Hard News by Russell Brown

62

Interview: Glenn Greenwald

I was offered an interview with Glenn Greenwald yesterday in the wake of his appearance at the Moment of Truth event. What follows is the transcript of that interview. It covers both the specifics of what he reported at the event and more general questions about state intelligence agencies and the practice of doing the kind of journalism he does.

Why do you think the GCSB needed the law change to do its own surveillance when it had the potential deniability of letting the NSA do the job?

I think there are definitely advantages from the signals intelligence perspective of being able to tap directly into the principal cable through which all New Zealanders' communications transit with the rest of the world and to be able to collect it in a much more efficient manner.

I think there was pressure placed on the GCSB by the NSA to engage in that kind of mass metadata collection, as part of its obligation to the Five Eyes programme. So there's been mass surveillance of New Zealanders, but that would have been a much more potent and effective way to do it.

It has already been revealed that the NSA has funded GCHQ facilities in Britain. Do you think the same is true here?

We're definitely working on reporting about the money that changes hands between GCSB and NSA. I think the reporting will reveal that it goes both ways. The GCSB purchases rather expensive equipment and other capabilities from the NSA and the NSA also funds various activities here in New Zealand.

The Prime Minister has given a less-than-unequivocal denial today when asked if the NSA has staff working here. Do you think it's true?

Mr Snowden was unequivocal about that fact The X-Keyscore map we published last year with The Guardian clearly indicates that there's a major collection site here in New Zealand. The statements from the Prime Minister, as you indicated, are far from emphatic in denying that that was the case and I think it would be shocking if suddenly out of nowhere, after a year and a half of very reliable and credible statements, Mr Snowden made claims that just turned out to be false. So I think the evidence is pretty compelling.

What did you make of the documents that John Key released yesterday to pre-empt your report? Was he deliberately confusing Cortex with Speargun?

Yes. This is clearly the strategy of the Prime Minister at this point, which is to take what is always a complicated issue -- electronic surveillance -- and make it so difficult and so confusing to the public that they just throw up their hands and dismiss it all as bickering that they can't resolve, and move on to other issues.

And it's really the media's job to point out exactly what is being done and not being done. He made definitive commitments since the weekend that he would release documents, declassify material, showing that he looked at this proposal and then intervened and stopped it before it was implemented, in order to negate the claims that I was making. These documents do nothing of the kind.

There is nothing about the Prime Minister intervening and stopping the programme, and the programme that these documents are describing, which is Cortex, is radically different than the NSA documents that we published that are described in the NSA materials. They're not even really related.

In that light, what should journalists here be asking about? What documents should they be seeking?

To me, these are the two most important questions that if I could sit John Key down in a room I would be asking him. Number one is: even if you believe what he says, which was that this was simply a proposal and not anything that ended up being implemented, at the time that it was being proposed -- and he said it was built over many months, it was developed as a detailed policy -- mass surveillance aimed at New Zealanders, of the kind described in the NSA documents, would have been illegal. Against the law. Why was his agency, the agency over which he exercises supervision, planning a policy of mass surveillance that under New Zealand law was completely illegal?

And the second thing that I think is really important to ask is that in order to get New Zealanders to agree to pass that new internet spying law that he was so intent on having enacted last year, he repeatedly insisted that this law did not really provide any additional surveillance authority, that it would not have allowed mass metadata collection.

And yet the documents between the GCSB and the NSA are completely clear that the GCSB was telling the NSA that they had to await enactment of that law before they could complete this programme. Meaning they understood that the law would vest them with exactly the power that Prime Minister Key vehemently told the public the law would not vest. How can he possibly reconcile what they were telling the NSA about this law and what they were telling the public about it?

You referred last night to potentially working with New Zealand journalists. Does that mean Nicky Hager?

I've spoken with several New Zealand journalists about working in different capacities to do further reporting on the GCSB.

Do you have further documents relevant to our situation? Especially documents that aren't slides?

There are definitely a lot more documents to do reporting on with respect to the GCSB, including ones that I think are significant. I discussed what some of those were, including the list of countries on which the GCSB spies, either on its own initiative or at the behest of the NSA.

There are definitely, as I indicated, documents about the money that changes hands between the two agencies and for what purposes. And there are other documents as well that I think are going to be important.

