Monday, May 27, 2013

The GCSB has been spying on all of us

The Herald had a major story over the weekend, revealing that in 2000 - 2001 the GCSB tested US spy software on the New Zealand public:

A high-tech United States surveillance tool which sweeps up all communications without a warrant was sent to New Zealand for testing on the public, according to an espionage expert.

The tool was called ThinThread and it worked by automatically intercepting phone, email and internet information.

ThinThread was highly valued by those who created it because it could handle massive amounts of intercepted information. It then used snippets of data to automatically build a detailed picture of targets, their contacts and their habits for the spy organisation using it.

Those organisations were likely to include the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) after Washington, DC-based author Tim Shorrock revealed ThinThread was sent to New Zealand for testing in 2000-2001.

So much for the GCSB's claim that they focus on foreign intelligence - they've been spying on us all along, trawling our traffic to build up pictures of our lives to give to the Americans. And its not just metadata - according to the description on ThinThread in this article, it intercepted actual communications, then encrypted them for storage until they were identified as being "of interest". So they were recording our phone calls and emails too.

All of this would have become illegal under the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, but National's new spy law would make it legal again. Unfortunately, the successors to ThinThread seem to be even more invasive - basically recording everything, just in case someone, somewhere is a terrorist. If they're allowed to do that, then we will have domestic surveillance more omnipresent than that of the notorious Stasi.

We cannot permit this. The mere existence of such systems chills free expression. As East Germany showed, you cannot have a free society where people are afraid to talk to one another. We cannot let that happen here.