Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Growing anger over Dotcom fiasco

Photo / NZ Herald

By Bryce Edwards

How much do you trust New Zealand authorities? The current farce over Kim Dotcom is likely to erode the public's confidence in government, politicians, the police, officials - and in fact the whole Establishment. New Zealand's faith in institutions of authority has been on the wane for many years now, as evidenced by numerous surveys. For example, one credible survey a few years ago showed that over two-thirds of the public had either 'not very much confidence' or 'none at all' in Parliament, and three-quarters had little or no confidence in political parties. Similar levels of distrust and disquiet are often found in the public about other agencies of the state and authorities, and even business.

If provincial newspaper editorials are anything to go by, there is growing anger about the authorities' handling of Kim Dotcom. The Waikato Times' editorial entitled, NZ: 51st state of the US, is particularly worth reading. It says that the announcement of the illegal spying has 'heightened suspicions that this country's relationship with the United States has become one of servility rather than friendship'. The editorial's conclusion is worth quoting at length: 'Dotcom is wanted in the US to face nothing more threatening than breaches of copyright laws. The GCSB's involvement - like so much about this case, including FBI agents, helicopters, heavily armed police and botched search warrants - has turned the pursuit of him and the operations of our law-enforcement agencies into the stuff of farce. It is preposterous to suggest Mr Dotcom threatens our national security. The Government's unquestioning readiness to co-operate with American authorities, on the other hand, seriously corrodes our claims to be an independent state'.

The Southland Times editorial is equally scathing: Crusading against Kim 'The lickspittle anxiety of New Zealand Government agencies to impress Kim Dotcom's would-be prosecutors in the United States has become more than a general national embarrassment. It is now acutely troubling'. It goes on with more scornful analysis, concluding that the Government's 'supposed political oversight of our intelligence service' has become too 'laissez-faire'. Similarly, today's Press editorial, Dotcom mistakes, warns 'the authorities need to bear in mind that New Zealanders' trust in their capabilities has been impaired. The prime minister should consider also that his refusal to deal adequately with John Banks, and Dotcom's apparent ability to turn each of the various twists in his case into a public relations victory, are damaging to the Government's image'.

In another example which shows that it's not just Nicky Hager anti-Establishment types who are upset by the Dotcom case, business journalist Fran O'Sullivan is warning that the business community will be alarmed by what's going on - see: Dotcom spying worry for business. She says 'If the authorities are so supine in their relationship with their US counterparts and so eager to corral an alleged copyright criminal - allegations which Dotcom is strongly contesting - that they don't check the basics before mounting their interception, what guarantees do other businesses have that this is a one-off affair?' O'Sullivan says it's bad news to see that the PM and his deputy and finance minister are obviously not working closely together.

Brian Rudman has a must-read analysis of the illegal spying - see: Keystone Cops too busy bowing to FBI demands. He is critical of the Prime Minister for pleading ignorance, derisive of the spies for blaming the police, and warns that the Government's inquiry ('in-house affair, cocooned in secrecy') might not satisfy the growing public doubt about what is going on. And with the latest illegal spying coming soon after the police's unlawful spying on the so-called Urewera 'terrorists', Rudman thinks the public will be suspicious 'that similar transgressions' could be widespread.

The National Government and John Key are particularly vulnerable on this latest twist in the Dotcom saga. Jane Clifton conveys the pressure that John Key has been under in the House in Drop, cover and hold, John. Rather that the 'usual chipper' PM 'resorting to wisecracking in rebuttal of tricky questions', Clifton reports that Key has exuded a very different demeanour this week, and during one of his answers 'paused and muttered, "Jesus!" under his breath'. Similarly, Adam Bennett's report suggests that Key is not in command of this issue - and has been vague and uncertain about many of the facts - see: Key on the back foot as Opposition leaders twist knife. Bennett says that the PM 'did not know if his own department - including two key intelligence groups - had been briefed on the GCSB's Dotcom spying'.