This story has taken months. The early reporting of the Snowden documents was done very, very quickly -- do you regret that at all?

Different stories take different amounts of time to report because of the complexity involved. The very first story that we reported was a stand-alone top-secret court order compelling a leading American telco to turn over all metadata to the NSA every single day. That was a relatively easy story to report, because the court order was so clear about what it was. Other stories just take more time, because they're more complicated, because they take more investigation, you have to piece the pieces together. And I wanted to make really sure that if I came to New Zealand and did reporting on the GCSB and made claims about misleading statements by the Prime Minister, that my journalism was unimpeachable. And that just takes time.

So where do you think the story goes from here?

You know, there's been a lot of speculation about the impact on the election and I never in a million years thought that this reporting would sway the election. I never gave that any thought at all. I wanted to make sure that New Zealanders had this information to go to the polls, because I would have felt like I'd failed in my obligation, but that wasn't at all my goal.

Because I knew that this was a longer-term story, that putting this information into the public would force the Key government to answer a whole variety of important questions that up until now they haven't really been asked.

That it would give the New Zealand media all kinds of information to work with -- because the New Zealand media has been pretty interested in surveillance questions for at least 12 to 18 months, and I knew that it would stimulate debate, probably lead to investigations and make New Zealanders much more aware and much more cautious about what the GCSB is doing and the extent to which they're being told the truth. So I think it's going to lead to more public debate, more media inquiry and, I hope, more formal investigation.

And apart from anything else, it's not as if these activities have only taken place under governments of the right.

That's a really important point. The GCSB is a long-standing agency, it's a lot like the NSA. The NSA has grown more or less steadily regardless of whether there's a Democratic or Republican administration, and of course currently in the United States there is a Democratic President who is perceived as more on the left than the right, and yet the NSA has grown dramatically over the last six years. These agencies really do exist outside the democratic process. They are in a sense their own autonomous beasts and election outcomes really don't determine the extent to which they continue to grow, unfortunately. That's part of the problem.

So what drives that growth?

I think that one of the things that has happened is that military structures in general have insulated themselves from the political process. And the kinds of claims that are made to justify their growth, whether putting people in fear of terrorism or other kinds of threats, are very powerful tools. No politician wants to be seen as making the country less safe, or to be vulnerable to claims that they stood in the way of the security of citizens. And these agencies are very good at manipulating public discourse to make sure that they're continually fed greater authority and greater budgetary support -- and just generally allowed to operate without much interference from political officials.

There is a document that we published maybe four or five months ago. It was an interview that was done internally at the NSA with the official in charge of foreign partnerships. And they asked him, why is it that for example in Europe, where you have wildly disparate swings in the election outcomes, from the right to the left, it doesn't really affect the partnerships that we have with these countries' intelligence agencies?

And he said, that's because virtually nobody in the political process, anyone outside of the military structure, even knows these partnerships exist.

You had the Green Party leader here in New Zealand say in an interview that I watched that he was on the committee that oversees the GCSB and yet he learned far more about what the agency does by reading our stories than he did in briefings. They really have insulated themselves from the political process and have a lot of tools to ensure that they continue to grow and their power is never questioned.

Moving on to Edward Snowden, What does the future hold for him? Do you think there's a prospect of him being able to leave Russia?

I hope so. Even if he got to the point where he were able to leave legally because another country offered him some kind of protection, there would still be the question of whether it was really safe for him to do so. Probably Russia is one of the safest places for him to be, just physically. He does have asylum or residency rights for another three years, so for the foreseeable future my guess is he'll be there. It's not ideal. He didn't choose that country, he was forced to remain there by the United States government. But as we saw last night, he's able to very constructively participate in the debate that he helped to trigger about surveillance and that's a very important thing.

What about your own safety? What are the implications of working in a situation where I guess you assume that you are being surveilled?

Definitely. I have pretty compelling, conclusive evidence that I have been surveilled. My partner is in litigation with the UK government, claiming that his detention at Heathrow airport under their terrorism law was illegal. And in the course of that litigation, British authorities filed documents saying why they chose to detain him -- and in doing so they cited a whole variety of communications that he had, that I had, that The Guardian had, that others with whom we worked had, making it clear that we were surveilled and monitored.

