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Who Guards The Guardians?

Who Guards The Guardians?

On the Dangers and Futility of Expanding Surveillance Powers in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin.

Professors Kevin P Clements and Richard Jackson of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago are deeply worried by the Government’s plan to change the laws under which the GCSB operates.

“The move is being promoted in order to address a legal anomaly, but in fact it has important and worrying implications for individual privacy, civil liberties and national security. It provides expanded powers of surveillance without evidence of real necessity or effectiveness, or corresponding safeguards of individual liberty and privacy.”

The expansion of surveillance capacity needs to be balanced against benefits to national and regional security. While such capacity might be useful in relation to criminal activity, there is no hard evidence , we are aware of, that such intrusive surveillance mechanisms have played a significant role in the prevention of serious political violence or terrorist activity. On the contrary, so much information is gathered in organizations like the GSCB that analysts often have difficulty making sense of it. The legal rationale for such a bureau is the detection of political and military threat rather than criminal activity. If there is no evidence that such electronic capacity has been genuinely useful in relation to any recent examples of political violence, then why are we contemplating the expansion of such powers for domestic surveillance?

“Who Guards the Guardians “ is an important question here. There is nothing in the legislation about proper oversight or accountability in relation to who is spied on, or why.

The legislation is being rushed through to provide some post facto justification for illegal government surveillance over the past 18 months.

The law change will effectively merge the GCSB and the SIS, plus the intelligence wings of the military and the Police, moving New Zealand towards what is known as a “national security state” with all that this means in terms of intrusive surveillance capacity, challenges to freedom of speech, control of citizens and potential civil rights abuses.

We do not think that this critical law should be changed without more extensive public discussion and enquiry about its potential costs and benefits. At this stage, and on a basis of our expert knowledge on such matters, we see more costs than benefits and real challenges to individual liberties and privacy rights.

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