Internet Party Circus Detracts from Serious Issues (opinion) – Part I

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appears at the Moment of Truth rally in Auckland via video linkKim Dotcom’s hired political party failed to deliver on it’s promises of a “bombshell” last night instead descending into long diatribes attacking the Prime Minster of New Zealand while advertising his own privacy protection software MEGA, then attacking media when they asked where the evidence was. A continuing, tired, circus based on a thin cult of personality that is sucking up valuable air in the run up to voting day and masking issues that need to come out and questions that need to be answered.

With all the marketing skills of the NSA themselves, Internet Mana and Kim Dotcom have been playing the reverse manipulation card for the past few months on the spying issue, entangling it with Kim’s own pending criminal case. On one side we have the US Government telling us that spying is necessary to protect us from “terrorists” and in a mirror-parallel we have Internet Mana running the same kind of propaganda telling us that the government is corrupt and needs to go while telling us we should just trust them.

Laila Harre and Internet Mana wound us into a frenzy last night with their great “Moment of Truth”, which, in hindsight, was a great flop. Several hundred people packed out the town hall while about twenty six thousand watched on a heavily advertised YouTube feed promoting MEGA. Not a lot given the audience was global and shows the fact that people are largely sick of the circus.

Glen Greenwald spent half an hour waffling his way through what could only be called a caveat to his great reveal along with barbed, thinly veiled, personal attacks on the Prime Minister while Kim Dotcom chortles in the background and Laila Harre looked on rather tensely. A common theme. The great reveal came with the showing of two very heavily redacted slides that showed evidence that the Southern Cable had been compromised by the NSA and that New Zealand has access to the XKeyScore programme, an analytic engine that allows information to be trawled in a Google like way for spies.

Now, let’s examine both of those things and throw some context around them.

Firstly, ALL communications in and out of New Zealand have been comprised since 1971 when Britain started using ECHELON to listen in to satellite communications. By 1981, the Five Eyes had been formed and participants were involved in mass surveillance of Intelsat communications. Over the past thirty five years, that system has grown up into the mass surveillance systems that the Five Eyes manage today. None of this is new. The question remains; is New Zealand conducting mass surveillance of it’s citizens and the answer appears to be no.

The other Five Eyes are absolutely conducting mass surveillance of New Zealand, this is not in dispute. What is also not in dispute is that the GCSB can access that data when they need too, i.e. when they have a warrant. There’s no point in doing warrant less surveillance here because it just won’t end up standing up in court.

We know that the TICS bill that was passed last year also adds the capability (now) to intercept data flows at telecommunications providers and ISP’s. We also know in the industry that the installation of those facilities have caused problems, anecdotally. New Zealand is far too small for this stuff to NOT leak out. Besides, for geeks, it’s really interesting.

So, big bomb shell flop. We know that we are being subject to mass surveillance already (by foreign powers), we know our international communications are compromised, and we know that the spooks have access directly in New Zealand.

Is this going to change? Nope. It’s up to us to protect ourselves (not using MEGA by the way in my opinion) and our own privacy. On one hand we get all excited about this town hall, pseudo-religious, moral outrage, manipulated circus events and on the other we give away far more personal data to large multi-nationals, in real time, all day, every day. Facebook. Google. Other Social Media applications. Logging into Google will show you all your physical movements over the life of your interaction with them.

There are several hundred other applications that do the same. Quite frankly, the NSA is behind the times and the TICS law, as I have commented before, was dead before it was enacted. Several dozen tools can be applied so that the GCSB, SIS, and other spies simply will never see you. You can be a ghost in the system. One of the things that the NSA revelations has done is boost a massive security industry within the ICT industry.

Do I agree with mass surveillance? Hell no. It’s one thing for the spies to get a warrant, which I agree with, it’s entirely outrageous for them to install a policeman in your lounge to watch you twenty four seven for your own protection. I take my privacy seriously.

Following Greenwald the (unsurprising) start of the show Edward Snowden beamed in from Russia to tell us what he thought. There were really only two statements that came out of that. Firstly, the cable had been tapped and secondly, that the NSA had a presence in Auckland and “further North”. He also said that he had regularly come across New Zealand data as part of his job as an analyst. No evidence of any of this was provided, we assume that Snowden, a traitor to his own country and a hero of the far right and far left, is telling us the truth.

New Zealand has had foreign spies here as long as I can remember. Every now and then they really screw it up. And we see it. Americans, Russians, Israelis, and other nation states have all been caught out here. So the NSA having a presence is zero surprise. The cable tapping was a given, as we’ve seen. It doesn’t matter HOW it is tapped by the way. Pacific Fibre have said they have no knowledge of it, yet there are soft ways to do it, it could be done at the far ends, their are a myriad of ways. We know they are.

I had a friend in the eighties who’s father was in the SIS and spied on the Russian spies in and around Karori. They would park in one particular elderly woman’s driveway to keep an eye on the Russians, so the story goes, because she would creep out with cups of tea, biscuits, and scones to feed the boys who were “keeping an eye on the naughty Russians.”

As to regularly reading New Zealand data, we can’t assume that was collected by the GCSB. The Prime Minister can confidently say that the GCSB and SIS are not conducting mass surveillance in New Zealand, and we’ll never prove otherwise. One, we couldn’t afford it, and two, why would we need to when the Brits and Americans are doing it for them?

Kim Dotcom got up at some point and pushed his product set MEGA. This completely detracted from the actual issues that were on the table and commentators are having a field day with it, suggesting that Kim Dotcom set the entire thing up as a massive advert for MEGA. Now, while we are on MEGA, before you are tempted to use it, consider a couple of things:

  • There are far more mature and strongly private services out there in my opinion.
  • Read the small print in the user agreement: “You must maintain copies of all data stored by you on our service. We do not make any guarantees that there will be no loss of data or the services will be bug free.” In other words, like the old MEGA, there are no service levels.

We then had Assange waffle on in his usual way, with no evidence and much rhetoric.

Finally, one of Kim Dotcom’s (many) lawyers got up and had a personal go at the Prime Minister over several minutes and then spouted on about the TPAA in a language that no one could understand.

If not for Greenwald and Snowden the event would have been farcical. Much more time should have been given to them to explore the issues that we face. They both were interesting and clearly had more to impart. It was meant to be a panel, but no questions were fielded, and as I’ve said, in the press conference afterwards Kim Dotcom lost his rag when he was pressed on “where was the evidence?”, “how has the Prime Minister lied?”, and “was the email released about the music execs fake?”

You see, Internet Mana doesn’t have much. A treasure chest of three million dollars, a bought and paid for staff including a hired leader (not democratically elected), not much of a policy, and a penchant for personally attacking anyone who disagrees with them. Democracy at it’s core is about debating issues (not attacking people) and reaching compromise in order to move a country forward, it’s not easy.

Thankfully this sideshow is at an end.

As I said, the circus has masked some real issues for New Zealand in the area of security, which I will blog about later today in Part II.

Syndication: Apologies to those who are getting this from multiple sources. This is being syndicated across a number of sites. 





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