Why on earth is NZ sending a plane into the Kim-and-Trump tinderbox?

[Published in The Spinoff, 9 September 2018]

Winston Peters says the Orion is to implement UN sanctions, but that’s only half the story, writes former Green MP Keith Locke

We all know the erratic nature of Donald Trump’s policy towards North Korea. One moment he’s threatening a military assault. The next moment he’s all buddy-buddy with Kim Jong-un.

So why on earth are we sending one of our P3 Orion aircraft to a US airbase on Okinawa, to conduct surveillance of ships sailing to and from North Korea?

The reasons given are unpersuasive. Foreign Minister Winston Peters claims it will help to implement UN sanctions against North Korea. But Peters is telling only half the story. The United States has its own sanctions against North Korea, which go well beyond the UN sanctions and cover virtually all trade with North Korea. (See Donald Trump’s Executive Orders of 20 September 2017 and 23 June 2018.) Our Orion will be helping implement American sanctions, not just the UN sanctions.

So what happens if our Orion spots a ship suspected of carrying goods to or from North Korea? It is no secret that the Trump administration would like to interdict some of these ships on the high seas, in violation of international law. Last year the United States tried to get UN Security Council support for such interdiction, but it failed. Since then it’s been talking with allies like Australia and Japanabout the feasibility of going it alone.

One Security Council member, China – which is also our biggest trading partner – would be most upset if New Zealand was helping the US board its ships, or those of its friends, in North Asian waters. Chinese-registered vessels were seen as the main target of new sanctions announced by the US in February against ships alleged to be trading with North Korea. New Zealand would be wise to steer clear of an American-run “coalition of the willing” using military force to implement its version of sanctions against North Korea.

Who knows what will happen next in the North Korea drama. It was all sweetness and light after Donald Trump met Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June. There was some give and take, with Kim promising de-nuclearisation and Trump suspending some war games with South Korea.

But since then the US administration has been asking Pyongyang to do all the giving, slowing the progress on de-nuclearisation.

Rather than just supporting more military pressure on North Korea, New Zealand should be pushing the Trump administration to concede more – like a permanent end to war games with South Korea, security guarantees to North Korea, and sitting down with the leaders of both Koreas, plus China, to work out a Korean Peninsula Peace Treaty. All of that is probably necessary if we’re to achieve the full de-nuclearisation of North Korea.

New Zealand is best placed to be one of the countries helping this peace process along, rather a country committing military assets to the US side.

Splashing $2.3 billion on aircraft erodes NZ’s independent foreign policy

[Published in The Spinoff, 14 July 2018]

The purchase of four surveillance planes signals an even closer military alignment with the United States, and the reflects badly on our non-aligned status, writes former Green Party defence spokesperson Keith Locke.

It was disappointing to see a Labour-led government agree to spend $2.3 billion on four P8A surveillance planes equipped to detect and fight submarines. Back in 2000 a Helen Clark Labour-led government fiercely resisted an expensive upgrade the six P3 Orions for anti-submarine warfare. Clark commented: “Anyone who argues $560 million for the Orions when there is no evidence of hostile submarines in our area would have to be barking.” She said that good surface surveillance would not cost anything like the price of the then Project Sirius anti-submarine upgrade.

As the Green Party’s defence spokesperson back in those times I fully backed the rejection of Project Sirius and, what followed shortly after, the scrapping of our air combat force. We were moving towards an independent defence policy, with equipment procurement geared more to international peacekeeping, and the needs of South Pacific nations.

Now the Labour/NZ First coalition is turning the clock back, buying surveillance planes, optimised for anti-submarine warfare, which are only useful to fight alongside America in a major war. Tellingly, when the defence minister, Ron Mark, was asked if he also wanted a New Zealand air strike force back, he answered, “Yes.”

There are four big downsides to the purchase of the P8s. The first is cost. There are plenty of maritime surveillance planes with high technical specifications, that can be purchased for less than $100 million. Canada’s Field Aviation provides such planes for clients including Australia and Sweden. Most of the $2.3 billion to be spent on the P8s could be saved for needed social spending.

The second downside is that the P8s, as war-fighting planes, will spend much of their time overseas on exercises with Five Eyes partners, or on coalition missions, most likely in the Middle East. They will be less available for what we really need for fisheries patrols or search and rescue over our Exclusive Economic Zone, the Southern Ocean and the South Pacific.

The third downside is that we will be moving further away from an independent foreign policy, because the P8 purchase can only be interpreted as siding militarily with America against China. The New Zealand P8s will be fitted out with surveillance systems, communications platforms, and weapons targeting, all geared to be interoperable with the American and Australian P8s, so that the three nations can fight together.

This is at a time when on many issues New Zealand is more aligned with China than Donald Trump’s America – on trade, climate change, the Iranian nuclear deal, and support for the United Nations.

The fourth downside for New Zealand is the threat to our trade. Why should we so unnecessarily alienate China when, as a major trading partner, it has a capacity punish us through regulations, both subtle and unsubtle. China hasn’t gone down that path so far, seeing us as perhaps the most accommodating of its Five Eyes adversaries. But why push our luck? We are right to criticise China’s poor human rights record, and Beijing will have to swallow that. But it’s stupid for New Zealand to add to that “problem” by moving into an even closer military alignment with the United States.

The best role for New Zealand is as an independent player, acting as a mediator, peacemaker and a general advocate of progressive policies. Despite commentary to the contrary, we still live in the “benign strategic environment” that Helen Clark talked about back in 2001. Living at the bottom of the South Pacific nobody is likely to attack us. But there is plenty of work to do to make the world a peaceful place. Several countries are subject to internal armed conflict, or in a military contention with their neighbours. New Zealand can better help resolve such conflicts if it is seen as being independent and non-aligned.

Keith Locke’s submission to the NZ Parliament on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill

[As presented in person to the Justice Select Committee, 30 April 2018]

Summary

I am strongly opposed to this Bill, and I urge the Select Committee to reject it. The Bill violates the right of Members of Parliament to free speech and the freedom of political association. These are fundamental human rights guaranteed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

The Bill violates the right of free speech by allowing for MPs to be expelled from Parliament as a consequence of speaking or voting differently from their party caucus and subsequently being excluded from that party caucus. It violates freedom of association by expelling an MP from Parliament for voluntarily ceasing his or her membership of a parliamentary party, or transferring his or her loyalty to another party.

I have long opposed such legislation, beginning on 22 October 1997, when I had an opinion piece published in the New Zealand Herald criticising plans for such a Bill by then Labour MP Michael Cullen. As a Green MP I spoke in Parliament against the 2001 and 2005 versions of an Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. More recently, on 10 January 2018, I had another opinion piece, criticising the current Bill, published in the New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11971853

It should be noted that the 2001 and 2005 versions of the Bill were virtually identical to the current Bill, except for the addition in the current Bill of a general statement that party rules have to be adhered to. Historically the Green Party has been strongly opposed to such Bills, with Green co-leader Rod Donald once quoted as calling the 2001 Bill, “the most draconian, obnoxious, anti-democratic, insulting legislation ever inflicted on this Parliament.” [New Zealand Herald, 8 October 2004].

I repeat what I said in Parliament on 18 December 2001, that this Bill should not be named an Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill because it has nothing to do with personal integrity. I said it should be called a Party Conformity Bill. It turns MPs into what Rod Donald called “party robots” in one of his speeches.

The aim of the current Bill is quite wrong. Clause 5 describes its purpose as to “enhance the maintenance of proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined by the electors.”

Legal sanctions to preserve party proportionality between elections limit the freedom and range of political debate. Trying to freeze party alignments through the three years between elections does, to some degree, limit the independence of MPs, what they can say, their openness to new ideas, and their willingness to embrace change. Over the three years of a parliamentary term MPs can change, parties can change, the electorate can change, and new and unexpected political challenges do arise.

