The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
September 16, 2014

Spy vs Spy

Is anyone actually surprised to hear (via Snowden, Greenwald, Dotcom et al) that NZ has its metadata spied on by the USA? I’m certainly not. The US relishes it’s position as a superpower, and it didn’t get to be a superpower by handing out cupcakes. It knows what is happening in the world because it listens carefully to what is happening on the airwaves. It spies on its own citizens to detect domestic terrorism, it spies on its allies (Angela Merkel found her phone bugged by the USA – it won’t be the only one), it certainly spies on the Russians and the Chinese, it spies on the English, and with a dodgy little two-bit country like ours, that is not as pro-Uncle Sam as it could be, it certainly spies on us.

So do other countries. The Chinese spy on us. The Russians spy on us. the Israelies spy on us. The French spy on us. The British spy on us. Probably even the Aussies spy on us. It’s all just standard governmental practice, played amongst the big boys. A more interesting question might be: who do we spy upon? No one? Don’t be naive. Someone? Yes, but who? The Ozzies? The Brits? The Yanks? Yes, we probably have some low level spying ability in all those countries, and they all know that we do. It’s more interesting to speculate whether we have spies amongst the “enemy” nations of China and Russia. Or any of the mad houses of the Middle East.

The real question here, that Key is fervently denying, is whether we spy on us. Key clearly believes the answer is no. DotCom clearly believes the answer is yes. Snowden, the only person in the world to publicly speak on this, clearly knows that we do. There is a fascinating interview with Snowden in a recent Wired magazine, which goes right into the man and his background. He’s no dummy. He has had access to all the highest levels of spydom, and seen things we will never see. The US are after him because he dared to speak the truth. They never said he was lying – they know he speaks the truth. Therefore, if he says that we spy on ourselves, then there is no reason not to believe him.

So what to make of JohnKey? Still vehemently denying that the fairly obvious happens…. To my mind, there are two valid scenarios. One: that John Key knows we are being spied on, and is lying about us not being spied on. But why should he tell the truth to TV 3 et al? It’s not like it is a formal inquiry, where he is under oath (it was only under the oath in a formal inquiry that the truth came out in the US, after all). It’s standard practice for Governments to deny that certain things relating to National Security are / are not happening. whether we like it or not, as our Leader, John Key is paid to lie to us on a regular basis, something he does quite well, as evidently some people will believe him, and he is likely to be re-elected next week. all those times when he says “Ackshirly, I’m not really worried about that” or “I have no recollection of that conversation” or my favourite “I just spoke about afternoon tea with John Banks” – yes, the chances are quite strong that each and every time, he was lying. And I’d fully expect him to do that – it’s his job. And if Cunliffe was elected, he’d have to do the same.

The other scenario is more interesting, and is therefore: John Key does not know we are being spied upon, and therefore fully believes that we are not being spied upon by us. That could explain the “honest John” image he tries to portray. If we are to believe Sir Humphrey at all, or House of Cards, then we can understand that Ministers get lied to by their Ministries on a regular basis. Would you honestly believe that the GCSB would get all the way down the “how to spy on the Kiwi population” road, and then abandon it? If they had already done their homework, and found out how, and found a reason why, then why would they decide to abandon it, just because some here today, gone tomorrow prime minister decided to have cold feet? And again, they can deny it, they can lie to us – heck, they don’t even ever have to talk to us!

So then the question becomes: why would they spy on us? They’re welcome to read my emails, I don’t care – if they wanted to, they could find out the IP address of Maximus, but again, they have no reason to state that publicly. Their evidence of spying on us seemed quite obvious from the Urewera raids in 2002? when seemingly “evidence” of terrorist activity was uncovered. Yes, Police intelligence was also used, but there is no reason to think that only one agency was involved. In a similar manner, I’d be annoyed if they weren’t actively sniffing channels for evidence of the moronically fanatical Islamic State aficionados that are undoubtedly in our midst. We know there has already been one, and that he has been killed – there is only one thing certain, and that is that there will be more. And personally, that’s why I’m quite happy for the spy agencies to trawl endlessly through our emails and phone calls. If they can sniff out and snuff out those IS sympathisers in our midst, then it’s worth every cent.

