OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: "Project SPEARGUN underway"

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  • Tim Michie,

    Nice summary Keith.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Yup. The Cortex release was just one big SQUIRREL!!

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2912 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Good work Keith, but so little to digest, Russell called it. Tracy Watkins has this:

    Declassified documents released by Key last night appear to back that up.

    But Greenwald and Snowden produced documentation that appeared to directly contradict that. Their case against Key will take longer to unpick

    Forcing Key to play that CORTEX card beforehand rather than dumping all in one go has had its moments. If only a whistle blower from within the GCSB would stand up. .

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • stephen clover,

    Great summary, Keith. To be clear: it appears CORTEX was greenlighted in July 2014. However *something else* ("Initiative 7418", enhancing the activity of the National Cyber Security Center) was stopped in Sept 2012 (tho Key claimed it was Mar 2012.)

    wgtn • Since Sep 2007 • 355 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW,

    According to Key says a "test probe" was built to sit on the Southern Cross cable.

    Keith - your third bullet seems to have been spiked?

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to ChrisW,

    Keith - your third bullet seems to have been spiked?

    I can see it.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2912 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Thanks Keith. Your description here was exactly what I thought as I read the Cortex papers. I thought: this is some other programme, not the one that Snowden and Greenwald are talking about. How convenient, that there was some innocuous other programme proposed at the same time, which they canned.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I was wondering why Key keeps describing the GCSB work as a business plan .Now we know he’s on a different page.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4077 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz,

    Andrea Vance appears able to at least ask the question.

    I wonder what Key's answer will be?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Olly Buxton,

    This is all good stuff. But with the whole Dotcom sideshow, I wonder if the point is being missed here:

    It is within a sovereign government's gift to do all of the things that Snowden/Greenwald allege. We might not like it, but it is. And just because we don't like it, doesn't mean the public at large don't like it: judging by the (extraordinarily!) blase reaction of many New Zealanders, wholesale metadata scrubbing would probably not be politically controversial.

    What *would be* controversial, if made out, is the allegation that John Key, or National government, either lied about it, or was deceptive about it when the GSCB bill went through the supposedly transparent public legislative process. That is the allegation that has the potential to bring down this government.

    But however persuasive Edward Snowden or Glen Greenwald can be that metadata scrubbing happens, they have very little that isn't circumstantial to say about that issue.

    This is why Dotcom's reveal was such a fail. That would have been an equivalent smoking gun: That would show real mendacity. But it looks obviously faked. It's not even a good effort: It's hard to believe anyone could be taken in by it. Therefore it dramatically undermines Dotcom's credibility - which had been holding up really pretty well until now. This was a big, big, airshot.

    So, with respect, I think the NZ Media is quite right to focus on that.

    United Kingdom • Since Sep 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Snowden made a deep impression on me. The guy is a hero.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2204 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I don't think that Dotcom's reveal is necessarily a fake, I just don't think there's good evidence either way, without some other conforming evidence it doesn't particularly stand alone.

    As someone elsewhere on PA said Key's defence is essentially the "Chewbacca Defence"

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2592 posts Report Reply

  • JonathanM,

    OT: Regarding the herald article, I saw the comment about Key confirming the probe on the cable yesterday, but the article was then updated with info from Southern Cross who said that wasn't possible. The corresponding Stuff article was updated at around the same time, and I can't get to the original there.

    Interestingly, the link in the post above contains the comment from Key. Weird herald linking/updating stuff.

    Since Jul 2012 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3178 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Olly Buxton,

    But however persuasive Edward Snowden or Glen Greenwald can be that metadata scrubbing happens, they have very little that isn’t circumstantial to say about that issue.

    It's not circumstantial, it's eye witness evidence. It's from someone the Americans want to Jail, and not because he's not being honest. It's because he is sharing classified information, rather than fabricating it. I think the indictments are clear on that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4077 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    the light fandango...
    How do you 'probe' an optic cable, without breaking it to insert a splitter or somesuch?
    Is there a 'transmission' from data-light?
    I think the old copper systems 'leaked' and could be tapped that way, but fibre optics?

    Does seem to be more logical to be in the retrieval, or transmission processes.
    Though wouldn't a tap on such conduit need pretty bulky 'pipes' itself to spirit it away?
    Wouldn't there be a 'data-heat' or traffic signature somewhere?

    ...or are we talking 'Dark Data'*?

