Monday, June 10, 2013

"No comment" is not good enough

More revelations on the giant NSA leaks today, with the whistleblower outing himself and fleeing to Hong Kong. He will apparently be applying for political asylum in Iceland; the fact that he didn't choose New Zealand should be a source of lasting shame to us as a democracy and a sign that our relations with the US are too close to be trusted.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, questions are being asked about GCHQ's use of data extracted from the US's PRISM system. We've suspected for a while that the spy agencies circumvent restrictions on spying on their own citizens by getting their allies to do it and then trading the data, and the NSA leak seems to support that, showing GCHQ as a user of the system. Our GCSB has a similar (OK, more subserviant) relationship with the NSA to GCHQ, and the same questions are inevitably being asked here. The response?

A New Zealand government spokeswoman declined to comment on Sunday when asked if the GCSB co-operated with the NSA programme.

''We do not comment on security and intelligence matters. New Zealand's intelligence agencies are subject to an oversight regime, which we are looking to strengthen ...''

Which isn't good enough. These are serious questions about our privacy, our democratic rights, and the GCSB's compliance with the clearly expressed will of Parliament that it not spy on New Zealanders. We deserve real answers, not the usual pap. If the GCSB won't give them, we can only assume that their refusal masks guilt.

Finally, its worth pointing out: the government's new spy bill would allow them to do exactly what the NSA is doing, legally and secretly. If you don't like the idea of the government tapping all your phone calls and reading all your emails, then you should speak up and say so. Details on how to submit on the bill can be found here.