Saturday, 8 August 2015

Revolution In Pipitea Street: The Listener Celebrates The Baby-Boomer Takeover Of The SIS And The GCSB.

Spook Central: Both the SIS and the GCSB are headquartered at "Pipitea Plaza", a 2011 building located just a few hundred metres from Parliament Buildings in Central Wellington.
WOW! The SIS Director marched against the Springbok Tour! And the Acting-Director of the GCSB is a lesbian. But, wait, there’s more: the Inspector General of Intelligence used to be a member of the Socialist Action League, and worked in a freezing works for six years! And they’re all women! Surely, with people like these in charge of New Zealand’s “intelligence community”, no reasonable, fair-minded citizen could have the slightest cause for complaint? Clearly, this is a new order in the making. No more Penthouses, no more pies. No more grim, trench-coated spies. The bad old days are as dead as Rob Muldoon. Gone, like the Cold War.
Or, at least, that’s what we are supposed to think. “We” being the readers of the Listener. (Issue Dated: August 15, 2015) Baby Boomers mostly. Well-educated and well-heeled. A great many of whom marched against the Springbok Tour, flirted with revolutionary politics in our student days, and then went on to bigger and better things. Some of our best friends are lesbians. Yep, “we” can rest easy now that our generation has taken over everything – even the SIS and GCSB. Baby-Boomers Rule – OK!
Was it Listener editor, Pamela Stirling, who came up with the idea? Or, did free-lance journalist, Rod Vaughan, pitch it to her? And was the deal clinched by the promise of access to all three chiefs? And whose idea was that? At some point, someone in the “intelligence community”, decided that a front page story about a “revolution” sweeping the corridors of Pipitea House would be just what the Director ordered. The question is: was that decision made in response to Rod Vaughan’s request for access? Or did someone make Rod an offer that he – and Pamela – couldn’t refuse?
Because a front-page story in the Listener, reassuring the Baby-Boomers that the SIS and GCSB are now being run by people just like themselves, was bound to prove very helpful - especially now. That’s because a Government-commissioned review of both agencies, led by Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy, is about to start asking questions. A cynic might observe that Rod Vaughan’s article has very helpfully suggested most of the answers.
What is there to fear, after all, from an SIS staffed by scores of bright-eyed young university graduates determined to keep New Zealand safe from “extremist behaviours”? Or, a GCSB run by someone who understands the importance of reminding “the troops” to “remain focused on the job at hand and to remember their responsibilities to all New Zealanders.”
Not that Sir Michael is likely to deliver a report recommending the upsetting of too many apple carts. As Helen Clark’s finance supremo, he always appeared to be doing his best to deliver what the state expected of its ministers. Yes, in the House he could summon up a rhetorical storm fit to set the Tories a-trembling. But, in the Joint Intelligence Committee, sweet reason seems to have prevailed. If Michael Cullen has ever been guilty of troubling the sleep of the “Deep State”, there is scant evidence for it.
On the off-chance that there might be New Zealanders less willing to let the Deep State escape all serious scrutiny, however, why not engage in a little pre-emptive PR? A story in the Listener, in which all the “news media, politicians, bloggers and activists” guilty of poking their noses into “the labyrinthine world of the New Zealand intelligence community” were shown to be “completely oblivious to [the] revolution that [is] well under way” within its walls, would undermine any future attempts to “pillory and hold accountable” those responsible for keeping the nation’s secrets.
That this could well be the case is confirmed by the Listener’s choice of headlines for Rod Vaughan’s article. The story about SIS Director, Rebecca Kitteridge is called “Secrets & Spies” – a clear reference to Nicky Hager’s exposĂ© of the malign influence of PR on New Zealand politics entitled Secrets and Lies. The story about Una Jagose, Acting-Director of the GCSB, boasts an even more in-your-face thrust at the critics of the SIS and GCSB. It is headlined “Moment of Truth” – which is, of course, the name of the Kim Dotcom-sponsored event featuring Glen Greenwald and Edward Snowden that was held in the Auckland Town Hall just days before the 2014 General Election.
The triumphalism of the Listener could hardly be more explicit. In the words Sir Michael Cullen is said to have used to taunt his Tory opponents following the 1999 Labour-Alliance victory:
“We won. You lost. Eat that!”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 8 August 2015.


rob campbell said...

