China’s security apparatus, and those of many of its Asian neighbors, have been heavily criticized for their involvement in online censorship and surveillance and a failure to crack down on software and other intellectual piracy.
But their western counterparts may have managed to achieve a new low when it comes to abiding by and enforcing the rule of law over the internet, surveillance and intellectual property. These actions would have been condemned by Western Nations if the case was in Asia and would probably have been attributed to corruption and other malfeasance.
But this controversy is being played out in a court case in New Zealand over the “megadownloads” website which is accused of being an internet piracy operation on a massive scale. The only certainty so fat is the arrogance and incompetence of New Zealand and United States security agencies is being laid bare in an embarrassing and, for the case, catastrophic way.
The internal political fallout is also spectacular but more of a sideshow.
On trial is Kim Dotcom, originally from Germany but now a resident in New Zealand. He set up megadownloads and proceeded to make a fortune as people went to the site looking for free downloads of software, movies and other materials. Authorities contend it was a fortune made on the back of stolen property.
The United States approached New Zealand’s Government Security Communications Bureau for assistance in gathering evidence with a view to extraditing him to America to stand trial.
From the beginning the investigation has been frightening in its utter and total incompetence. The GCSB is responsible for external intelligence issues, and I use the term “intelligence” purely in its technical sense. There are lot allowed by law to conduct surveillance on New Zealand residents.
They claimed they did not know Kim Dotcom was a resident. A quick check with the Department of Immigration could have answered that or if they were closed for the day perhaps Mr Dotcom’s half million dollar fireworks display over Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, to celebrate his attaining residency may have been a sufficient hint.
It seems they never even did a google search on the man.
It is hard to imagine that even the intelligence agents’ primeval ancestors oozing from the oceans eons ago would not have seen the signs and done some back ground checks before storming in with armed police to detain a man who does not look to be in the peak of physical condition that warranted such an operation.
This has now turned into a major political embarrassment and looks as though it may destroy the case and raises questions about the US and NZ intelligence services.
The one good thing to come out of it is that we are being given a chance to see past the jingoistic rhetoric that surrounds online censorship, surveillance and the enforcement of the relevant aspects of the rule of law.
These wrongs are not nationalistic traits but traits of those who operate without supervision in the thirst for power and personal gain mixed in with a dash of incompetence and bigotry.
I am sure members of the New Zealand, American, British, Chinese, Russian security services among others have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens.
The greatest danger to society is secrecy, censorship, lack of information and a closed and hidden Government. In this darkness festered the spores of Stalinism, Nazism and any other form of ism you care to mention that has reeked havoc on the world whether it came from the left or the right of the political spectrum or from the devout to the atheist of personal faith.
I can only say that in my few dealings with members of intelligence agencies I have been left with less of a feeling that I have met a James Bond than having been lectured by some slightly precocious, overindulged 11-year-old who keeps insisting they are right but cannot tell you why, topped off by what they assume is an enigmatic smile.
Then again perhaps that’s what they want us to believe.