Such legislation as this makes nonsense of what MPs are trying to do every day. In the Chamber and Select Committees MPs are trying to convince those in other parties to change their mind on one issue or another. If they succeed in convincing another MP to change his or her mind, and then that MP then speaks out or votes accordingly, and then that MP gets expelled from his or her party’s caucus, under this Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill the MPan would then be expelled from Parliament! Preventing an MP from changing his or her mind and acting on it is so fundamentally undemocratic. Any Greens who, mistakenly, support this Bill should remember that in 2013 the lone Green MP in the Canadian federal parliament, Elizabeth May, convinced New Democrat MP Bruce Hyer to join the Greens mid-term. If Canada had had a party-hopping law Bruce Hyer would have been kicked out of Parliament. That would have been a travesty. New Zealand likes to be seen as at the forefront of progressive change, yet if this Bill passes we will become the least democratic Western country in this respect. No other Western nation has such oppressive restraint on MPs’ freedom of speech and association. In fact, Germany has a constitutional provision preventing the passage of legislation restricting the right of an MP to act according to his or her conscience.

Disruption of party proportionality between elections can be, and often is, a motor for political change. Often it is a result of parties, when in government, veering more to the right than their voters (and some of their MPs) thought they would.

Here are some examples:
1989. Labour MP Jim Anderton is expelled from Labour’s caucus for opposing the sale of the BNZ. [Under the party hopping bill he would have been expelled from Parliament and we probably wouldn’t have had NewLabour, the Alliance, or a successful MMP referendum.]
1992. National MPs Hamish McIntyre and Gilbert Myles leave National over its post-election Rogernomics (labelled Ruthenasia) and set up the Liberal Party, which then joins the Alliance.
1993: National MP Winston Peters leaves National criticising its right wing social and economic policies and later sets up NZ First.
1996: National MPs Michael Laws and Peter McCardle leave National for NZ First.
1997: The Greens withdraw from the Alliance to independently pursue and overall more progressive agenda. Alliance list MPs (and Green co-leaders) Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald remain Alliance MPs, but if there had been a party hopping bill there might well have been a move by the Alliance leadership to exclude them from the Alliance caucus and eject them from Parliament. If that had been successful the Greens wouldn’t have reached 5% in the 1999 election.
1998: NZ First MP Neil Kirton leaves NZ First to become an independent MP following his criticisms of the National/NZ First coalitions conservative political direction, particularly on health policy.
2002: Alliance MPs Jim Anderton and Matt Robson move to set up the Jim Anderton Progressive Party well before the election.
2004: Labour MP Tariana Turia leaves Labour over what she saw as its betrayal of its Maori voters through Foreshore and Seabed Bill, and sets up the Maori Party.
2011: Maori Party MP Hone Harawira leaves the Maori Party, largely over its accommodation with National, and sets up the Mana Party.

Note that all the smaller parties that have won seats in MMP Parliaments (NZ First, the Greens, ACT, United Future, the Progressive Party, the Maori Party and Mana) were led by MPs who had previously represented another party (or in the Greens case a coalition of parties, the Alliance). Of those twelve MPs named above only three went to a by-election after their resignation – as required by the current Bill – and of course list MPs like Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Matt Robson and Neil Kirton could not. Green MPs, when determining their vote on this Bill, would do well to note that the Greens might never have made it into Parliament if the Alliance leadership had applied party hopping legislation to Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons in 1997/98.

Some have argued that the Bill is acceptable because it allows time for dissenting MPs to answer the charges against them (within 21 days), and also conduct an appeal in the Courts. However, such a course runs up against the constitutional need for Parliament and the Courts to operate independently of each other. In addition, the Courts are hardly equipped to work out who is right or wrong in inner-party disputes. It is often hard enough for fairly informed party members to determine this.

Some have argued amendments in the Select Committee might make the Bill more acceptable, but I can’t see how they could. It has been suggested that an expiry date be added to the Bill, as happened to the 2001 version of the Bill. However, an expiry date doesn’t make a very bad Bill, challenging basic freedoms, any more acceptable. Others have argued that the Bills application could be limited, so it didn’t apply to certain parties. However, it would be very odd, and hardly principled, for a party to vote for a Bill, with a proviso that it didn’t apply to that party, either through something added to the Bill, or something added to that party’s rules.

What an Independent New Zealand Foreign Policy would look like

[A talk given by Keith Locke in Blenheim to activists in the Anti-Bases Campaign on 27 January 2018]

Most New Zealanders want us to have an independent foreign policy. They think we are already independent to some degree. If pressed they would cite our nuclear-free status, or the fact that we don’t always go along with the US or Australia at the United Nations. Last month’s vote criticising Donald Trump’s stand on Palestine is a recent example.

Yet, in my opinion we have a long way to go before we have a consistently independent foreign policy. For example, there is a lot of hypocrisy in our anti-nuclear stance. How can we be truly anti-nuclear when, as we did last year, we put our frigate Te Kaha under the authority of the USS carrier Nimitz task force in the western Pacific – to replace the USS Fitzgerald after it had been damaged in a collision with a Philippine container ship? This was in the midst of Donald Trump’s nuclear sabre rattling against North Korea.

So what should a consistently independent foreign policy look like?

We have to start with a vision for our country and the world. That is what John Lennon did in his song “Imagine”. He imagined a world free of “greed or hunger” where there was “nothing to kill or die for.” We have to aim for an egalitarian world, where all cultures are respected, and there are no armies – because, in John Lennon’s words, there is “nothing to kill or die for.” All wars have as their origin the protection of privilege, wealth and power against those who might challenge that reality.

An independent foreign policy is not neutral. It is partisan. It does take sides, against the power exercised through governments by the super-rich. And the richest and most powerful government in the world today is the United States.

Apologists for the American government try to disparage our criticisms of US policies as “anti-American” conveniently forgetting that millions of Americans have similar criticisms of their own government.

It is pretty obvious today the huge damage the US government, under President Trump, is doing to the world, fostering hostility and conflict, pulling out of the Paris Treaty on climate change, and making the super-rich richer though tax cuts.

Yet New Zealand and virtually every Western country maintain strong and subordinate defence ties with Trump’s America. And strong intelligence ties, such as New Zealand does through the Waihopai spybase, even though we know that the intelligence gained through Waihopai will be used to facilitate Trump’s aggressive agenda against Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Palestine, the Yemen, etc., etc.

In New Zealand’s case this subordination to the dominant power has a long history, originating in our subordination to the British Empire and then, after World War II, transferring this subordination to the American empire.

It is hard to challenge that subordination without re-assessing our colonial history, which is happening a little more today. We have to explain the connection between British imperial troops killing Maori in a land grab in the 1860s, New Zealanders joining British soldiers in killing Dutch settlers in the Boer War in another land grab, and New Zealand and British soldiers invading Turkey and the Middle East in World War I, in another, this time British and French, land grab.

During this 100th anniversary of the First World War some of us have been trying to explain that there was nothing progressive or positive about New Zealand’s participation. It was simply a war to preserve Britain’s dominance as an imperial power and for it to continue to exploit the inhabitants of India and other colonies.

Yet the dominant narrative after 100 years is still that this was a good and necessary war for New Zealand, despite the 50,000 Kiwi casualties. So embedded in our consciousness is the colonial explanation.

It is 50 years since the Vietnam war, yet it is still not seen clearly for what it was: a war of aggression by the United States and its allies in which they slaughtered over 2 million Vietnamese in their own country. The dominant narrative is that the American war, and New Zealand’s involvement, was an unfortunate mistake, but simply an inevitable consequence of a Cold War between East and West.

