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The Government is seeking to pass a bill that would ease information sharing between the GCSB and the SIS, and allow the government to spy on New Zealanders in the name of “protecting national security.” Warrants will have to be signed off by the Attorney-General and a Commissioner of Intelligence Warrants.
The government also wants to introduce prosecutions for whistleblowers (those with a government security clearance, or access to classified information, who copy or leak privileged information), of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
This bill highlights the importance of turning the currently loose definition of ‘national security’ into a more concrete one. This, however, is where politics enters. Who defines what constitutes a breach of national security? Who determines what threatens national security? The looser this definition, the more politicised it can become under the government of the day. Should the government be the one to decide this definition?
What sway do the concerns of public interest have in matters of national security. How many members of our government believe that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted, or that he is a traitor to his nation.
The prosecution of whistleblowers, the justification of national security as a response to increasingly pervasive surveillance, the acceptance of corporate surveillance as normal and inevitable; these are issues that deserve scrutiny and debate.
We carry phones that track our every movement, we dissipate data about where we are, who we are communicating with, what we are reading and writing online, and how we are spending our money. This pocket surveillance is unprecedented, even by dystopian novelist standards, as Theo discusses in Who Owns My Data?
We live in a relatively free country. For the most part, we can be critical of our government, we can speak freely, and we can create provocative discussion, art, and academic discourse. This is a privilege that we need to hold on to; as Orion writes in his piece Art of Surveillance, it is not so easy in many nations, and artists such as Ai Weiwei who criticise the government are closely monitored, oppressed, and persecuted for speaking out.
As Youngsolwara have learned, sometimes a government’s oppression comes in the form of invisibility; suppressing their ability to speak out about their very existence, as is the case for citizens of West Papua. Students on campus have banded together to give West Papua visibility.
Emma & Jayne xoxo