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Ministry of fear now hiring!

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The front page of Saturday’s Dominion Post renamed government employment as the ‘Ministry of fear and job insecurity’ and notes that ‘Thousands of state servants wait for axe.’ Indeed, with budget cuts to the public sector close to $1 billion dollars, there are many people who will be getting the proverbial pink slip in the next few months from government departments and agencies.

But one agency who doesn’t seem hard hit by budget cuts is the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB), the country’s electronic spy agency that operates the ECHELON listening post at Waihopai and the signals interception station at Tangimoana.In the Employment section of the Dom, there were no less than three different adverts for the GCSB including one that was hiring for five different roles. These positions include a ‘Research and Development programmer,’ a ‘Protective security officer’ and a range of ‘Cybersecurity opportunities’. As a strange aside, the GCSB recruitment strategy involves advertising in the Wellingtonian, a weekly community newspaper, but not in the New Zealand Herald.

It is clear that while health, education and welfare are all in the line of fire for major cuts, the intelligence and security community are enjoying significant growth. That looks set to continue as the ‘threats’ to ‘New Zealand’s interest’ continue to be identified.

Ten years ago, the GCSB and other parts of the intel community seized upon the ‘war on terrorism’ as an opportunity for expanding agency funding and staffing. The 2003 Annual Report notes:

“The war on terrorism was a major focus of the Bureau’s signals intelligence (SIGINT). This and a growing range of trans-national and regional security issues was addressed through an increase in the numbers of analytic and processing staff, and on-going work to enhance technical collection and processing capability” (p11)

Already this year, the government has raised the spectre of security threats during the Rugby World Cup as its duplicitous justification for the vast expansion of Security Intelligence Service (SIS) powers. No doubt we can expect the rise of the likes of LULZ Sec and the hacker collective ‘Anonymous’ as a further excuse to expand the security-intelligence apparatus in this country. In the 2010 Annual Report the GCSB makes out is modest vision to have ‘Mastery of Cyberspace for the protection of New Zealand’ (p.2)

One of the most convenient things about these agencies is the total lack of transparency they enjoy. They tell us convincingly of the myriad security threats that they have thwarted, and then tell us that such matters cannot be divulged lest security be compromised.

What we do know, however, isn’t reassuring.

For example, in 2008 three Anzac Ploughshares entered the Waihopai base, deflated the protective covering over one of the spy satellites and set up a shrine. They then waited around for some 30 minutes before anyone even noticed what had happened.

In 2009, in a newspaper article piece marking the annual pilgrimage to Waihopai by the Anti-Bases Campaign, Nicky Hager revealed that one of the satellites being intercepted was a Japanese trade satellite.

The spying of the GCSB on trading partners is not surprising and gives a clue to much of the ‘real’ intelligence work that they are doing. Eavesdropping on so-called ‘allies’ and trading partners for ‘corporate New Zealand’ in order to have the edge in trade negotiations (think TPPA) is front and centre of their work. In this context, it is perhaps worth contemplating whether you think the massive expansion of New Zealand as a giant export-driven dairy farm is in our ‘National Interest’.

On a different note, the reporting of the work that the GCSB is doing becomes less and less transparent as it grows larger and larger with each passing year.

Again in 2003, it notes that there were ‘two interception warrants’ issued in the year. But by 2007, the annual report simply notes that ‘a number of interception warrants’ have been issued. This is accompanied by an equally nebulous and alarming ‘Statement on Computer Access Authorisations’ – again noting that there have been a ‘number …were in force’ over the previous year.

The newspaper advertisements for the latest job opportunities at the GCSB in Saturday’s paper reminded me of the employment sections of many major US newspapers where jobs in the prisons, border control, police, and private security are all booming, while productive creative jobs are virtually non-existent.

Indeed, the growth of the security-intelligence apparatus in this country has hastened the growth of insecurity for us ordinary folks – insecurity of jobs and of freedoms - by working in the interest of New Zealand capitalists under the guise of ‘New Zealand’s national interest.’

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PM announces acting chief

PM announces acting chief executive of GCSB

Prime Minister John Key today announced that Simon Murdoch has agreed to be the acting Chief Executive and Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

Mr Murdoch has previously been the Chief Executive and Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In 2010 he undertook a review of the intelligence agencies and, from November 2010 to February 2011, was the acting Chief Executive and Director of the GCSB before the appointment of Lt Gen Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Mr Murdoch has been appointed because of the vacancy created by Sir Jerry’s departure to become the next Governor-General.

Mr Murdoch takes up the role on 1 July.