It'll take two posts to get through my observations of tonight's big reveal at the Auckland Town Hall. This one's on the timing and strategy around the revelations

Sitting in the Auckland Town Hall tonight – both in the hall meeting and the press conference after – two old sayings kept passing through my mind: "it's all about the timing" and "the devil's in the details". Both truisms couldn't be more true when it came to the Internet Party's Moment of Truth.

Glenn Greenwald was a little too jocular, Julian Assange a little too off-topic and Bob Amsterdam a little unnecessary, but it was a fascinating event. Edward Snowden though was just right – the evening's Goldilocks. Not only was he eloquent in extoling his principles, he was specific in how he had seen many New Zealand emails and claimed there's an NSA "facility" in Auckland. Snowden stole the show.

Of course it's just so disappointing that it was a show. Whatever the status of those individuals within the world of internet freedom and global whistle-blowing, Laila Harre's attempt to spread credibility equally across all of them when she called them the "three prisoners" fell flat. Dotcom ain't Snowden.

The simple fact is that Greenwald and Snowden hitched their horse to the wrong wagon by getting pulled into Dotcom's orbit. They may respect his stand in internet freedoms, but at this time and in this country, he over-shadows their message. Most New Zealanders have made their mind up about Dotcom, and increasingly it's unfavourable [edited], so any information coming through the Dotcom filter is falling on deaf ears. Most New Zealanders think Dotcom is about Dotcom. They are entrenched. They have stopped listening.

I don't accept the oft-repeated line that it's all about him trying to avoid extradition; if the government changes I don't see why or how a Labour justice minister would treat his case any differently from a National justice minister. It seems more to be simply about personal revenge; and a national election is no place for vendettas.

Greenwald says his schedule is due mostly to the fact that he's just one journalist trying to report on thousands of documents involving the five eyes countries. New Zealand was last on the list and he wanted to get here before the election, but was working flat-out to get his investigations done in time. So far, so typical. Journalists always work right up to a deadline!

The sad thing for him is that there's not the time for more considered investigation and debate; the timing looks cynical. And whether they are true or not, any government would respond to such claims with denial and obfuscation knowing it just had to stall a few days until the election.

So while I don't see anything sinister in the timing, the fact is it's poisoned the message, not least coming as it has after weeks of Dirty Politics. Many voters are fed up with issues they don't understand and so return to their gut – Key seems a decent enough guy, Dotcom's self-interested and who are these know-it-alls trying to confuse me when I want to vote on issues such as education, wages and health.

And even if they accept something might be going on, as with Dirty Politics it's very easy to simply shrug it off as not directly impacting them and, hey, everyone does it.

Ideally, Greenwald would have revealed this months ago (he did have New Zealand interviews lined up several months ago when his book was released, but he pulled out of them). Ideally, he would have done his reveal at a meeting held by a university or charity or some group with more public credibility, less easily to be dismissed.

But that's largely sizzle. And sadly it's getting more attention than the sausage. Tonight, for example, there was no mention of the Warner Bros email and no great 'moment of truth' where Dotcom proved Key lied about knowing about the German migrant before the raid on Dotcom's home.

I produced the interview when Dotcom first made that claim; he was adament he had documented proof Key knew of him and had lied. While Key denited it and has spent the intervening months looking down the back of every couch to make sure there of his rebuttal, it seemed possible Dotcom's lawyers had got something from the legal discovery process.

Instead, today, came an email Warner Bros. Except both Key and Warner Bros both dismissed it, with the movie company calling it a fake. Yes, perhaps they would say that. But that argument cuts both ways.

At the press conference after the town hall meeting, Dotcom, Harre and Amsterdam all refused to discuss it in substance, refusing to say where Dotcom had got it from and when. That's suspicious and make you wonder if they too are now doubting its veracity.

Yet all of that misses the substance of the debate. Are GCSB and Five Eyes spies conducting mass surveillance of New Zealanders? This is where the focus needs to be. The detail. The meaning of the words.

And that's the subject of my next post.

Comments (8)

by David Crosswell on September 16, 2014
David Crosswell

I watched the show from the Daily Blog stream and didn't have the same perception of it at all. I found what all personalities had to say as perfectly valid/germane, and any variation only the result of something coming from their own individual perception. Perhaps you just personally identified more closely with what Snowden had to say and how he expressed it?

