Friday, October 25, 2013

Vital safeguards

Last month, Judith Collins signed a deal with the US to give them access to all our fingerprint data. But Phil Goff, while sitting on the select committee examining the deal, has suggested a couple of vital safeguards:

Labour's Phil Goff says New Zealand should refuse to hand over information such as fingerprint data on its citizens to United States authorities if it will be used to prosecute for a crime punishable by the death penalty, or if the request is predominantly politically motivated.

MPs on the Foreign Affairs select committee were briefed this week by officials about a pending agreement for mutual access by New Zealand and the US to fingerprint as well as other data for investigating crimes and terrorism, and for use by immigration. There is also provision for DNA data to be included in the agreement in the future.

The agreement allows either country to specify certain crimes for which it will not provide such information. Mr Goff said there were good reasons for two exemptions - if fingerprint or other evidence was to be used in the conviction and execution of a New Zealander under the death penalty, and if the data were requested for political rather than criminal reasons.

He said there were good reasons for sharing information to detect serious crime and terrorism but New Zealand should not have blind faith the US system would use the personal details of New Zealand citizens only for the purposes set down

Refusing to turn over information to assist ina death penalty case is simply a matter of law - section 8 of the BORA basicly rules out any cooperation from the New Zealand state in such cases. As for political cases, they are excluded from extradition treaties, and should be excluded from information-sharing ones as well. We should not be providing information to the US to help them convict people like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, whose only "crime" has been to expose US wrongdoing to its own citizens (and the world).

The agreement allows us to specify such exclusions. The question now is whether National will take a stand for New Zealand values, or roll over to the US. Sadly, I think it will be the latter.