OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Leviathan

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  • Chris Waugh,

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    In this morning's Dominion Post. I find the attitude problematic, but he does make a good point about the lack of privacy online.

    Welcome to the Panopticon.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    Very well written, Keith. Thanks for this.

    John Key’s hair splitting distinction between “collection” and “surveillance” is designed to let him not keep his word and resign. However, it also implies a much more sinister phrase; “If you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear”. Now where have I heard that before?

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

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    I wonder if that's G T Dick of 34 Miro St, Masterton.

    Maybe someone could put a webcam in that nice tree outside, or have a quick squiz on their mate's friend's work database?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Steve Bell,

    After all, "we" (Parliament on the people's behalf) passed the GCSB Bill, didn't we? & the Search & Surveillance Bill (after a struggle) and we all got the opportunity to comment through the Select Committee process.

    Though in the case of the most recent anti-terror legislation, the one they rammed through under urgency immediately after the election so the SIS could get a funding increase, our submissions weren't even read.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1710 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Steve Bell,

    Odds on....

    because they (of course) have “nothing to hide”

    we're on a 'hiding to nothing' it seems...
    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Intercept has a report on Key retracting his vow to resign if it was shown that there was mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

    It really does seem this should be bigger news.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    No doubt that in public debate, opponents are labelled cranks.

    But when I said don't be a crank, I was thinking in the context of one on one interactions.

    Best summed up in this classic post from Simon Garlick:

    I pulled up at a small park in Adelaide’s north-east suburbs to find a group of local residents waiting for Zappia and eyeing the grey clouds warily. A staffer arrived and put up a couple of folding Zappia signs shortly before Zappia himself got there. With the exception of myself the attendees were all white senior citizens. At 37 I was probably the youngest attendee by at least a quarter century, while the oldest would have been the woman who mentioned in conversation that she was 92.

    I felt it would be polite to wait my turn so I stood back for a while and allowed the others to begin raising their issues of concern. It was at this point that the event took on a surreal quality. Discussion revolved around the following topics for the first half an hour or so:

    Asylum-seekers and immigrants, and what Labor was doing to keep them out. (Subtext: I’M NOT A RACIST BUT KEEP THE DARKIES OUT MATE)
    Foreign investment in Australian corporations and what Labor was doing to restrict it. (Subtext: I’M NOT A RACIST BUT KEEP THE ASIANS OUT OF OUR COMPANIES MATE)
    Privatisation in general and would Labor promise not to do any more of it. (Subtext: I’M NOT A RACIST BUT IN MY DAY YOU COULD RING UP THE POST OFFICE AND SPEAK TO AN AUSTRALIAN MATE)
    Exports of natural resources to China and residential-property sales to foreigners, and what Labor would be doing to curb it. (Subtext: I’M NOT A RACIST BUT THE CHINESE ARE BUYING UP OUR COUNTRY MATE)
    The inadequacy of healthcare for senior citizens… ("Whew, a sane line of discussion at last") …and how frustrating it is to be unable to find a doctor who can speak English properly. ("FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU")

    Yeah, but then it got weird.
    Zappia was asked why Australia was shipping so many millions of tonnes of coal to China when it was self-evident that moving all that mass across the equator would physically destabilise the planet. I mean, just look at all the earthquakes lately. Then Zappia was asked by one elderly gentleman why the Government did not solve “the alcohol problem” (people didn’t get drunk in his day, no sir) by simply banning alcohol. “They had the right idea in America in 1920!” he said.

    Think about this for a second: these are the people who turn up to meetings with their local MPs.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Rivers,

    David Rutherford the Human Rights Commissioner last week spoke at a meeting at St Andrews in Wellington and he made an interesting point about proportionality related to surveillance and public safety.

    I don't have his exact words but essentially his idea was that the government don't protect children from violence by having cameras in every home, nor does the government protect people from traffic accidents by having a 30kph traffic limit nationwide where there are dozens and hundreds of deaths each year respectively.

    In contrast we have a situation where there have been no deaths of New Zealanders from home grown terrorism and yet we are faced with unspecified levels of data collection and surveillance.