New Zealanders are now more confident about their own nationhood, but the British colonial legacy lives on in the form of the Union Jack on our flag and the British monarch as our head of state. That such a state of affairs still exists decades after New Zealand became constitutionally independent is testament to the colonial brainwashing that still goes on. How can a head of state who lives on the other side of the world, and is the citizen of another country, truly represent us. In 2003, when Queen Elizabeth, in military dress, spoke in favour of the British invasion of Iraq, she was not representing the New Zealand people, when our Parliament was against the war. One monarch can’t serve more than one independent country.

To shape an independent foreign policy New Zealanders need to have confident searching minds. Fawning over royals who are there purely by birth line, without the slightest consideration of merit, is irrational and feudal, and dulls our ability to chart our own way in the world.

This gives urgency for the campaign for New Zealand to become a republic, with the current powers of the Queen and the Governor-General transferred to a New Zealand-based non-executive head of state.

One of the arguments against New Zealand having a truly independent foreign policy is that we are too small to make a difference. Actually, being small and unthreatening at the bottom of the South Pacific is an advantage. We are not rubbing up against any other nation, which makes it easier to adopt a global perspective on the world’s problems. There is no necessity for us to be trapped in regional military alliances, like ANZUS or NATO, given we have no enemies. Operationally, New Zealand is no longer in ANZUS and should formally withdraw from that alliance.

We might be a small, but we can still pioneer a course to a better world.  The truth is that no other Western country really stands up to the United States dominance of world politics, which is backed by huge military forces, bases around the world, and a global intelligence network. America doesn’t escape criticism altogether – as instanced by the recent UN General Assembly vote against the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But no Western nation has really taken on America for its support of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, its blockade of Gaza and its brutal treatment of the Palestinians.

This state of affairs hasn’t really changed since the 1980s, when New Zealanders challenged the US by going nuclear-free, and then discovered that no other Western nation would support our stance. Today, no other Western nation challenges America’s war in Afghanistan, its support for the Saudi bombing of the Yemen, or its drone assassination program in several countries.

The door is open to us, as a country, to take a world-leading stance on the side of those who are suffering through war, oppression, exploitation and poverty. Don’t underestimate the impact we can have. When we excluded nuclear warships from our ports we had every Western government against us, but we also had huge support from ordinary people in those same countries. That is what frightened Western governments. We were setting a political example for their own people to follow.

That being said, New Zealand has worked with some of the smaller Western governments, like Norway and Ireland, on disarmament issues, to successfully conclude treaties banning landmines and cluster bombs. These treaties were not endorsed by big states like the US, Britain and Russia, but the existence of such treaties has restrained the production and use of these inhuman weapons.

Having a principled foreign policy doesn’t mean we will be working alone. We should be open to working with any nation moving in the same direction. Sometimes it will be developing nations – such as in the work we’ve done on anti-nuclear issues with South Africa, Brazil and Malaysia. Other times we’ll be alongside Scandinavian counties or human rights issues, or the facilitation of peace negotiations in war-stricken nations.

Working in concert with other countries also helps us fend off any counter-measures from the nations we are criticising.

This is an important issue, particularly when the pressure comes from big, powerful countries like America or China. You’ll remember that Donald Trump threatened to reduce aid to countries that voted in the UN against the President’s support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. China puts pressure on other governments not to meet the Tibetan Dalai Lama, and in 2010 it suspended trade talks with Norway following a Nobel Peace Prize award to an imprisoned democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo.

Because of such pressures we have to be careful that New Zealand’s trade interests do not constrain us, and undermine a principled foreign policy. New Zealand is now particularly vulnerable to pressure from China, because so much of our trade is with that country. Diversifying our trade, therefore, becomes more important, because we can’t be silent on China’s persecution of political dissenters or its censorship of the media and the internet. We have a vital interest in the democratisation of China as it becomes the dominant power in the world.

However, our advocacy of human rights will find more of a hearing from the Chinese people if we are not seen as a military subordinate of China’s main adversary, the United States.

Being a military lackey of the United States was never a wise policy, but in the era of Trump it is madness. Our best option is not to take sides in any standoff between America and China, or America and North Korea.

America’s confrontational stance towards North Korea has been a total failure. For years it’s been clear that North Korea’s nuclear program is about protecting the regime. Security guarantees for North Korea could de-escalate the situation.  This is where New Zealand could help, in an independent mediator role. Instead, New Zealand essentially tails along behind America in putting more pressure on North Korea. Peace in region requires all parties to pull back their rhetoric and their troops, including the United States, which has 20,000 troops in South Korea and another 45,000 in Japan.

It would be much easier for New Zealand to play a peaceful, peacemaking role in the world if its armed forces reflected that role, and were not, as they presently are, geared for major combat alongside America and Australia. Thank goodness, during my time in Parliament, we got rid our air combat force. We now need to get rid of the navy’s two frigates, which are configured for war-fighting rather fisheries patrols or relief work.

Of course, we also need to end our participation in America’s mass surveillance network, the Five Eyes, which is geared to protect America’s dominant position in the world, including using the information gained for its own military adventures.

National and Labour argue that the Waihopai spy station and the Five Eyes network produces useful information for New Zealand. But what is it? They don’t say.

The GCSB was exposed in the Snowden papers as spying on China. I need not explain how stupid and counterproductive that was, and still is.

The GCSB has also spied on the private communications of the Pacific Island leaders – hardly the way for New Zealand to make friends. This spying was insulting, illegal and displayed a big brother attitude towards our Pacific neighbours.

We should be standing alongside our Pacific neighbours as equals and making a greater effort to assist their social and economic development. And we should be open to learning from them, when they are ahead of us in foreign policy, as for example, the Solomons are in their support of West Papuans, or Tuvalu is in campaigning for better climate change policy.

The defining character of a progressive, independent foreign policy is that it listens to, and sides with, those who are poor, exploited and oppressed. It takes their side against those who would exploit and oppress them.

In this sense a progressive, independent foreign policy is no different from a progressive domestic policy, writ large on an international stage.

For example, when we confront the gross inequalities of wealth in the world we first refer back to our policies for New Zealand for a more progressive income tax regime and a capital gains tax, and then argue for similar policies for other countries. Of course, our international policy to reduce wealth inequality has additional, supra-national, elements, such as the elimination of tax havens and a global financial transactions tax and opposition to Trans-Pacific Partnership type investment agreements that favour the global corporations.

Our foreign policy only has real weight to the extent it is leveraged off a progressive domestic policy. For example, an internationalist policy in support of indigenous people’s rights only has credibility to the extent that our domestic policy is empowering Maori. Similarly, we need strong domestic policies combating institutional sexism and supporting women’s rights.

And how can we been seen as champions of effective global policies against climate change if we are not seriously reducing greenhouse gases ourselves.

Progressive ecological policies must be at the forefront of our thinking. Progressive social and economic policies are not much use if we don’t have a habitable planet.

To conclude. We should be confident of our ability to shape a truly independent foreign policy. We just need to take heart that bold, progressive policies will meet with support from ordinary people around the world, as our nuclear-free stance has done.

Keith Locke: Party-hopping bill is a restraint on MPs’ freedom of speech

[An opinion piece published in the New Zealand Herald, 10 January 2018.]

The bill before Parliament to stop party-hopping has been misnamed. The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill should be called the Party Conformity Bill because it threatens MPs with ejection from Parliament if they don’t conform to party dictates.

Personal political integrity will be constrained, except on a few selected “conscience” issues, like the assisted dying legislation, where MPs are free to vote as they want.

The bill contravenes the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech. The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.

It also runs counter to the spirit of parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs more freedom than the rest of us to say what they want, without the danger of libel suits, when speaking in the chamber.

No other Western democracy has laws to stop party-hopping. In fact West Germany has a constitutional provision that once elected MPs are “representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions, and subject only to their conscience”.

