The Greens are not supporting Associate Justice Minister Paul Swain’s Notice of Motion (No 1 government motion on the order paper) that allows the police and security services the right to hack into computers and intercept emails, faxes and pager messages.
These rights are contained in a supplementary order paper (or amendment) toa crime bill which Mr Swain wants to go to Parliament’s law and order select committee.
The SOP also contains a provision for hacking and electronic interception to be generally illegal.
Mr Locke says the Greens support this part of the SOP, but says it is being used as a “fig leaf” to cover the main purpose of the bill – to allow snooping by the security agencies and the police.
He has asked Mr Swain to split the SOP into two.
“If the anti-interception provison was in a separate SOP, the Greens would support it, because it increases our privacy,” Mr Locke said today.
“But we won’t support interception powers for state agencies, which in the electronic area would be a considerable assault on people’s privacy.
“If overseas experience is anything to go by, these systems provide for large scale interception, completely different from anything that the police have done in the past, in terms of postal and telephone surveillance. We see these new powers as being much more open to abuse.
“Any parliamentary consideration of such powers should wait until the Government announces how it envisages such interception taking place – due to be announced next year in admendments to the Telecommunications Act. For example, internet service providers, through whom the information would have to be collected, would be negatively affected.
“There are serious doubts that such interception would do much to catch criminals. Real villains can easily avoid detection through using disguised language, encryption, temporary hotmail addresses, rerouters and unlisted mobile phones. Therefore the cost to public privacy might greatly outweigh the beneficial effect of catching more criminals. There is a danger the people most successfully surveilled will be legitimate dissenters, or business firms. There has already been misue of the world-wide interception network, Echelon, which tracks electronic communications as they travel through satellites. New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau, through the Waihopai station near Blenheim is a part of this network.”