Listener editorial on Hager and spying

The Listener editorial is perhaps one of the finest summations of Nicky Hager’s motivations I’ve seen.

The Pavlovian response can work in reverse, as peace researcher Nicky Hager demonstrates, again seizing on an election campaign to prosecute his latest accusations against a government.

Voters? clear message when he attempted this in last year?s general election was ?Don?t try to railroad us?. His Dirty Politics allegations not only failed to dent the Government?s re-election chances, but may have backhandedly assisted them. Yet Hager has chosen the heightened atmosphere of the Northland by-election to drip-feed more leaked information purporting state malfeasance.

However interesting and potentially concerning Hager?s information may be, his timing puts his work at an inevitable discount. Northland voters could be forgiven for feeling resentful, as the by-election should be a platform for their concerns, not to further an activist?s minority agenda. Also galling is the way Hager uses the tactic of rationing information, ensuring he and American whistle-blower Edward Snowden can frame discussion on their terms, rather than allowing all the facts and implications to be judged. Hager seems as oblivious to these concerns as he is to the double-standard of his using illicitly obtained data to accuse others of illicit data collection.

Hager is the ultimate hypocrite. He loathes spying but employs and utilises his own spies which he affectionately calls ethical hackers…trouble is it his wonky ethics. Bottom line is Hager trades in stolen goods. His last three books and works have been based on stolen data…data the spies and governments he accuses of spying have no interest in, but he does.

He is a panty sniffer. ?

What galls most, however, is his apparent lack of perspective. This tranche of evidence that the Government Communications Security Bureau routinely hoovers up information about Pacific neighbours, allies and New Zealand citizens alike in a blanket take-all trawl of data has so far failed to ?shock? voters as he predicted. This is because the subsequent sieving of that information is precisely what most citizens want and expect security services to do, in order to protect them not just from terrorists, but from crime, epidemic, biosecurity threats, child sex rings, drugs and all manner of menace.

Hager, in contrast, appears to start from the position that all or most surveillance is unnecessary and predominantly a stalking-horse for malign political purposes. In this he is hardly alone, as regular, well-attended protest meetings attest. However, Hager?s is still the minority view.

Most people think the revelations that the spy network and agency that David Lange created spies on people is boring….isn’t that what spies do?

Most people other than the sanctimonious left-wing think it is all a big yawn. The strange thing is the media is enamoured with it all and the more they push it the ore people think that the media, like Hager and like Snowden and like Assange and like Dotcom, they have become traitors and criminals.

[A]n enduring majority of voters see a reasonable amount of state surveillance as necessary. ?Reasonable? is a hard balance to strike where incursion into civil liberties is an unavoidable means to the end. It can be a Hobbesian choice. But this week?s news of a threat to contaminate baby formula ? a terror-grade response to the Government?s continued use of 1080 poison ? surely underlined the need for continued targeted surveillance. It is unquestionably the role of security intelligence to protect people from vengeful zealots who might conceivably act on their agendas and harm others, either physically or by economically ruinous acts. Such vigilance scarcely makes the GCSB the tool of self-interested political forces.

And there is the rub…what I’ve found over the years is that the left-wing accuses the right-wing of the very things that they are up to, or would like to do, are in fact doing. In my experience in politics the rule followers are invariably conservative and the rule breakers, and those who break the law in politics are mostly left-wing. Once you work that out, then yes we should be worried about the spy agencies falling under the control of the left-wing…the answer isn’t what the left wants though, disbanding them, and leaving us unprotected from Russian or Chinese or French spying…rather it is to continue to vote in conservative governments.

If, as he again hints he will, Hager can produce evidence our spies or their political masters are misusing data, then the whole country will listen with concern. Prime Minister John Key?s dismissive and at times high-handed responses to Hager?s allegations may yet set him up for resignation, if it is proved our spies have exceeded their bounds. However, the mere fact of our spying on our Pacific neighbours is hardly proof of that, as most of their leaders have acknowledged. Our close relationship with these much poorer nations means it is our role and responsibility to watch out on their behalf for terrorists or criminals trying to establish a new beachhead.

In so consistently failing to persuade most New Zealanders to his perspective, Hager may conclude most people are complacent about their civil rights. He might more usefully conclude that most are simply less complacent than he is about genuine threats to the security of our sphere.

In other words Nicky hAger has cried wolf far too often, and it is time he was sat back on his ass. It is Nicky Hager and his pals who are the biggest spies and purveyors of illegally obtained data in New Zealand, not the GCSB.


– The Listener