It is common in the British Parliament to see MPs “crossing the floor” and it can serve a useful function. Recently several Conservative MPs crossed the floor to provide a majority for a Labour Party amendment requiring that the final Brexit deal be brought back to Parliament for a vote.

Under our proportional system parties rise and fall, often helped by rebels from other parties. In fact, each of the smaller parties which have won seats in our MMP Parliaments have initially been led by rebel MPs from existing parliamentary parties.

Former Labour MP Richard Prebble was not an MP when he became Act leader but the other rebel MPs setting up new parties were all sitting in Parliament at the time.

Jim Anderton left Labour mid-term to set up NewLabour (which later merged into the Alliance). Peter Dunne split from Labour to form Future NZ (which later became United) and Tariana Turia went from Labour to the Maori Party. Winston Peters went from National to found NZ First. Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons left the Alliance for the Greens and Hone Harawira exited the Maori Party for Mana.

Rather than distorting the proportionality of Parliament, new parties set up by the rebels have provided the electorate with more political choice.

Sometimes a rebel MP claimed, with some justification, that he or she was protecting a choice that had previously been available. Anderton, for example, said NewLabour was heir to a Labour tradition which had been betrayed by Labour turning to Rogernomics.

In 1999, speaking against an earlier party-hopping bill, Green co-leader Rod Donald reminded the House that “had this bill existed prior to the last [1999] election, we [Donald and Fitzsimons] would have been removed from this House and denied our opportunity to stay here for the full parliamentary term”.

Fitzsimons and Donald had been elected as Alliance list MPs in 1996 but left the Alliance Party in 1997 along with the rest of the Green Party. If these two MPs had been excluded from Parliament in 1997 it is unlikely the Greens would have reached the 5 per cent threshold for parliamentary representation in the 1999 election, or that Fitzsimons would have won the Coromandel seat.

This is something for the current Green caucus to ponder before continuing to support the current party hopping legislation.

Previously, the Green Party and its co-leaders have been strongly opposed, in principle, to party-hopping legislation. As Donald said in the 1999 speech to Parliament, MPs are not “party robots”, “MPs must retain the right to be answerable to their own consciences, and political parties must not be allowed to take away from voters the power to unelect Members of Parliament.” As a Green MP at the time I made similar points in the debate on that bill.

The provision in the current legislation that two-thirds of a party’s caucus must approve ejection of a member from Parliament does not provide much protection for dissidents.

Take the recent example of Green MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon publicly calling for the resignation of co-leader Metiria Turia. They were then excluded from the Green caucus and could have then been ejected from Parliament, after various bureaucratic processes had been gone through, if the current party-hopping legislation had been operational.

Graham and Clendon’s public criticism angered many party members, but others said it highlighted a party issue that needed urgent attention. The matter was resolved by the two MPs agreeing to withdraw from the party list for the election, which was surely better than invoking a law.

Resorting to legislation to get rid of an MP potentially involves the courts, which are not equipped to handle political or process disputes within parliamentary caucuses. It is safer, and more democratic, to leave decisions on the makeup of Parliament to the voters.

Keith Locke is a former Green MP.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11971853

Keith Locke: Parliament’s watchdog committee has no teeth

[An opinion piece published in the New Zealand Herald, 10 March 2017]

Parliament’s intelligence and security committee was in the news recently when Labour’s Andrew Little nominated Winston Peters for membership.

Little also proposed expanding the committee to include a Green member by amending the Intelligence and Security Bill currently before Parliament.

In practice, the intelligence and security committee is a toothless watchdog because it doesn’t have the powers of a parliamentary select committee.

Select committees have access to all information held by government departments, without exception.

The provisions in the Official Information Act allowing departments to exclude certain information do not apply to select committees.

By contrast, under the new security legislation the head of an intelligence service can withhold from the intelligence and security committee any information he or she determines to be “sensitive”.

The definition of “sensitive” is pretty broad, including anything that “would be likely… to prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand or the international relations of the government of New Zealand”.

The legislation also specifically allows overseas intelligence agencies to censor what the intelligence and security committee can see. For example, information the US Central Intelligence Agency provides our Security Intelligence Service can be provided to the committee only if the CIA agrees.

Also excluded from the parliamentary committee is any “information about particular operations that have been undertaken” by the Security Intelligence Service or the Government Communications Security Bureau.

Of course, it is generally not necessary for the committee to look at operational details, but it is hard for the committee to be an effective watchdog when it is legally prohibited from seeing anything at all about an operation.  It becomes all too easy for the SIS and GCSB directors to boast about their successes when no one on the parliamentary committee possesses enough information to challenge them.

This is different from the United States where the Senate committee on intelligence has a lot of access to operational information. In December 2014, for example, the Senate committee released a detailed report critical of the harsh interrogation practices of CIA operatives, which amounted to torture.

That US Senate report is relevant to New Zealand, because of the close ties between the CIA and New Zealand intelligence agencies. However, the intelligence and security committee does not have the powers to properly investigate this connection.

Thankfully, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, does have such powers and is delving into the matter.

She has announced she is inquiring as to “whether New Zealand’s intelligence agencies knew or were otherwise connected with, or risked connection to, the activities discussed in the US Senate report.”

Another restraint on the investigative powers of the intelligence and security committee is the fact that it is chaired by the Minister in Charge of National Security, who is the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister currently also chooses two of the five members of the committee. The Leader of the Opposition also sits on the committee and can choose an additional member.

This is unlike the practice in other parliamentary committees. They are never chaired by the minister in charge of the committee’s topic area. For example, the Minister of Health would never chair the health select committee.

Select committees enable Parliament to hold government departments to account. One way they do this is by inviting the minister in charge before them to answer penetrating questions about his or her department’s performance.

It is good to have in Cheryl Gwyn a pro-active and inquiring Inspector-General but we also need an effective parliamentary oversight committee with the powers to hold the spy agencies to account. The present legislative constraints on the intelligence and security committee mean it is not up to the job.

It has been operating for 20 years now and has offered not a word of public criticism of the SIS or GCSB. Nor has it helped Parliament and the public become better informed about the activities of our intelligence agencies.

• Keith Locke is a former Green MP.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11814346

Answers to some common myths about New Zealand’s intelligence services, the Five Eyes and the Waihopai spy station

Presented as introductory comments at a workshop hosted by the Anti-Bases Campaign in Blenheim, 28 Jan 2017, and updated to reflect changes made to intelligence legislation in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.

By Keith Locke

Were the SIS and GSB set up to detect terrorists?

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Police Special Branch before it, was set up to spy on and detect spying from adversary governments, Germany during World War II and Russia and China during the Cold War.
Its other function was to spy on left critics of government policy – which is why so many activists in the progressive movement have been found to have SIS files.

Has the purpose of the SIS and GCSB now changed so that their main job is now to spy on terrorists and politically motivated criminality?

No. The Snowden papers show that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is still mainly engaged in spying on foreign governments, either by itself (as in some of their spying on Pacific government communications) or together with its Five Eyes partners on other governments further afield particularly in Asia, and particularly China.

But surely the SIS and GCSB need to have some focus on politically motivated criminality? The Police aren’t adequate for the job.

Why not? It is the Police who caught the (French) Rainbow Warrior bombers, and (Israeli) Mossad agents stealing NZ passports?

But the Police can’t operate with the same level of secrecy?

Why not? The Police operate secretly chasing criminal gangs. And they are a more publicly accountable agency than the SIS or GCSB – even though there is room for improvement in the accountability of the Police.

Whatever. But isn’t it useful that the SIS has 30 or so people on a potential terrorist watchlist?

If they detected a real plot that would be of some use. However, the intense SIS and GCSB surveillance of the Islamic community here has more of a downside than and upside, in the context of a law-abiding Muslim community and no terrorist incidents so far. SIS agents running around in the Muslim community tends to anger Muslims and make their cooperation with the authorities more difficult.