Just finished reading this Listener article too Chris. It strikes me as a well placed, timed and crafted piece of PR. A genuinely inane coverage of important roles. One hopes that the three central people are also pretty offended or ashamed when they read it.

peterlepaysan said...

The magazine is merely another media whore, subservient to whoever has the dosh.
Like all business they cultivate and promote "images". Sighh!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of that Chris. I'm also more left than most - e.g. I think the Greens are right wing! I generally carry the worst construct of the secret services in my head. And yet, one of our friends is a principal advisor in the GCSB. I've no idea what she does as she won't speak about it obviously, and I know this is a sample of one ... but she is a typical liberal middle class person and probably votes Green! I know people like that can surprise me, and there could be a neo nazi inside her she keeps well hidden, or, there's isolated people like that amongst a sea of otherwise more conservative forces, or even, good people can collectively do bad in the right framework, but still, it does force me to allow even the smallest probability, that a lot of their work is quite banal and generally harmless. I used to know someone who at one point was Acting Head of Defence Intelligence, and again, he would surprise you. He was in one of Nicky's books, and unlike my GCSB friend, would talk a little more freely (he had left the Military for "the private sector" by then - interpret that how you will) - partly no doubt because Nicky Hager had blown his cover and his secrets sky high. Anyway again, a lot of what he did was not particularly shocking or offensive to me. I know the whole system can go wrong, I am distrustful of it, and I'm not meaning to sound like an apologist for it because I'm not. I guess I just suspect that the bulk of the work is tedious, unsexy, and unimportant, and it's only at the margins, where from time to time, the power that is invested there, strikes a situation where its full force for good or ill, comes to the fore, rather than being a force of ill all the time, as I'd like to think. So just maybe these bureacrats are most of the time, what they appear to be, even in this Listener puff piece. None of this is to say because the power exists, that it can't go wrong, can't be misused, by the same people.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@22:29

Your comment is of great interest.

Since the early 2000s, the SIS has been recruiting a new generation of operatives - one blessedly free from the preconceptions and obsessions of the Cold War Era - so what you have to say rings true.

However, both the SIS and the GCSB (along with the armed forces, the police and the upper echelons of the civil service) are organs of the "Deep State". The people who work in these institutions see themselves as the protectors of the nation's core interests against all enemies, regardless of whether they are "foreign or domestic" (as the US loyalty oath puts it).

In extremis (and the Deep State reserves the right to define what "in extremis" entails) the protectors of the nation's core interests may decide that an elected government, or elements within it, are acting directly against those interests, and its agents will move accordingly.

At that point, their personal views will be of no importance, they will act as their superiors direct "in the national interest".

For democracy to survive the judgements of its Deep State operatives, it is necessary to keep them under the constant scrutiny of elected representatives, who must, themselves, be answerable to Parliament.

Tiger Mountain said...

I remember CAFCA’s Murray Horton quietly bragging that under previous NZSIS Dir Tuckers brief “openness” policy he had received his file that was one of the few non redacted ones he knew of in NZ activist circles, Murray at that time was connected to Tucker by a family marriage but no particular inference was made in respect of that!

the point being NZ is so tiny that it is likely that some of us will break bread with a spook, and even more likely have been in contact in their professional capacity at some stage, an old friend who started the NZ International Film festival before Bill Gosden’s long run was approached more than once by the “service” to be a snout for them, as he imported films from the USSR on some form of exhibitors license, he politely declined but was watchful for some time after

but that notwithstanding, Chris final paragraph in reply to “anonymous@22:29” is elemental in dealing with “the deep state”

JanM said...

Oh goodness, Chris, some of your fellow journalists are going to get 'bery bery cwoss' with you if you keep pointing out their

Oh my goodness, Chris, some of your fellow journalists are going to get 'bery bery cwoss' with you if you keep pointing out their shortcomings :)

greywarbler said...

That was intriguing. Was the form deliberate or copy went missing.
Or is it a message from Chris that he likes the comments short I wonder.
As a long-winded person perhaps I must rein myself in.

Chris Trotter said...

No message from me, Greywarbler.

Blogger doesn't permit site moderators to edit comments.

We can publish 'em or delete 'em - that's all.

I delete very few - almost all on account of abusive and/or offensive content.

Perhaps JanM just hit the Enter key inadvertently ;-)

JanM said...

It was meant to be short but not repeated, sorry.It does look a bit bizarre doesn't it. The second sentence was meant to be the full comment - and yes, I do try to express myself in as few words as possible, Greywarbler :)