monday
16 - 09 - 14

Woah, are you being serious in that last paragraph? It’s hard to tell! If yes, it shows a serious lack of engagement with issues of freedom of dissent within society and the very real dangers of unchecked state powers against individuals who have committed no crime. Clarification would be great…

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

Monday – not sure what your problem is. If IS are planning to behead more hostages (and they are), and if they were to use the Internet to spread their message (and they do) then you can be damn sure that every spy agency in the world is concentrating on finding out where that message came from, and where those people are. The men at IS are not heroes to any cause to me – they are just dangerous criminals who have no place in any society. I’d like them to be found, and locked up – I really don’t care if they are killed in the operation, I want to have no part in anything they do. The world is already a pretty screwed up place, and while you may call it freedom of dissent, I call it callous murderers.

So – I say to you, that we already have “unchecked state powers” against individuals in this country, as I’ve been writing about above. You may call that a “very real danger” – I’d say that it is just as much of a danger to waltz blindly onward, pretending that nothing is going on, happy in our ignorance. On balance, I’d rather that someone is on the lookout for trouble.

monday
16 - 09 - 14

I agree that surveillance powers should be used to stop acts of terror by carefully monitoring those who can be shown to have undertaken illegal activity, or there are reasonable grounds to suspect they will. My problem is with unchecked state power being used for purposes other than this, which is exactly what wholesale surveillance does.

The former can be done without the latter. Evidence abound that the latter is used to monitor perfectly legal dissent, to oppress those who disagree with and are adversely affected by current law, and ironically encourages the very thing it was set up to prevent.

There are very good reasons why human rights lawyers are gravely concerned about these revelations. Not because they’re suprising, but because they’re illegal, illogical and a massive breach of human rights.

I cannot for the life of me see how monitoring my or your emails will stop terrorists or find out who posted those videos. Your position makes no sense to me.

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

But that is the whole point about meta-data : by sucking in every communication (the innocent and the not so innocent), then they can trawl through searching for key words at their leisure. They’re much more likely to find incriminating evidence in the dreggs by scanning all, rather than just by scanning those they presume are already possibilities. Your and my emails will just get dismissed as harmless banter. In the unlikely event of a potential terrorist actually committing words to email, there is a tiny chance that they can sniff them out.

My massive breach of human rights would be to be raped or murdered. Clayton Weatherspoon should have / could have been stopped by the police, if only they were looking.

monday
16 - 09 - 14

Your emails may be dismissed perhaps, but probably not mine. In the street you’d easily assume I am middle class and pakeha. The latter yes, the former by appearances alone – that is certainly not where my allegiances lie. I’ve seen many who share my political views be hounded by the state without justification. I do not trust a body of people with previous form for breaking the law, set up with more powers under statute the extent of which we have been lied to about, to see my privately held views as a legal and desirable manifestation of freedom and treat them accordingly. Your different definition of a human rights breach might stem from the fact that you don’t align with populations that feel they are outsiders, unaccepted and squashed by dominant groups in society.

You admit that there us a tiny chance of metadata catching terrorists because terrorists are unlikely to use email. Why do we need such surveillance then? Metadata does not include key words, btw.

On your last point, we’re talking about powers used to combat international terrorism or hacking here, not domestic crime. The gcsb can monitor at the behest of the police for such matters, but only if the police have a warrant. They are not supposed to trawl to catch people out for planning murder. Thank god, really, given the data that shows police are racist, sexist and incapable of following the law themselves. The gcsb, with their current lack of oversight, are likely to be even worse.

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

Monday – you say that Metadata does not include key words? Maybe I’ve got it wrong, but I thought that meta meant “Everything” and therefore includes all words, whether key or not. It includes your email address, your IP address, your physical address of the telephone line or wireless connection you used to connect with, as well as the actual topic you discussed. Creepy but true fact that I promise not to exploit: if I was an Internet whiz, it wouldn’t take me long to put in the IP address from where you posted today and find out which company you work for. That’s just an example of really simple meta-data analysis. I just did it to my own IP address as listed in the WordPress comments section of the blog, and it knows exactly where I am. It even names the computer i work on in the office, and so thereby my actual seat. That’s helpful if I should ever get Alzheimer’s….

monday
16 - 09 - 14

I already know what metadata is and how powerful it can be. FYI, ‘personal information’ protected from gcsb view apparently does not include metadata which is frankly illogical.

