Tuesday, January 31, 2006

GSCB speaks out

The Director-General of the GSCB has spoken out against several allegations made during a spate of media attention about his organization. He gives a general overview of GSCB and rejects the allegation that GSCB operates primarily for the UKUSA partnership. In particular he disputes David Lange's allegation that he was kept in the dark by saying:
Any suggestion that Lange was unaware of what the GCSB was doing while he was Prime Minister, or that the GCSB somehow ceded its proper and sovereign control over its Waihopai satellite station, is simply wrong.
Guess that makes Lange a Liar then. Quelle suprise!. But why did this statement take so long to come out? I suspect the answer lies in one particular allegation that we spied on UN security council members (probably only Chile) to see which way they might intend to vote about a second resolution for war in Iraq). So what did he say:
To avoid any lingering doubt, let me confirm publicly that the GCSB's actions in regard to Iraq have at all times been very carefully calibrated to ensure that they were fully consistent with our Government's stated and public foreign policy. It has not been a case of the New Zealand Government saying one thing publicly and the GCSB doing another privately.
Carefully calibrated chosen words that seem reasonable enough until one asks what was the government's position on Iraq? And there lies the problem. The government's public position was to abdicate all sense of judgement and leave it for the UN Security Council to decide (Helen Clark's unwise statements did not occur until after the war started). But such a position does not preclude that GCSB from actually doing what has been alleged. That's not to say that they actually did so - GCSB might have been spying on the Iraqi embassy in Australia in order to obtain information about Iraq's compliance or lack thereof of various UN security council resolutions. Since our government's position was that Iraq should comply with those resolutions, the GCSB's actions would not have contradicted government policy. All we can say however is that the GCSB did something concerning to Iraq. What that was we don't know and the allegation of spying on UNSCR members has not been denied unlike the other allegations. I daresay that whatever the GCSB did with respect to Iraq, they did so after consultation with the government.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Big Brother is an MI5 Operation!!


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tennis Ball aftershock

In the Sunday Star-Times was the following note:
Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope's press secretary, Pete Coleman, has been disciplined for leaking information to the media. Coleman who was referred to Ministerial Services late last year after he leaked parts of a police report into claims Benson-Pope assaulted former student. Coleman then denied having been the source of the leak. Coleman declined to comment but the Sunday Star-Times understands he had been told he could publicly take the blame for the incident and keep his job, and that his job would be at risk if he did not do so
If the understanding is true, then a couple of more details can be added. Ministerial Services is not in the habit of telling people to accept responsibility or risk losing their job. The only person capable of making such a threat would be the Minister, David Benson-Pope, and all he has to do is tell Ministerial Services that he's lost confidence in his press secretary. A similar tactic was used by a green-eyed Clayton Cosgrove to get Parliamentary Services to dismiss his secretary after she started going out with a NZ First MP.

GSCB dripfeed cancelled

Archives NZ has rescinded permission for the Sunday Star-Times to quote anything further about the Lange Papers. Despite Archives NZ's attempt being described as a try in the first paragraph, the SST has wimped out and not published anything. It's not clear why they chose to do so, as s61 of the Public Records Act 2005 only covers the damage or destruction of the documents while s62 of the same act provides for a fine of up to $10,000. The answer probably lies in the regulations for the archives which don't seem to be up at the legislation website.

What we do get are two columns by Nicky Hager and Terence O'Brien. For all Nicky's alleged knowledge on the topic, he persists in making stuff up far beyond what the evidence says. Firstly he creates a strawman that people claim the Americans "severed intelligence ties" in 1985 when what the Americans actually did and said so at the time was that military ties were severed. Which is only the set-up to this:
The summaries withheld were those prepared by US military forces - which is not surprising since the US military, and especially US Navy, were most annoyed by the nuclear policy and did cut some military ties.
Gee. There isn't a chance that the actual announced policy of severance of military ties might have had something to do with this? And then there's this:
Why, then, did news go around the world of intelligence access being - in the words of defence chief Ewan Jamieson - "terminated"?
I daresay that if we were to go back to the original quote, we would find that Ewan was talking about matters for which he was responsible - namely military matters and not intelligence matters.