There was almost a full year when we were being told privately and public by the US government that if we went back to the US we might be arrested because of the journalism that we were doing. But there are journalists all around the world who face all kinds of risks in this sphere, and much, much worse. I feel relatively protected at this point by the visibility of the story.

Obviously this kind of work in general requires a free and robust press, and this is a difficult time for the news media. You've found a way through, via the patronage of Pierre Omidyar. Is that a model? How do we get through?

I think it is a model. I don't think it is at all the model. There are big benefits to having one person with lots of resources fund you -- you don’t have to answer to lots of people or worry about financial imperatives and making profits. You can just focus on serious, sustained journalism and know that you're being supported. But the important point is find somebody who is genuinely committed to not interfering in the journalism that you're doing. And that's not easy to find.

There are other models, such as tapping into the voluntary support of readers, who are hungry for the kind of journalism they think is valuable. I do think that there is always a place and will always be a financial model that will sustain the kind of journalism that people are really eager to have.

A final question: you dissociated yourself from Kim Dotcom's Warner email at the press conference last night. Did you go so far as to veto it being presented on the night?

No, I wouldn't say I vetoed it. I didn't really have the power to veto what he wanted to do or say. But we did talk about the fact that in the scheme of what we might talk about, that the time would probably be used a lot more constructively to focus on the questions of mass surveillance and the truthfulness of the Prime Minister, and the trade agreement that Mr Amsterdam spent quite some time talking about, as opposed to the particulars of Mr Dotcom's case. That it would probably be a better use of the time of the event. I think we came to a consensus about it and I felt very comfortable with that.

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Vision and dumbassery

Part way through last night, the Moment of Truth event at the Auckland Town Hall felt history-making. Journalist Glenn Greenwald had presented documentary evidence -- not a lot, and it was more blasted Powerpoint slides, but easily enough to be troubling -- that the Prime Minister is lying when he guarantees New Zealanders are not subject to mass surveillance from their own intelligence agency, and was lying when he said last year's GCSB bill did not validate such an activity.

And NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, appearing on a video link from Russia, had borne witness to the same, eloquently outlining the basic democratic issues in the fact that we, the electors, do not make that choice. He was clear, calm and compelling.

So how did it end in a rancorous, poorly-handled press conference in which it seemed that the bearers of witness were the ones on trial?

The credit and the blame must go to Kim Dotcom. No one else would have had the vision to conceive (and fund) such an event. The Town Hall was packed, with hundreds turned away. It was streamed to thousands more, in New Zealand and around the world, and live-blogged by The Guardian. Bringing together Snowden, Greenwald and Julian Assange was not so much ambitious as utterly audacious.

And no one else could be such a dumbass as to undermine the event in the way Kim Dotcom did.

The journalists who demanded afterwards to know aabout the elephant missing from the room -- Dotcom's proof that John Key had lied about having no foreknowledge of the Dotcom raid, and not even having heard of Dotcom -- had every right to do so. The whole event had been billed for months on that revelation, long before there was any mention of the famous whistleblowers.

So what the hell happened? My guess is this. Greenwald arrived, got the lay of the land, and wanted no part of the email Dotcom believed implicated Key in a conspiracy to entrap him in return for the favours of Warner Brothers. The email fits into various other elements of reporting -- most notably the Herald's discovery via OIA of the weird way that objections to the granting of Dotcom's residence was turned around -- like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. It's so perfect as to be too perfect. On its own, it could be anything.

The lineup of the event was altered on Sunday. Robert Amsterdam, who was to be the moderator, joined the speaking lineup, perhaps to fill Dotcom's place (he gave a heartfelt, if occasionally torturous, explanation of why we should care about the loss of sovereignty implicit in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreemwent). Dotcom impulsively passed the email to the Herald yesterday [NB: I am now told it was not Dotcom who supplied the email to the Herald], it was immediately denied as a fake and there was no way to prove its provenance. In the hours between that release and the event itself, Hone Harawira lodged it with the Speaker of Parliament for a complaint to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee -- meaning, Laila Harre insisted, it could not be discussed on the night. Shambles.