Thanks for being a decent person about my private data. I’m not too phased by the idea that you could find out who I am. Although you could whale oil me, unlike the state you can’t arrest me, prosecute me for crminal acts or deprive me of my liberty. The opportunity for abuse of power is so apparent, and really ought to be abhorrent to all of us, Alzheimer’s or not.

Josh Petyt
16 - 09 - 14

Hi Maximus,

First I just want to say I really enjoy your views on planning, transport and architecture.
However precisely because I respect your opinion I really have to pipe up and say that on this you’re a long way far off base. Basically what I’m trying to say is I’m not trolling and I really hope you’ll go and read about this stuff. TL:DR? Skip to my recommended sources below.

I agree with virtually everything Monday has said but I would like to add a few things.

We live our lives on the internet now and the thought that some small mistake or a falsified record or a case of misidentification could be used by some unscrupulous person in power to attack an innocent person is terrifying. Or how about this as an analogy: the police ask your landlord, best friend or neighbour for one of the spare keys that they (legally) hold for your apartment because they want to go and have a look around. How would that feel? (If anyone can point out any faults or fallacies, please do.)

You may have nothing to hide (today). But what happens when your sister-in-law gets a job working for someone in the Opposition (or Kim Dotcom) and some overzealous and/or unscrupulous person in the Ministry of something-or-other starts profiling all those connected to her? That sounds far out but the fact that they’re collecting this data in the way that they seem to be doing means that it is possible. How many times have we heard about people misusing databases?

The arguments against mass surveillance are best summed up by two points:

1) It is wrong and even if you don’t agree that it’s morally wrong it still puts all of us unfairly at the mercy of unscrupulous people in positions of power. (Similar arguments can be made against capital punishment or the three strikes anti-piracy laws. i.e. it’s morally wrong but even if you think it’s morally right the price paid in false positives (or abuses of power) is simply too high.)

2) It does’t work. So even if you’re ok with it morally and you think the enormous price is worth it you’re going to waste valuable resources looking in the wrong place.

I have few of the arguments well organised in my head but if you’d care to read people far more knowledgable and eloquent than me you could do worse than read the arguments of Bruce Schneir, Cory Doctorow or anything that extensively quotes Edward Snowden. These people have spent their careers studying and analysing this stuff. A non-exhaustive list: https://www.schneier.com, http://craphound.com, http://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden

josh Petyt
16 - 09 - 14

Oh man. I decided to take my own advice and do a little reading. This was pretty depressing: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/07/nsa_targets_pri.html

David
16 - 09 - 14

Very well put Maximus and a very good article for getting down to what this is really about, which is trying to protect us from some of the nutters out there.

Monday, you seemed to be concerned not so much by the process as who has control of it and use they could put it to in oppressing those with different political ideals. Well for a start the ISIS that Maximus talks about is simply a group with a different political and religious view, therefore using your argument that different political views should not make you a target, then those murderers in the ISIS would be protected, just like Al Quaida would have been. Secondly in a democracy like New Zealand, US, Australia, Britain, Canada the head of the country is in effect in control of the system, unless you believe there is some underlying group subverting the democratic process under the cover of a democracy. If you assume that is not the case then the system is open to who ever is in power to use it as they see fit, but that person might be of right wing persuasion this election, but next election could be left wing?. Does that mean that all those left wingers out there now who consider that the right wing Nats control the system to subvert the left at the moment, will be in control when they eventually win an election, and will the right wing have the left wing to fear?. Or will it simply mean that the system will still be target at those who try to unstabilise our country by engaging in illegal activity like running around in terrorist training camps learning to throw Molotov cocktails, fire guns and play commando?.

Lets not forget that the ISIS terrorist currently fronting the ISIS, Jihad John, has a London accent and came from Britain, maybe if Britain had being looking internally he might never have beheaded a few aid workers. How do we not know that the next Jihad John does not speak with a New Zealand accent?. We have already had people fighting in Syria?.

And to the poor dude at GCSB who is probably reading this…. have a nice day, I actually like having you guys keeping me able to walk down the road without the fear of a car bomb, or hijacking.