Later on, Nicky begings to show signs of desperation in analysing the report:
Most of the Tangimoana radio eavesdropping station's work was monitoring Soviet vessels in the Pacific for the Americans. The station also monitored Argentinian Navy and Egyptian diplomatic communications for Britain.
Most of the work was against Soviet shipping? Then how did we get the Japanese diplomatic traffic which was the most frequently reported target in the GSCB annual report? How does he know that spying on Egyptian diplomatic traffic was done for the British? Who were we spying on the South Africans and the Laotians for then? He continues to plumb new depths in illogic:
The head office intelligence analysts specialised in translating French government communications intercepted by the British and translating Japanese diplomatic cables and communications from friendly South Pacific nations intercepted by the US. A quarter of the radio eavesdropping staff were based at "JTUM" in Melbourne, helping a British/Australian operation against China.
The British have been right next to France for at least a thousand years. Despite this, they outsource their French intelligence work to us? I don't think so. And if a quarter of our staff were based at Melbourne spying on the Chinese then why isn't China mentioned anywhere in the report?

The other column by Terence O'Brien is not on line. He starts of by saying that it raises questions "about the nature of, and the reasons for spying by governments". But it seems not to have occured to him to draw upon his experience as a former NZ diplomat to answer the more interesting question of why we were likely to be spying on some of the targets on the list. Because he does not even begin to do that, his column merely full of words and punctuation, signifying nothing.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Paul Buchanan analyses the GSCB report

In this week's listener, Paul Buchanan has a (not online) one page analysis of what the GCSB report reveals. However a promising byline "reveals more secrets than first realized" turns out to be a false advertising as the bulk of the article is bereft of insight. For example, he writes:
[T]hat 20 years ago [...] New Zealand had the ability to selectively designate eavesdropping from very remote targets - witness Egypt being one of New Zealand's spying targets
He fails to realize that we were monitoring Egyptian diplomatic traffic meaning that transmissions from an Egyptian Embassy are most likely being described. And where is the nearest Egyptian Embassy? Remote Canberra. I was more impressed that we could monitor South African military communications. He then states:
The entities targeted by New Zealand mentioned in the Lange papers - Japan, France, the Phillipines, Pacific Island States, Vietnam, the UN, the USSR, South Africa, Laos and Argentine Naval Intelligence - reflect US and UK strategic concerns in 1986 rather than those of the Lange government
What was the strategic concern that required us to spy on Laos? Why the US and UK so concerned about Vietnam but not Cambodia? If we could spy on Japan then why not China? It's clear that he doens't have a good idea of what might have been going on in 1986 to make reasonable guesses as to why were we spying on some of the odder targets. And lastly, he writes:
"But it's noteworthy that the larger intelligence patrons had New Zealand monitoring [...] French electronic transmissions, presumably because they did not want to risk the diplomatic fallout of direct spying on supposed allies or friends."
If he had actually read the Sunday Star Times report then he would have found out that we relied "heavily on [British] GCHQ acquisition and forwarding of French Pacific Satellite Intercepts". Now if the GCHQ are giving us French transmissions then it follows that they are not at all concerned that about being caught spying on them!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Keith Locke speaks without removing feet

Keith Locke weighs in on the GCSB file (Thanks Chefen) and manages to out-do John Minto.
“Surely spying on Europe and Japan is not in the interests of the Clark Government’s foreign policy,” Mr Locke says.
Only two european countries were spied upon - France and East Germany. There were legitimate reasons for us to be interested in what the French were saying: Nuclear Bomb Testing in the Pacific, the Rainbow Warrior Affair and unrest in New Caledonia. If Keith does not believe it was in our interests to spy on the French in 1986 then he should tell his fellow Greens. As for spying on East Germany, seeing that Keith only saw good tidings in the fall of Afghanistan to the Soviet Union and the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge, we shouldn't be so surprised that he reflexively considers the Regime that gave us the Berlin Wall to have been a Good Thing. As for Japan, he eleborates:
"Is New Zealand intercepting Japanese communications with their whaling fleet?"
And this would be wrong because? Or doesn't Keith consider the preservation of innocent Minke whales to be a cause worth spying for? Or perhaps he considers the Minke to have the same scant value as human lives under regimes that he once shared an ideological bent with? In any case, the intercepted communications were diplomatic which precludes whaling fleets.

To put the issue in another way; in 1999, we were monitoring the communications of the Indonesian Military to find out what they were planning to do with East Timor after the referendum. This was crucial for our troops that were planning to deploy there and even more crucial for the people of East Timor because if we didn't know what General Wiranto & Co. planned to do then there was a good chance that we might have stayed away and left East Timor under Indonesian rule. If Keith does not believe that this was a good reason for spying then he should let his sister know.