There were other problems on the night. Harre repeatedly gave the crowd the impression that Assange is ensconced in the Ecuadorian embassy because a US prosecutor wants to get at him, rather than because he refuses to return to Sweden for questioning over two alleged sex offences. Dotcom's advertisement on the night for Mega's forthcoming encrypted videoconferencing service sat awkwardly. The repeated baiting of John Key, however questionable his words and actions have been, distracted from the substance of the evening.

And I'm fairly sure Nicky Hager would have been horrified at Harre ending the event by waving around his Dirty Politics book in what was basically a pitch for votes. He separates himself assiduously from partisan politics, and yet here he was, being co-opted into a campaign in his absence.

The press conference was also a work less of media management than media muppetry. Rather than ride out the questions about the no-show email and get on to the substance of what Snowden and Greenwald had said, they cut it off after 15 minutes, so the only content was the thing they didn't want to talk about. This video by OccupyNZ captures what happened. Dotcom harangues Patrick Gower about what questions he should be asking -- at the same time as the party's press chief John Mitchell calls an end to further questions. Duh.

This, I think, will be the story of the Internet Party: vision and dumbassery. I find things to greatly admire in the party -- candidates like Chris Yong, Miriam Pierard and Pani Farvid would probably not have come through a mainstream party process but have much to offer, and the party has has made crowdsourced policy-making work really well in several areas -- and things at which one can only despair. 

This should not overshadow the crucially important issues aired last night. You do absolutely need to read Keith Ng on on what a risible red herring Key's allegedly exculpatory document release yesterday was, Andrea Vance's concise explanation of why this really, really matters, Greenwald's own detailed story for The Intercept, and Snowden's column on the same site.

But you won't bat back the flannel and spin from the usual suspects (seriously -- I am not about to give Michelle Boag one solitary second of my attention on a matter of which she knows nothing) by pretending no part of what happened last night was unsatisfactory. It needs acknowledging that it was both a remarkable and compromised event. It couldn't have happened without Kim Dotcom and it would manifestly have been better without him. Now, let's get on with the substance.

NB: MediaTake, at 10.20pm on Maori Television tonight, includes some video from the Moment of Truth event, and also from the press conference itself. Have a watch.

33

Friday Music: Mo' Nina

It's customary now to lament the downward spiral in the dollar value of music created by first piracy, then Spotify and finally the free, unsummoned delivery of new U2 albums to people who don't even fucking want them. But it's worth noting that there are some remarkable bargains to be had in old-fashioned compact discs.

Last week, I dropped by JB Hi-Fi, which more or less functions as my local record shop, to get a birthday present for my friend. I had an idea what I was looking for: the five-disc Nina Simone: Original Album Classics, which packages up five of Nina's albums from her RCA period in the late 60s and early 70s, including the once quite rare live album 'Nuff Said, for $19.99.

But that doesn't seem to be available any more, so I had to settle for The Real Nina Simone, which bills itself as "The Ultimate Nina Simone Collection".

It plainly isn't, but it is functionally the same deal as the five-disc set noted above -- a collection of all Nina's works for RCA, but across three discs and for a faintly ridiculous $9.99. And it's bloody fantastic.

The RCA years cover not only some of her most trenchant political work -- 'Backlash Blues', 'Mississippi Goddamn', 'Young, Gifted and Black' -- but some of her quirkiest. Did you realise she covered The Beatles' 'Revolution (Parts 1 & 2)'? Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'? There's also her stunning versions of the blues standard 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' and the brilliant Jimmy Webb song 'Do What You Gotta Do', which has survived an appearace in the soundtrack of Bridget Jones's Diary. The performance of 'Why? The King of Love is Dead', a song written and performed in the three days after the assasination of Martin Luther King, is a just a moment in time.

There are a few misfires -- I could have done without 'Everyone's Gone to Moon' -- but in very large part these 65 songs for ten bucks represent a prodigious slice of the working life of a great artist. Is her estate due more of a price? Perhaps. But that's where it's at.

There are quite a few more from this SonyBMG series and others at JB, and not all of them are as good or as interesting as this one. I'm interested in discoveries you might have made in the bargain bins, so do share the nowledge.

