively rendering any idea of oversight totally meaningless.

Even with significantly increased powers of oversight, we do not believe that this agency can be meaningfully held to account since those who would be doing the oversight would, by the very nature of the security-clearance required, be someone already part of the security structure.

Isn’t it good that the Privacy Commissioner is helping the GCSB be more open?

The Privacy Commissioner has an important role in New Zealand society. However, it is important that the Commissioner should not only be independent but be seen to be independent.

Organising this talk, alongside the recent public statements by the Privacy Commissioner in favour of the agencies, seems to show that the Commissioner has been captured by some of the agencies he should be providing oversight of. The Privacy Commission is legitimising a spy agency whose primary goal is diametrically opposed to the idea of people being able to keep their personal information private.

The Privacy Commissioner should be asking some hard questions of the GCSB in light of all of the information that we know about both targeted surveillance of New Zealanders, and mass surveillance. The Privacy Commissioner should be the country’s staunchest defender of personal privacy against intrusions by any and all government and private agencies.