Yes, he was spot on, and quite believable to have an installation in Auckland and another further north. I find it quite difficult, in fact, to believe that there hasn't been considerable devolution in the situation since Waihope was first sited. You're aware, probably, of the new major network routers that have been installed throughout New Zealands main network in recent years? Modified firmware, incorporating factory installed trojans, has been a feature in much of that product type for at least a decade now. I don't find that inconceivable, either.

I've known Glenn, virtually, for some years: since his blogging days in fact. Perhaps it's just the fact that I'm familiar with the way he phrases things that supplied what he had to say with relevance? Nah! The 'timing' speculation doesn't really work, I'm afraid. He's a principle driving force behind 'The Intercept' effort, which is still being established, and time is very much of the essence. If there was a promotional aspect, it would have more to do with The Intercept than anything.

Assange wandered a little, but he's obviously not well, and it wasn't all that hard to see him gathering himself from time to time in an attempt to refocus. But again, I found what he had to say, especially in regard to obscurity in government, rather than transparency, relevant. I had to leave the room as he was speaking, so didn't pick up on all he said, but to expand on that point:

In our employment situation, we are paid a specific amount of money to perform a work specification and, rightly, we are accountable to our employers for every minute of the time for which they are paying us. By the same token, through our tax allotment, we pay for a public service in our government and are entitled to know exactly what they are up to for every moment of our time.

But this has been twisted, and it is us that are under surveillance and, as Assange points out, this is no longer contained to any one national context within the westernised world any longer: it's endemic. As are other aspects.

Amsterdam expanded on one of them in the TPP, and how, through the same obscurity (secret negotiations--Canada has just locked themselves in to a similar agreement with China for the next 31 years), national governments and the electorates they represent are subjugate to multinational corporate requirement. In my experience, obscurity is the premier tool of the criminal class, and if that is not the case initially, it isn't long before it consistently is. Why else would it be a condition of the negotiations?

DotCom's a bit on the weighty side---although I note he's lost a substantial amount---and many are a little negative to what many on the heavy side have to say, but he really didn't say a lot, other than to plug the Mega Skype equivalent that was fully encrypted and well worth knowing about. With encryption we're retreating a bit from the concept of a completely open Internet, but at this stage, necessary. This raises a small point that bears pondering on, however, with the election atmosphere in the air. What on earth are we doing having to encrypt our communications to protect the privacy aspect of them, from the very people we are electing into office to safeguard our interests?

No, it was all comprehensively, broad-spectrum relevant.

And lastly, we arrive at the email.

Amsterdam is a lawyer, and a damned good one. If he's not talking, there's a reason. If the others aren't, it's because he's probably told them not to. The geeks will be working the trace on it now. A note on email, it has exactly the same standing in court as fax: proof positive of dispatch and receipt, in both the U.S. and New Zealand. You've probably got a God-awful email client like Lookout Express, but with a reasonable client, in the drop down menus, you will find a setting which will provide you with 'Full Email Headers'. These will supply you with the name of the sender, their IP server address, the size of the transmission in bits/bytes/kilobytes, the names of all servers passed through enroute, time of transmission, and time of receipt at the IP server address of the receiver.

This is what the ISPs will be working on now in the roaring silence, and will testify to in direct contradiction to Key's and Warner's public statement. If, as I suspect, that's the case, he's done like a dog's dinner, and probably liable to a slander suit. Being recorded, possibly libel. IANAL.

by stuart munro on September 16, 2014
stuart munro

I blame post-modernism myself.

I think it's safe to infer that when you wrote "Most New Zealanders have made their mind up about Dotcom, and increasingly it's favourable," that you inadvertantly omitted an un-.

But this simply means you have fallen for horse-race journalism. It doesn't matter whether a majority of police believed Arthur Allen Thomas was guilty - it matters whether or not he was guilty. It doesn't matter whether people believe Key is a shape-shifting reptilian alien - only whether he is or he is not. And it doesn't matter whether you believe what Key claims in respect of GCSB activities, or what people believe about Kim Dotcom - it is the truth that matters.

Your opinion or Key's opinion or Patrick Gower's opinion or any of NZ's other towering media non-entities are neither here nor there. What matters is the truth. And, it's quite important.

