Revelations just five days before the General Election pose serious questions about the nature of the New Zealand government. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed details about the GCSB and the rest of the spying apparatus. The revelations on spying reveal that it is a serious threat to the democratic rights of New Zealanders.
Snowden has provided evidence that the NZ ‘intelligence’ (spying) agency, the GCSB, is collecting ‘metadata’. This metadata is collected by the US National Security Agency (NSA) through wiretaps across countries, including in NZ. Records of emails, text messages and phone calls for all NZer’s is kept and can be accessed by X-KEYSCORE, a program developed by the USA.
As such, not only the government and NZ spy agencies, but international spooks, such as Snowden’s former workmates in Hawaii have access to people’s online information.
These revelations are important on several fronts. Firstly, Prime Minister John Key has repeatedly said that mass surveillance is not taking place. Like Dirty Politics, this information raises serious questions about how honest PM Key has been to the NZ people.
Secondly, the GCSB engaged in programs that they knew to be illegal. The law was changed to expand the GCSB’s powers, but this was done after the fact.
This spying hasn’t been used to stop terrorist threats. The surveillance state in NZ hasn’t prevented any terrorist acts. But these powers or similar actions have been used to smash political threats (the Urewera Raids) and economic threats (Dotcom) to the status quo. So while as individuals, the collection of metadata raises concerns about where our personal information may end up, it has documented ramifications for our democratic rights.
Hager’s Dirty Politics showed that National’s strategy is to maintain power through whatever means necessary and increase the influence of big corporations. This right wing agenda seeks to minimise the amount of people involved in politics. National take their place in a long history of big money and their capitalist parliamentary formations working to make everyday people feel disempowered and disconnected from mainstream politics.
Responding to this is necessary. An important part of the fight against the surveillance state will be removing elected representatives. The September 20 election is an important opportunity to both remove the Key government from power, and to elect important fighters into parliament, such as Annette Sykes, John Minto and Hone Harawira.
Giving John Key the arse will be an important start, but it will leave the GCSB in place. Even if we succeed in removing the GCSB, it won’t stop the corporations and monied interests that they serve. But by building the movement against these injustices we can build a power that counters the 1%.
As Laila Harre said at the Moment of Truth, we need to go ‘house by house and street by street’, and convince people to demand greater protections on our democratic rights. When so much power is concentrated in the hands of so few, behind closed doors, only the power of the people can challenge it.