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

David – your comment about Jihad John – he has the same generic black urban yoof accent as did those two murderous wankers who beheaded a bandsman in Woolwich a year or two back – and that’s the same accent sported by hundreds, or thousands of disaffected British Muslims. I know it takes a lot to radicalise people into becoming terrorists – events in Palestine right now would suggest that another whole new generation of Muslim radicals will have been awakened by the destruction there, and Israel and the west will pay the price for that in coming years. What’s my point? Not that if you speak a certain way you will become a terrorist – lets hope nobody thinks that I’m THAT stupid, but more that: we have no idea where the people are that are about to be tipped over the edge into murderous insanity. We are incredibly lucky to live in New Zealand, where the prospect of someone kidnapping 300 girls from St Cuthberts and selling them into slavery is infinitesimally unlikely (even if they will, on occasion, perform stripteases for money on an away trip). We are even lucky enough to live in a country where an ostensibly separatist nation practices gunfights in the forest, makes Molotov cocktails and plays at commando – and when caught and told to stop it, the eventual outcome is that they get a heartfelt Police apology, financial redress from the Crown, and soon, it seems, we will have the ringleader elected to stand in Parliament. There is, probably, no other country on earth where that would happen.

Joshua Petyt
16 - 09 - 14

Maximus please moderate my message in as I believe it deals somewhat with David’s concerns.
@David it is entirely possible that those murderers in ISIL may have been missed precisely because GCHQ are wasting so many resources on these massive trawling nets.

David
16 - 09 - 14

Maximus, I totally agree with you and was not trying to say that if you speak a certain way you will become a terrorist, but just that they come from anywhere, both disaffect youth and the occasional one who are just looking for a bandwagon to support there warped idea and to create mayhem. Yes we are lucky to live in a country that allows free speech and where anyone can be elected to parliament. Unfortuneatly it feels at this time as if this election has become less about the issues that really matter like welfare, poverty and education and more about mass surveillance and what goes on behind closed doors.

Joshua, you may be right in that they were missed due to the shear amount of information being trawled, but how many have they stopped already?, and how many will they now stop by looking at the information they have in a different way. In the dark world of terrorists and espionage we don’t always want to know what goes on. Sometimes its better not to know for the sake of the common good. The burdon of proof is much higher in the legal system, how much burdon of proof does the ISIS require before a beheading.

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

Josh – done. Your message is restored (anything with more than one link automatically goes to the Spam file).

Re the Police having a key to my house – well as you say, I already have a spare key held by others, so it may have happened already. In best James Bond fashion I already lay a single human hair over the hinge to my cupboard of secrets – but seriously, I couldn’t care less whether they searched my room weekly, as long as they tidied up after themselves! Being an architect, I’m a neatness freak with tendencies towards OCD, so even that one hair looks out of place….

But actually, it’s not really whether I’m ok about surveillance or not – the point I was originally trying to make, is that it is Highly Likely it is happening already, whether we like it or not. And I’m glad I’m not in charge of deciding who is right and who is wrong. Depending on my mood swings, I’d be all for instantaneous death penalty for certain people. Like, murderers, obviously. Some people are just scum, and should be removed from the gene pool. Exactly what is the point in keeping Clayton Weatherspoon alive? As Steve Buscemi showed in Fargo, there’s a perfectly good use for an old wood chipper. But at other times of the month, I’d be perfectly ok with Offing someone who ran a red light, as long as it wasn’t me. Or taking out anyone who had a party that went out after midnight (as long as it wasn’t mine…). Excessive noise is such a nuisance – apparently very bad for your health, as it disturbs your REM sleep cycles. Monday will have shut the laptop in disgust by now, and walked off in a huff, for which I’m sad to see. I like you Monday, and your sister Tuesday, very much. But I guess I’m just not as concerned about loss of theoretical human rights as I am concerned about actual human rights. And yes, in this country, searching by police of people of colour is far higher than it should be. I too have been a victim of police brutality more than once, and on the receiving end of police wonderfulness as well, when they arrested a drug-crazed stalker who was attacking my flatmate. It swings both ways.

m-d
16 - 09 - 14

Judith Collins and her slimy minions, and possibly Key’s as well, have already shown how nasty politics can become when personal and private information is used for “black-ops” attack purposes. Now, I’m not proposing that is why GCSB etc want to data-mine our private lives, but you know that if such information is being collected, it will, eventually, be used by someone to stifle political opposition/debate, in illegal and nefarious ways.

