Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The cost of GCSB spying

What's the cost of the GCSB's mass-surveillance of the Pacific? "Fewer whistleblowers, more corruption, less stability", according to Public Address:

Fewer whistleblowers, more corruption, less stability.

That's the assessment of longtime Pacific journalist Jason Brown of the impact of the revelation that the GCSB has been conducting "full take" collection of communications in Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations since 2009.

"It creates fear. We live in small communities," he said on Media Take last night. "The advent of email was actually, we thought, a bit of a boon in that we could communicate within our communities without actually having to meet anyone ... that small-town thing of everyone knowing what you're doing and people being very sensitive to being critical of the government. So we thought email was great.

"Now that the knowledge is out there, the number of whistleblowers, people who leak us information, is probably going to drop a bit, if it hasn't already, because they know that they're being watched ...

"More corruption is an inevitable result. It's difficult enough getting stories in the Pacfiic when you're working in these small communities. And everyone's rightfully concerned for their jobs. If there's more corruption there's less stability. And that's even going to have a long-term effect on New Zealand."

Again, it is hard to see how promoting corrupt and unstable government on our backdoor is in the interests of New Zealanders, or how it contributes to our national security, international relations, or economic well-being. These aren't just our neighbours, whose problems will spill over here - they're supposedly our friends. Undermining their democracies isn't just evil and stupid, its also a betrayal of those close relationships.

But I guess that's just the sort of stupidity that happens when your intelligence policy is made in Washington to serve American interests, not in Wellington to serve ours.

Our mass-surveillance of the Pacific isn't just wrong, a violation of the privacy of entire societies - it is also stupid. And it must stop.