And lastly:
"We don't believe it to be in New Zealand's national interest to be part of US operations to spy on countries like France and Japan. It undermines the generally friendly relations we have with them."
So the French were being friendly when they tested nuclear weapons in the Pacific? Were they being friendly when they sank the Rainbow Warrior in our harbour? If that was "generally friendly relations" then I hate to see Keith Locke's idea of low-level hostilities.

Clue-free Minto

John Minto devotes his column to the recent spy-file by recalling a foreword that David Lange wrote for Nicky Hager's Book:
It includes the bald statement, "It was not until I read this book that I had any idea that we had been committed to an international integrated electronic network."

This is an outrageous situation. Aside from his prime ministerial role he was also the minister responsible for security and intelligence and chairman of Parliament's security and intelligence committee, and yet he was given no idea as to the real purpose of the secret base he authorised.

It is clear that he was deliberately misled by the bureaucrats who run the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which is responsible for managing the Waihopai base.
Does Minto seriously expects us to believe that Lange, have had read this report, did not draw the obvious conclusion that we were part of such a network? Or did the possibility that Lange was not adverse to telling lies never occur to him?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A further look at the spy files.

Looking at the spy files. The Sunday Star Time's list is:
French South Pacific: civil, naval and military;
French Antarctic Civil;
Vietnamese Diplomatic;
North Korean Diplomatic;
Soviet merchant and scientific research shipping;
Soviet Antarctic Civil. Soviet Fisheries;
Argentine naval;
Non-Soviet Antarctic civil;
East German diplomatic;
Japanese diplomatic;
Philippine diplomatic;
South Africa Armed Forces;
Laotian Diplomatic [and] UN diplomatic;
TVNZ's summary of the list is:
The report says New Zealand eavesdropped on communications from Argentina, the United Nations, the Soviet Union, East Germany, France, Egypt, Japan, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and South Africa.
I'm pleased that somebody in TVNZ knows about Laos even if the NZ Herald doesn't ("Laotia" appears in the second last paragraph). So onto the analysis:

French South Pacific: civil, naval and military; The report states that we relied "heavily on [British] GCHQ acquisition and forwarding of French Pacific Satellite Intercepts" but some messages we seem to have intercepted ourselves. Our primary interest would have been the French Nuclear Testing, the Rainbow Warrior bombers and the troubles in New Caledonia. The Sunday Star Times article mentions us asking NSA and GCHQ to monitor certain Parisian telephone addresses as well as coverage of the yacht Ouvea.

French Antarctic civil; Unless the French were actually doing something nasty, I have a strong feeling their communications were monitored out of sheer ill-will towards the french.

Vietnamese Diplomatic; What is being monitored here is probably Embassy radio communications. The question is whether it was the local embassy (if it existed at the time) being monitored or the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra? I suspect the latter as there is less diplomatic embarassment if we get caught when we just got caught. Now here's where things get interesting. The Chinese aren't mentioned on the list! Now the Vietnamese were leaning Soviet at the time while Chinese communications would have been intercepted by the Brits at Hong Kong (and the article states we got their government intercepts from GCHQ/NSA).

North Korean Diplomatic; This is where things get odd. Neither we or Australia have a North Korean Embassy (the Ozzies had one for about two years in the 70s) while the nearest thing that the North Koreans have in the States is the UN Mission. I can only surmise that we were listening in on North Korean communications with their mission while it would have been unlawful for the Americans to do so. This may also account for some or all of the Vietnamese traffic that we were listening to.

Soviet merchant and scientific research shipping; Soviet Antarctic Civil. Soviet Fisheries; No real mystery here as to why we were listening to their communications here.

Argentine naval Undoubtedly an aftereffect of the Falklands War. When though the Junta had been out of power for some years, the military was still suspect. Two things strike me as curious: one, the British had a perfectly place for listening at the Falklands Islands. Secondly, why weren't we listening in on Chile's communications? Pinochet was still in power and would be for another two years.

Non-Soviet Antarctic civil; This is probably a reference to the Indians and the Polish antarctic missions that we were described as spying upon in the SST article.

East German diplomatic; We were probably listening into the East German Embassy in Canberra.