The police will also be feeling the heat, with many questioning 'inconsistencies', in particular by the officer in charge of the operation against Dotcom - see Kirsty Johnston and Ian Steward's Dotcom's lawyers question police statements. This pressure will increase today with news that Immigration New Zealand has confirmed that 'it passed its file on Dotcom to police in December' including information about his residence status - see Andrea Vance's Cops knew Dotcom's status before raid.

Graeme Edgeler has a further blogpost on the legalities of the issue, where he intelligently speculates why the PM might have delayed his announcement about the illegal spying and about whether the spies could be charged. Most importantly, he ponders why the police got the GCSB involved in the first place - see: Kim Dotcom: Questions and Answers.

And what about the actual spy agencies? Questions are now being asked about the role of the Security Intelligence Service in all of this, because 'the SIS, which has a close relationship with the GCSB, would have checked Mr Dotcom's background when he applied for and got residency' - see RNZ's SIS under scrutiny in Dotcom surveillance case. Of course we still don't know exactly what sort of spying activities the GCSB carried out on Dotcom. But today Nicky Hager provides a bit of background information on how the GCSB might have spied on Dotcom in the Fairfax article, Scandal's 'spooks' not regular spies. Hager gives two possibilities: 'So they could theoretically sit on a hill and pick up signals. Those signals intelligence officers are very good . . . they pick up all the local radio signals so basically they would be picking up his mobile-phone traffic'. He is also reported as suggesting 'The other way they could spy on Dotcom was through the Waihopai listening station, which is part of the Echelon network. "They'd actually just plug in his email address, his name, his company name whatever and see what comes off it" '.

The final word on the topic (for now) goes to blogger Scott Yorke who makes a salient point in his very short blog post explaining sarcastically why he has No Sympathy for Dotcom: 'Kim Dotcom has no right to be outraged over the covert recording of his conversations. If he wanted total privacy he should have held those conversations in an Epsom café'.

Debate on this article is now closed.

Share this article



- Waikato
01:29 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
Alas you forgot or did not know that Ian Fletcher had to announce it, as Dotcoms lawyers in court found out and we're asking serious questions on exactly that.

Why is the GCSB involved in this case? We have some paperwork here with lots of blacked out lines on it with that Ministry's letterhead. Mr Dotcom has residency and that dept is not supposed to spy on NZ residents/citizens.

It was about to come right out breaking News,so they announced it so gullible suckers like you would think they were onto it and being honest.

If it was not going to come out it never would have, trust me.


- Auckland Region
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
Kim Dotcom in politics? Not a bad idea really. Can you imagine the improvement in our broadband service?


- Waikato
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
Everything you say is right except he did not even have servers in the United States.

It has nothing to do with the States but yet again they the USA think they are the world.

If I burn a United states flag here in NZ will I be sent too the USA to face charges of breaking their Laws?

I'd better not fart in bed tonight, might be some Taliban law I broke and I'll get extradited?

Allan M

- New Zealand
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
Great article Bryce
I never would have thought I would ever read such comment being published in our mainstream press.

Maybe this will be the big wake-up call we need to reinvigorate our sense of what it means to be a free and independent people (big hope I know and probable unrealistic in the extreme).

A real cynic would be expecting some new and very big sensational event to suddenly appear out of left-field and overshadow this episode and relegate it to just human error.

That's right I heard on National Radio Checkpoint this evening John Key claiming (in that innocuous 'trust me' tone) that this is just human error!
Think about that.

If our so-called intelligence service can make such a fundamental error what does that say about their ability to manage even the smallest of threats?
If that were true then it means we are as a nation entirely defenceless against any enemy with half a brain. Our intelligence service is brain-dead? Not likely.
The conspiracy theory is far more believable.

Our government and its institutions work not in our best interest but in the interest of their masters offshore.
And they're spying on you.