For now -- o, happy timing! -- RocknRolla Soundsystem (yes, those Dutch guys again) have just put their wonderful edit of 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' up on sale at Bandcamp. You want this:

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Shihad play their free arena gig in Christchurch tonight -- and their share of proceeds from the Sky Box Office screening will go to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal. I'd definitely get in there, except (1) I don't know how to use Sky Box Office with a VOIP phone, (2) I actually don't know how to use Sky Box Office at all, but I definitely approve of live-TV concerts as a thing, and (3) I'll be at something called An Evening With Arianna Huffington tonight.

At Audioculture, a beautifully-written series on the late, talented, troubled Paul Hewson of Dragon, by Glen Moffat. Amazing stuff.

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Hey, this is neat. Pete and Johnny from the Hallelujuah Picassos remix the band's own little comeback pop smash for their new EP, Bullet that breaks the key.

A majestic song from Robert Scott's new album The Green Room, which you can buy here at the Flying Out store. (Note that you can also pre-order/crowdfund a vinyl version there too):

Miloux -- confusing also known as Milou -- is Auckland singer-songwriter Rebecca Melrose and her various percussive devices. There's a pretty cool tune you can download from Soundcloud:

And, as of this week, a really nice remix of that by The Basement Tapes:

There's also this on TheAudience:

Also on TheAudience, this track from a forthcoming album is cinematic like Portishead. Goodness.

Hot Chip cover Dinosaur L's 'Go Bang', for the forthcoming AIDS-fundraising album Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell, a tribute to the dancefloor pioneer, which also Sufjan Stevens, Jose Gonzalez and others:

A visually entrancing new video from Grayson Gilmour:

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And finally, Countdown Point Chevalier does not have much to recommend it, apart from the fact that it's not quite as terrible as it used to be. But here's one thing you say for the place: it has better buskers, most notably Chris Murray, who hails from the long-lost bands Russia and Red House and is not averse to adapting his covers of country and blues standards to contemporary political ends. I give the man money.

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The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:

theaudience

229

2014: The Meth Election

The Guardian today has a story about how North Korea's system of official graft has evolved such that crystal methamphetamine is now seen as "an ideal gift" for government officials who need bribing, alongside more traditional considerations like beef.

I need hardly explain to you how this might go wrong. Bureaucrats on meth would fairly swiftly become crazy, even by North Korean standards. Indeed, the only thing worse than a jobsworth on the P would be one who's not getting his P.

I submit to you that the latter scenario is, in fact, the past week of New Zealand's election campaign. Dirty Politics is the methamphetamine of Decision 2014. Remember how it made you feel 10 feet tall? Remember when Guyon demanded the Prime Minister account for the behaviour of his errant Justice Minister? It was titanic. Now he's just demanding that his subjects confess the election result; sucking on the blackened, empty glass pipe of accountability as if it'll deliver the hit he needs.

Just a couple of days ago, Tova O'Brien was reduced to signing off a completely unrelated electoral story with the intonation that "the fight for Mangere just got dirty," as if saying so would turn rock salt into pure ice. And Corin Dann found himself in a surreal fever dream where everyone had been hacked.

And the public? Don't get me started on the public. They're jonesing so hard. They just want to feel like they did that first time, in the bookshop three weeks ago. Is it really only three weeks? They're paranoid, angry, anxious and lashing out at the journalists, who are feeling vulnerable, hurt and confused.

The problem is that the Man has left town. Whaledump, Rawshark, Heisenberg -- whatever you want to call him -- he had the good stuff, and the fucker just skipped. He left a note saying he'd deposited the rest of his supply with some retail dealers, but they're getting heat from the law and the fuckers won't even say if they're holding.

The only happy crew are the gang that used to run things. They figure maybe they'll be able to start dealing that shit stuff they flooded the market with for so long. But even they're feeling the fear. Maybe people don't want that stuff now they know where it's come from. I mean, are you gonna go back to something made of borax, rat poison and water from the toilet bowl?

It's tense out there. Far too fucking tense.

59

But seriously, drug policy

Whatever the context of Hone Harawira's salty email and however much it does or doesn't signal a critical split in the Internet Mana alliance, the media noise has drowned out the central fact: another political party has officially adopted an evidence-based policy on cannabis and, moreover, pledged to "work towards comprehensive drug law reform."