Japanese diplomatic; This is a bit of a surprise chiefly because I didn't think we would have had the capability to do so. According to the SST article, we were getting raw transcripts from GCHQ/NSA sources and deciphering them. Unfortunately our capability to do so took a hit because a new cypher system was introduced. Our reason for doing so? Primarily their whalers.

Philippine diplomatic; While things were unsettled during the last year of Marcos's reign, I'm surprised that we were listening to them considering that the Americans had two military bases in the country. My tentative guess is that we were intercepting traffic to their UN mission.

South Africa Armed Forces; Obviously a cause for concern with Apartheid still in place there. I'm just curious as to why we were doing it when the Australians are in a slightly better position to do so while the British had far closer military bases.

Laotian diplomaticMy best guess is the interception of traffic to their UN mission.

Egypt Another curious entry on the list. If we were listening to Egypt's diplomatic traffic, why weren't we listening to Iran or Iraq (Iran had an embassy here while Iraq had an embassy in Australia)? The UN mission hypothesis doesn't work due to the geography and I can't think of any reason why we would have a compelling reason to listen in on their traffic.

Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands The Fijian coups didn't take place until the year after this report while the Solomons were far quieter than New Caledonia then. I can't think of any reason to be listening into Tonga's communications and not Western Samoa or the Cook Islands. The choice of targets is hence a mystery to me unless the issue was Japanese wads of cash for votes in an upcoming IWC conference.

Where is Laotia?

The Sunday Star-Times has a front page report about the countries that we spied on through GCSB back in 1986. It's no surprise to find that Nicky Hager is involved but for all his experience on intelligence matters (which inexplicably falied to alert him that an earlier story was bogus), one big howler slips through:
The report lists the countries and agencies on which New Zealand was spying. They include targets that have never been officially acknowledged, including UN diplomatic communications, Argentine naval intelligence, Egypt, Japan, the Philippines, Pacific Island nations, France, Vietnam, the Soviets, North Korea, East Germany, Laotia [My emphasis - PHM] and South Africa.
There is no country called Laotia. There is a country called Laos (between Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, China and Cambodia) and I'm surprised that it had diplomatic traffic worth intercepting. However I'm less surprised however at the revealed limitations of the SST's geographical knowledge.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Clark for UN Secretary-General?

Once I had stopped laughing at the characterization of Helen Clark's chances of being the next UN Secretary-general as "serious", I looked into the matter some more. As it turns out, Helen Clark is only one of eighteen women proposed by Equality Now. Upon perusing the list of names, it's apparent to me that the people who drew up the list simply don't have a clue.

The primary function of the UN Secretary General is chief administrative officer for the UN and this role is far larger than the bully pulpit to the world that Equality Now perceives it as. Given that the UN is in dire need of reform, to appoint someone without any administrative experience whatsoever will probably kill the UN off.

So looking at the list, what do I find? Four of the nominees (including our Silvia Cartwright) are Judges. A fifth has no administrative experience whatsover and, even worse, her political acumen is so poor that for over ten years she has failed to cut a deal with the junta in order to take power as Prime Minister. Another nine are UN honchos of some sort or another with very little to commend them.

So compared to the majority of the list, Clark does have administrative experience. But, in my opinion, she does not have the right kind of experience. The UN is in major need of reform to such an extent that amputation may be required. Clark's style of adminstration, on the other hand, has been to maintain a united front among her executive by avoiding conflict and keeping no-brainers such as George Hawkins or Mita Ririnui in ministerial portfolios. The UN needs Clark's style of adminstration like an alcoholic needs a drink.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ariel: an observation on his profiles

Just watched the television news about Ariel Sharon. What I found interesting in the retrospective of his career was that not once was anything bad said about him (e.g. Shatila, Jenin, the Wall, the massacre of Innocents etc), a stark contrast from what was said about him when he became Prime Minister of Israel.

The NZ Herald, whose foreign news section is coloured by articles from Independent (due to having the same owner), simply runs an a biography that is sourced to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even their quick facts about him merely states that he incurred "Arab enmity" for the invasion of Lebanon and a "crushing response" to the second Intifada. Looking overseas, the BBC profile mentions his indirect responsibility for the Shatila and Sabra massacres halfway down the page where the unpalatable facts usually get mentioned.

Clearly the withdrawal from Gaza has demolished the depiction of Sharon as the war-criminal supreme in a way that was unthinkable not so long ago.