Friday, March 31, 2017

When it comes to spies, refusal to deny is an admission of guilt

According the Newstalk ZB, the SIS is refusing to confirm or deny whether it has spied on journalists:

The Security Intelligence Service can neither confirm nor deny whether it's sought domestic intelligence warrants for the surveillance of New Zealand journalists and authors.

Newstalk ZB sought clarification from the spy agency after its Australian counterpart, ASIO, confirmed in Parliamentary hearings earlier this year that it had sought, and been granted journalist information warrants to access reporters' metadata.

However the SIS won't give any details beyond the basic information disclosed in its annual reports.

Director Rebecca Kitteridge said the agency doesn't release other information about intelligence warrants, as it could potentially jeopardise investigations.

How could it "jeopardise investigations"? Spies like to play up the need for secrecy and the idea that giving any idea of what they do or don't do gives information to their imaginary "enemies". But the real reason is more obvious than that: if they told us they had been spying on journalists, there would be public outrage at their anti-democratic actions and an immediate push to limit their powers and functions to prevent them from ever doing it again. Excessive secrecy is thus a defence against proper democratic oversight.

Yes, this assumes they have been spying on journalists. This is an allegation so damaging to their social licence to operate that the SIS would deny it publicly if they possibly could. Their refusal to do so effectively tells us that they have been - and we can all think of two obvious targets who are in the news right now.