Hard News by Russell Brown


The GCSB Bill: eleventh-hour arguments

As I have noted more than once, many of the political right's leading commentators have been happy to let expediency trump intellectual honesty when it comes to the government's bill amending the law governing the GCSB, lending a distinctly partisan hue to the debate.

So it bears noting that some of the best coverage of the GCSB bill and the accompanying Telecommunications Intercept (TICS) bill is coming from the National Business Review, and most of it's out in front of the paywall.

Rob Hosking argues the conservative case against the bill in a column headed GCSB Bill: why small-goverment conservatives should be worried, spicing it up with some bitching about soapboxing by "a few prominent left wing journalists" and concluding:

Think on this: what will those politicians from the left wing parties like the Greens or Labour do with these powers when and if they attain office?

ff you think they will do anything rather than use these powers to further bolster the size of the state in our lives, then I have an emissions trading scheme to sell you.

He can't be accused of not knowing his market.

Eric Crampton makes a similar argument in ACT should go down in a blaze of glory, taking the GCSB Bill with it

If you're going to die in 2014 anyway, jump on this grenade while you're doing it. Die in a blaze of liberal glory, killing the GCSB legislation at third reading and forcing them to take the whole thing back to the drawing board. It might make it harder to get into coalition with National next time round if you do get back, but it could also start drawing in votes from that part of the electorate that cares about civil rights and tech freedom but shrinks in horror from the thought of Russel Norman being anywhere near the Treasury benches.

NBR has also published this alarming report by Mega CEO Vikram Kumar, revealing that service providers are to be compelled through secret orders to build interception backdoors in their systems. We knew already that network operators would be require to facilitate real-time access under the TIC bill, but it's now clear that some service providers -- pick any from  Microsoft (Skype), Google and Apple (FaceTime and iMessage) -- will be similarly compelled. But so the bad guys don't know, exactly which providers have been required to comply will remain a secret.

There's also a useful guest column by Rodney Harrison QC on exactly what the problems with the GCSB bill are.

Elsewhere, yesterday's Sunday Star Times editorial focused on the "dangerous" looseness of the bill's text, concluding:

It's no wonder the Law Society has concerns about the wording of the law; the guy in charge of signing the warrants doesn't clearly understand it either.

All in all, it points to a piece of legislation cobbled together in a hurried fashion and those lawmakers assembled in Parliament this week, especially [Peter] Dunne, need to stop and think before pressing on.

There seems little prospect of any of those being addressed stopping and thinking. The bill will very probably become law this week.

But no matter; Kerre McIvor has some words of reassurance for everyone:

I think the bill sounds sensible enough - for the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders, they must ask nicely, explain why and then be subject to a review of their investigation.

If by some chance you are not sufficiently reassured, there's always tonight's public meeting at the Auckland Town Hall, from 7pm. If you can't make it along, there will be a live video stream here.

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