    </Spinnish inquistion>

    * h/t XM :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7776 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Olly Buxton,

    And just because we don’t like it, doesn’t mean the public at large don’t like it: judging by the (extraordinarily!) blase reaction of many New Zealanders, wholesale metadata scrubbing would probably not be politically controversial.

    But equally just because the public tends to be blasé doesn’t mean they like it. As was said last night (can’t remember by who) that’s a choice that the public should make explicitly.

    And given the need to introduce the 2013 Act, I’m not so sure it was within rights to do it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    How do you 'probe' an optic cable, without breaking it to insert a splitter or somesuch?

    In this digital age it can't be that difficult when you have physical access and an unlimited budget. Each connection point for the cable will contain digital switches - tapping into those would be the easiest option. And yes, you would need a very large pipe to siphon all the data, but for an organisation which owns its own satellites that surely wouldn't be an impediment.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • A S,

    So, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to sum all of this up with:

    1. Greenwald/Snowden information pointing to mass surveillance is highly likely to be true, and
    2. Our PM released documents unrelated to mass surveillance as evidence we weren’t involved in mass surveillance.

    Wonder how the PM is going to get himself out of this hole?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Olly Buxton,

    they have very little that isn’t circumstantial to say about that issue.

    Sorry - I should have been clearer - by "that issue" I meant "that the National Government lied about it", not that the Metadata scrubbing happens at all. Of course it does (why would NZ be special?). Now John Key plays the gormless larrikin, but he chooses his words carefully. He has not said that metadata has not been read - he has said that GCSB hasn't read it.

    "There is not, and never has been, a cable access surveillance programme operating *in New Zealand*.

    There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB.

    Neither Snowden nor Greenwald can speak to that.

    I don't think that Dotcom's reveal is necessarily a fake

    Don't you? I do, on its face it is clearly a fake. Just read it:

    Hi Mike. We had a really good meeting with the Prime Minister. He’s a fan and we’re getting what we came for.

    “Your groundwork in New Zealand is paying off. I see strong support for our anti-piracy effort. John Key told me in private that they are granting Dotcom residency despite pushback from officials about his criminal past. His AG will do everything in his power to assist us with our case. VIP treatment and then a one-way ticket to Virginia.

    “This is a game changer. The DOJ is against the Hong Kong option. No confidence in the Chinese. Great job,”

    Come on: If you were writing a Jerry Bruckheimer screenplay and you wanted to get to the reveal super quick, then that's the sort of email you'd have Dr Evil write to his (er) henchman.

    Not even Richard Nixon would write something as incriminating or stupid as that.

    United Kingdom • Since Sep 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    I don’t think that Dotcom’s reveal is necessarily a fake, I just don’t think there’s good evidence either way, without some other conforming evidence it doesn’t particularly stand alone.

    M'kay... I guess we're talking about Hollywood, hardly the home of sharp and convincing dialogue so who knows? But come on... for months, the media were being teased with the promise of irrefutable evidence that Key not only lied but was donkey deep in some convoluted immigration honey trap. To put it crudely, the moment of truth was one hell of a letdown after all the foreplay and trying to shut down questions is, at the very least, bad politics when you're trying to paint Key as someone so crooked he can't lie straight in bed.

    Anyway, looks like Laila Harre is going to be on Nine to Noon soon, and it will be interesting to see how she plays this out.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Frankly I think the Hollywood thing is a red herring, John Key's lies about mass surveillance are the important issue here

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2592 posts Report Reply

  • A S, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Precisely!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2007 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Brodie Davis, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    The thing is they don't need to do anything as fancy as a underwater intercept on the cable. They can just put equipment in at the Hawaii base stations and then put gag orders on the operators. Of course the operators may not actually know there are taps in place, as it could simply be a replaced cable tray with the taps in it. And from everyone one elses perspect it would look like a normal (if full) fibre tray.

    Also you can tap fibre leads by simply bending them and collecting the light that doesn't reflect, and all the operator will notice is a slight increase in attenuation. Which could well fall within the operational norms for a undersea cable, as it likey will continue to settle over time (considering in the open sea, they are just draped over the sea bed and hang between mountains/ridges).

    Since Aug 2008 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Frankly I think the Hollywood thing is a red herring, John Key’s lies about mass surveillance are the important issue here

    As I’ve said on another thread, Paul, I actually think the integrity of our immigration processes is a real issue to a lot of people. It certainly was when Ahmed Zaoui (and congratulations on his becoming a citizen in May) was a cause célèbre. It’s a little rich to complain it’s a “red herring” when Dotcom himself baited the hook with some extremely serious allegations and a promise of hard evidence.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

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