Murray Horton: Spies given more powers in spite of their failures

Tony Fullman (left) and Ratu Tevita Mara having dinner in Fiji in December 2005. Image: Tony Fullman / The Intercept Photo: Tony Fullman

OPINION: By Murray Horton

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) are being handed more powers by the New Zealand government, and given legal backing for spying on New Zealanders — in spite of yet another example of their wrongdoings being exposed this week.

It has been revealed by The Intercept and Television New Zealand that in 2012 the two agencies harassed and persecuted a New Zealander, Tony Fullman, whose only activity had been expressing negative opinions about the post-2006 coup military backed Fiji government.

"Thumbs up for democracy" in Fiji campaign image of Ratu Tevita Mara who defected from the coup leaders in 2011. Image: Pacific Scoop
“Thumbs up for democracy” in Fiji campaign image of Ratu Tevita Mara who defected from the coup leaders in 2011. Image: Pacific Scoop

This new episode is just another example of a long line of repressive actions against New Zealand citizens who pose absolutely no threat to this country whatsoever – the cases of David Small, Aziz Choudry, Ahmed Zaoui and Kim Dotcom are good examples of citizens or residents who suffered from mistaken and/or illegal surveillance by the spies.

And the total number of “terrorists” uncovered and brought to justice numbers exactly zero.

New government legislation is based on the Cullen-Reddy Report which recommended extending the powers of the spies and instituting a more rigorous warrant system.

However, past experience shows “oversight” always fails; in 2014 the GCSB could not properly give account of the number of warrants it was operating, and Sir Michael Cullen himself, when he was a senior minister in the 1999-2008 Labour government, lied to the country about spying on New Zealanders when he presided over a warrant system that failed.

In the unlikely event that warrants are properly constituted the evidence above suggests they are likely to be used to make innocent people suffer.

The GCSB and the SIS have demonstrated incompetence and victimisation over many years.

It is not the time to give them greater powers but is the time to close them down completely.

Close down the GCSB and its Waihopai spy base and pull out of the Five Eyes system.

Close down the SIS and transfer its functions to the Police who (theoretically at least) have to justify their actions in a court of law.

Murray Horton is organiser of the Anti-Bases Campaign in Christchurch, New Zealand.

One of the “Thumbs up for democracy” in Fiji videos, 3 June 2011. Video: Truth for Fiji

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