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Cold War 5-Eyes Node or Global Broker? – NZ after Snowden


Edward Snowden speaking through an Internet video link to an Internet Party election meeting in Auckland]

Mass NZ data collection for Five Eyes?

It was New Zealand’s turn for special attention from the NSA whistleblower- publicist duo Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald in the last week of its recent election campaign.

They claimed the United States National Security Agency (NSA)  engaged in mass data collection on New Zealanders under the auspices of the “Five Eyes” international intelligence-sharing network (of US, UK, Canada, Australia and NZ). New Zealand has been a member/node of this network since its formation during the Cold War in 1956.

PM Key yields ground on outside surveillance possibilities

Responding, Prime Minister John Key seemed to concede some points.

  1. He said Edward Snowden probably had seen New Zealand data in his Hawaii NSA work:“I think the point he [Snowden] was making was, in that shared [“XKeyscore”] database he said ‘I regularly came across information about New Zealanders’ …That may well be right.” (emphasis added). However, the prime minister wanted to frame such information-collection as not mass, but targeted, and all done with legal warrants by New Zealand Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) officers.
  2. Perhaps thinking Snowden and Greenwald might produce more detailed evidence of mass data collection, the prime minister subsequently conceded that allied agencies could be spying without his knowledge. He did not think they would, but “could not rule out that the United States National Security Agency is undertaking mass surveillance of New Zealanders’ data”. [NSA spying can’t be ruled out: PM]. More broadly he “could not control what information New Zealand’s other ‘Five Eyes’intelligence network partners” (Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States with its NSA) harvest.”

Indeed. The NSA has a massively-resourced global ambition with respect to potential intelligence information anywhere. That is framed as: “Collect it all, sniff it all, process it all, know it all, exploit it all”.

Two NSA software projects

This huge ambition is practically embodied in two software-based projects disclosed by Snowden. These clarify the potential reach of the NSA and the kinds of pressure and expectation Five Eyes members can face. They are:

1. XKeyscore

Snowden made some very strong claims about the XKeyscore project through an internet video feed to a public Internet Party meeting in Auckland and a blog on Greenwald’s Intercept website.

Referring to when he worked full-time for the NSA with a top security clearance he said: “If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called ‘XKEYSCORE.’”

This database was “used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic.”

“But what does it mean? It means they have the ability see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online.”

How does it work? XKeyscore software uses a Five Eyes Defeat checkbox search system so that “When an officer of the government wants to know everything about everyone in their society they ….(t)hey simply uncheck the box.”

[Snowden: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Isn’t Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance (15-7-14)

See also:].

This individually-intensive penetration by XKeyscore is complemented by the globally-extensive ambition driving the next software-based project.

2. Treasuremap

Breathtakingly, Treasuremap seeks to:

 “Map the entire Internet – [via] Any device, anywhere, all the time.” (emphasis added)

To help carry this it currently uses, for instance:

“13 covered servers in unwitting data centers around the globe” (emphasis added)

This project should enable the vast scale, and some of the furtiveness involved in Five Eyes network activities, to be better appreciated.

NZ & PM in an inherently furtive, mass-spying environment?

Given such projects as these two it need not be too surprising if a New Zealand prime minister didn’t know about the scope of surveillance in his country, let alone have an ability to control it.

  1. Keep in mind for instance, how with Treasuremap the NSA furtively embeds “covered”spy servers where it wishes. A variation on this could lie behind Snowden’s forthright assertion that the NSA “has a facility in Auckland and another further north.” [Snowden: NSA has facility in New Zealand (16-9-14]. Following this claim and checking with present and former GCSB heads the prime minister declared himself “unaware of any NSA site in New Zealand” and “if there were, they were operating without his knowledge and illegally.”  [NSA spying can’t be ruled out: PM 17-9-14]. That may indeed be happening.
  2. The NSA has a deep culture of secrecy. For instance, it even lied on oath to US lawmakers with constitutional oversight over it in the US by giving calculatedly “least untruthful” answers to an investigating Senate Intelligence Committee.

A Labour-Green Government would face the same problem, unless…

Such outside-managed mass spying is not, however, simply a problem for Prime Minister Key personally, or even his National Party government. A Labour or Labour-Green government would find itself living with the same problems unless it defined and implemented new ways of relating to the United States that did not draw it into us its global intelligence structures and operations.

Glenn Greenwald has also promised more evidence about New Zealand Five Eyes spying on friends, possibly including China on whom it depends for its economic future. This may help to sharpen awareness of the need for more overall policy changes.

Such revelations could top up a 1996 book and subsequent work by Nicky Hager disclosing how in the Five Eyes environment the NSA can get New Zealand to secretly collect information the United States wants on any nations, including some with whom New Zealand has and wants to maintain amicable relations and trade.

International brokering services policy frame

Can New Zealand relate well to all, rather than to a few who want it to work with them against (many) others who would find offensive  if they knew?

Yes New Zealand can, and more than ever in today’s increasingly conflict-riven yet also globally-connected world. It can do so as a remote, antipodean diplomatic broker, and cloud data hub, available to all.

Such international services need to be framed together in a new, coherent and practical international-relations policy package.

Most village-connections blogs describe specific infrastructures that, from the ground-up, would powerfully support such global services hub development.

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