Howard's End: The Great Government Power Grab

Published: Tue 30 Oct 2001 09:25 AM
Yesterday, as Justice Minister Phil Goff announced new Government powers to combat terrorism, the terrorists won a major victory. But the blow wasn't physical. There was no loss of life or property. The blow was philosophical. The victory for the terrorists was to successfully enable an alteration to our Kiwi way of life and the politicians are unwittingly helping them do it. Maree Howard writes.
In the name of fighting terrorism after the September 11 attacks, the Government is using that excuse to seek to introduce the Terrorist (Bombings and Finance) Bill to intercept telecommunications, freeze the assets of individuals suspected of funding terrorism organisations, outlaw recruitment to terrorist groups and beef up security at airports.
The Government also seeks to broaden the definition of terrorist, and criminalise the recruitment of, and participation in, terrorist organisations.
All this is not new - it's been around in the UN for years. But now, the right people are in the right place and the time is right - a crisis has been created and if there's one thing Government's throughout history have longed for more than anything else, it's using a crisis to get more power and funding.
"Of course we can save the world for you, but you will have to give us broad powers over your freedoms for us to do it."
Lest you think that I might support terrorism, think again. But it has been well said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and who or what might be a "terrorist" or a "terrorist activity" has not yet been defined.
Since last Friday in U.S. law under the Patriot Act 2001, the FBI can now secretly enter someone's home or office, search the premises and leave without notifying the owner. In theory this would be supervised by a court, however, notification of a secret search "may be delayed" (s 213).
Any U.S. attorney or state attorney-general can now order the installation of the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system which records all email and the addresses of websites visited by the target suspect. The FBI also wants to route all net traffic through central servers for monitoring. While the FBI will require the voluntary compliance of the major ISP's most experts agree that they will quickly cave into the demands for fear of being seen as uncooperative or unpatriotic.
Any accused "terrorist" - whom ever that may be - who is a foreign citizen can now be held for an unspecified series of "periods of up to six months." They don't have to be actually charged and they can also be denied access to a lawyer.
Without a court order, the FBI can require telephone companies and ISP's to turn over customer records. All the FBI has to do is claim that the "records sought are relevant to an authorised investigation to protect against international terrorism." Even worse, the company may not disclose "to any person" that the FBI is doing an investigation.
Without a court order credit reporting companies must also disclose information to the FBI.
And "terrorism" includes biochemical attacks and computer hacking. That's fine, but defining computer hacking as an "act of terrorism" goes a bit far. And experts wonder if a person careless with horticultural sprays will now be a seen as an act of terrorism and biochemical attack.
If we follow the UN treaties and the new US laws, these new sweeping powers to pursue and apprehend terrorists are, in truth, an assault upon the civil liberties and freedoms that have differentiated New Zealand from most other nations in the world.
Worse, they have been linked to the subject of patriotism, thus implying that anyone who opposes the changes is somehow unpatriotic.
Consider this actual scenario. A man (or woman) walks into his bank and withdraws $10,000 in cash to buy a car. Under the financial transactions reporting rules, the bank teller must take his full details including car registration number and then report this large cash withdrawal to authorities as a "suspicious activity."
On the way to buy the new car the man is pulled over by the police. He is asked for his drivers license and where he is going. He tells the officer that he's going to buy a new car at Joe Bloggs car-yard. Fine, the officer takes the license back to the patrol vehicle for checking and while there informs his radio room that this man is on his way to buy a car at Joe Bloggs car-yard with the $10,000 cash.
The officer returns to the man and after extending pleasantries he is given back is license and wished Good-day.
On arrival at Joe Bloggs car-yard the man is greeted with a hearty "Good morning Mr Smith, we've been expecting you."
His movements have been tracked and confirmed from the bank to the car-yard - just because he chose to use cash to buy his new car. He might have been a drug dealer or a terrorist, you see!
If the man hadn't turned up at the car-yard he could have expected a visit from law enforcement authorities. Would a terrorist use a bank - it's doubtful. But a Government wanting sweeping powers and control over ordinary people would, and have, certainly introduce such a surveillance system.
In my view, as a Justice Minister touting the official UN/US line Phil Goff is full of baloney.
He says the world has changed since the 9-11 attacks, 6,000 people were killed and we have an international obligation, blah, blah, blah.
Well, Mr Goff, here is a list of countries that America has been at war with - and bombed - since the Second World War;
China (1945-46 and 1950-53) Korea (1950-53) Guatamala (1954 and 1967-69) Indonesia (1958) Cuba (1959-60) the Belgian Congo (1964) Peru (1965) Laos (1964-73) Vietnam (1961-73) Cambodia (1969-70) Grenada (1983) Libya (1986) El Salvador (1980s) Nicaragua (1980s) Panama (1989) Iraq (1991-99) Bosnia (1995) Sudan (1998) - and now, Afghanistan.
An undeclared Afghan war (terrorist bombing activity) which now includes a contingent of our New Zealand SAS troops.
And then there's the CIA who trained and then abandoned the mujahideen, and others, after they served their purpose and it was an LTTE, CIA and India-trained Tamil rebel suicide bomber, who assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Ghandi in 1989. The LTTE was responsible for countless acts of bloody terrorism.
What's more Mr Goff, our so-called "free and democratic countries" who will not tire until we bring these "terrorists" to justice, between them manufacture and sell almost all the world's weapons and they possess the largest stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
They account for the most genocide, subjection, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in modern history, and have sponsored, armed and financed untold numbers of dictators and despots. Between them, they have worshipped, almost deified, the cult of violence, terrorism and war.
Between the Soviet Union and America, over 20 years, $US45 billion worth of arms and ammunition has poured into Afghanistan.
For all its appalling sins, Mr Goff, the Taleban just isn't in the same league.
And then there's the huge oil and natural gas reserves in Turkmenistan which borders the north-west of Afghanistan. It has enough oil to meet America's energy needs for the next 30 years (or a developing country's energy requirements for a couple of centuries.)
And what about the activities of the weapons investor the Carlyle Group and oil giant Unocal, Mr Goff. Do you know about their history?
No, the bottom line is that we are witnessing the largest NZ Government power grab over its citizens in history.
I hate to sound so cynical and I'd like to believe that our Government is truly looking after our best interests. Unfortunately, politicians and bureaucrats - being true to their nature - are using the attacks of 9-11 to further expand their power and funding while restricting our rights and freedoms. The rest of the rhetoric is just bullshit.
We need to be vigilant because those who don't respect their freedom deserve neither freedom or liberty.

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