Journalistic license.

Over the years I have been repeatedly misidentified by NZ media types and others in the public domain as to what I am or have been. I have been called a Middle East expert, White House aide, CIA agent, Zionist agent, 9/11 conspirator, Nazi war criminal, anti-Muslim racist, security expert and assorted other niceties. The trouble with these characterizations is that they are all wrong. Worse yet, some of them have invited unwanted and unpleasant personal attention.

Imagine then my dismay to see Andrea Vance of Fairfax identify me as a “former US spy” in an article about the GCSB report. How did she get that label? I certainly made no such claim so it is difficult to understand why she felt that she could publish such a characterization, especially since it carries in some minds a very negative connotation. Shame on her.

The reality is that I simply am a former defense policy analyst and consultant to US security agencies who alternated government service with academia. My background is in international relations and comparative politics with emphasis on unconventional warfare, intelligence analysis, Latin American politics, regime dynamics and labor relations. Lots of field and documentary research, but no spying involved.

Bonus question: readers are invited to suggest who might be on the list of 88 people spied on by the GCSB. I imagine that the Urewera 18 were and that some in the NZ Muslim community may continue to be. The Zaoui defense team might be a good bet. Environmental, animal and anti-FTA activists could be targets. John Minto and Valerie Morse believe that they have been (Val, of course, was part of the Urewera crowd). Any other suggestions?


10 thoughts on “Journalistic license.

  1. To be classified as a “Spy” certainly carries serious negative connotations, to a point that comes close to slander in many respects given the publicity implications for your line of work.

    But then as an ex Fairfax employee and having seen firsthand how things are run I’m unsurprised at the level of background fact checking or reporting accurately of that background checking.

  2. Strange, many of those titles carry very strong pro-American undertones, but generally speaking I’d say this blog is often quite critical of US government policy. Nazi war criminal is a strange one, were you even alive in 45?

  3. As much as I try to correct reporters, they sometimes run with whatever they think I am. The US background is known to everyone–heck, my accent gives that away.

    This misidentification is a bit surprising given that I have been dealing with the NZ media on a regular basis for over a decade, and as Dave says, the connotations of being labeled a US spy are often not good. Something tells me that Ms. Vance may not know the difference between a consumer of intelligence and a producer of intelligence.

    As for the Nazi war criminal stuff. I got called that by some 9/11 conspiracy nutters and actually had to request YouTube to delete a couple of nasty videos in which I was alleged to have masterminded the whole thing from my lair in NZ. It was crazy but unfortunately was being picked up by search engines and eliciting some seriously deranged emails, etc. I was not yet born in 45 and therefore was not a Nazi rocket scientist either (another claim by the nut bars).

    The larger point being that a professional journalist should be a little more precise in their identification of people that they use for insight and quotes.

  4. readers are invited to suggest who might be on the list of 88 people spied on by the GCSB.

    Maybe Vance has seen the appendices to the Ketteridge report, and maybe that accounts for why she called you a spy Pablo ;)

  5. Hugh: You need to get out more often. As the 9/11 conspiracy crowd have already deduced, I changed my name from von Buchendorfer as I was making my way to Argentina with Bormann, Eichman and Mengele.

    PB and Eric: it would be a lamentable waste of resources and tax payer dollars if they were spying on me (or Nicky for that matter, although his exposes are bound to have irritated them). The point is that if they were spying on anyone who was not a bonafide security threat, for reasons other than national security, then they are clearly violating their charter.

    The real questions are: Who were the people that the SIS and Police asked the GCSB for help spying on? What were the grounds for the warrants issued to that end? Who signed those warrants? Were there requests that were refused?

    One of the reasons I believe that an inquiry might not happen is that Labour is bound to know that it faces serious splash back once it becomes apparent that most of the spying on the 88 happened during the 5th Labour government. Since the Minister of Security and Intelligence (the PM) or Commissioner for Security Warrants (a retired High Court judge) are the only people who can authorize the warrants, and given the very hands-on approach of the former PM to her portfolio, this has the makings for another Labour debacle. I am sure Key is aware of that.

  6. I think you can remove the Zaoui team from your list because the SIS Act prohibits it from intercepting communication that is legally privileged. As for the possible 85 targets, I think it would be reasonable to assume they would all be having contact overseas and that is why GCSB’s assistance would have been sought – many international phone calls leave and enter the country via satelitte, and it will be GCSB’s Waihopai listening station that would intercept these calls. So my money is on most of the targets being foreign-born immigrants in contact with islamic countries where terrorists are known to be located. This would also account for why of the 88 targets, 85 were for the SIS, and only three for the Police. The Police ones will probably have been drug dealers.

    The rise of GCSB involvement in assisting the SIS and Police coincides with the decline in personal telephone landline use (for which local telephone companies would have made the physical interception connection) and the dramatic rise in mobile cellphone ownership in this country, especially smartphones that can send and receive more than just phone calls, see:

    One point the media has overlooked is that whilst the GCSB Act does not allow it to intercept the communications of NZ citizens and residents, clearly it must be doing so as a matter of routine via its Waihopai station. Because only by actually listening to the call or reading the email can GCSB determine if the communication involves a NZ citizen or resident – how else can they establish if one end of the call involves a NZ citizen or resident? And judging by the Dotcom case they appear never to have any facility in place to determine the citizenship or residency status of the people they have been monitoring. It may not be beyond the realms of possibility that GCSB discarded communications (to fulfill its requirement not to intercept New Zealanders) based on something as simple as recognising a kiwi accent!

  7. “Working for the Clampdown” as per ace band “The Clash”

    My SIS file return request was denied due to the provisions of the 1969 Act and widely opposed at the time I977 SIS Ammendment Bill, now Act. Basically they are required to value living snitches privacy above living activists and democrats and various other citizens.

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