Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If there has been mass-spying, there must be accountability

Stuff reports on the implicit admission in the police investigation into illegal GCSB spying that the GCSB sourced their information from the NSA. In doing so, it reminds us of this:

In August, the whistleblower released documents in which New Zealand was listed as a collection site for an NSA database of phone-call, email and internet search data. However, the New Zealand Government has consistently refused to confirm what co-operation is given to the NSA.

Prime Minister John Key has previously said he would resign if the GCSB was found to be conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders.

Key's relaxed attitude to the prospect of Snowden leaks about New Zealand suggests he doesn't think that that's a real possibility - though whether its because he knows its not happening, or he simply hasn't been briefed is anyone's guess. And note what its silent on - the NSA. If its revealed that we cut a deal to let the NSA spy on all of us rather than doing it ourselves (something Key refuses to deny), Key will undoubtedly quibble semantics and refuse to go. In which case we should drive him from office with torches and pitchforks. There's no place in our government for foreign quislings.

But if the worst comes to the worst, and it turns out the GCSB have been illegally collecting all our metadata under some torturous interpretation of the law, its not just the Prime Minister who should be run out of town on a rail. The GCSB is supposed to be overseen by the Intelligence and Security Committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and three other MPs. Its membership since 2006 has included Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe, Winston Peters, Tariana Turia, Russel Norman, John Banks, Peter Dunne and Tony Ryall (and various other sitting MPs; full details can be found in the 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013 membership motions). These people are supposed to have been our oversight. If they were briefed about any mass-spying and didn't use Parliamentary Privilege to tell us, we should hold them responsible.