It's not insignificant that the policy itself is posted and branded as the work of the Internet Party itself, rather than the alliance -- officially, Internet Mana agrees only on the health dimension of cannabis reform and is still "working on" decriminalisation -- but it's concise and clear and worth a look. Its principal points are summed up thus:

  • Immediately legalise medical use of cannabis and set up a licensing system to regulate and administer the cultivation of natural cannabis for medical use.

  • Immediately decriminalise personal use of cannabis so that possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use will no longer carry a criminal penalty.

  • Develop a model for regulating the legal production and distribution of cannabis for personal use to enable the taxation of cannabis and the monitoring of its supply.

The only serious analysis of the policy I've seen is this blog post by Nandor Tanczos, who approves, concluding:

I think this policy is a brave move. No doubt it will lead to some interesting conversations with Mana. It will be controversial. But it is also astute. The Greens still support law reform, and will be important in getting any legislative change through Parliament, but understandably it is a low priority for them. There is now no one in Parliament proactively speaking up for law reform. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of votes are looking for somewhere more promising than the ALCP.

The Green Party does still offer a more cautious, less concise, policy in this area. Apart from an odd section promising to lean on Pharmac to "take a lead role in seeking to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of drugs such as anti-depressants" (let's leave that up to doctors and health researchers), it does undertake to "eliminate penalties for personal cannabis use for people aged 18 years and over" and "define in law the limits on growing cannabis for personal use."

Basically, the Greens would bring regulation of cannabis into line with that of alcohol, in part by tightening the latter. It's big on harm reduction.

And, apart from the aforementioned Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, that's about it for the manifestos. The bold, shining libertarian warriors of Act have nothing to say beyond law-and-order chest-beating. Jamie Whyte was at pains to emphasise on his election as party leader in February that the party would not be exploring that particular dimension of liberty at all. He acknowledged that Act's board, perhaps mindful of the reception of Don Brash's sincere and thoughtful speech on drug reform in 2011, would not tolerate that.

For Labour's part, David Cunliffe ventured support for a harm-reduction and health-based approach, saying he would be "personally comfortable with a summary offence for personal possession" before adding "but that's a matter of conscience."

In a story late last month by Derek Cheng, following up on a Herald-Digipoll poll that found a striking 80% support for either decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis, Peter Dunne said he opposed reform but could envisage, "over time", the development of a regulatory system similar to that for new psychoactive substances. And John Key gave one of his "just because" answers:

"Even though I know lots of people use cannabis, in my view encouraging drug use is a step in the wrong direction for New Zealand."

As ever, the Prime Minister isn't inclined to listen to experts. His then-Justice Minister Simon Power could hardly wait to dismiss the Law Commission's 2010 review of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which recommended a mandatory cautioning scheme to keep cannabis users out of the criminal justice system and found "no reason why cannabis should not be able to be used for medicinal purposes in limited circumstances."

Power's response was that: "There is not a single solitary chance that as long as I'm the Minister of Justice that we'll be relaxing drug laws in New Zealand."

If the minister was not about to risk reading the Commission's report, it was notable that it found a much warmer reception in the editorial columns of both The Dominion Post and the New Zealand Herald.

The mainstream poitical consensus, especially in election year, is not only that there are other priorities (which there clearly are) but that drug reform is wholly separate from those priorities and that it's flat-out impossible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Such are the politics of drug reform.

 It's no accident that it was former, rather than current leaders (including the former presidents of Brazil, Portugal, Switzerland, Chile and Mexico, and establishment figures like George Schultz , Paul Volcker and Kofi Annan) who yesterday called for an end to the War on Drugs on behalf of The Global Commission on Drug Policy. The report to which they have all put their names, Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies That Work, says this:

Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.

"The good news," says the report's Executive Summary, "is that change is in the air." It's a long-ish game: the Commission is targeting the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem in 2016. Between now and then there will be a stark alignment of nations, with the Latin American countries on one side and the likes of Russia on the other.

If we can't expect honesty on the issue from most of our political parties during an election campaign, working to ensure that New Zealand does not find itself on the side of the thug nations two years hence seems more than worthwhile.