Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Real Threat

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    Most papparazi don’t get to steal your telephone metadata

    No they just record the entire conversations - or had you forgotten the recent events in Britain.

    Don't get me wrong I think the NZDF failed completely when they chose to target Jon Stephenson, who has a record of fair and sensitive reporting. He doesn't report information that could put the NZDF at risk. I don't think they had any reason to suspect him of being a threat. An embarrasment yes, but a threat no.

    The problem I have is that in this instance they were clearly wrong. But for the life of me I can't see an objective way of knowing when it is appropriate to spy before you do it. It seems like it is always a matter of subjective judgement. Only after the fact can you know if it was genuinely warranted, unless you argue that it is never warranted, which I think is a bit silly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    PS. If anyone says 'nothing to hide' just challenge them to write to IRD and waive their right to tax secrecy in perpetuity.

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Aidan,

    There is literally no comparison to be made between a Nation State and tabloid newspaper.

    I'm sorry but I disagree. I think we've seen ample evidence of the harm, personal and political, that can be done by a tabloid newspaper. It's worth noting that some of the media empires have revenues that are equivalent to nation states.

    It's also worth remembering that the NZDF is charged with trying to not have it's employees killed. The stakes are higher for them if they get it wrong. We are all happy that Jon Stephenson was not a genuine threat to the NZDF - but how can you expect them to be certain?

    But if you are happy that anyone can distinguish between jouranlist vs tabloid, how about this for a more difficult comparison ...
    Surveilance of a known drug smuggler suspected of bringing into NZ illegal weapons.
    Surveilance of an importor suspected of failing to pay duty, say a million dollars worth of duty.

    The point I'm making is that it is difficult to distinguish when it is appropriate, except after the fact. So how do we (the public) want it policed? What do we want to happen if they get it wrong, as in this case?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But if you are happy that anyone can distinguish between jouranlist vs tabloid

    I wouldn't suggest that we distinguish between tabloid journalists and "real" journalists. I'd suggest that we distinguish between journalists "spying" for the sake of news/tabloid story gathering, and the state spying on its citizens going about their lawful business.

    and , how about this for a more difficult comparison …
    Surveilance of a known drug smuggler suspected of bringing into NZ illegal weapons.
    Surveilance of an importor suspected of failing to pay duty, say a million dollars worth of duty.

    There is no comparison required. In both cases, such surveillance would be the investigation of suspected crime. What crime was Jon Stephenson suspected of?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 579 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And BTW NZDF can't call in a drone strike.

    Unless they get their allies to do it for them.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1708 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I’m sorry but I disagree. I think we’ve seen ample evidence of the harm, personal and political, that can be done by a tabloid newspaper. It’s worth noting that some of the media empires have revenues that are equivalent to nation states.

    You don't have to be sorry, but you're wrong. Nation States charge people with offences and put them in jail. They issue arrest warrants and deny people their freedom. They act illegally and even when this illegality is discovered there are rarely consequences.

    I think it is telling that corporations that thought Kim Dotcom might be infringing their copyright would choose to pursue him via the US Government rather than use civil proceedings. I am sure those companies do not lack financial resources.

    Sure tabloids can ruin individuals lives, and have done so in the past. Some have even taken their own life. This is tragic and should not happen. But the power of the state is in a different league to shrill tabloids.

    We are all happy that Jon Stephenson was not a genuine threat to the NZDF – but how can you expect them to be certain?

    Honestly? I'd ask him. I'd take his word, and if he did something wrong, then I would seek to prosecute him. It seems to be a given that we need "Minority Report" style government, predicting bad outcomes and preventing them from occurring. In this case the cure is worse than the illness.

    The point I’m making is that it is difficult to distinguish when it is appropriate, except after the fact. So how do we (the public) want it policed? What do we want to happen if they get it wrong, as in this case?

    For the most part I don't see a problem. Journalists are currently not allowed to spy on people illegally. This is appropriate. If a source comes to them with information then they can act on that.

    The Police can legally conduct surveillance on suspected criminals if they have sufficient evidence to convince a Judge that it is appropriate. Where is the problem?

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Actually one of the striking things about the NoTW etc scandals was that the tabloids did partake of large chunks of nation state-ness (the government-tabloid complex.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Actually one of the striking things about the NoTW etc scandals was that the tabloids did partake of large chunks of nation state-ness (the government-tabloid complex.)

    Yes, you're right. I'd argue this is what made it more pernicious, in that the security organs of the state were compromised and so failed to prosecute wrong-doing by the newspapers.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Jarno van der Linden,

    Can we please stop with making a distinction between data and metadata? Metadata IS data. Whether or not a piece of data is classified (ha!) as metadata is entirely dependent on the context. If I'm interested in what is said during a phonecall, then for me the phonenumbers are metadata. If i'm interested in who calls who, then the phonenumbers are data.

    By making a distinction between data and metadata in law, then it becomes almost trivial to work around it by pretending that your focus is on something else for which the information you are secretly really after is considered metadata.