- Antarctica
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
If it had nothing to do with English and Key, then why did the PM on close up last night state that he is ultimately responsible? He also said that he gave his deputy a stern talking too. If this was any other business there would be far more serious consequences than simply telling off the person concerned.
Heads should roll, it is that serious.


- Waikato
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
As part of the role of PM we elect one of the responsibilities of the PM is to monitor the GSCB as there is no other checks in place to ensure they are operating within the law. This is one of the core responsibilities we give him and he failed to ensure this agency was acting legally on ALL things.
The excuses coming out are like listening to a five year olds denials when caught in the ACT.

Key must resign. On this error he has to go, we cannot have an absentee caretaker when it's a dept that has that much power! And no one to report too.
Come on we are not talking the police here which have to get warrants from a judge. Key signs them for his Dept.

Whats most worrying is the lack of journalist going there and explaining his responsibilities on the GCSB if the public understood his watchdog job on it, he would be gone tomorrow. He's made a massive banks-up here.


- Antarctica
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
I agree, watching the PM last night on close up, giving flimsy excuses for this stuff up was almost too much. And JK stated more than once that he is ultimately responsible.

To say that this "intelligence" agency forgot the law is simply not on, nor can it possibly be correct, another lie amid a torrent of lies.


- Rodney
01:28 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
Agree 100% , why are NZ's trying to make this man a victim? A lot somes across as sarcasm towards this man, but we are putting our country on display to the rest of the world, exactly in a the way this man is dictating us to do.

Academics, lawyers and journalists should be mindful of just how they are being reported overseas. Using social media, to mock and denegrade our country's politicians to get his case noticed should be stopped while the courts are sitting. Go and face the charges, and stop trying to bring down the country with your self absorbed and arrogant behaviour.

Yes mistakes may have been made, but I still believe the public do not have all the facts and NZ's should be mindful of what they say, just for the sake of a political opinion. We are all being watched.

Ho hum

- Franklin
01:27 pm Sunday 30 September 2012
The Police Commissioner should resign; if no resignation is forthcoming he should be fired with a complete loss of pension and privileges assuming he gets away with not being sent to prison for numerous offences under the law.

The senior levels of the Police force have lost my confidence, they're been obstructive, they've lied and been downright incompetent and have made the force look more and more like the Keystone Cops.

the old chook

- New Zealand
03:22 pm Friday 28 September 2012
Gee, thanks for calling those of us who think Key should be responsible for his own department, retarded. Perhaps though, there is more than a little pleasure being taken in the discomfort now being felt by the PM.

The arrogant, self serving display we have seen from him lately means his current woes are given many of us a great deal of enjoyment. Do all Nat supporters believe their opponents are seriously deluded and retarded?

I suppose if you are the norm then it is no wonder the government behaves in such an arrogant, overbearing, uncaring manner. You are going to feel more than a little deflated after the next election, aren't you?

Provincial Curmudgeon

- Hastings
03:22 pm Friday 28 September 2012
In these times of austerity, how come the "professionals" we employ perform so poorly? We're getting monkeys, so we should be paying peanuts.

the old chook

- New Zealand
03:22 pm Friday 28 September 2012
Maybe it is just me but your comments didn't seem to make any sense at all. For the life of me, I have no idea what you are talking about.


- South Korea
03:22 pm Friday 28 September 2012
We were a more united and positive nation with a brighter economic future 50 years ago.

Hugh Janus

- Samoa
03:22 pm Friday 28 September 2012
Trouble is they do not have that quote in their dictionary ,they are morally bankrupt with lies and cover up's.JK is in denial, English brings out some idiotic statement to cover his back, Tolley, enough said. This must be one of the most corrupt governments we have had. Kim for P.M. Our own Arnie, with Austrian accent, backbone, high speed internet and "I'll be back" determination.


- Bay of Plenty
03:21 pm Friday 28 September 2012
English did not sign the warrant! English signed the suppression order when Key was conveniently away watching a baseball game. And he apparently did not tell Key, yeah right.
Load more

More Politics