Thursday, March 12, 2015

A further explosion of spying

Back in 2013, John Key passed a spy law granting the GCSB new powers to spy on the internet in New Zealand for "information assurance and cybersecurity". The result has been predictable: an explosion of spying. Back in 2012, the GCSB had only 11 interception warrants in force, five of which were issue in the 2012/13 year. This year its 19, with eleven new ones issued. More significantly, in 2012 they had 26 access authorisations, eleven of which were new. Now its 59, with 48 issued in the past year alone.

[Stats from GCSB 2013 annual report erratum and 2014 annual report, p. 19].

So, we've had an explosion of spying, particularly on domestic computer networks. And that's the warranted stuff that we know about; we have no idea about the GCSB's use of their warrantless interception powers. And yet, despite doing twice as much spying as before, the GCSB claims to be collecting less intelligence. Another example of how they're doing less with more...

As for the SIS, a picture is worth a thousand words:

[Latest data from p. 20 of their annual report]

Last year's trend of increased spying has continued, and it now seems to be going exponential. And it was doing so before the post election "foreign fighters" scare, or any 1080 threat (they will be in next year's annual report). The SIS is now spying at over twice the level it did when John Key came to power (by total warrants), and is getting almost three times as many warrants issued a year. And for what? Is the world today really twice as dangerous as it was in 2002, immediately post 9-11? Is it really twice as dangerous as it was between 2009 and 2012, when there were NZ combat troops in Afghanistan? Really?

As I noted last year, it is hard to see the justification for this increase, and the natural conclusion is that the effective threshold for granting an intelligence warrant - which lets the SIS tap your phone, hack your computer, break into your house and steal your stuff - has decreased significantly. And when the only real check on the spies is what the Prime Minister is willing to sign, that's really worrying.