Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Who are Customs really working for?

We already know that Customs is abusing its powers and conducting border searches - including of digital devices - in order to help the police (where "help" equals "evade the restrictions placed on them by the Search and Surveillance Act 2012" - something which should be unlawful). But there's someone else Customs is trying to suck up to and gathering information on behalf of: the FBI:

Just weeks after it opened, Mr Davis wrote to Immigration NZ's intelligence unit, which also holds highly personal information, telling staff there of the FBI's interest in the internet tycoon Kim Dotcom.

In an email released under the Official Information Act, Mr Davis told an Immigration NZ intelligence officer that Customs' Washington liaison was after information about Dotcom.

He said "the FBI would be interested in anything we have on Kim Dotcom so any information we can proactively feed to them on him will buy you many brownie points".

Immigration NZ staff passed around the request, with one person advising they seek legal advice before passing any information to the FBI. A spokesman said no information was passed on but refused to say if that was because legal advice advised against doing so.

At the time of the request, no New Zealand agency had formally been engaged under legal assistance laws with the US. Dotcom's status at the time was the same as any other public citizen.

I'm not aware of any law which says a government agency can spy on us without reason and turn our information over to a foreign power for "brownie points", and Customs is refusing to talk about it. But apart from legality, it also raises questions about who these parts of Customs are really working for: us, or the Americans? And on that, I think they owe us an answer. We pay their salaries, after all...