Countering misinformation from the NZIC
Since the New Zealand Intelligence Community (NZIC) decided to get a better propaganda department there has been a large amount of propaganda and misinformation being handed out to the New Zealand public with little push back from the media. It's the sort of thing that pisses me off so I thought I would point out a few of the more recent pieces. I think these people are a disgrace to New Zealand. They're always saving us but they can't say how or from what unless it serves their purposes and then, when some information leaks out, it usually turns out they weren't saving us at all.
Take the 2019 mosque shootings as an example. The NZIC released a statement a month before the attacks saying it was focused almost entirely on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and after the shootings it was revealed that instead of protecting New Zealanders from terrorism the NZIC had actually been investigating them for terrorism while asking them to spy on their communities. This surveillance was apparently so severe that the Muslim community had raised concerns with the Human Rights Foundation and that agency had been representing them in closed door meetings with multiple agencies since 2017.
So, what has the NZIC propaganda department been up to lately?
Their latest effort is a video encouraging people to go to their new "Beyond Ordinary" website and apply to join the NZIC along with a series of promo articles in the news saying they want "everyday people". It is possible they should have considered their message slightly more though because the woman with the blanked face, cup of coffee and a you're beneath me attitude represents the NZIC. Meanwhile the "everyday people" get represented by a bumbling idiot distracted by his reflection. There may be a little bit more truth in that representation than they wanted to let out.
Of course, according to the NZSIS Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge,
...the video trades on spy-related gags to help break down common stereotypes and misconceptions the public may have about working for intelligence agencies, particularly the people who work for them.
And isn't it nice that the security services can take the mickey out of themselves? They must be really normal people and what a fun place to work! Except no. This video is a classic piece of propaganda in an effort to normalise an almost entirely unaccountable branch of the government that has broken New Zealand and International law multiple times with no repercussions.
For example, a quick glance at the Wikipedia pages for the NZSIS and GCSB, shows that they have been involved in or faced serious accusations of,
- Asking university staff to report on colleagues and students
- Discriminating against asylum seekers
- Entering into false romantic relationships
- Hacking the Chinese Consulate-General and the Chinese Visa Office
- Mass surveillance
- Spying on Bangladesh
- Spying on Embassy's in New Zealand
- Spying on environmental rights groups
- Spying on foreign activists
- Spying on foreign diplomats
- Spying on foreign ministers
- Spying on Indonesia
- Spying on Maori communities
- Spying on Muslim communities
- Spying on Members of Parliament
- Spying on our Pacific neighbours (eg; Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, and the French overseas departments of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.)
- Spying on the New Zealand public
- Spying on political opponents
- Spying on protesters
And let us not forget the recent case where the NZSIS left a girl in years of sexual abuse. Years later when the agent involved felt guilty and wrote to the Inspector General he received a letter from the head of the NZSIS that said in part,
"We take any failure to comply with undertakings to protect classified information very seriously. This includes consideration of referral to New Zealand police for investigation of any criminal wrongdoing."
He took that as a threat. As he should have.
The people in the NZIC are not the spies represented in their promotional video. They are an unaccountable community that breaks local and international law while targeting activists, protesters and minority's. They don't want you to think about the morality of the fictional human resources woman. They want you to think she is a nice person, not someone who lies to her family, or someone who is knowingly supporting the NZIC in continuing to erode human rights and New Zealand's standing in the world. Not someone complicit in the murder of unarmed civilians in drone strikes. Not a person who is probably going to forward the applicants information to the other members of Five Eyes so they can trawl the online and off-line history of the applicant, their family and friends. And definitely not a person supporting a community that covered up sexual abuse to keep its cover.
Think of the Children
And then there is Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for New Zealand's intelligence agencies who is fronting a concerted push to get greater powers for the NZIC in the form of back doors into encryption on Social Media. Yes, that's right folks, the Minister who pushed the Privacy Act 2020 with its many exemptions for the security services has now started spouting about how,
...the growth in incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation had been "phenomenal" with notifications to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children rising from 1 million in 2014 to 18 million in 2018.
New Zealand joins call for access to social media encrypted data
It sounds terrible, especially when mixed with his other statements about the, "massive demand for this most abusive and vile material online". This looks like an eighteen fold increase in missing and exploited children and that is just the thing to get the public frothing at the mouth. Except that it isn't what has happened. It is, in fact, bullshit of the worst kind.
If you look at the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website you can dig up little facts like,
150,667 of those reports were from the public and 16.9 million were from electronic service providers.
Or, that out of those 16.9 million reports almost 16 million came from Facebook.
Leaving aside the differences in the legal definitions of exploited children between the United States and New Zealand (they are vast) it should be clear that Facebook's automated exploited children algorithm has some problems. It should also be clear that these are duplicate notifications or are we to believe that in 2019 16.9 million new images of exploited children were posted on Facebook? Or that, without duplication, there were 16.9 million new exploited children in the United States last year? That is 23% of the children in the United States?...Really?
Andrew Little should be ashamed of himself. He sounds like a QAnon fan.
(By the way, if you want to read a little more on the dubious figures of missing and exploited children in the US go here or listen to the You're Wrong About podcast here.)
And finally let us look at,
"A new strategy for combating crime across borders envisages giving government agencies greater powers to share intelligence and seize criminal proceeds."
'Insidious' threat: 'Organised criminal groups gaining greater access'
It is called Transnational Organised Crime in New Zealand: Our Strategy and touts the principles of,
- Prevention first
- Systems thinking
- Intelligence led
- Evidence based
Initially, I didn't think this was anything to do with the intelligence services until I got right to the bottom of the article where the GCSB states that this type of crime is not only a priority to them but that,
"GCSB is increasingly focused on using its advanced technical capabilities in support of this priority," said GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton.
'Insidious' threat: 'Organised criminal groups gaining greater access'
Mr Hampton must have been extremely dismayed when reading the article as it also states that, "hard evidence and a way of measuring this threat is lacking". It's bullshit.
This strategy was written by 15 agencies,
- Department of Conservation
- Department of Corrections
- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Government Communications Security Bureau
- Inland Revenue
- Ministry for Primary Industries
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Transport
- National Maritime Coordination Centre
- New Zealand Customs Service
- New Zealand Defence Force
- New Zealand Police
- Serious Fraud Office
And those 15 agencies failed to show any hard evidence of the threat that would gain them addition powers and probably more funding. Isn't that slightly suspicious? Plus, if you bother to skim through it, it doesn't actually say much except boardroom points.
But, it does have one very humorous part. If you make it to page 8 then you will find the definition of what Transnational Organised Crime is.
Now, please refer back to what the NZSIS and GCSB have been involved in or faced serious accusations of. :)
I am not saying that we shouldn't have an intelligence community. I'm saying that if we must have one then they shouldn't have a propaganda department, they should limited in their powers and they should be publicly accountable for their actions. Look back at New Zealand's recent election and the leaks that came out of the National Party. Leading, in part, to its greatest defeat in decades. How can New Zealanders be sure that the security services were not behind them when there is little to stop them or expose them if they did?