The Muslim community thinks the intelligence agencies are overplaying the terrorist threat. And I think so too. There is a vested interest in intelligence agencies overplaying the threat, to justify the huge increase in budget and personnel they have been given. All in the context of zero terrorist incidents.

You may be right. But being part of a larger Five Eyes network (with the US, Canada, UK and Australia) enables us to help fight international terrorism.

Actually, through the electronic intelligence we pass on from Waihopai, we are contributing to the ability of the United States itself to carrying out acts of terrorism, with drone bombings in Pakistan, the Yemen, Somalia, etc.
Such American military action is also counter-productive, provoking more terrorist responses.

Right now, do we really want to be feeding masses of information from Waihopai and the GCSB to Donald Trump’s National Security Agency (NSA) when we know it will help Trump’s administration target and kill those whom he perceives to be his enemies, and which will help him implement his prejudicial and racist border control policies?

But surely, through being part of Five Eyes we get some useful intelligence?

Maybe. But how do we know? Can you think of any NZ government decision that may have been improved because of information from Five Eyes.

But surely the balance sheet, with the extra information from Five Eyes, would be positive for New Zealand.

The evidence is just the opposite. Since the Snowden papers government figures in China, Brazil, Tonga and the Solomons have complained about GCSB spying on them. It taints our relations with such countries.

But surely all countries do such spying?

No they don’t. No electronic intelligence network in the world matches the Five Eyes. And no Pacific Island nation conducts electronic spying on us.

But what about China? Isn’t it a big spying nation?

Is it really in New Zealand’s national interest to get in a spying contest with a big nation like China, our biggest trading partner.  And really, how many secrets does New Zealand itself have? We are an open society. Even details of our defence assets are generally available.

What about cybersecurity, which is vital in today’s world. Isn’t the GCSB essential here?

Yes, cybersecurity is important, in fact too important to be in the hands of the GCSB. The GCSB has a vested interest in creating back doors into New Zealand computer systems, thus weakening their security for any hackers. Cybersecurity should be done by an independent agency, dedicated to cybersecurity and nothing else.

Another danger is that because the GCSB is linked with the NSA through Five Eyes it will be caught up in NSA’s use of an offensive cyber capability, that is cyberwarfare. Cyberwarfare us the last and worst type of activity a small country like NZ should want to get into in today’s world.

The intelligence services may not contribute much, but they probably do a bit to protecting our freedom?

It’s more the opposite.  Historically, their political spying has been on left-wing critics of the government, and through the official vetting the SIS does it has prevented many civil servants from getting jobs or promotions because of their political views or activities. This vetting continues today. Any necessary vetting for previous criminality, that is non-political vetting, should be done by the Police, who possess the convictions database.

But wouldn’t the SIS be breaking the law by politically discriminating against New Zealanders in the way you’ve described?

The law has been written with such a broad definition of “national security” that in the eyes of the government and the intelligence agencies it can include any critics deemed to be involved in threats to “international security that have the potential to impact adversely on New Zealand’s interests” or threats to “the operations of the Government of New Zealand.” These definitions could catch people critical of our government’s foreign policy, or protesters engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, like trying to block deep sea oil drilling. Additionally, if a New Zealander is working with a “foreign person” or a “foreign organization” like Greenpeace he or she could be spied on for threatening “the international relations and well-being of New Zealand or the economic well-being of New Zealand.”

Couldn’t we challenge such spying on us, or the use of the information gained to discriminate against us?

Generally, you never find out you’ve been spied upon, or even if there is an SIS or GCSB file on you. And even if people find out that there has been a negative job vet on them, they generally give up pursuing the job, rather than challenging the vet. For example the Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui spent years trying to find what the SIS had on him, which stopped him getting asylum for a long period.

At least we have been reassured that the GCSB is not doing mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

But surely that is what Waihopai has historically done, collecting bulk communications data from satellites. This type of collection inevitably sweeps up communications to and from New Zealanders. Also, the raw data the GCSB collects, including NZ communications, is shared with its Five Eyes partners.
They are also spying on New Zealanders, as we found in the Tony Fullman case, where a New Zealand critic of the Fijian government was spied upon by the NSA and his Auckland home was raided. (This NSA spying operation on Fullman was exposed in the Snowden papers.)

But surely the GCSB’s mass collection at Waihopai would be in violation of the system granting warrants to spy on specific targets, not everyone?

It is not clear yet what legislative authority the GCSB has under the new legislation to conduct this sort of communications collection, other than reference to the broad nature of interception powers granted under the new warrant system. Under past legislation the GCSB relied on what were called Director’s authorisations rather than warrants. These authorisation we deemed to be legally valid because the electronic interceptions via Waihopai took place in space, rather than involving a direct physical connection to a computer system. Oddly, a physical phone tap on one person required a warrant, yet the Waihopai spy station intercepting millions of phone calls, texts or emails in space, didn’t seem to need a warrant.

Also, when analyzing the Waihopai data the GCSB can be using very broadly defined warrants – for a “class of persons” (like anti-TPPA protesters). Or the GCSB can accidentally on purpose stumble over a piece of intelligence as it does its computer searches, and call it “incidentally obtained intelligence”, which then makes the collection legal.

But don’t we have a backstop, keeping the government honest, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security?

It’s better than nothing. But the Inspector General is required to operate within the framework of the present system and the legal powers given to the intelligence agencies. There is a limit to how much the Inspector General can constrain the inherent pro-government political bias in the system, and the way it intrudes on our privacy.

Keith Locke: Let’s honour centenary of those we jailed for opposing wartime conscription

(An opinion piece published in the New Zealand Herald, 13 December 2016.)

Most of us know there were conscientious objectors who refused to fight in World War I. Many were sent to jail for their stand. Less well-known are the 107 New Zealanders who were convicted for “sedition”, simply for speaking out against conscription or the war.

Sixty-seven of those so convicted spent time in jail.

Most prominent among those imprisoned were Peter Fraser, who later served as Prime Minister, and four future Labour Cabinet ministers: Bob Semple, Tim Armstrong, Jim O’Brien and Paddy Webb.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the first sedition convictions after the passage of the Military Service Act 1916, which brought in conscription.

Semple had challenged both conscription and the war: “Conscription and liberty cannot live in the same country,” he said. “Conscription is the negation of human liberty.”

Semple also didn’t think war was justified and predicted that “the day will come and may it arrive out of the dust of today when the working class will say to Kings and Kaisers, the Czars, Dukes and Earls: ‘If you are going to fight, cut one another’s throats. We will stay at home’.”

The Christchurch magistrate was not enamoured by Semple’s line of argument, saying: “I cannot sit here and allow men to express opinions that will prejudice those who, rightly or wrongly, are trying to uphold the traditions of the country and preserve the integrity of the Empire – an Empire which I am proud to belong to.”

The anti-conscription movement was not intimidated by the jailing of Semple. It proceeded shortly afterwards, with a big conference in Auckland. The police couldn’t detain all 500 participants, but they did arrest the conference secretary, Fraser.

It was reported that “as he [Fraser] moved away in the charge of Detective Sergeant Cox the assembled delegates gave him three ringing cheers, which were followed by the singing of the Red Flag”.

In his court defence Fraser argued that “it was still possible for the people of Germany and Britain and other nations at war to bring about a settlement”. Reflecting the chauvinism of the times, Magistrate Riddell replied. “Do you think we are concerned with the people of Germany?” Fraser responded that he “was interested in the working class of all the world”.

The magistrate wasn’t impressed with Fraser’s internationalism, as he had expressed it in a speech a few days earlier, on December 10: “For the past two years and a half we have been looking at the ruling classes of Europe spreading woe, want and murder over the Continent, and it is time that the working classes of the different nations were rising up in protest against them.”