Why is it that we have to keep reminding NZ journalists to do their job?

by Katharine Moody on September 16, 2014
Katharine Moody

It was astonishing - an encrypted online gathering of three individuals - none of which are terrorists, but all of which are being pursued as if they were, by the world's largest superpower using mass surveillance of humanity to further the bidding of its major corporates and its own amoral interests with respect to global supremacy and control. Beamed directly into our homes courtesy of the greatest democratic invention of all time - the internet. I hope all three of those hunted men someday find real freedom - their fight back is all of ours to own. Some will turn a blind eye - some will trivialise and accept - others won't. My name will be on the ad in the Herald tomorrow and on the petition to Parliament, and I'm very, very proud of that;

http://www.actionstation.org.nz/royal_commission_cleanup_politics?recruiter_id=701

To paraphrase John Key, I think we're on the cusp of something great.

by Anne on September 16, 2014
Anne

Yes, my name too should be on the petition. 

I note John Key is denying there are any NSA bases in NZ. I don't recall Edward Snowden mentioning  "bases". He spoke of two 'facilities' which is more likely to mean a box with electronic gadgets in it (no. I'm no technophobe) situated in an undisclosed location and maybe someone who keeps it in running order etc. but that doesn't equate to a "base". 

Mr. Key really does treat us with contempt. 

 

by Anne on September 16, 2014
Anne

oops... wrong word technophobe. I mean 'not technically literate'. 

by Tim Watkin on September 17, 2014
Tim Watkin

Anne, as per my second post... it's a matter of using words to obfuscate.

Stuart, sometimes I just don't know what to say. Except, I guess, thanks for reminding me what my job is. I'd never have known. What's yours again? And how come you're an expert on mine?

David, nothing wrong with your points, but when it comes to provable fact, revelance to NZ, new information and impact on the election... well, only Greenwald and Snowden delievered. And on the first they were only partial. Which is fine, journalism is about an accumulaton of facts and quotes over time (ask Stuart, he knows all about it!). But I think you're being overly kind to Amsterdam and re the email. Dotcom has promised proof since 2012.

by Katharine Moody on September 17, 2014
Katharine Moody

Tim, on that Dotcom email, one thing that hasn't been answered is where did David Fisher get it from? In the breaking news story he seemed to imply that it was provided to him by Dotcom;

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11324988

And then the following day he stated: The "email" which emerged, derided as a fake, may turn out to be the smoking gun Dotcom says with the production of more evidence. (my bold)

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=113...

Even Russell Brown thought it had been provided to The Herald by Dotcom - and then inserted a notation post his publishing the original article;

http://publicaddress.net/9464

Dotcom impulsively passed the email to the Herald yesterday [NB: I am now told it was not Dotcom who supplied the email to the Herald], it was immediately denied as a fake and there was no way to prove its provenance.

So where did Fisher get his copy of the email? Who is the source of the leak? It's also interesting to note that Fisher was able to contact the Hollywood execs offices within a two hour timeframe on a Sunday in the US to obtain their denial.

In keeping with an 'it couldn't get more bizarre' theme - just suppose the Hollywood execs, aware of what was going to be released at the MoT, manufactured a word-by-word reproduction (i.e., a fake) of their own email and leaked it to The Herald - just so that it could be claimed (and forensically examined) to be a fake prior to the release of it? Point is, where did Fisher get it from if not Dotcom?

 

 

by David Crosswell on September 17, 2014
David Crosswell

Tim,

With reference to: 'But I think you're being overly kind to Amsterdam and re the email. Dotcom has promised proof since 2012'.

Nobody has to be kind to Amsterdam. I think you'll find he's quite capable of taking care of himself. But to iterate, agreements such as the TPP, and the control of trade runs on exactly the same motor as the surveillance programmes installed into the same national contexts. Further, both have to be stopped. It doesn't matter what cultural background you hail from, removing self-determination and the right to a level of private existence from the individual is not conducive to democratic principle.

Perhaps Dotcom has claimed, and promised delivery of, proof of Key's knowledge of Dotcom's situation. But knowing a fact, and being able to get your hands on the proof of it are two different things.

How long has Dotcom had the email in his possession?

He may have been promising for a while, but its obvious he's trying to deliver. I think we can withhold judgement for a little longer. Just whet your appetite with thoughts of all the Herald adherents having to retract their words.

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