Does that mean the data shouldn’t be collected and used for ‘good’. I dunno, there is always a trade-off between freedom and security. But we at least need a proper debate about the ethics of this, with a great deal more transparency than we are getting now. That is perhaps as important here – the lack of transparency, the lies, and the obfuscation that we are being fed from our Prime Minister. I’d have much less problem with it if he fronted up and said this is what we are doing, with this technology, for these people (including whichever off-shore interests have access to our data).

Key’s dissembling simply makes him seem devious, and tars him with that big ol’ dirty politics brush, whether warranted or not.

I guess there is the possibility that the real masters of the 5-eyes may have restrictions on what can be said, in which case, he’s in that familiar rock’n’hard place territory?

60 MPa
16 - 09 - 14

When we did get hit by terrorists they were meant to be our allies and I believe that there was an American character on the wharf being very keen that people got off the Rainbow Warrior that night.
So the French have done it and it is highly likely that the US knew about it. Perhaps we should keep our enemies close and our friends closer.

I for one think that Key is lying.

Keep in mind just how much civil servants screw things up and totally get the wrong idea then pretend it was nothing to do with them – now imagine those civil servants have no accountablity and are in charge of a panopticon.

And are american.

Josh Petyt
16 - 09 - 14

Thanks Maximus. I was starting to feel like I might have tingled your spidey-troll-sense. So nice to know that I hadn’t. And that a comment about false positives (amongst other things) actually fell foul of a spam filter. i.e. became a false positive. I hope that helps to demonstrate the point a little bit. Surveillance systems can catch out anyone, justified or not.

@David
As many smarter than me have pointed out, if the intelligence community had caught any terrorists then they’d be highly likely to publicise it. Why? Because they like to justify themselves and of course scare the terrorists.

Here’s another interesting post from security expert Bruce Schneier: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/01/debunking_the_n.html
TL;DR – “Debunking the “NSA Mass Surveillance Could Have Stopped 9/11″ Myth” He quotes one analyst: “All of these serious terrorism cases argue not for the gathering of ever vaster troves of information but simply for a better understanding of the information the government has already collected and that are derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence methods.”

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

Actually, I was just thinking, do we know which nations are Not Spied On by their governments? We, of course, have no idea. America’s NSA has, I believe I read somewhere, 17 years worth of backlog of data through which they can search, if they want to. And that was a couple of years ago, so it is probably 19 years worth by now. Good luck with that! America is hiring new staff now! Exciting data entry jobs!

But there are two countries with no internal spying ability. They don’t have to be small – Fiji spies on its people. Goddammit, even Pitcairn Island has spied on its communication network, when arresting its one murderer. They don’t have to be Western countries – after all, North Korea spies on its residents, and even kills them for impure thoughts (their local fickwit idiot leader killing his own uncle, aunt, and ex-girlfriend for one…). But two countries : Haiti is one, bereft of a working government since their massive earthquake destroyed Port au Prince. And the government buildings – and all the workers inside. As far as I know, no proper government since. And the other is Somalia – their Interim Minister for Telecommunications is drumming up support for Telco’s to actually pay tax – there is nowhere to pay it to at present. The government collapsed 4 years ago – no government since. And I’m not 100% sure, but we can probably add a few more countries like Liberia, and Libya to that list. We are lucky to be here, where IRD knows where we live, and posts us a return, not at the end of a barrel of a gun.

Maximus
16 - 09 - 14

Autocorrect – fickwit should, of course, have read fuckwit. Learn that word, you prescriptive text master! At least it IS a real word, unlike fickwit….

monday
16 - 09 - 14

No huffing here just life getting in the way of the internet!

Dave: I am concerned with both, but you seem to have inferred a bunch of facts which I have not at all suggested. Firstly, fundamental human rights – the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure being one – sit apart from a flawed notion of left and right political ideologies. Both left and right have form for not respecting rights, and both have form for enshrining and protecting them. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, there is ample room for abuse, made all the more likely because of lack of oversight by democratic processes.