The unsympathetic magistrate sentenced Fraser to one year behind bars for seditious utterances.

Also jailed for sedition that month were Tom Brindle, later a Wellington City Councillor and Labour Party president; James Thorn, subsequently both a Labour MP and a party president; and Fred Cooke, who took a seat on the Christchurch City Council.

Early in 1917 three other future Labour cabinet ministers were imprisoned. They were Tim Armstrong, Jim O’Brien and Webb.

Webb’s sedition conviction was the most grievous, because he was the West Coast’s Member of Parliament. There was no parliamentary immunity for him. Webb was jailed for three months for defending his constituents.

His crime was to describe a West Coast miners’ strike against conscription as a battle for democratic freedom. Webb was later stripped of his parliamentary seat and jailed for a second time, this time for refusing military service.

Through 1917 and 1918 many other dissenters were sent to jail, including six Huntly miners, for a “seditious strike”, and Maori from the Waikato, for opposing conscription.

In Auckland and Christchurch there will be commemorations for those imprisoned for exercising their right of free speech 100 years ago. The Auckland commemoration will be outside Mt Eden prison at 12.30pm on Thursday. In Christchurch people will be gathering outside the Museum at noon on the same day.

In both cities there will be re-enactments of the sedition trials.

NZ Herald; http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11765388

The Terrifying Consequences of High-Tech War

(A talk by Keith Locke to a seminar on “Just War?”, hosted by the NZ Christian Network, NZ Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Trust, Pax Christi and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship,in  Auckland, 19 November 2016.)

The message of this talk is that war, as it becomes a more technological enterprise, is becoming even more barbaric with even less recognition that those being attacked are fellow human beings.

Perhaps we should start this discussion by going back a pre-industrial form of warfare, such as the tribal war between Maori before Europeans with their guns arrived on the scene.

On one level such tribal war was brutal, with one human destroying another human in hand-to-hand combat, and there were sometimes massacres.
But the combat was on a fairly level playing field, although one side might get the advantage through having superior numbers, an element of surprise, or better fortifications. Both sides would commonly suffer significant casualties, which was one of the things pushing them to solve differences peacefully. Some tribes, such as the Moriori on Rekohu, became pacifist and rejected war altogether.

The biggest slaughter in Maori intertribal wars came when the technology went up a notch. Those who could get a large stock of muskets, like Nga Puhi, tended to prevail.

From that time on, through the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries the technology of war has advanced hugely, particularly in the Western nations. The killers were able to kill from an ever greater distance, without ever having to set sight on their victims.

The guns or artillery got longer and longer in its range, and then aircraft arrived with an ability to murder people en mass with their bombs and missiles.

The extreme of this was reached on August 6 1945, when a US plane, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing 140,000 and condemning many others to early deaths through radiation effects.

On one side 140,000 civilians were killed; on the other, American side, zero people were killed. All twelve crew members of the Enola Gay returned safely.

Read most of the reports of the Hiroshima bombing and you won’t see the crew of the described as psychopathic monsters for killing 140,000 innocent people, nor will you find much criticism of the man who ordered the mass killing, President Truman.

To this day you won’t find an American president admitting the obvious truth, that the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong, although to his credit President Obama did go to Hiroshima last year to participate in a remembrance ceremony.

There are great ethical problems with the inconsistent way in which Western nations have treated the wartime killing of civilians.

It is easier to say “our side is right” and “the killing is justified” when you can’t see the victims, and into the bargain they are being demonized, or belittled as less civilized. And many in the Third World are so belittled by those in rich Western nations.

Or to put the converse, it is easier to say the other side (say ISIS) is wrong and brutal if you can see their killing close up, in all its horror, as in the videos of ISIS people beheading their victims.

Without in any way justifying the brutality of ISIS, it may be, when we look at UN figures, that in the areas ISIS controls more civilians have been killed by US bombing than by ISIS soldiers. But such statistics don’t register in Western nations because the blood spattered bodies resulting from US bombing are hidden away in “enemy-controlled” territory, whereas we see the results of ISIS killings on our TV screens. The unseen Iraqi civilians that might have died from American bombing are merely statistics, quickly dismissed as “collateral damage”.

It has suited the purposes of the United States, in the wars against Saddam’s Iraq and Gaddafi’s Libya, to simply not keep a tally of civilian casualties. It has been left to others to quantify it.

That raises another critical question. Is the killing of civilians from a distance, from the air, somehow less repulsive than a killing by a knife or bayonet?

Is the person in the cockpit, or the person putting in the coordinates for a missile, more civilized than the person armed with a bayonet on the front line? Those in control of the planes or missiles usually cause more death and injury, but somehow they are not seen as having blood on their hands.

Remote war becomes a computer game, and almost as sanitised.

Let’s now look at how the advance of technology is worsening this problem.

Firstly, let’s consider nuclear weapons. There is a certain public resignation to the continuing existence of nuclear weapons, and a certain complacency that they are unlikely to be used.

It’s partially true that since the end of the Cold War there is less danger of a nuclear war breaking out between major nuclear powers. But there are still several ways in which a nuclear war could begin.

Firstly, the US has not ruled out using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear power, as we saw happen in 1945. Nor has Israel ruled out bombing a Middle Eastern nation, if it perceives its vital interests are threatened.  And we can’t trust the North Korean dictatorship not to conduct a first nuclear strike.

Secondly, when relations India and Pakistan reach crisis point, as they have in the past, there is no guarantee that one side, perhaps the weaker side, Pakistan, won’t resort to nuclear weapons.  Pakistan, also, is not the most stable or countries.

Thirdly, technological improvements have in some ways increased the danger of accidental nuclear war during a crisis between nuclear armed powers, such as Russia and America. The US has recently tested hypersonic ballistic missiles that travel at 5 times the speed of sound, which means, if my maths is correct, that they travel 100 kilometres in about one minute.  If Russia detected one of these missiles coming at them there would be little time for them to rationally decide whether it was a real missile or a false alarm and whether or not to respond. A nuclear exchange could begin, perhaps destroying much of the world.

We always have to remember that the whole nature of so-called nuclear deterrence rests on willingness of the leaders of nuclear states to launch a retaliatory strike. Just recently, the British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn got into terrible trouble with the Conservatives, the UK media pundits, and most of his fellow Labour MPs, when he said he would not push the nuclear button.

Also, the continuing development of missile defence systems by the United States increases rather than decreases the nuclear danger by making it more likely that in a crisis an adversary will strike earlier and with more missiles to get through the US missile defence shield.

Conversely, the US could be more tempted to conduct a first strike if it thought its missile defence shield made it safe from retaliation.

Meanwhile, the technology of killing from afar continues to advance in non-nuclear warfare.

Higher precision killing using GPS is the most notable advance in recent years. The result has been a hugely one-sided form of warfare, whether done by aerial drones, or land and sea-based missiles.

Usually the missile or drone operators are so far away that their lives are not at risk. Whereas, for the targets, their lives are always in danger. Under the mantle of a “global war on terror”, the US gives itself the right to conduct drone missile attack in any country, with or without the permission of the government of that country. For example, drone strikes have occurred in Pakistan and Libya despite protests from the Pakistani and Libyan authorities.

This is all going against the restraints on war contained in the Geneva Conventions which envisage combat between armed combatants on a battlefield. To the US all the world is now a battlefield, and it reserves the right to kill any adversary, even when that adversary is not a soldier but rather an ideologue or a political leader.

When all the world is considered a battlefield, the dangers of killing civilians other than those being targeted is also substantial, as we have seen.

Many, many civilians have been killed as collateral damage in American drone missile strikes, in a way that contravenes much of the international humanitarian law designed to protect non-combatants.