    Nelson • Since Oct 2007 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    more defied and mortified or mortar fight?

    That wasn’t the issue. The issue here is that he had embarrassed defence command.

    And what a fine adult reaction they had, too!
    I hate to think what they'd do if you offended, or even really pissed them off ...
    - Anger Management and Civics courses all round!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7701 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Love,

    There doesn't appear to be an objective measure that defines one spying as innocuous tattle and another as a threat to personal freedom.

    Who is doing the spying and why is an objective difference.

    Since Jun 2009 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Richard Love,

    Who is doing the spying and why is an objective difference.

    Who is objective
    Why is subjective

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Love,

    Why is subjective

    The reason why someone spies might be subjective. But there can be objective differences between the reasons why two different people have spied.

    "Because I want to sell a story to a magazine" is clearly different to "because I want combat a subversive threat to the state".

    Since Jun 2009 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Trevor Nicholls, in reply to Aidan,

    There was a chap in the US who did this very thing. He was being watched by the authorities, but he didn't think it was justified, so he published ALL details of his existence online. Can't find it now.

    I guess they terminated him.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 299 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Bart just want to say thanks for holding this side of the argument , not sure I agree with you but it does make me think .

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Trevor Nicholls,

    I guess they terminated him.

    Or should that be unpersoned by the Ministry of Truth?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5380 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Bart just want to say thanks for holding this side of the argument

    I'm not arguing because I have a strong sense that I'm right - I hope I'm ... er... trying to discuss what I think is actually a really complex issue.

    I think there is a mixture of things going on with the discussion. One part is a real need to allow genuine investigative journalism to act as "the watchdog". We desparately need people like Jon Stephenson to pick at questions about the behaviour of organisations like NZDF and highlight where they are stepping beyond what most kiwis think is right and proper. I certainly don't think he deserves to be a target of spying. And certainly we don't want spying to become a weapon used to supress that kind of watchdog.

    But at some point most folks also are happy to have the nation state spy on some people, whether that be by judicial order or as a security service.

    It's the grey ground in the middle where for example the NZDF knows a person is investigating NZDF activities but don't know that person's motivations. You can't just go and ask them because if they are a spy they are going to lie - so what do you do?

    I can see situations where you might know you have a good chance of spying an innocent person but you can't afford to take the risk they are not innocent.

    At that point the public has to trust some system of oversight. You'd hope if innocence was determined data would be destroyed, but we know that was data is gathered nobody wants to throw it away. The whole thing gets horribly messy.

    What I do think though is that IF as a govt organisation, you do stuff up, THEN you ought to apologise. If nothing else that increases trust that your motivations were honest in the first place.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    Tried to post this from my mobile phone some brief thoughts, prompted by Toby Manhire's excellent post at The Listener.

    I was discussing this on Twitter:

    https://twitter.com/Zagzigger/status/361664892014567424

    Where RussB suggested I check in here.

    Hi!

    I haven't yet caught up but here is my thought.

    We have a secret order in 2003 which was reissued in 2005, it was unbeknownst to the CDF at the time - Sir Bruce Ferguson - who seems to have a good opinion of Nicky Hager - so you would have thought that he would remember it.

    And 2003 is also the same time as the GCSB legislation - and in April of that year when according to the Kitteridge report SIS/GCSB cooperation on domestic spying under PM's warrant began.

    As we are debating the use of the word "Certain" in the context of the phrase "Certain Investigative Journalists" is odd. Either this is further defined in the order or it it begs the question who?

    Notably this is way before Jon Stephenson was on the scene which leads back to Nicky.

    The other reason the latest revelations are so fascinating as they create a way out for National. Now an inquiry into all this will also be very painful for Labour - and potentially also for the poster child of the GCSB Bill opponents former CDF and GCSB chief Bruce Ferguson.

    The plot thickens. Mind boggles. And this much is certain. This story has just moved up another notch.

    Is this a constitutional crisis yet?

    It will be if Peter Dunne changes his mind. And for that to happen it would help if David Shearer were to stop throwing rocks at him.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Aidan,

    sufficient evidence to convince a Judge that it is appropriate

    a safeguard not available with warrantless mass surveillance

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19515 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Defence Force denies spying on Stephenson. Minister believes them.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19515 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Brown, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    The "s" on the end of hhtps stands for "secure". Thing is, it's not. Nothing is, currently. Which is kind of the point. My facebook says "https". And it patentl;y isn't. By FISA warrent.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2013 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Anthony Behrens Esq,

    A slight aside - TV3 get it wrong in their reporting of the protest in Palmy...an apology will be broadcast at 6.20 tonight -
    Square Protest

    Manawatu • Since Nov 2012 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The English tabloids have done this illegally, and are going through due process of law now.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2013 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Sacha,

    a safeguard not available with warrantless mass surveillance

    Yep. Which was my point, but poorly made.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Jarno van der Linden,

    I'd never thought of it that way. The meta-ness of the data is in the eye of the beholder.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10530 posts Report Reply

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