Secondly, your conflation of political dissent and ISIL is disingenuous – one is law abiding but inconvenient to those in power, the other is an illegal organisation committing acts that are illegal at both domestic and international law levels (though, let’s not get started on the Eurocentric hegemony of international law that denies space for other conceptions of right and wrong…). If the political dissent begins to transgress the boundaries of legality, the best method for preventing harm , as Josh points out, is ‘good old fashioned police work’, not to trawl our metadata.

Maximus: ‘But I guess I’m just not as concerned about loss of theoretical human rights as I am concerned about actual human rights.’
I don’t buy your distinction. The right not be subject to unreasonable search and seizure is as real as the right to bodily autonomy etc.

‘And yes, in this country, searching by police of people of colour is far higher than it should be. I too have been a victim of police brutality more than once, and on the receiving end of police wonderfulness as well, when they arrested a drug-crazed stalker who was attacking my flatmate. It swings both ways.’
Personally I think you can say that so easily primarily because you haven’t been subject to a lifetime of structural discrimination by institutions that see you by default as the offender, not the victim. It’s different for those who have. The Urewera raids, when seen in the context of the history of colonial oppression are not something that can simply be said ‘sorry’ for (although I have to say any acceptance or otherwise is totally up to Tuhoe, and I note they are divided on the issue). It’s like the naughty kid who hits you, says sorry and then hits you again. There comes a point where you simply stop believing the apologies and learn to expect more of the same. Also, can you point me to a citation for the compensation for Tuhoe and the other victims of the raids?

Lastly – thanks Josh for the thoughtful words and links…off to read.

Maximus
17 - 09 - 14

Well, that shut me up.

Maximus
17 - 09 - 14

Although, sadly, not for long. I’m so dumb I’m coming back for more….

Actually, no. I know when I am being argued into a corner on moral grounds, and that I’m never going to win an argument on that against Monday, especially when someone uses a phrase like Eurocentric hegemony, which I will have to go and look up in a dictionary…

So instead, I’m going to change the subject, just for a little bit. That young Snowden chap said that NZ had some spy Centre’s – one in Auckland, and “one in the north of the country”. Ok, so he hasn’t been to this country, so he could be wrong, but really – we have a unmarked US spy base north of Auckland? Like, where exactly?!?! Whangarei ? Warkworth? Paihia? Kohukohu? Or the hell-hole of the Pacific itself, Kororareka ? Or is Titiwhai and her family really a front for the CIA? Seems doubtful, but at the moment, strange things are happening? Is Hone Harawira perhaps deep undercover special ops, just pretending to hate the US, when secretly he is providing non-stop mission critical information direct to the Pentagon? Oh I am just confused.

Last night on the tele they seemed to be talking of the possibility of the Greens being offered a role as dual deputy Prime Minister, and Winston saying “over my dead body” but the thing is, I could not tell if they were seriously meaning this under Labour or under National. At least they’re not yet talking of the Conservatives holding the balance of power. That would be spooky.

Hmmmmmm. Bring back Social Credit!

Seamonkey Madness
17 - 09 - 14

Max – re: Kim Jong Unbeliebable.
He actually didn’t kill his ex-girlfriend/lover/concubine. She has popped up since then, seemly the victim of over-zealous media speculation than anything else.

As you were.

Maximus
17 - 09 - 14

Seamonkey – I am so very happy. Its no way to treat your ex. Thank GOD we don’t live in that country…

Josh Petyt
17 - 09 - 14

To his detractors he is just a left-wing conspiracy theorist but the interview Glen Greenwald did with Russell Brown pulls no punches and (IMHO) summarises the important questions raised during Dotcom’s big event. http://publicaddress.net/hardnews/interview-glenn-greenwald/
Jump to the last question if you just want a laugh at Dotcom’s expense.
I won’t post anymore links. I promise.

Maximus
17 - 09 - 14

Josh – no, go right ahead, post as much as you want. Its a free world / free discussion here. I’m not your germanic overlord… I’m done here anyway.

Re something you said earlier though: “As many smarter than me have pointed out, if the intelligence community had caught any terrorists then they’d be highly likely to publicise it. Why? Because they like to justify themselves and of course scare the terrorists.”

