- Counter-productive Terrorism Bill
- Counter-productive Terrorism Bill
Or: "How we were Goffed"
Or: "Catch 22 meets Clause 33"
Or: "How a terrorist stole my freedom from self-incrimination"
Or: "You have the right to ... well, nothing really"
At the start of the week if you were arrested and taken in for questioning you had the right to say nothing and to consult with a legal adviser. At the start of the week you were allowed to not incriminate yourself and were presumed to be innocent unless the crown could prove you were guilty.
Sadly, at the end of the week, that's all changed. For most New Zealanders it's no longer true to say you have a right to remain silent.
Most New Zealanders either own or operate a computer of some kind and thanks to the war on terror, you now no longer have the right to demand the authorities do their part. Instead, you can find yourself on the wrong side of a prison sentence for doing nothing.
The Counter Terrorism Bill has passed into law and while that's something to be cheered (we're all against terrorism, right?) it contains at least one appalling clause that should be removed. Clause 33 requires the owner or regular user of a computer to assist an officer should he or she demand their help (with the appropriate paperwork of course).
Fair enough, right? We're only too happy to help should the need arise. Right?
The problem is, this isn't an optional "if you feel like it" kind of thing. It's not even optional in the sense of "if you're able" to assist you must. You simply have to or face three months in jail. Did I mention the $2000 fine?
So imagine if you will that your boss shows up with a member of the constabulary and says to you "Jones [that's you, by the way], help this nice young copper by showing him your hard drive". So you do. And this copper says "what's all this encrypted stuff here?" and you say "what encrypted stuff?" and he says "all these files, they're password-protected. What's in there?" and you say "dunno, I've never seen them before. Who looks in the Winnt/Debug/UserMode file anyway?". He's within his rights, as an officer of the law, to feel your collar and send you off to the highest court in the land where you'll be tried as a terrorist.
It doesn't matter if you've put those files on your PC or not. It doesn't matter if you have the keys to decrypt them or if you can't even spell secret decoder ring. It doesn't matter at all because your right to say "your warrant, your problem copper" has vanished.
But wait a second, you say. I haven't committed a terrorist act. I haven't committed any act at all. The police showed up with a warrant about shop lifting or stolen cars or art forgery or theft of garden ornaments. Too bad - the Counter Terrorism provisions will be applied to all crimes under the Summary Proceedings Act.
So thanks, Phil (Goff, justice minister). Thanks for removing one of the fundamental planks of the western judicial system. Thanks must also go to Al Qaeda for provoking such over-reaction from the world's parliaments and an honourable mention must go to United First leader Peter Dunne who chaired the select committee that didn't accept the Law Society's submission on the matter that said quite clearly that Clause 33 breaches the New Zealand Bill of Rights.
We won't get into the right to plant a tracking device on you or your vehicle even if that planting involves breaking the law or not having a warrant - we'll save that for another day.
How many terrorists is this legislation supposed to catch, anyway? Surely this kind of law, and it's just-as-evil twin the Telecommunications Interception Bill, are more likely to be applied to non-terrorist-related activities.
I have no problem with including identifying tags in plastic explosives. I have no problems with complying with international treaties on nuclear materials. These are decisions that make sense and I applaud them.
I object strongly, however, to sneaking this kind of legislation through under the name "counter-terrorism" when it applies to all criminal activity. This is a shameful day for free nations and a shameful day for New Zealand law makers. The terrorists have won a huge moral victory with the passing of this legislation.
- this is Thursday's commentary piece so you may need to hit the "previous edition" button to see it
One disadvantage of working from home is that my immune system has not had to struggle up off its comfy seat for some time. If anyone's sick when I do go into the office I catch it almost immediately. And so it is that I've spent most of the week with a gentle ringing in my ears and head full of ectoplasm.
There is a plus side, however. In my household we have a "whoever smells the stinky nappy first has to change it" policy which has on occasion led to the most incredible poker faces let down only by the watering of the eyes and the melting of the earwax. Having a head cold means never having to say "phoar, what's that pong!?" which is nice.
It's also meant I've missed out on a couple of stories - notably the chance to compare and contrast Telecom Xtra's responses to its email outage with Telstra's response to a similar situation in Australia. The Herald has a story on that below, and there's a commentary from Aardvark as well.
The problems the two are experiencing may or may not be related - it's a bit hard to tell from the outside. Telstra is blaming an upsurge in virus activity for the sudden loss of email service. This is odd if only because an increase in email activity should be easily handled, you would think, by a national carrier. Fortunately the Aussie press doesn't buy it, and there's a great round up of what's going on over the ditch in Whirlpool (link below).
Over here we have Xtra claiming there was a short-term problem with an unspecified part of the email system which is being worked on by an unspecified vendor. This doesn't gel with comments we've heard from customers who have been experiencing problems for some time.
Interestingly, Telstra is dishing out refunds and rebates to those affected. Telecom is less forthcoming - if you can prove you've lost out on actual money because of the email outage you can approach it and it'll discuss it with you. Otherwise, you're on your own. Never mind supplying customers with a service or bending over backwards to make sure they stay with you through thick and thin. It will be entertaining to see if that attitude changes once the full impact of rural competition, unbundling, interconnection charging, the TSO, number portability and the full moon finally hit home.
In the meantime I can recommend hot lemon and barley as a good source of vitamin C. Lovely.