Protecting New Zealand’s democracy from hacking by foreign powers
26 April 2019
The Justice Committee Inquiry into New Zealand’s 2017 Elections
Thank you for the opportunity to make this submission on this important concern. I hope you will allow this late submission. I only found out about it towards the end of last week and could not work on it until the weekend with prior commitments. If there are to be any public hearings for this enquiry I would like to take part.
The Pacific Institute of Resource Management (PIRM) is a voluntary organisation founded in Wellington in 1984, dedicated to principles of peace, ecology, justice and sustainability. We make submissions to government on a variety of issues and have published a journal, Pacific Ecologist.
We are unaware there was any concern about the integrity of New Zealand’s 2017 General Elections, or the 2016 local elections. Our election followed a perfectly understandable course, and resolution. This submission will focus on the 2017 General Election only.
It is possible the inquiry is related somehow to the noisy drama from the US Democratic establishment following America’s 2016 elections. They blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers and releasing embarrassing emails published on Wikileaks just prior to their election indicating improper practices within the Democratic Party. Claims were also made that President Trump colluded with Russia to somehow rig this election. This has always appeared farcical to many people, us included, and after nearly three years of exhaustive investigations, and media hysteria, the Mueller report recently concluded there was no evidence at all of collusion. (1) It’s time America apologised to Russia and the world for the vociferous attacks and broad sanctions brought on Russia because of this false allegation. To take such punitive action without evidence is damaging to international relations and civilised democratic values.
Not only has no evidence of Russian hacking of the DNC servers been presented, but an independent forensic investigation by a group of former senior US intelligence officers, has shown that the DNC data was likely copied to a storage device at a speed far exceeding internet capability, precluding a remote hack. (2) See Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and references therein.
Cyber crime allegations against Russia & China
In 2018 the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) alleged that both Russia and China were involved in cyber crimes. Russia was accused of a “series of malicious cyber incidents,” and China was accused of a global campaign of cyber-enabled commercial intellectual property theft. Both these claims by the GCSB echoed the same allegations made earlier by America. However, revelatory disclosures by Edward Snowden, among other whistle-blowers, have shown that America’s CIA and its partners have developed cyber tools to create false “digital fingerprints” to frame those they regard are their enemies or competitors. (3)
For example, https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-marble-framework-how-cia-obfuscates.html explains how the Marble Framework is used to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the CIA. Since 2001 the CIA has covertly built a substantial worldwide fleet of hackers. According to the September 2017 Wikileaks press release (https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/) “By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other ‘weaponized’ malware. “Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.” (3)
Our powerful ally the United States, with its policy of full spectrum dominance considers both Russia and China to be its main competitors, and enemies. In the present polarised political climate, where recklessly dangerous, even nuclear, threats are levelled at Russia (4) and China, as well as harsh sanctions, it’s important to look beyond simply seeing allies as friends and foreign powers as enemies.
It is in New Zealand’s interests not to see the world just through the US lens of full spectrum dominance, but to maintain an independent foreign policy to help steer the world out of the constant conflict, wars, threats, and sanctions mode of the US-led western alliance. These conflicts are causing misery and teetering on the brink of nuclear conflict that will bring an end to all. (5,6)
America & allies flout UN Charter
It should not be forgotten that the United States has led the western alliance into catastrophic wars on 7 countries since 2001 that have destroyed countries in the Middle East and North Africa, (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen), killing at least 6 million people directly in violent deaths, (7) and causing millions of refugees to flee their destroyed countries. Millions more will have died through destruction of infrastructure, water, sanitation, hospitals, agriculture and food facilities, through concerted bombardment of these countries since 2001.
These asymmetric wars against defenceless countries that did not threaten the US, or other countries, are against international law and the UN Charter. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the threat as well as use of force because threats regularly lead to wars. (8) The only justification under article 51 of the Charter for using force is proportionate, necessary self-defence or an emergency request by the UN Security Council for military action “to restore peace and security.” But no country has attacked the U.S. nor has the UN Security Council asked the US to bomb or invade any country the allies are now at war with. (9)
Besides sanctions on Russia and China, the US also aggressively threatens and applies harsh, illegal sanctions against Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and other countries.
Threats to NZ from “Foreign” powers: Why no Cyber treaty?