I disagree. The number one rule of Secrecy Club is: Don’t talk about Secrecy Club. The number two rule of Secrecy Club is: Don’t talk about Secrecy Club.

Key must be giving them all kittens at the moment, and i wouldn’t be surprised if they start to work up a coup to unseat him, and replace him with someone with tighter lips. All this talk of Spearguns and Cortex and Keystroke! years of secret huddling undone! Blabbermouth! No more entrusting with secrets for you, Mr Key.

While i obviously have less concern about surveillance than others (Monday, i think you’re being totally glib when you say that virtual invasion is as nasty as physical – i can’t really believe you would honestly believe that if put in the position of either: A – a red-hot poker up your bum, or B – a thorough rummage through your email folders. I know which one i would chose without a moment’s hesitation). Ummm, where was i ? Oh yes – if they’re tracking someone, undetected, they want to do so for years…. I mean, Osama bin Laden was playing undetectable for a decade, until one day, surprise surprise, there was a knock at the door and soon after he was dead. They’re not going to release all the details of exactly what surveillance he was under for years, especially as those same sources may lead to more targets.

It is all horribly nasty. But the fewer criminal masterminds left on this earth, the better. You could say that as soon as you kill one, another – or ten others – will spring up in his place. So what is the alternative? Sit back and wait for the Criminal Courts of Justice in the Hague gets round to it? How is that working out for the Serbs and Croats? Not much justice there.

monday
17 - 09 - 14

I think we can agree on the Conservatives (or the CrayCons as I’ve seen them referred to…).

I’m pretty sure Osama was found not via data intelligence but by his taxi driver (or similar) spilling the beans. Either way, he is an example of a person who had admitted committed terrible crimes, and surveillance was more than justified. I don’t think anyone is arguing that we shouldn’t have some sort of surveillance capabilities, only that they should be subject to strict rules about who can be subject to it and in what circumstances, and that those capabilities be subject to democratic oversight.

It’s a fallacy of relative probation to suggest that other things are more important so we shouldn’t be worried. Both are significant rights, there is no hierarchy at law. It’s also a bit of a false dilemma to have to choose between them: we can have both! They’re not mutually exclusive and, if they do conflict, there are ways to balance competing interests that don’t involve the wholesale breach of one to protect the other.

Interestingly, the countries that come to mind that would be ok with torturing citizens are also the ones that (to my mind) make the most oppressive use of surveillance in whatever form. Perhaps one breeds the other. But that might be a slippery slope fallacy. No-one’s perfect.

monday
17 - 09 - 14

Greenwald males some good points in that interview about the lack of oversight. It’s strange to me, in a world which preaches democracy as humanity’s greatest achievement, that the organisations with these powers have ‘insulated’ themselves from the democratic process. I find it greatly disturbing that they undermine our sovereignty in this way.

Josh Petyt
17 - 09 - 14

@Monday, Agreed the ‘insulated’ from government quotes are particularly worrying.

@Maximus
I think there is a distinction between describing specific tools and methods used in surveillance and policing and claiming that they have caught Terrorist A, B & C because of the X, Y Z powers given to them since 9-11, which they cannot do because they haven’t.

When US Senator Leahy asked NSA Chief General Keith Alexander outright to give evidence of the effectiveness of mass surveillance he could only confirm one case. This “single successful prosecution, under a vague criminal statute, which stopped a few thousand dollars from reaching one side in a local conflict in the Horn of Africa, is the sole success story for the NSA bulk domestic surveillance program.”
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/08/nsa-bulk-metadata-surveillance-intelligence

You can read much more on how mass surveillance is harmful to (US and by extension NZ) national security here: https://www.schneier.com/essays/archives/2014/01/how_the_nsa_threaten.html

I have another link to an long page (about 5000 words) with multiple sources on the ineffectiveness of mass surveillance if you’d like it but I’m not getting caught again by that spam bot of yours.

Josh Petyt
17 - 09 - 14

“Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
Damn. Two links set it off. Sorry

Maximus
17 - 09 - 14

Freed now…

Maximus
18 - 09 - 14

So, Josh, you can link in that 5000 word essay on the ineffective ness of mass surveillance if you wish.
Not that I’m watching your every move, mind… But when your post gets stuck in the Pending file (it doesn’t put you in with the real hard core spammers selling shoes and jewelry ) the Spam alert does tell me interesting things – like which part of the Asia Pacific region you’re posting from etc.

