Crimes Amendment Bill No. 6 – Third Reading

The Greens will be voting against this bill because, although it has many good provisions in it, at the same time it seriously undermines our civil liberties by giving to the police, the Security Intelligence Service, and the Government Communications Security Bureau the right to intercept our emails and to hack into our computers without our even knowing that they have been there.

In the Committee stage I put forward an amendment to give effect to a concern of the Privacy Commissioner. He could not see the need to allow the police hacking powers, when they can already look at the contents of a computer while searching premises under warrant. This amendment failed.

I moved other amendments in the Committee stage to try to make the interception process a little more accountable and transparent. I took up the Privacy Commissioner’s suggestion that we have a person to audit electronic interceptions, as they do in Australia in the person of the Federal Ombudsman. That amendment failed.

I moved another amendment to get the police to report on the average duration of interceptions, as the Security Intelligence Service currently does. That amendment failed.

I moved another amendment to have subjects of interceptions notified by the police when there were no longer active investigations into them, and when charges had not been laid. That is the sort of notification conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States. But that amendment failed.

I want now to concentrate, in this third reading, on the dangers of allowing intelligence services to intercept our emails or hack our computers. The debate over the failure of the United States to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a good case study. Members will remember how the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, got up in the UN Security Council and provided this information from alleged intelligence intercepts about how the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction. There were all the intelligence photographs of mobile laboratories and intelligence information about the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, and the British had their own forged documents about supposed components for an Iraqi nuclear capacity being smuggled into Iraq from Niger. All the allegations turned out to be barefaced lies, but many people believed Powell, Bush, and Blair for a while.

One of the fundamental problems with the United States and British intelligence agencies is that they are serving political masters and political agendas. Because those agencies operate without any real public accountability, it is hard to stop the intelligence from them being distorted in order to serve political agendas. We saw that in the Nixon White House, and we see it in the Bush White House today. Under Nixon and earlier Presidents, all sorts of dissenters from Martin Luther King to anti-war leaders were spied on by intelligence agencies. So I do not think that we should give the New Zealand intelligence agencies such intrusive powers, as exist in the bill, in a light manner.

We might say that our intelligence services are not like those in the United States, and nor would our politicians misuse intelligence in that way. Even if we hold that we currently have a better bunch of politicians, laws have to be written to constrain the most manipulative, anti-democratic governments that we might get in the future. Sometimes New Zealanders refer back to the Muldoon Government in this respect.

But there is a second important factor, and that is that our intelligence services are closely linked with those in the United States. The main interception facility of our Government Communications Security Bureau is the Waihopai satellite communications interception station near Blenheim. It pulls down millions of phone, email, and fax communications going through to international communications satellites located over the Pacific equator. The main destination for the information collected from Waihopai, and from similar stations in Australia, Canada, Britain, and the United States, is the United States National Security Agency headquarters, and it will often be used for purposes that most New Zealanders would not like-if they knew them. Occasionally we get a glimpse of this misuse, such as during an incident a few months back when a section head of the US National Security Agency, Frank Koza, issued a memo to his security people asking them to “mount a surge” of interceptions against wavering nations in the UN Security Council to work out what he called their “dependencies”. I presume that meant how they could be most effectively bribed.

The other problem is that our intelligence services rely to a large extent on information provided by US and British intelligence services. That is certainly true in Bush’s so-called war against terrorism, which is resulting in many innocent parties getting caught up, and, certainly, in ethnic and religious groups being targeted and harassed. I want to show how this US influence on our intelligence services takes place here in New Zealand with an example from the Sri Lankan Tamil community in this country .

This community was very worried last year about the Terrorism Suppression Act, and organised big public meetings against it. Their fear is based on the fact that the American Government has designated the Tamil Tigers, the main organisation of Tamils in Sri Lanka, a terrorist organisation.

Of course there has been a tragic civil war in Sri Lanka, with both sides guilty of inexcusable military actions against civilians, which we would all condemn; However, Amnesty International reports show clearly that the Sri Lankan Government is responsible for the great majority of the atrocities committed against civilians, yet the Sri Lankan Government was not designated a terrorist organisation by the American Government-only the Tamil Tigers were. This bias is unfortunate, because a successful peace process between the Government and the Tamil Tigers is now under way in Sri Lanka. The Bush administration has seriously undermined this peace process by, for example, denying Tamil Tiger representatives the right to attend an international donors conference, held in the United States in the aftermath of the civil war. That created a big hiccup in the peace process.

Thankfully, the New Zealand Government has not followed the British and Australian example in imitating the United States and designating the Tamil Tigers a terrorist organisation, an act that could criminalise much of the Tamil community in New Zealand, because they overwhelmingly support the Tamil Tigers as the main force in what they see as their national struggle back home. But the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service is still implementing the United States submissions and agendas against the Tamil community here, despite the fact that this community is the most law-abiding one could find.

Last Friday, a Security Intelligence Service officer visited an organiser of a big public meeting supporting the peace process going on in Sri Lanka, which was to be held the next day, and asked all sorts of intrusive questions about Tamil organisations. This was a meeting that I attended and spoke at, alongside a Minister of this Government and another MP. It is inexcusable that this sort of intervention is taking place, with the Security Intelligence Service harassing a community in our country on a US-inspired agenda.

I have another example that shows why we should be against giving these intrusive powers to the Security Intelligence Service and having such a link-up with foreign intelligence agencies. An asylum seeker in Paremoremo prison is currently trying to win an appeal to the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, but the Security Intelligence Service has put into effect a security risk certificate that means that even if he wins in the legal sense, he will still be deported. The service is basing that case on secret intelligence information, presumably information from foreign intelligence agencies, be they in America, France, or Algeria, which are very biased against the political organisation he is from – he was elected as an MP in Algeria back in 1990. Again, it is the Security Intelligence Service implementing a political agenda from overseas.

We have other cases. I get complaints from Muslim people in New Zealand that mosques are being visited by the Security Intelligence Service, and they feel intimidated by this. They say they do not want to put their heads up too much and they do not want to involve themselves in New Zealand politics too much.