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GCSB not spying; just ‘inadvertently looking’

A new report based on documents obtained by Edward Snowden suggests New Zealand has a large series of red electrodes arcing across the ocean and attached to its Pacific neighbours.

A new report based on documents obtained by Edward Snowden suggests New Zealand has a large series of red electrodes arcing across the ocean and attached to its Pacific neighbours.

In a rare move, acting-director of the GCSB Una Jagose has addressed media directly over today’s report that the government surveillance agency has been extensively monitoring the communications of some of New Zealand’s closest and most vulnerable allies.

The report, which was jointly published by Nicky Hager, the New Zealand Herald, and popular news site for schizophrenics The Intercept, alleges that the GCSB is collecting, en masse, communications data from countries like Nauru, New Caledonia and Tonga, and using that data to “plug holes” in the United States’ international surveillance network.

Nauru has long been considered a threat to New Zealand, with its robust population of over 9,000, whopping GDP of $37 million and $2,500 per capita, and 19-member unicameral parliament led by one of the world’s most dangerous leaders, Ludwig Scotty. (Read more about that here).

Prime Minister John Key dismissed the report last night, and while he had not seen it nor was aware of its contents, he said he was confident it would be “untrue”, and that New Zealanders should “pay no mind.”

Despite that, Jagose today said she felt it was important for the GCSB to clarify that the surveillance alleged by Hager and others was not actually spying, but in fact “inadvertent looking.”

“It is true that the GCSB has seen a very large amount of sensitive communications data from some of our Pacific partners,” she told Radio New Zealand early this afternoon. “But people, really, should be reassured that this is just information or knowledge that we happen to have. It’s not anything we went in search of.”

Jagose said it was similar to accidentally looking at “horse or tentacle porn” while browsing the internet.

“No one does that intentionally,” she said, “but imagine you’re googling something like ‘big horse’ or maybe ‘meaty tentacles’, because you know, you’re literally looking for a picture of a big horse or meaty tentacles.

“And then imagine, I don’t know, just by accident, you happen to see a big horse cock or maybe an illustration of a sea creature penetrating an anime-style man or woman, and your first reaction is ‘oh, yuck, oh, god, fuck, no’, but you don’t close it immediately now, do you? I mean, you sort of, look for a bit, maybe try to make sense of it in your mind.

“And even if you only see it for, what, half a second? It’s still burned into your memory forever. You’re not really going to forget that.”

Jagose said she knows “for a fact” this happens “regularly”, as the GCSB has extensive data on “that sort of thing.”

“Similarly,” she explained, “we have our computers hooked up to these international wires; we don’t really know where they go. But just every now and then, the very personal electronic communications of an entire nation of people just, kind of, pops up on screen.

“And what are we going to do? Not look at it?”

Asked why that was, and how that could possibly happen at all, Jagose said that “no one knows,” and that “no one has really ever thought to ask.”

“It’s just one of those mysteries of nature, I suppose.”

John Key said this afternoon that while he hadn’t listened to Jagose’s interview, he felt her arguments had been “sound” and her explanations “satisfactory.”

The GCSB’s explanation may prove difficult for Nicky Hager to rebuff, after he last week claimed that he had not maliciously looked at the private emails of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, but had merely seen them out of “the corner of my eye,” and then accidentally wrote and published a book about them.