Kiwis have always been able to take comfort in their government’s insistence that it does not participate in the kind of wholesale blanket surveillance of its citizens that has become the hallmark of the US and UK governments thought their NSA and GHCQ spy organizations. However, the fact that New Zealand, with its own spy organization, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), is a member of the English speaking Five Eyes alliance should have set alarm bells ringing.
In an article for The Intercept yesterday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden wrote,
‘Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.
The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.’
As part of his full time job working for the NSA in Hawaii, Mr Snowden ‘routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE”.’
In order to support this claim, Mr Snowden has made NSA slides and documents relating to XKEYSCORE available online, and invited New Zealanders to confirm the facts for themselves. He drew particular attention to a simple checkbox known as ‘Five Eyes Defeat’, which allows analysts to decide whether to include results from Five Eyes nations (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) in their searches,
‘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?… One checkbox is what separates our most sacred rights from the graveyard of lost liberty. When an officer of the government wants to know everything about everyone in their society, they don’t even have to make a technical change. They simply uncheck the box.’
Mr Snowdon finishes his devastating critique of the New Zealand government with an urgent call for New Zealand voters to use the upcoming elections (September 20th) to reign in the power of a political party that abuses national security concerns and precautions’ for its own ends,
‘It’s time to stand up. It’s time to restore our democracies. It’s time to take back our rights. And it starts with you… National security has become the National Party’s security. What we’re seeing today is that in New Zealand, the balance between the public’s right to know and the propriety of a secret is determined by a single factor: the political advantage it offers to a specific party and or a specific politician. This misuse of New Zealand’s spying apparatus for the benefit of a single individual is a historic concern, because even if you believe today’s prime minister is beyond reproach, he will not remain in power forever.’