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Former Canadian Spy Criticises Swain Bill

New Electronic Spying Powers Ripe For Abuse

Mike Frost spent 34 years working as a spy, with the final two decades being with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the Canadian equivalent of the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which operates the Waihopai spybase. CSE and GCSB are the Canadian and New Zealand agencies in the top secret UKUSA global electronic intelligence gathering agreement. The other parties are the US, UK, and Australia. Their most notorious project is codenamed Echelon - a global system of spybases intercepting civilian telecommunications satellites for “keywords” of interest to Big Brother, the US National Security Agency (NSA). Waihopai is a key part of Echelon.

Since retiring, Mike Frost has written about and publicly spoken out against his former profession, and has become internationally well known in the process. His best known book is “Spyworld” (1994, reissued 1998). He was seen on NZ TV in 2000, on 60 Minutes; he featured prominently in the groundbreaking 1999 Australian TV documentary about Echelon. He regularly appears on North American TV. You can check out Mike Frost yourself. Go to www.canspeak.com and click on his name under the alphabetical list of speakers. You can read his CV and reviews there, and view a five minute video sample of him speaking.

Mike Frost has accepted the invitation of the Anti-Bases Campaign to tour NZ, in the final quarter of 2001.

He contacted us, unsolicited, to register his alarm and dismay at the Crimes Amendment Bill (No. 6), better known as the Swain Bill (after Paul Swain), to increase the electronic spying powers of both the Police and intelligence agencies, namely the GCSB and the Security Intelligence Service. We are amongst those organisations opposing this dangerous Bill. Submissions close on February 9.

The Anti-Bases Campaign agrees wholeheartedly with Mike Frost's concerns about the increased spying powers that the Swain Bill would give to the Police and the intelligence agencies. The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which runs Waihopai, has long denied spying on New Zealanders and invading their privacy. The Swain Bill will explicitly give that power to the GCSB and other agencies. It must not be passed into law.

Murray Horton for ABC

Mike Frost says:

“As a Canadian who earned a living for 34 years in the world of electronic espionage and intelligence gathering I have a number of concerns regarding the ”spook” legislation proposed by Communications Minister Paul Swain. Without wishing to interfere with New Zealand’s domestic affairs I will try and explain how this legislation has the potential to impact on me as a Canadian citizen who just happens to be a retired spook.

“We all know that the Internet has no borders and does not discriminate between the bad guys and the good guys. Consequently, Canadian international communications, using the Internet and satellites as the methods of transmission, are just as easily intercepted by, for example, the New Zealand Defence Satellite Communications Unit, Blenheim (Waihopai for short), as are the international communications of New Zealand or any other country for that matter. Therefore, any new legislation in your country concerning the Internet has the potential to impact not only New Zealand but other countries as well.

“The Canadian government has a database that contains ‘personal information’ concerning its citizens. It is my opinion that the Government of New Zealand probably has a similar database, I mean why wouldn’t they? The Government of Canada will not acknowledge the existence of this database but I know it does exist because I used to provide input to it. By definition ‘personal information’ includes such things as: name, address, telephone number, age, family status, sex, sexual preference, occupation, medical and health records, dental records, assets, liabilities, income, payment records, driving records, credit card information and history, bank records, criminal records and so on. I think you get the point.

“Most American eavesdropping sites world-wide are equipped with sophisticated listening devices which make the interception of radio and satellite signals a rather simple task. The Waihopai site has been firmly entrenched in your country for years and it’s a safe bet that they have an extensive data base containing ‘personal information’ concerning many, many citizens of New Zealand. This database would probably be available in whole or in part to the government of New Zealand.

“The Cold War is over and priorities have changed. No longer do we have to worry about an arms race with the former Soviet Union. The emphasis has switched to the gathering of economic and industrial intelligence. (Apart from terrorist targets which always have been and always will be at the top of the priority list). The old method of collecting only what was needed has been replaced with a ‘collect it all now and sort later’ technology. With antennas now pointed inwards at ourselves, so to speak, it is inevitable that domestic, private and personal information can and will be intercepted, if not by design then at least by error. By collecting this type of information is our right to privacy being violated? Are governments such as yours and mine guilty of breaking the law? From the spy base at Waihopai is the US guilty of breaking New Zealand law? I don’t know, but if not they are at least guilty of breaking the spirit of the law.

“Are the citizens of New Zealand comfortable with that? Are they aware that the US, as the controlling authority of the five country (UKUSA - United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) Echelon espionage system, can and does routinely collect, on New Zealand soil no less, numerous New Zealand targets of which personal information is only one of many priorities? “What should concern New Zealanders is that it is only after evaluating, assessing and in some cases editing, would the US make some, never all, of this information available to the Government of New Zealand.

“Do we, and by we I mean the member nations of the Echelon system, want to make it easier and legal for governments to invade our privacy at will?

“It has been claimed that the interception of personal information is necessary in order to assist law enforcement agencies in their quest to catch the bad guys. That may be so, but the scary part is that there are no safety nets in place to protect the innocent people that can and will inevitably fall through the cracks. The question begs to be asked - Is it OK for government agencies to routinely invade the privacy of innocent people in order to catch law-breakers? This thorny question must be answered by the people, not by a handful of politicians.

“Clearly legislation has not been able to keep up with the rapid growth of wireless communications and electronic technology. Something must be done, but is giving governments and law enforcement agencies an unprecedented increase in invasive and intrusive powers the answer? I don’t think so. What governments must be made to do is legislate strict guidelines as to what can and cannot be intercepted. We the citizens of the free world must be convinced that there is appropriate legislation in place to prevent innocent people from getting caught in the huge trawling net of electronic eavesdropping. To date that protective legislation does not exist. Indeed, the Canadian Minister of National Defense (responsible for our spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment) said some six years ago that we must just “trust” our government when they say they would never, ever invade the privacy of innocent Canadians by intercepting their communications. Well, I have worked at the coalface of intelligence and I know that such a statement is pure hogwash.

“I know for a fact that spy agencies in the US, the UK, and Canada (and possibly New Zealand and Australia) have either spied on, or have been given material resulting from spying on, the late Princess Diana, Prince Charles, the Pope, the late Mother Teresa, at least two Cabinet Ministers of the Thatcher Government and a former Canadian Prime Minister’s wife just to name a few.

“If people such as these are not immune from being spied on where does that leave common folk such as you and me? A scary thought indeed”.


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