Saturday, September 13, 2014

John Key lied to us about spying

Last year, in the wake of the Snowden revelations, John Key promised that he and GCSB chief executive Ian Fletcher would both resign if there had been NSA-style mass surveillance in New Zealand.

We may have to take him up on that promise.

The Nation this morning interviewed journalist Glenn Greenwald [video], who is here for Kim Dotcom's "moment of truth" on Monday. Greenwald has been working for the past few months on the New Zealand documents from the Snowden leak. While he's saving the real revelations for Monday night, he did make one thing clear: these documents show that Key was not telling the truth when he assured us that the GCSB was not conducting mass-surveillance in New Zealand. In other words, the GCSB has been spying on us.

But this isn't just a political scandal. If true, its a crime on a massive scale - because up until 26 September 2013, there was an absolutely unequivocal legal ban on any interception by the GCSB of New Zealanders. And yes, that includes metadata. If the GCSB has been engaged in anything like what the NSA has been doing, the entire organisation should go to jail (either for directly intercepting or disclosing communications, or as a party or co-conspirator in the above). And so should any politician who signed off on it.

(As for post September 2013, if Key wants to admit that he legalised previously unlawful behaviour, a) that's not what he told us at the time; and b) that just cements the case against him and his spies).

Sadly, we know how this will work: the Prime Minister will spin, deny and call it a "left-wing smear campaign", the Inspector-General of Intelligence and security will bring out the whitewash, and the police will refuse to prosecute even the clearest case of criminal wrongdoing by the powerful. Which means we will have to take matters into our own hands. If Greenwald backs up his claims with hard evidence on Monday, we will need to launch a private prosecution of the GCSB director and Prime Minister. Anyone want to make the arrest?