Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More worthless promises

Last week, John Key promised us that he wouldn't sign warrants for the GCSB to read our emails, unless they really thought they should be able to. The natural response to this is "statute, or its bullshit" - if Key thinks that that's how the GCSB should operate, he should put it in law so we don't have to trust him (or the Prime Ministers who will follow him). This is still possible at this stage, though it requires leave of the House. Sadly, Key isn't buying it:

Labour plans to move an amendment to try to get written into the law a policy statement by Mr Key last week in which he said he said he would not grant warrants to the GCSB to look at the content of New Zealanders communications under the cyber security function in the first instance, but if the agency detected a serious cyber intrusion, it would have to come back to him for a second warrant.

Labour would require the leave of the House to introduce such an amendment because the part it relates to has already been dealt with.

Mr Key indicated that National would oppose leave for Labour to do that, saying it was not necessary.

Which kindof makes his promise in that article to resign in the event that we learn of mass-surveillance equally worthless, neh?

Meanwhile, also in the category of worthless promises, Key says that Opposition MPs can get details of "cybersecurity" warrants through the Intelligence and security Committee:
Prime Minister John Key said last night that Opposition members of the Intelligence and Security Committee would be able to find out how many times the GCSB spy agency had received warrants to intercept the content of communications under its cyber security function.

Mr Key said that under changes to the bill, every year the number of warrants issued in categories would be declared to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which included the leader of the Opposition, David Shearer, and his nominee, Greens co-leader Russel Norman.

"At that committee, somebody would be able to ask the very obvious question - 'when it comes to cyber security, have any warrants been issued that sought to look at content for New Zealanders?"' he said.

Well, they can ask. But the Director of the GCSB doesn't have to tell. Again, if Key thinks there needs to be (secret, therefore untrustworthy) scrutiny and oversight of these warrants, he should amend the law. Unless he does that, he's just blowing smoke.

And more generally: democratic states do not operate on the basis of promises from the powerful. We operate on laws, and transparency so we can see they are being obeyed.