Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The spies' PR blitz

Last night, TVNZ's Andrea Vance highlighted the convergance of PR strategies among Five Eyes intelligence agencies - its as if they're swapping PR tips and working to an agreed plan to increase the social licence for mass surveillance and invasion of privacy. Meanwhile, the NZ Council for Civil Liberties published the New Zealand Intelligence Community's Draft NZIC Communications Strategy 2014-2017. Which is a very interesting document. The NZIC has a "Strategic Communications Group" whose core role includes "building awareness and understanding of the role and value of the community" and "Building the reputation, authority and trust of the leadership of the NZIC". That is, convincing the public that spying is necessary and that we can trust them. And they're spending public money to do this. Which is getting fairly Orwellian. Its not as obvious as the sort of propaganda campaigns used in totalitarian states, but it differs only in tactics, not objectives. Trust the Secret Police! The Secret Police are your Friends!

There's a lot of detail there, including key messages and stakeholders (which does not list the public, the very people they are seeking to convince), but the most interesting bit is the detailed work programme. Which reveals that

  • NZIC has been conducting "regular polls" to get a view of how the public sees them and massage their messages. Naturally, we're paying for this.
  • They have been briefing "key editors/journalists" to "clarify incorrect assumptions" and on "values, threats, staff". We're paying for this too.
  • They've been deliberately placing editorials on cyber security incidents, and are seeking an international commentator or expert to talk up the threat of foreign fighters.
  • They're planning a "museum exhibition" which will "help deliver our key messages". While the venue has been redacted (for "negotiations"), its almost certainly Te Papa. So, our national museum will be hosting an explicit government propaganda exhibition.
There's also a host of options for OIA requests. Who is doing their polling, what are they asking and what are the results? Who do they get to do their media monitoring and what keywords do they track? What's in their "InTell Newsletter"? Which "local and regional bodies" and "sector groups" have they targeted as part of the ODESC roadshow and what did they tell them? Which schools and universities have they visited and spoken at? Which law magazine have they been trying to get their puff profiles in? I already have requests in with these agencies, and since they'll vigorously use s18A(2) to combine and then refuse multiple requests, other people will have to ask these questions. If you'd like to help, create an account on FYI and get to it.