This problem of civilian deaths is enhanced when the strikes are against targets about which the Americans have limited intelligence – mainly because they have no intelligence from the ground itself.
American intelligence is pretty much all based on observation from the air, combined with information from intercepted telephone conversations.

Even worse are those drone strikes call “signature strikes” where the identity of the target is not known, but they appear to be acting like an adversary, or a “militant” in the West language of demonization.

It is death by alogaritm. If you present with certain characteristics you are killed.

A UN special rapporteur has rightly called the use of fatal drone strikes away from a war zone as illegal extra-judicial killing.

Just because the US government has endorsed such killing doesn’t make it legal. How can it be legal for a US president to be given the power to construct a secret kill list and order the killing of anyone, anywhere in the world, with not even the pretence of legal constraints? Now that power to kill anyone by drone, anywhere in the world, at any time, is to be entrusted to Donald J. Trump.

Let us look at another aspect of high-tech aerial war. It is usually very one-sided. Take the current war against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq. One side controls the air and conducts detailed aerial surveillance around the clock as well as monitoring all electronic communications. US planes can strike with precision missiles at short notice. It can prevent the ISIS fighting in the open, and stop it making effective use of heavy weaponry or tanks.

This huge technological imbalance between the two sides – or what could be called the asymmetric nature of the war – has driven ISIS to desperate measures, such as suicide soldiers driving truck bombs into the lines of the forces attacking them.

This technological imbalance and the desperation it causes also gives impetus to terroristic suicide actions against civilians – as we have seen in Bagdad and Paris.

Without justifying such terrorist actions in any way, we have to understand the mindset which produces them.

To some extent they are motivated by a perceived sense of injustice against the people these jihadists claim to represent. The Palestinian suicide bombers of earlier times thought they were justified in blowing up Israeli civilians because perceived the Israeli people as a whole to be against Palestinians.
Occasionally, these days, Islamic Jihad in Gaza will send a rocket into Israel with the same rationale, or as retaliation for an Israeli drone strike on one of their people. Sending rockets into civilian areas is clearly a desperate terror act, which we cannot excuse. But that desperation among Islamic Jihad’s civilian supporters is only enhanced when they see a constant presence of Israeli drones in the sky overhead, never knowing when a missile might suddenly come their way.

In general terms, the advance of military technology helps the already rich and powerful states – who can afford such technology – to pursue their own agendas, and it weakens the ability of people in the poorer nations to resist.

Wars “won” by the massive use of Western air power and highly targeted bombing end up not only destroying so much of a country, but are also hugely destabilising. We’ve seen that in Iraq and Libya, and the same process is underway consequent to the massive bombing of Syria (by Russia and other nations) and in the Yemen (as a result of the Saudi bombing).

Bombing can weaken or destroy a regime, as we saw in the fall of Gaddafi’s Libya or Saddam’s Iraq, but the foreign victor’s interference in the moulding of a new body politic tends to exacerbate tensions between internal factions, widen sectarian differences, and generate new conflicts, often of a military nature.

ISIS may be militarily defeated but the political fault lines in Iraq – between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions – may be widened in the process.

Let’s go on to another aspect of our main topic, that is how big advances in weapons technology are affecting naval and ground warfare.

Coming on stream are are science fiction weapons like railguns, where explosive projectiles are rapidly accelerated via electro-magnetic rails. According to the US Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work railguns will be inexpensive and be of enormous use against airplanes, missiles, tanks – almost anything.

Another powerful new weapon, to be introduced by the US Navy, is a “directed energy” laser weapon which can hit anything in a line of sight.

And then there is the replacing of soldier roles with robots, often called “killer robots”, which can be fully automated aerial drones used close to the ground or they can be land vehicles like tanks.

It took me a while to get my head around this, but then I thought that anything is possible when we now have self-driving cars, that can somehow respond to multiple factors in the changing environment around them.

The United States is testing small one metre tall tanks, called a MAARS (a Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System). The remote controller can sit kilometres away and use the MAARS tank to conduct camera surveillance of a battlefield and to fire shells and grenades.

Russia has a full-size Armata T-14 tank with an unmanned remote-controlled firing turret. The tank still has 3 crew members to drive it, but this is being reduced to zero soon. Imagine a swarm of these fully robotized tanks coming at you, assisted in targeting by a swarm of small drones over the battlefield.
The tanks and drones can be programmed to act in concert, choosing targets and firing with little or no intervention from operators away from the battlefield.

The idea that tanks, drones or other robots could autonomously make decisions to kill people is a horrendous idea. But that is where things are heading, given advances in pre-programming, artificial intelligence, sensor and collision avoidance technology, combined with a sophisticated networking of communications.

But what happens when the “unintended” happens and hundreds of civilians are killed by these autonomous weapon? The army’s defence would be, “we didn’t mean to kill them, we just made a computer coding error and it all went wrong from there.” You can see that there are big problems in applying the law to the use of killer robots, which is one reason why they should be banned.

There is now an active Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, whose global coordinator is a New Zealander, Mary Wareham. And some progress is being made.

At a UN meeting in Geneva last April 94 countries agreed to begin formal discussions about the problems with “lethal automated weapons system” or LAWS.

For me, any killing is inhuman, but I am even more repulsed by the remote character of much of today’s high-tech killing. Some of the killing is even more emotionless than a computer game, where at least the player’s hand is on the joystick.

There is absolutely no human connection between a computer programmer writing code to guide a killer robot and an Afghan whose family home might be blown up by that fully autonomous robotic device when it is put into operation.

And because high-tech weaponry is expensive and largely the preserve of the already rich and powerful nations, its use by those nations tends to preserve their dominance, and their wealth and power.

In our fight against militarism and war we should be conscious danger these new high-tech weapons pose and campaign strongly against their use.

Submission on the NZ Intelligence and Security Bill

[Submission by Keith Locke to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, 3 October 2016]

Main Point

The NZ Intelligence and Security Bill unnecessarily allows for greater surveillance of New Zealanders by our intelligence services and intrudes further on our privacy. The definition of national security is so broad that it could enable even more surveillance of legitimate political dissenters by the intelligence services than has happened to date. The Bill should not be proceeded with.

Threats Faced by New Zealand

Any discussion of whether the intelligence services should be granted extra powers should begin with a discussion of the threats facing New Zealand. The fact is that we are a remarkably peaceful people. In the last 100 years there is not one proven case of politically motivated act by a New Zealander causing death. [My only qualification is that the Wellington Trades Hall bombing in 1984, which resulted in one death, may have been politically motivated.] The only proven terrorist act was committed by non-New Zealanders, namely the French agents who bombed the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985, killing a Portuguese photographer. Non-state terrorism has proven to be a problem in some Western countries, especially those, unlike New Zealand, that are heavily involved in foreign wars, or have a socio-economically marginalised Muslim population, or have a body politic significantly prejudiced against Muslim people. There is no global terrorist threat. The majority of nations are not threatened by non-state terrorism.

Of course, there is always the possibility of a politically motivated violent act, causing death, taking place on New Zealand soil, but it would be an exceptional event. It would not, by itself, justify enlarging the present powers of New Zealand’s intelligence services.

The Bill massively increases the collection of personal information on New Zealanders.

There are several reasons why granting the GCSB power to spy on New Zealanders will result in a much greater intrusion on the privacy of New Zealanders.

Firstly, the GCSB’s intelligence collection is less targeted than that traditionally carried out by the Security Intelligence Service. We already know that the GCSB collects bulk information on satellite communications accessed by at its Waihopai spy station (which is part of the Five Eyes network). There is nothing in the proposed legislation stopping this from continuing. Nor will anything in the Bill prevent the international communications of New Zealanders being drawn down into the satellite dishes at Waihopai to be stored and later analysed, because such communications don’t identify NZ citizenship. We know from the Snowden documents that the whole direction of the Five Eyes network (including the GCSB) is to collect, store and share with each other as much raw communications and social media data as is technically possible – on the basis that some of it may later be useful. The all-inclusive definition of “information infrastructure” in Clause 4 covers any electronic communication, and Clause 66 allows the GCSB access to any such transmitted or stored communication. There are no clear limits to what can be collected and through what means.

