Five Eyes Partners New Zealand and US Alleged to be Spying On Journalist Critical of War

There are seemingly constantly new revelations about extremely questionable practices employed by the security apparatus. The latest comes from 'five eyes' partner New Zealand, which not too long ago had to admit that its spooks illegally spied on Kim Dotcom to help the FBI make an example of the man in the context of copyright enforcement (we have previously discussed the case of Dotcom, who is accused of breaking laws that apparently don't even exist).

 

New Zealand's reaction to this embarrassment was, as you may have guessed, to introduce new legislation that will henceforth legalize domestic spying. In the meantime, its security apparatus seems not really deterred by the embarrassment caused to it by the Dotcom case and continues to engage in  highly dubious surveillance activities, actively aided and abetted by US intelligence services. The target in the latest case was an investigative journalist working for McClatchy. Here is an excerpt from an article on the matter. We want to direct your attention especially to the final paragraph below, which is quite chilling:

 

“Concern over government surveillance of journalists has washed up on the faraway shores of New Zealand, with a report in the country's Sunday Star this week asserting that the military there, with help from U.S. intelligence, spied on an investigative journalist who had been critical of its activities in Afghanistan.

[…]

The Sunday Star report alleged that the New Zealand military gained access to "who Stephenson had phoned and then who those people had phoned, creating what the sources called a 'tree' of the journalist's associates." In its letter, McClatchy expressed concern that this would include other journalists working for the agency as well as editors in Washington, D.C.

The letter also expressed alarm that the U.S. may have assisted in the "retaliatory monitoring" of a journalist. New Zealand Defense Force Chief Rhys Jones accused Stephenson of fabricating details of reports published in 2010 and 2011 about the military's mishandling of prisoners in Afghanistan. According to news reports, the accusation led Stephenson to sue for defamation, a case that resulted in a hung jury this month. Stephenson also claimed an active officer made death threats against him in 2011 because of his critical stories, according to a Radio New Zealand report published today. Stephenson could not be reached for comment.

Wellington has rejected allegations that Stephenson was a subject of surveillance and of any U.S. involvement. A U.S. official also denied the claims on Monday, according to The Associated Press. Prime Minister John Key said Monday that it is possible for reporters to get caught in surveillance nets when the United States spies on enemy combatants. McClatchy, citing past assurances by President Barack Obama that U.S. surveillance efforts are "carefully circumscribed" for national security, said such assurances "cannot be squared" with the reports out of New Zealand.

Compounding concerns about the New Zealand military's targeting of journalists, the Sunday Star reported that a confidential military training manual drafted in 2003 lists investigative journalists as one of the top threats to state security–up there with terrorists and hostile foreign intelligence groups. A military official in New Zealand acknowledged the existence of the manual on Monday, referring to it as "inappropriate and heavy-handed," and ordered a revision to remove any references to journalists, news reports said.”

 

(emphasis added)

Whether or not they remove the references to journalists from their training manual, the mindset is clear – this is what they actually believe: “Investigative journalists are one of the top threats to state security–up there with terrorists and hostile foreign intelligence groups.”

We have to admit that this is actually true – in a dictatorship. In allegedly free countries, investigative journalists are usually deemed to be among the people who help seeing to it that they remain free. They are however always and everywhere a danger to elements of the ruling class, as are all kinds of whistleblowers.

What the professional listeners and data collectors in the no-longer-so-free West are overlooking, or probably not thinking about at all, is that their activities definitely alter the behavior of people. No-one wants to end up blacklisted in a government data base for something he said in an e-mail. It may just be one of the thousands of 'key words' or 'key phrases' the algos are constantly fishing for. As a result, people begin to watch what they are saying. However, when you lose the free flow of communication, you lose one of the cornerstones of Western civilization. There are few things more important than the free flow of ideas. No matter how many assurances the authorities give us that none of their capabilities and activities will ever be abused, no-one in his right mind will ever believe them. Too many lies have been told already.

So what are New Zealand politicians and military men saying in the wake of this latest scandal? Luckily some of them have come to the defense of the journalist who dropped the bombshell related above.

 

“Several key figures in New Zealand expressed dismay over the spying allegations. Member of Parliament Peter Dunne tweeted on Sunday that state surveillance of journalists is "appalling and unacceptable." And a former military chief, Bruce Ferguson, defended the Sunday Star reporter, Nicky Hager, and investigative journalism as a whole in an interview with Radio New Zealand: "[Hager] gets a lot of it right, he gets some of it wrong but he keeps everyone honest, and I think that's probably a very healthy thing to do. And if you don't have those sorts of people, you're getting into autocracy and dictatorship, and I'd hate to see us go that way."

News reports say New Zealand is expected to pass an expansive surveillance bill that would allow the government to monitor private communication of its citizens in the name of national security.”

 

(emphasis added)

So just to get this straight: even though Mr. Ferguson would just 'hate to see New Zealand go toward autocracy and dictatorship', the country's parliament is about to take a decisive step in just that direction. All that is left to say at this point is:

“National Security Über Alles!

 


 

 

 

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