    Since Apr 2011 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Turn Key or Turkey?

    Key retracting his vow to resign if it was shown that there was mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

    Unlike Key I am happy to critique Ferguson - but what is he saying here:

    Ferguson: “The whole method of surveillance these days, is sort of a mass collection situation – individualized: that is mission impossible.”

    Aside from saying that modern 'surveillance' involves 'keeping watch' on collected/harvested metadata - Is this 'individualised' collection a reference to the TV show where 'Impossible' things are then routinely done to achieve an end?
    or is he saying that it is really, really hard to extract individualised info from the meta data - which I would strongly doubt - the NSA has a processing plant that would sort through that in no time - it all depends on how they choose to interrogate their data... and what they are looking for and who for...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7848 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The Intercept has a report on Key retracting his vow to resign if it was shown that there was mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

    I'm not sure you can just retract a political promise like that - the real issue of course is that at the time Key made that pledge the GCSB was doing mass surveillance ... and Key was the minister in charge, he was supposd to know what was going on - in short he was probably lying when he made the pledge.

    Of course now he's saying that he can't talk about it because it was secret - apparently it was OK to talk about it when he was just making stuff up.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2600 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    We have lies on lies. Dissembling. Unethical and probably illegal behaviour in spite of the laws having been widened. It seems that in our "democracy" the electorate acshually has no rights at all once voting is over.
    Certainly not the right to a promised resignation.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    That's a really strange speech by Fletcher. I can't really see the point of it, but then I don't really know who the audience is - it appears to be corporate heads. Which explains why it's corporate philopsychobabble for the most part. Hobbes is always popular in such an environment because he makes some strong claims. It hardly matters that the justification is extremely poor, quoting philosophers is like quoting the Bible to most people. Especially philosophers like Hobbes, who themselves quote the Bible a lot, whose book is named after a biblical creature.

    It's a little unfair on poor old Hobbes, who, after all, was working on this stuff over 400 years ago, during a sectarian civil war. He at least had a new idea, which has been knocked into much better shape since. We don't go quoting the famous chemists of that time to make arguments about chemical structure.

    Nor would we trust a historian from the pre-Darwinian period to be telling us about the origin of humanity - but Hobbes does exactly that, tells his fabricated story about that, and it gets duly trotted out any time people want to justify unlimited state power. The entire basis of his argument is a made up story about pre-state man. It's a lot like the made up stories economists make about the same period of time when trying to justify the way states run the economy now. Very, very little genuine anthropology, and a whole lot of polemic to draw some very convenient conclusions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10616 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I think what they're on about is that back in the day, if they wanted to tap someone's phone they'd get a warrant, go along to the telephone exchange and plug some wires in.
    Now they're arguing that its too hard to go to each internet company with a warrant to read email, and it's easier to just store everyone's communications in a big database in the US and read what they need.
    (Bear in mind here that the GCSB has 300 staff to process only 53 warrants - so they claim).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    It is a bit silly though. Anyone who does actually want to converse in secret can mostly do so using encryption and proxies. Especially the biggest real threats, foreign powers, which can and do design their own encryption. Only particularly low tech threats could be caught this way, but not so low that they just avoid electronics for the bulk of their communication (which is the next most serious threat).

    Which is why the actual evidence that this kind of data collection is worth a bar of shit in any meaningful way is always kept under wraps. The threats are always hypothetical, or after-the-fact (ie they weren't actually detected at the time they were threats). There is practically never a solid example of what good all this data collection has done. It's always about what it could do, or might stop. I think if there were any runs on the board at all, we'd have heard them trumpeted from the roof top by the main cheerleaders.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10616 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    One wonders if 'they' expend as much effort and money on Hum Int as they spend on Sig Int these days, or has The Great Game had massive redundancies?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7848 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I think part of the problem is that the particular kind of threats that have been identified are not particularly amenable to HUMINT. The cellular structure is very difficult to penetrate. No one actually knows anything or anyone. But it is also not amenable to SIGINT either.

    But this problem only serves to increase the level of justification. If the SIGINT is totally shit at delivering results, the conclusion is that we just need more SIGINT.

