Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Key admits the GCSB has broken the law

When on Monday Edward Snowden alleged that New Zealand data was held in the NSA's XKEYSCORE database, and that the GCSB had access to it, Key refused to comment. Now he's come clean and admitted that Snowden "may well be right". But its all OK because (according to Key) the information wasn't gathered by GCSB. Except then he says that it is:

"However, what I can say in terms of those kinds of Five Eyes databases... yes New Zealand will contribute some information but not mass, wholesale surveillance as people might say."
Parsing this, John Key is clearly saying that the GCSB is collecting (some) information on New Zealanders for intelligence purposes. The problem? That's absolutely illegal. While Key inserted a nice little loophole allowing metadata spying for cybersecurity purposes, his spy law still explicitly bans the GCSB from spying on New Zealanders for intelligence purposes. Which raises the obvious question: are the GCSB breaking the law by spying on kiwis for intelligence purposes, or are they breaking the law by spying for cybersecurity then using the information for intelligence purposes anyway? I think we deserve some answers on this.

Also note: if the GCSB has access to XKEYSCORE, and XKEYSCORE has information on New Zealanders, then arguably they've intercepted it even if that information has been collected by another agency, as they have "acquired" it. And if they actually look at it, there's no "arguable" about it. Acquiring or receiving a communication, or acquiring its "substance, meaning, or sense" (meaning a summary or translation) is legally intercepting it, and if done without a lawful warrant (and again, no warrant on a New Zealander for intelligence purposes is lawful) is a crime. So, GCSB staff trained in XKEYSCORE: congratulations, you're all criminals.