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New Zealand Plays “Follow the Leader” on spylaws


 

New
Zealanders often brag that their country is a world leader. They claim it was
first to create a welfare state and give suffrage to women. The 1984-1990 Labour
Government declared the country nuclear-free, while, according to the Economist,
it simultaneously set about “out-Thatchering Mrs Thatcher” by applying
textbook neoliberal economic theory on an unsuspecting New Zealand public to a
degree never seen in any other OECD country. Now, some rosy-spectacled
commentators like The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland claim that Helen Clark’s
Labour Party-led government, elected in 1999, is leading the world away from the
blind faith in the private sector and market dogma that has characterised so
many social democratic governments worldwide.

Whatever
the truth of such claims, when it comes to state surveillance and its security
and intelligence legislation, this wannabe “world leader” is as meek as a
lamb, doing the bidding of its Big Brothers in the USA, the UK, Australia and
Canada.

A
New Zealand Parliamentary committee is considering submissions on the first part
of legislative changes necessary to give New Zealand Police and intelligence
agencies new powers to hack computers, and intercept emails, faxes and pager
messages. State surveillance agencies are specifically exempted from the
amendment’s provisions, sold to the public as a benign anti-computer
hacking/electronic crime measure.

For
all the local intelligence community’s obsession with monitoring
“foreign-influenced” activities, a “foreign hand” lurks behind the
latest changes. They are largely motivated by US pressure to standardise and
synchronise global methods and capabilities for intercepting electronic
communications to assist its own intelligence operations.

Together
with proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act, requiring internet
service providers and telephone companies to install equipment and software so
that their systems can be intercepted, the proposed law change closely resembles
Britain’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. This compels all Internet
service providers operating in Britain to be connected to a new MI5 email
interception centre, and to hand over encryption keys so that all messages can
be read. A dedicated centre may not be built in New Zealand, but the effect will
be the same.

The
government is denying links between the new law and FBI plans to make other
countries adopt its requirements for surveillance of electronic communications.
But Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Fitzharris admits that “proposed
legislative changes would bring New Zealand into conformity with most, if not
all, of the International User Requirements” – which are virtually identical
to those promoted by the FBI since 1992. Local police say that they know of no
instances where a crime had been plotted using email, and that criminals would
be cautious about what they said online.

New
Zealand intelligence agencies have been subject to unwelcome attention recently.
In 1996 Wellington activist/researcher Nicky Hager released his
internationally-acclaimed book “Secret Power”. This exposed New Zealand’s
role in an integrated international electronic and signals intelligence network,
governed by the secret UKUSA intelligence agreement between the USA, UK, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand. It highlighted the Echelon project, involving
satellite interception spybases in these five countries automatically and
continuously searching for key words in billions of messages. New Zealand’s
Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) sends raw material that it
collects directly to the NSA.

Since
1988, protest camps and demonstrations near the GCSB’s Defence Satellite
Communications Unit, the Waihopai spybase in the sparsely-populated South
Island, have demanded its closure, and the GCSB’s abolition. Waihopai’s
function includes spying on the international communications of South Pacific
nations.

New
Zealand has always obediently played a junior role in the Western alliance,
cooperating with the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK. In 1956, the NZ Security
Intelligence Service (SIS) was established after pressure from Britain, its
organisation strongly influenced by MI5.

During
the Cold War, like their western counterparts, New Zealand intelligence and
security agencies served to protect an ideology which was anti-communist,
anti-Soviet, and anti-Third World liberation. The SIS conducted investigations
of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the anti-apartheid movement which grew
throughout the 1970s, peaking with mass mobilisations throughout the country
during the 1981 South African rugby team’s New Zealand tour. It spied on trade
unionists, students, academics, diplomats, political refugees, and others.

The
New Zealand Police Criminal Intelligence Service (CIS) grants itself a broad
mandate to collect information on people on the basis of their political
beliefs, and views formed by police intelligence officers that their activities
may potentially involve a breach of the criminal law. Their work in this area
has much in common with political elements in police forces elsewhere which
routinely monitor, harass and criminalise political organisers and activities.
The CIS and the SIS liaise closely.

Political
and technical information about “subversion” and “counter-subversion”
was routinely shared among western security and intelligence agencies during the
Cold War and no doubt continues. After the Cold War these agencies have
struggled to justify their continued existence and budgets by constructing other
threats to “security”.

Targets
clearly include opponents of globalisation and neo-liberal economic policies,
Maori (Indigenous Peoples) advocating the right to self-determination, and some
migrant communities. One newspaper editorial commented: “The state religion
changes from anti-communism to free trade, but the secret priesthood can still
carry on persecuting unbelievers”

In
July 1996 two SIS officers were interrupted breaking into my house while I was
organising a conference opposed to corporate globalisation, two days before an
APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Trade Ministers Meeting began in
Christchurch. The break-in occurred two weeks after a law change assuring us
that the SIS would not institute surveillance of anyone engaged in lawful
advocacy, protest or dissent. The same amendment contained a controversial
redefinition of security. It added the “making of a contribution to New
Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being” to an existing
“protection of New Zealand from acts of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and
subversion, whether or not they are directed from or intended to be committed
within New Zealand”.

