New Zealand: Spying for NSA

The Fifth Eye

Directed by Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones (2015)

Film Review

This documentary traces the history of New Zealand involvement in the US-run Five Eyes spy network, first brought to public awareness by the 2008 arrest of three Ploughshares activists for criminal trespass the Waihopai Spy Base near Blenheim New Zealand.

According to investigative journalist and author Nicky Hager (featured in the film), New Zealand built the spy base in the mid-eighties after getting kicked out of the ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-US) security network for declaring New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. This declaration effectively banned all US naval vessels from our ports – as the US refuses to disclose whether specific ships are propelled by nuclear power.

Hager reveals that Five Eyes spy is responsible for Echelon, a project that collects data from all phone calls and electronic communications for the US National Security Agency (NSA). The other agencies involved are the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the UK Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), and the New Zealand GCSB. GCSB-NZ is responsible for monitoring all phone and electronic traffic in the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite government reassurances that the GCSB didn’t spy on New Zealanders, in 2012 we learned they had spied on NZ resident Kim Dotcom for the 2012 swat team assault on his home. His crime: violation of US copyright law. Through the Official Information Act, we learned they had also spied on 88 other Kiwis the government declined to identify.

In 2010 the Ploughshares 3 presented a greater good defense and were acquitted. Their defense teams successfully persuaded the jury that the data collected at Waihopai was being used to target innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan for drone and cruise missile strikes or for arrest and torture.

In 2011, the government filed a civil lawsuit against the Ploughshares 3 for $1.2 million, which the high court granted via summary judgment (ie without trial). In 2013, their right to trial was denied by the Court of Appeal. The same year the National government, under John Key, passed (despite massive public opposition) the GSCB Amendment Bill. The latter granted the spy agency the right to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

In 2014 the Waihopai activists appealed to the NZ Supreme Court, only for the government to drop their damage claim – owing to the extreme controversy arising over GCSB spying on Kiwi investigative journalist Jon Stephenson.

The high point of the film is the 2014 Internet Party conference in Auckland featuring Glenn Greenwald and (via video link) Edward Snowden that exposed the true extent of the GCSB in Fives Eyes spying on all New Zealanders’ phone and Internet activity.


*Dotcom is still waiting on a New Zealand Supreme Court decision whether he can be extradited to the US: Kim Dotcom Supreme Court Appeal

**Stephenson was reporting on the the role of NZ troops in handing over Afghan civilians to known torture unit,

The documentary can be viewed free for the next 11 days on the Maori TV website:

https://www.maoritelevision.com/docos/5th-eye

The Whistleblowers Who Exposed the Surveillance State

Digital Dissidents Part 1

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

Digital Dissidents is about six whistleblowers who risked their careers, financial ruin and imprisonment to expose secret government crimes. In Part 1 of this two-part series, the whistleblowers introduce themselves and speak briefly about the circumstances that led them to leak illicit secret government information – at great risk to themselves.

  • Daniel Ellsberg, who worked in the US Embassy in Saigon, leaked 7,000 pages of documents to the New York Times in 1971 revealing the US government had systematically lied to Congress for decades about US military involvement in Vietnam. He was charged with theft and illegal possession of secret documents. The case against him collapsed when it came out that Nixon was illegally wiretapping him and had ordered “plumbers” to break into his psychiatrist’s office.
  • Thomas Drake, who worked for the CIA prior to being transferred to the NSA on 9/11/01. When he learned the NSA was illegally spying on journalists, he spent months “going through channels” to raise the alarm with his superiors. After he went to a Baltimore Sun reporter in 2007 with evidence of his concerns, the US government charged him with 10 felonies under the 1917 Espionage Act. After a lengthy trial that virtually bankrupted him, Drake pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor of misusing a government computer. He was sentenced to one year probation and 240 hours of community service.
  • William Binney, who also worked for the NSA (for 30 years) developing a wiretap program capable of filtering large numbers of domestic and foreign communication. He left the NSA in October 2001 and became a whistleblower in 2002. Although the FBI raided his home at gunpoint, he was eventually cleared of criminal charges.
  • Edward Snowden, who worked for both the CIA and the NSA, leaked thousands of files substantiating Drake’s and Binney’s allegations to a number of journalists worldwide. The US canceled his passport while he was at the Moscow airport (en route from Hong Kong to South America), and he was forced to seek asylum in Russia.
  • Julian Assange, an Australian national and former hacker, who founded Wikileaks in 2006. The purpose of this website is to allow whistle blowers from all over the world to safely and anonymously leak documents implicating their governments in criminal activities.
  • David Shayler and his former partner Anne Machon, former MI5 operatives who passed secret documents to The Mail on Sunday about British intelligence involvement in illegal activities. In 2002, Shayler received a six month prison sentence for violating the Official Secrets Act.

 

Although the video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, it can be seen for free at the Al Jazeera website: Digital Dissidents

Snowden: The Book Behind the Film

snowden-files

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man

By Luke Harding

Guardian Books (2014)

Book Review

The Snowden Files is the fast-paced thrilleresque account of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s dramatic escape from US capture in Hong Kong, following his leak of thousands of computer files documenting Orwellian NSA surveillance activites. Earlier this year, this book was remade as the motion picture Snowden.

Published in the UK, The Snowden Files provides substantial background on the NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ, whose spying on innocent civilians is even more egregious than the NSA’s, owing to the country’s weaker civil liberties protections. In fact, the NSA relies on GCHQ to engage in certain types of snooping (on Americans) that are expressly forbidden in the US.

When Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald first broke the story that Internet giants Google, Facebook, Apple and Yahoo were secretly turning over vast amounts of customer data to the NSA, his editors were forced to release the story online from the Guardian’s New York office to avoid prosecution in Britain. Shortly after the story’s release, British police destroyed all the hard drives in the Guardian’s London office – in the belief they continued copies of NSA files Snowden had released.

I especially appreciated the book’s epilogue about Snowden’s life in Russia, as it dispels much of the western propaganda about his selling NSA secrets to Russia, his refusal to learn Russian (he speaks enough to do his own grocery shopping and is working to improve his fluency), and his (non-existent) job with a Russian tech company. At the time of publication, Snowden supported himself through savings and speaking fees.

Four other government whistleblowers (Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack, Ray McGovern and Thomas Drake) visited Snowden in Moscow in 2013, and the book recounts their meeting.

The book’s major shortcoming is its embarrassing fact checking lapses – for example the assertion that Putin “invaded” Crimea in 2014. Most independent sources confirm that in 2014 the legislature of the Autonomous Republic Crimea held a referendum in which 95.5% voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The referendum was triggered when a US-sponsored fascist coup seized the government in Kiev.

Chasing Edward Snowden

Chasing Edward Snowden

Anonymous (2016)

Film Review

Chasing Edward Snowden is an extremely well made documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong to Moscow and the role played by Wikileaks and the Hong Kong government in facilitating his escape.

Prior to seeing the film, I was unaware Snowden (under US indictment for treason) had reached out for Wikileaks’ help nor that Putin initially turned down his asylum request when he refused to work for the FSB.

All this changed, when France, under US pressure, denied the Bolivian presidential jet access to French airspace. Acting on false rumors spread by Wikileaks, the US and France believed President Morales had smuggled Snowden onto his plane.

Because the French action contravened Geneva conventions, world opinion turned in Snowden’s favor, persuading Putin to reverse himself and grant his asylum petition.


*FSB is the Russian state security agency that replaced the KGB.

Is the President Being Blackmailed?

surveillance

 Whistleblower Reveals NSA Spied on Obama Before 2004

In 2005, NSA whistleblower Russ Tice exposed illegal and unconstitutional NSA involvement in widespread surveillance against lawmakers, the Supreme Court and the American public. In the video below, he reveals the NSA was spying on Barack Obama long before his 2004 election to the senate.

Back in 2005, the corporate media dismissed Tice’s allegations, based on NSA assertions he was mentally ill and a liar. Now, based on Edward Snowden’s momentous disclosures, he feels 75% of his claims have been vindicated. He promises there are even more shocking disclosures to come.

Tice states that the Washington Post informed the NSA two weeks before Snowden went public that they had a leak, necessitating Snowden’s urgent flight from Hawaii to Hong Kong.

He also reveals that NSA was already spying on Obama and his family and staff long even before he ran for the US senate. He hypothesizes the NSA may be blackmailing the President, just as former FBI director J Edgar Hoover used his extensive files on Kennedy’s sex life to blackmail John F Kennedy.

According to Tice, this may explain why Obama has reversed himself on so many of his campaign promises, especially those related to the restoration of constitutional civil liberties.

Former intelligence insider Wayne Madsen and other pundits have speculated that Obama is being blackmailed over gay sexual activity in his past.

photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

Talk About Testicularity

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger testifying in front of the British Home Affairs Committee about his decision to publish Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA files. When one member accuses him of committing a criminal offense, Rusbridger makes utter mincemeat out of him:

Here is a partial transcript of the testimony published in the December 3 Guardian

[starts at 22:00 minutes on the tape]

Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?

Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.

Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.

Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.

Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58A of the Terrorism Act, 2000?

Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.

Ellis: Now 58,000 documents were sent or communicated by you – as editor-in-chief of the Guardian you caused them to be communicated, and they contained a wealth of information. It was effectively an IT-sharing platform between the United States and the United Kingdom intelligence services wasn’t it?

Rusbridger: I’ll leave you to express those words.

Ellis: So you decline to answer that. Very well. But that was information which contained a wealth of data, protected data, that was both secret and even top secret under the protective classifications of this country.

Rusbridger: They were secret documents.

Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?

Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.

Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?

Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?

Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.

[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]

Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.

Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?

Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland  [CUT OFF]

I know I promised to post an excerpt from my new novel A Rebel Comes of Age, but this was too good and I couldn’t resist.

The Phone Company That Said No to NSA

nacchio-10-22click on image to enlarge

Former US West CEO Released from Prison

Former US West CEO Joseph Nacchio was released from prison last week after completing a four year insider trading sentence. He still claims the NSA framed him on the insider trading charges – after he refused to participate in their illegal phone surveillance program in 2001. US West was the only major telecommunication program that refused to spy on its customers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Nacchio feels vindicated by Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about NSA spying on Americans’ phone and email communications.

Nacchio was convicted of selling US West stock based on inside information about the company’s deteriorating financial health. He denies this, claiming he believed US West’s lucrative contracts with the federal government would continue. Instead his refusal to cooperate with the NSA resulted in the wholesale cancellation of  government contracts.

Nacchio had evidence supporting this claim. However the judge ruled it was classified and prevented his defense team from presenting it. The redacted NSA files were only made public after the former CEO was convicted and sentenced. However Harper’s and others have always supported Nacchio’s contention that he was prosecuted in retaliation for saying “no” to the NSA.

Whether or not Vlaccio is guilty of insider trading (all the legal arguments are summarized at Race to the Bottom), the most illuminating information in the redacted files is that the NSA was pressuring US West to spy on customers in February 2001. This was a good seven months before the 9-11 attacks, the supposed justification for curtailing Americans’ civil liberties.

 Image credit: Indict Dick Cheney

Originally published at Veterans Today