Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The GCSB's PR campaign

The GCSB have had a bad time recently, with leaks exposing their mass-surveillance of the Pacific, spying on our friends, and spying to advance the private career interests of a National MP. So they've launched a bit of a PR campaign. Part of this was GCSB Director Una Jagose giving a speech at the Technology and Privacy Forum yesterday, in which she talked up what a great job the GCSB was doing in protecting the government from cyber-attacks:

A powerful cyber-attack has targeted certain officials in a government department in a possible effort to access sensitive information.

Another major IT firm received help from the Government Communications Security Communications Bureau (GCSB) after it was discovered their computer network had been compromised for some time.

The incidents have all occurred this year, and were revealed today in a rare public speech by GCSB acting director Una Jagose, who moved to reassure the public that data used in cyber security programmes was properly handled.

And judging by the recent revelations about their operation against Greece, half of them were probably done by our "friends" the NSA.

Stopping this is the uncontroversial part of the GCSB's job. And if protecting government departments and providing IT security help to private sector organisations who asked for it was all they did, there'd be no problem with them. But while they talk about "cyber-security" (IT being more glamorous if you call it "cyber", as Gibson and Sterling discovered), their real business is spying. And on that, Jagose just spouts the usual "trust us" bullshit and demands not to publish leaks. And while she highlights the "robustness" of the GCSB's internal checks and balances (you know, the ones which show that they have no idea if they are obeying the law), the key problem is that they're all internal, part of the spy-world. Captive "oversight" isn't. Secret "checks and balances" aren't. Handpicked "watchdogs" won't. And the real questions - such as "do we really want to be doing this" and "are we the sort of country which spies on our friends to toady up to the USA" - simply aren't asked.

We need to ask those questions, just as we asked the question of "do we want to be complicit in the crime of nuclear weapons" in the 70's and 80's. Mass surveillance is the nuclear weapons of the teens, and a violation of human rights on a massive scale. And it is time New Zealand took a stand against it.