Monday, 15 September 2014

Don’t shoot the messenger

Centuries ago when bad news had to be delivered to the king, the worst job to have was messenger.

Armenian king Tigranes the Great was said to have executed the first messenger that gavr notice of Roman invasion – “and with no man daring to bring further information, without any intelligence at all, Tigranes sat while war was already blazing around him, giving ear only to those who flattered him..." It didn’t stop the invasion.

Cleopatra threatened to treat a messenger's eyes as balls for telling her that Marc Antony had married another. “I bring the news,” said the messenger, “I do not make the match.”

Glenn Greenwald brings uncomfortable news about things the New Zealand security services talked about doing, and possibly did do. He says they were talking about doing this, and possibly getting on with doing it, at the exact point in time the Prime Minister was saying there was nothing doing, and passing laws .

We certainly do need a security service that protects New Zealander’s rights against electronic invasion – the so-called “fifth domain of war” -- the proximate reason Key reckons GCSB wanted to ramp up the collection, distribution and analysis of metadata. But we do not need, and should work while it’s still possible to actively avoid a state that routinely and across the board collects, distributes and analyses the messages, communications and correspondence of all New Zealanders – which is what Greenwald alleges has been going on.

This is not a trivial issue. Historian Scott Powell studies the history of freedom. “Freedom of speech is the key issue in protecting a free society,” he says.

Once we cannot communicate freely, the game is up. Since the Internet is near to being transformed from a mechanism of freedom into the ultimate weapon for control, a turn-key totalitarian state is almost available…”

This is too important to let hatred of one fat German cloud our judgement. Henchman he might be, but If Greenwald has the evidence that Edward Snowden “personally worked with large amounts of metadata on New Zealanders provided to XKeyScore by GCSB,” then there are no two ways about it: The GCSB and the SIS have been lying to us.

And John Key? I say Key wasn’t lying to John Campbell when he said it was "totally incorrect" that laws passed by the Key Government means "the Government effectively through GCSB will be able to wholesale spy on New Zealanders.” He wasn’t lying. He just had no clue he was totally wrong.

Here’s Paul Kelly:


  1. I think Snowden & Greenwald have done freedom a service. But the timing of this messenger's message rallies my support for our PM, in his role of protecting the country. If the message is of great importance it would be better served up in proper manner, not as an election-time political weapon or 'gotcha' theatre. I'm feeling alot of goodwill for my countrymen in this election as they shrug off this stuff thrown up by desperate & shrill activists who, rather than having the country's interests at heart, just want to throw mudpies.

  2. Respect Powell alot but his alarm on this 'modification of communication' is fantastical & not the heart of the threat of metadata collection. He overrates government compentency.. you know, the team who tried build a website. It's incompetency that is the real threat.

  3. Things have come to a pretty pass when Greenwald is invited here under the likes of Kim Dotcom's mantle.

    Shows we really DO have something to worry about.


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