    It's seldom noted that the cellular structure is also very, very weak at delivering any damage greater than the symbolic. Civilians are killed with impunity, but only the most tiny military targets ever suffer.

    I guess we do have one silver lining. Once they get ALL the SIGINT, then we can really know for sure just how useless it really is.

    ETA: It's like a science experiment in human institutional stupidity.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10616 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    these are the people who turn up to meetings with their local MPs.

    And the reason MP's kid themselves they are blessed with superior intellects

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1828 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I'll see your Ben Franklin quote:

    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    and raise you a John Adams:

    Those who trade liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both.

    and

    In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all—security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished foremost was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.

    Edward Gibbon, English historian and member of Parliament, commenting on Ancient Athens in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.
    <source>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7848 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

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    White House has gone full doublespeak fast tracking the TPPA

    In a blog post published this week, the White House flat out uses doublespeak to tout the benefits of the TPP, even going so far as to claim that without these new trade agreements, "there would be no rules protecting American invention, artistic creativity, and research". That is pure bogus, much like the other lies the White House has been recently saying about its trade policies. Let's look at the four main myths they have been saying to sell lawmakers and the public on Fast Track for the TPP.

    which concludes that:

    The fact that the White House has resorted to distorting the truth about its trade policies is enough to demonstrate how little the administration values honesty and transparency in policy making, and how much the public stands to lose from these agreements negotiated in secret. The more they try and espouse the potential gains from Fast Track—while the trade agreements this legislation would advance remain secret—the more reason we ought to be skeptical. If the TPP is so great and if Fast Track would in fact enable more democratic oversight, why are the contents of either of them still not public?

    Just makes ya wonder what John and Barack talk about on that Hawaiian back nine?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7848 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Steve Bell,

    The point of the title-page drawing is that Leviathan is made of the people.

    You're thinking of Soylent Green...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2925 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to BenWilson,

    That’s a really strange speech by Fletcher. I can’t really see the point of it, but then I don’t really know who the audience is – it appears to be corporate heads. Which explains why it’s corporate philopsychobabble for the most part.

    Fletcher is a corporate man - it's all he knows.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2925 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to BenWilson,

    The cellular structure is very difficult to penetrate

    Especially when the cell consists of one person and their inner voices.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Greenwald says

    Listen to the whole interview: both to see the type of adversarial questioning to which U.S. political leaders are so rarely subjected, but also to see just how obfuscating Key’s answers are.

    which is a nice endorsement of natrad eh. But makes me think, who among us here in nz can do the John Stewart thing? My vote: Urzila Carlson

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    But when I said don’t be a crank, I was thinking in the context of one on one interactions.

    Best summed up in this classic post from Simon Garlick

    Garlick's examples of grassroots crackpottery aren't too different from those described in a mid-90s Sydney Morning Herald piece on a Lower North Shore Liberal Party meeting. As the kind of Party apologist who gives MP Tony Zappia "a lot of credit" for simply attempting to do his job, Garlick appears to have let his foray outside the confines of whatever bubble he usually inhabits go to his head when he makes the claim that online activism "Isn’t. Worth. Jack."

    If "actually raising the issues with someone who matters" isn't happening online it's because elected politicians and candidates from the two major parties are simply too media-timid to genuinely engage on the record. When I "friended" a local politician who'd been publicly outspoken on post-Chch quake issues, I was disappointed to discover that their Facebook presence was confined to the joys of dog ownership.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Also, consider this:

    - we have a situation where there has been no organised islamic terrorist actions in NZ, and very few anywhere in the West for over ten years.

    - human intelligence activity, or just old fashioned community policing is likely to verify that there are no organised terrorist groups operating here.

    - signals intelligence analysed through data mining can provide a different story, largely because a data analysis system can produce any result its owner wants (provided one doesn't care to check it for correlation with reality). It's possible to regard access to jihadi websites, money transfers to muslim states, foreign travel, facebook chatter and the like as being quantative indications of terrorist conspiracy.

    - thus the use of signals "intelligence" is an ideal way to promote the concept that there is a real and organised terrorist threat

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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