Regarding this inquiry’s concerns about threats from “foreign powers” to New Zealand’s democracy in elections from hacking, or cyber attacks of any sort. There can be no assurance that any of America’s allegations are true, because the CIA has developed thousands of hackers and the Marble Framework3 to prevent forensic investigations from attributing cyber hacking attacks to the CIA, and has developed cyber tools to create false “digital fingerprints” to frame countries like Russia and China that America wants to undermine and demonise with cyber attack allegations.
One of the best things New Zealand could do is to promote an international treaty on cyber security. It’s astonishing this has not been accomplished years ago. There is no international law regulating cyber operations, no control, no rules, no international mechanism making it possible to investigate or prosecute cyber attacks.
Russia’s 20-year efforts for cyber security
Yet Russia has led an effort at the United Nations since 1998 for cybersecurity. A study by the East West Institute East-West Institute 14/9/2010. in 2010 notes: “In 1998, in the U.N. General Assembly, Russia took the lead on the adoption of a resolution (without a vote) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.’ The resolution: 1. Calls on Member States to promote at multilateral levels consideration of existing and potential threats in the field of information security.” (10)
In 2009, Russia’s President Putin proposed to then U.S. President Obama an international treaty to ban cyber attacks and their potentially disastrous consequences. Sadly, Obama rejected the offer. It is perverse for America to refuse to collaborate over a cyber treaty with Russia and other countries, including China, and then turn around and make allegations that Russia or China are committing cyber attacks. An August 2016 article, Towards A Cyber Security Treaty points out that “the treaty approach was not adopted by the U.S. because it did not want to limit its rich and multifaceted cyber-interventions abroad.” (11) And It is widely reported that America itself deployed huge cyber attacks on Iran, including on key civilian infrastructure. (12,13, 14)
In 2018 in an effort to try to resolve the controversy about Russia’s “meddling,” President Putin even suggested to President Trump that Russia and America together investigate the alleged meddling in America’s 2016 elections.15 The offer was turned down by Trump. Despite rejecting requests to collaborate over a cyber security treaty, our allies, the US and UK continue with perverse allegations and threats against Russia and China.
There’s also U.S. allegations against China’s Huawei network, which in reality could easily be scare-mongering against China to unfairly favour U.S. companies over China’s popular, cheaper and better products. And all this when US cell phones are reputed to have spyware attached to them!
Legality of Surveillance & Five Eyes?
America’s vast, secretive cyber surveillance operations are combined with the secrecy of the “Five Eyes” partners’ collaboration that includes New Zealand’s GCSB. Are the activities of the secretive Five Eyes surveillance operations involving the GCSB legal in the New Zealand context?
Do they contribute to democracy, the rule of law, cooperation, peace and world security, or further increase wars and the destructive dominance of the US-led western alliance by force of armaments, violence and wars against international law? It’s hard to reconcile targeted killings, “manhunts,” as anything other than assassinations and this practise has now normalised deviant behaviour, even though it is condemned by Human Rights rapporteurs. (9)
Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has documented that US rules of engagement permit routine targeting of civilians, based only on cell-phone records, or “guilt by proximity” to people targeted for killing. (9) The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that only 4 percent of thousands of drone victims in Pakistan have been identified as Al Qaeda members, the targets of the CIA drone campaign. Nobody was charged over the Ghazi Khan raid in Kunar province on 12/12/2009 where US forces summarily executed at least 7 children including four only 11 or 12 years old. These are just a few of numerous reported incidents of glaring violations of Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Press freedom/ democracy being stifled
Illegal mass surveillance in America was only uncovered because whistleblower Edward Snowden decided he must let the public know what was going on. For exposing the truth he had to flee America to Russia when his passport was revoked by America. He left behind family and friends because American authorities wanted to punish him for exposing illegal activities of the US state. American Chelsea Manning is another courageous whistleblower in prison in America a second time for releasing important information that embarrassed America about human rights atrocities in its wars. Australian journalist, Julian Assange is another whistleblower wrongfully imprisoned in the UK after spending nearly 7 years in arbitrary detention in London’s Ecuador embassy for revealing crimes against humanity, despite calls since 2015 from United Nations Human Rights Rapporteurs for him to be set free unconditionally.
For the US and UK to imprison journalists and whistleblowers who reveal vital truths that have been concealed by states, is a great injustice, and it means freedom of the press is vanishing, democratic discourse is being stifled. We are all meant to be intimidated into silence.
