Monday, June 17, 2013

Fundamentally compromised

Today's in NSALeaks, the news that GCHQ spied on foreign diplomats at the 2009 G20 summit, compromising their cellphones, emails, and internet communications (including by the ingenious method of setting up fake internet cafes loaded with keyloggers and other spyware to capture diplomat's communications and passwords). This should cause us to ask a couple of questions here in New Zealand.

Firstly, have our supposed "allies" spied on us in this way? Probably, because international friendship means nothing in such negotiations. Similarly, it is likely that the GCSB has pulled similar dirty tricks where we have hosted diplomatic events, which tarnishes our role as an honest broker (there's probably a scoop waiting for some journalist if they start tracking down ownership of internet cafes around venues for diplomatic events we have hosted, such as APEC or the Pacific Forum; likewise a fun game for protesters of picketing such cafes with warning signs).

Secondly, and more importantly: has the GCSB done everything it could to prevent our "allies" spying on us in this way? This after all is their fundamental job: to ensure the security of government communications. The problem is that its a bit difficult to do so when you have a partnership with those foreign spies, and where protecting your own communications means revealing their capabilities and methods (which the GCSB will have agreed to keep secret in order to benefit from their intelligence).

This exposes a fundamental conflict of interest between the GCSB's two roles, created entirely by its relationship with foreign agencies. Bluntly, it cannot protect our government's communications while working in partnership with foreign agencies in the way that it does. We need to choose, between a spy agency which works for us, and one which will betray our interests to protect its relationship with the US and UK. And put that way, the choice is obvious.