Secondly, because the GCSB shares a mass of its raw data with its four Five Eyes partners [loosely provided for under Clause 13], the result of this sharing will be a greater intrusion into the privacy of New Zealanders, as well as its misuse against New Zealanders.

We know from the Snowden papers that the data collected by the Five Eyes is mainly used to spy on other governments or political dissenters, for political ends which are often contestable. For example, the GCSB’s proven spying on, Roberto Azevedo, the (successful) Brazilian candidate for WTO director-general, was aimed at giving New Zealander Tim Groser the edge in the contest. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/67475818/government-accused-of-spying-on-wto-top-job-candidates. This was spying to advance the government’s neo-liberal trade and investment agenda, personified by former Trade Minister Groser, an agenda which is contested by other New Zealand political parties.

Thirdly, we also know from the Snowden papers that Five Eyes partners are providing intercept information about New Zealanders. In 2012 Tony Fullman, a New Zealand citizen, had his house raided on the basis of information passed on to the GCSB by the US National Security Agency. His “crime” was to be a peaceful advocate of democracy in Fiji. Analysis of the Snowden papers showed he was one several Fiji pro-democracy activists who had their Gmails and Facebook posts monitored by the NSA. https://theintercept.com/2016/08/14/nsa-gcsb-prism-surveillance-fullman-fiji/

Fourthly, the warrant system contained in the Bill will not prevent information on many law-abiding New Zealanders being taken from the mass of intercept data collected by the GCSB and Five Eyes. The warrants can be very broad in their catchment. They can be for a “class of persons” (Clause 61), or they can be what are called “purpose-based warrants” (Clause 64). Either way such warrants can cover a lot of people, such as those New Zealanders attending a mosque or group of mosques, or all those New Zealanders travelling to certain countries.

Fifthly, GCSB can pass on to other agencies for analysis anything from its mountain of electronic intelligence data. All it has to do is define that information as “incidentally-obtained intelligence” under Clause 91. Remember such intelligence doesn’t need to have anything to do with real or potential criminal activity. All that is required is that there is believed to be a “potential threat” to New Zealand’s “security” as determined by the agencies. Under Clause 91 information “incidentally obtained” on legitimate political dissenters could be kept or passed on.

Using intelligence information against legitimate dissenters

There is an inherent contradiction in the legislation. Clause 22 says that collecting intelligence is not justified when it is infringing “the right of persons to engage in lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent in respect of any matter.”

However, this can be overridden when “national security” is deemed at risk. As defined in Clause 5 “national security” can include any activity, even if it is not criminal activity, which affects New Zealand’s “status as a free and democratic society” or threatens “international security” or “the quality of life of the New Zealand population” or represents “acts of foreign interference, that may cause serious damage to New Zealand’s economic security or international relations.” What this means is that the intelligence services are authorised to act in secret to monitor and help counter perfectly legal activity if those agencies define it as contrary to “national security”, whether that activity is carried out by New Zealanders or non-New Zealanders.

All of the types of legal political activity targeted under the “national security” label are politically contestable. For example, dissenters in New Zealand believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement threatens our “national security” in that the agreement threatens our “status as a free and democratic society” and our “quality of life” and could, by increasing global inequality, threaten “international security”. The present New Zealand government believes the opposite, that the anti-TPPA dissenters threaten “national security”, and under this Bill could use the intelligence services to monitor those dissenters.

New Zealand anti-TPPA dissenters believe it is perfectly proper, under our Bill of Rights, to coordinate campaigning against the TPPA with international NGOS (eg. Greenpeace and Oxfam) or other governments without these foreign NGOs or governments being spied for committing “acts of foreign interference that may cause serious damage to New Zealand’s economic security or international relations.” New Zealand should champion a free global debate among people, organisations and nations over free trade and investment pacts, without any involvement of security services. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as we have seen in the Groser/WTO case and in the NSA’s spying on European governments during trade negotiations, as disclosed in the Snowden documents.

GCSB spying on Pacific governments unjustified and contrary to our interests

The GCSB electronic spying on Pacific Island governments, exposed in Snowden papers and rightly criticised by several Pacific leaders, is an unjustified and illegal breach of their right to privacy. It negatively affecting our relations with these states, none of whom are conducting electronic spying on us.

Spy agencies focus on political critics of the NZ government, not those engaged in illegal activity

The fundamental problem is that the SIS and GCSB are primarily agencies for political spying on legal activity. While part of the Bill’s definition of “national security” [Clause 5] covers “unlawful acts” (ie: those which have a political motive), in practice the agency does little in this area, for two reasons. The first, which I aludded to earlier, is that in recent years there have been not been politically motivated criminal acts of any consequence. Secondly, we already have an institution, the Police, which is dedicated to detecting and prosecuting politically motivated illegal acts – such as the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, or the securing of fraudulent New Zealand passports by Mossad agents in 2004.

A perusal of those personal SIS files that have been released proves that the overwhelming bulk of the agencies work has been directed against perfectly legal dissent. This is likely to continue under the terms of this Bill. My own SIS file, which covers 51 years of my life, records only my legal political activities as a dissenter. I have no criminal record.

Oversight mechanisms inadequate

There has been some improvement in oversight mechanisms, but they are still inadequate. While more people from outside the service will be involved in granting surveillance warrants this won’t act as much of a check if those people accept the Bill’s ethos that political spying to advance a government’s political agenda is ok. The Intelligence and Security Committee in the Parliament will remain relatively toothless. The GCSB and SIS Directors can still block information going to the Committee by defining it as “sensitive” (Clause 163). It is good, however, that the Inspector-General will now have access to all security information (Clause 142). Much will now depend on the quality of the Inspector-General as a check on abuses in the system, and as someone who can listen to whistleblowers. However, in relation to whistleblowers, I strongly oppose new provision 78AA (Clause 207) providing for 5 years in prison for those who disclose anything “classified”. Whistleblowing is sometimes the only way to expose wrongdoing in public institutions and the SIS and GCSB are not exceptions. Particularly worrying is the potential for journalists to be penalised (under 78AA 2 (b) (ii)) for publishing classified material that exposes wrongdoing.

An independent cybersecurity agency needed

The GCSB currently has one useful responsibility, cybersecurity [see Clause 15], but this function should be devolved to a new independent government cybersecurity agency, which involves and coordinates its work with the Police and other relevant agencies. The GCSB, tasked with breaking in to computers and creating back door entry in to communications devices, is not the best agency to protect our IT systems.

Recommendations

I ask the Select Committee be bold and challenge the need for the SIS and the GCSB, given that our Police force is perfectly adequate to deal with politically motivated criminal behavior, and we don’t need a state agency to monitor our non-criminal political behavior. The GCSB’s cybersecurity function should be devolved to a new independent agency.

I recommend the Select Committee not proceed with this Bill in its present form. Overall it puts New Zealanders in a worse situation than in already existing legislation, in relation to both their personal privacy and their right to untrammeled freedom of expression.

However, given the Bill is likely to have the numbers to proceed I do support the deletion (or amendment) of any Clauses which extend the scope of GCSB and SIS spying on non-criminal political activity. I have already mentioned the problems with Clauses 4, 5, 13, 15, 61, 64, 66, 91, 163 and 207. Conversely, I support all measures in the Bill which may improve, even if marginally, the accountability of SIS and GCSB operatives. I have mentioned, for example, Clause 142 which I support because it removes the existing restraint on the Inspector-General accessing all security information.

←Older