Security
agencies have long interpreted “subversion” to justify spying on movements,
organisations and individuals promoting social, political and economic ideas
perceived to challenge dominant social or economic interests. But critics of the
1996 amendment argued that the redefinition of “security” gave the SIS a
carte blanche to spy on opponents of unregulated foreign investment and free
trade, and on Maori who challenged the policies, practices and authority of the
New Zealand government at home and in international forums like the UN. Auckland
University law professor Jane Kelsey wrote that “changes to the definition of
“security” seem designed to secure a further closure of debate….The very
essence of a democratic society is that it secures the best possible outcome for
its people through freedom of speech and a genuine contest of ideas. It appears
that the …government feels unable to sustain the status quo in the face of
free and open debate, and is attempting to intimidate and monitor those who
threaten to get in its way.”

I
subsequently brought a landmark civil case against the Government, charging the
SIS with trespass and unreasonable search in breach of the New Zealand Bill of
Rights Act, maintaining that the SIS had no legal right of entry into private
property. In December 1998 the Court of Appeal found in my favour, ruling the
break-in illegal. In reply, the then National Party Government – aided by the
Labour opposition, rushed through legislation expanding the powers of the SIS by
allowing them to enter private property, and retrospectively approved all other
SIS break-ins between 1977 and 1999.

In
February 1999, the SIS paid for Dame Stella Rimington, former head of
Britain’s MI5 to fly to Wellington as an expert witness to support the
proposed law change giving the SIS powers of entry. She said that without the
power to enter property to install listening devices, the SIS could not play a
full part in the international intelligence community. Later that month, FBI
director Judge Louis Freeh visited Wellington to discuss APEC security
arrangements with the SIS, Police and the Prime Minister.

Despite
public opposition, the law was passed before New Zealand’s biggest ever
security operation for September 1999′s APEC Summit. The definition of
“security” was meaninglessly tweaked in a cosmetic exercise to dispel
concerns about its breadth.

Then,
last May, two dozen trade unions, community organisations, academics, religious
and political leaders called for a parliamentary inquiry into the Police CIS’s
role in targeting political organisations and activists.

This
followed a High Court case brought by university lecturer David Small against
the Police, following police searches – purportedly for “bomb-making
equipment” of our respective homes within days of his discovering the botched
SIS break-in. In evidence, CIS officers admitted photographing participants at a
fund-raising quiz night and peaceful demonstrations, watching my home and
workplace, and monitoring attendance at meetings on globalisation and other
social justice concerns, over a period of many years. They had actively assisted
the SIS in covering up their botched break-in. One CIS officer claimed that Dr
Small had first come to his attention in the 1980s, through writing articles
about Pacific independence issues – hardly evidence of potential criminality.

Maori
nationalists have clearly been under surveillance. In 1997 the houses of two
Maori lawyers advocating indigenous sovereignty were broken into at exactly the
same time in different cities. The only material disturbed in both instances
were papers about constitutional change in New Zealand already in the public
domain. In 1999, the Wellington Maori Legal Service revealed that an independent
security firm had swept its offices and found that phonecalls were being
intercepted externally. Maori lawyer and activist Annette Sykes also discovered
that her phones were being tapped and a location-tracing device placed on her
car. The Police and SIS stayed silent. Maori Legal Service solicitor Taki Anaru
said he was sure that the SIS was bugging several Maori nationalists “because
the definition of national security is so broad these days”.

New
Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies remain tightlipped about their
current targets and their interest in electronic communications between
activists. But a August 2000 Canadian Security Intelligence Service report,
“Anti-Globalization – A Spreading Phenomenon” advocated “careful
monitoring” of Internet communications between individuals and groups opposed
to globalisation “to determine the intentions and goals of demonstrators, and
to forestall unexpected incidents.” In recent years, Canadian and Australian
state surveillance operations targetting Indigenous Peoples’ organisations
have attracted unwelcome publicity.

Behind
its image as a country which bravely took on the USA over the nuclear issue, New
Zealand remains a willing junior subcontractor in the Western Alliance’s
international intelligence gathering and surveillance network. For an
administration founded on colonisation and the dispossession of Maori, and still
wedded to market economic fundamentalism, domestically, those who challenge
dominant colonial and economic orthodoxies and their overseas networks are
clearly considered fair game for surveillance.

In
its bid to further expand SIS, Police and GCSB powers, Clark’s government is
sidestepping some uncomfortable questions about these agencies’ roles in
monitoring and managing domestic dissent. Modelled on Blair’s New Labour,
(which has just enacted the draconian Terrorism Act 2000) it warmly embraces
Third Way politics – aka “globalisation with a smiley face”. It seems
equally committed to maintaining and extending the national security state
apparatus, and willingly complies with the wishes of its senior intelligence
partners in the US and the UK. For all the rhetoric, it is hard to distinguish
between New Zealand’s largest political parties, Labour and National, on
security and intelligence matters. Together, they have the numbers in Parliament
to push the law change through.

Many
New Zealanders count sheep to get to sleep. But New Zealand’s national
security state is still helping its Western Alliance buddies count political
dissidents.

 

 

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