Recently this year 2019, the U.S. threatened International Criminal Court judges with travel bans because of ICC efforts to investigate American war crimes in Afghanistan where US-led forces have been deployed since 2001 against international law. German judge Flugge resigned after the threats, the ICC has now abandoned efforts to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan saying it would be impossible without cooperation. This is tragic for justice for Afghanistan’s people who have suffered greatly from this long illegal invasion and attacks since 2001 with many war crimes being reported. What will happen to NZ’s inquiry into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan? The US has declared it won’t accept war crime investigations of its forces or its allies’ forces.
A world without justice, or the rule of law, is a world of unending violence that can easily spiral into nuclear war as Professor Stephen Cohen reports in his book “War with Russia”. (16)
Threats to United Nations, democracy & security
There is a lawless, dangerous climate today in the US, UK and other Western countries where allegations are cited as “proof.” The legal principle of being innocent until proven guilty is being abandoned, along with accountability for war crimes. (18, 19, 9) This is a real threat to our democracy, the rule of law and the United Nations Charter that should alarm New Zealanders, and people worldwide concerned with peace and security in the world.
America’s unilateral withdrawal from an increasing number of international agreements reflects lack of respect by the US for international law, and the United Nations, leaving the world more dangerous and vulnerable to even more wars. This makes it even more important that New Zealand builds to the greatest extent possible a commitment to dialogue and negotiations within the context of generally agreed international norms and conventions. The underlying aim should be to withdraw from all the wars.
The pressure to conform with American wishes and its aggressive full-spectrum dominance foreign policy must undermine the ability of New Zealand to assess dangers arising from US activities world-wide through its 800 or more military bases. The GCSB should be able to tell New Zealanders openly what it’s doing, as peace activist Adrian Leason noted in letters to the GCSB in 2017 and at a gathering in Waihopai in January this year 2019. As Wikileaks releases of documents on the Middle East wars over the last 10 years have shown, the current level of secrecy has led to a culture of widespread abuse of power along with grievous human rights abuses. New Zealand should work towards defence relationships with stronger oversight and greater public information-sharing.
Te Aroha Te Whakapono Me Te Rangimarie Tatou Tatou E
Love Truth and Peace be with us all
1. Robert Mueller did not merely reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He obliterated them, by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept 19/3/2019.
2. Intel Vets Challenge Russia hack Evidence, Consortium News 24/7/2017.
3. The Marble Framework How the CIA Obfuscates and Pretends to be Someone Else by Glen Asher Oye! Times 5/ 10/2018
4. Trump Threatens Nuclear War If Russia Protects Venezuela By Eric Zuesse Modern Diplomacy 29/3/2019
6. Eisenhower’s Nightmare: Space Wars Edition by Franklin C. Spinney, The American Conservative 16/1/2019
7. How Many Millions have been killed in America’s Post 9/11 Wars? Part 3. Nicolas J.S. Davies, Consortium News 25/4/2018.
9. US War Crimes or ‘Normalised Deviance’ by Nicolas J.S. Davies Consortium News 15/8/2016
10. Russia, The United States & Cyber Diplomacy By Franz-Stefan Gady and Greg Austin East-West Institute 14/9/2010.
11. Towards A Cyber Security Treaty by Ido Kilovaty and Itamar Mann Just Security 3/8/2016
13. Cyberattack on Iran by US/Israel goes worldwide by accident Stuxnet Wikipedia 21/6/2018 to 2/5/2019
14. U.S. Hacked Into Iran’s Critical Civilian Infrastructure For Massive Cyberattack, New Film Claims by James Ball. Buzzfeed news 16/2/2016.
15. Putin proposes a joint cybersecurity group with the US to investigate Russian election meddling by Taylor Hatmaker Techcrunch 16/7/2018
16. War with Russia: From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate by Stephen Cohen Simon & Schuster 2019.
17. On the Verge of Nuclear War By Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy 29/3/2018
18. ‘Too Big to Fail:’ Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack by Patrick Lawrence, Consortium News, 13/8/2018.
19. WHY THE DNC WAS NOT HACKED BY THE RUSSIANS by William Binney, former Technical Director NSA & Larry Johnson, former State CT and CIA 15/2/2019 www.informationclearinghouse.info/51106.htm