Anyway… I don’t think I have another post left in me before the weekend, and that is going to be spent watching / cursing at the TV / radio. I think I’ve been convinced by Monday and Josh that there is no point in the mass surveillance thing – certainly it doesn’t appear to have much of a quotable track record so far, and evidently some people take it a lot more seriously than I do. But I find it quite interesting that it doesn’t seem to be working at finding terrorists – cos it sure as hell knows who I am and what I like. If I go to Amazon, it always recommends books by authors I like and about architects that I have shown an interest in, while elsewhere on the web even the adverts are targeted towards me – mostly about fish that are near you and keen to meet, sometimes about CAD software – does anyone else get adverts for Bentley Systems software, or is that just me? I went to the Bentley website about 5 years ago on my Mac, and now my iPad seems to know that too. Are they talking behind my back? Curiously, there is also a frequent advert for “why Ellen de Generes has been dropped by Covergirl” which I have never clicked on, and have no intention of doing so – yet it seems to think I am in the target market for that too. Weird. I get adverts for the Greens and for Labour, but no adverts for National. How does it figure that out? Someone’s little google algorithm engine is working overtime.

In the meantime, it must be election season. Fiji first, then Scotland, then us.
I’m picking, Frank, Staying Together, and National for the trifecta.
Would quite like it to be the complete opposite though….

Josh Petyt
18 - 09 - 14

So ‘Josh in Japan’ and my previous posts on Japan haven’t already given me away? :)
For the record, I’m in Niigata-ken and that’s my real name.

Yes, I’ll admit sometimes that those recommendation engines work but often they’re well off. The funniest one is when I log out of Facebook they often show me an ad for hooking up with single women in Asia even though Facebook knows I’m married. Now if they are encouraging extra-marital affairs then that’s fair enough but I somehow doubt that’s their intention. So given that these ads are so often on the log-out completion page you’d think they’d pass along a token indicating that the current (now ‘anonymous’) visitor would most likely not appreciate (or click on) ads for singles site.

That said, a false positive on Facebook isn’t likely to call in a SWAT team at dawn tomorrow.

Maximus
21 - 09 - 14

Meanwhile, SWAT teams have been called out at dawn in Australia this week, based on intelligence gained by surveillance…

“ARMED Australian Federal Police officers will take back command and control of Parliament House in Canberra after fresh revelations suspected terrorists were planning a potential attack on the nation’s capital and the country’s highest office.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning confirmed the Daily Telegraph report that intelligence agencies had picked up “chatter” involving a potential random attack on Parliament House, with fears among national security and intelligence agencies that the Prime Minister and other senior government officials were prime targets.
The “chatter” about Parliament House had been intercepted and they now held fears the building had already been “scoped out” for pre-planning of a “Mumbai” style attack involving automatic weapons.
The chatter, intercepted by spy, police and counterterrorism agencies, ­revealing talk about access to Parliament House was confirmed by two senior intelligence officials. It is believed the chatter also involved possible reprisal attacks against ASIO.”

PR Droid
6 - 10 - 14

In case you haven’t seen it, there is an excellent article on Overland by Giovanni Tiso. You can read it here:
https://overland.org.au/2014/09/the-global-surveillance-picture-show/

Maximus
14 - 10 - 14

Thanks Droid. A good read. Also just in today’s Stuff, this just in:
“New documents from intelligence whistlelower Edward Snowden suggest the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is using New Zealand embassies to snoop on foreign powers. Classification codes from US spy agency the National Security Agency (NSA) leaked by the Intercept website over the weekend reference activities conducted by countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. This is made up of the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The documents detail a code which “restricts access to information about personnel involved in covert collection, processing and report of SIGINT [signals intelligence] from diplomatic missions abroad.
“This activity is conducted by USA, AUS, CAN, GBR and NZL.”
Other snippets relating to New Zealand also suggest the NSA could be using the GCSB, as a Five Eyes partner, to hack into other nations’ systems. One classification refers to “second party partner assisted network infiltration operations.”
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10610620/NZ-embassies-used-by-spies-docs