New Zealand passed a law last Thursday enabling broader surveillance of its citizens, expanding the previous focus on foreign targets to encompass domestic “terrorism and organized crime” as well. While the law predates the Snowden revelations, what it shows us is equally as startling. The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), who like the NSA doesn’t care if it abuses its power, will join the ranks of other agencies that violate the stated values in their countries' constitutions and legal documents. The United States has historically been a driving force for political freedom, but in the past decades, it has helped create a framework for a modern police state that strikes at the core of people’s cultural fears. Citizens all over the world should reject the notions that these policies are necessary, and realize that they are simply incremental steps towards an expanding Orwellian existence.
New Zealand is a relatively young country, having gained its full independence in 1986 when it ended the right of Parliament of Great Britain to legislate from over 11,000 miles away. Unlike American independence, this was a nonviolent transfer of power, establishing an Executive, Judiciary, and Legislative branch. In another similarity to the United States, it passed a Bill of Rights in 1990, which details freedoms and rights that the citizens retain. New Zealand has continued to take after America, passing the Terrorism Suppression Act a year after America passed the PATRIOT Act.
The law passed last week violates three sections of New Zealand's constitution. For starters, there’s Section 13, Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, guaranteeing the right to adopt opinions on any of these without interference.Then there is Section 14, Freedom of Expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information of any kind in any form. What about Section 16, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly? Or 21, Unreasonable Search and Seizure? All of these enumerated rights are essentially the same as our own.
Furthermore, as awful as the PATRIOT Act is, there was a clear catalyst that created that law and the subsequent violation of civil liberties in the U.S. What about New Zealand? According to the Global Peace Index, which defines peace as the absence of violence, New Zealand is the world's third most peaceful country, behind Iceland and tying with Denmark. The index covers 99% of the world, and indicators are divided up into three groups: ongoing domestic and international conflict, societal safety and security, and measures of militarization. For perspective, Cuba, Bosnia, Jordan, and Kuwait are all more “peaceful” countries than the United States, which sits next to China on the global rankings. If the index is even slightly accurate, then what sorts of terrorism and organized crime are plaguing New Zealand? Why has the crime rate fallen since 2000, while imprisonment has increased?
A 2001 UN Report found New Zealand has a serious problem with domestic violence, with one-third of women reporting physical violence from 2000-2010 and 2% of women reporting sexual violence. If a country passes domestic surveillance laws that bolster the ability of the state, what’s to stop them from spying in an effort to combat a real problem that exists in their country? Should New Zealand put cameras in every home to prevent the country's real cultural problem of domestic violence? Much like how the PATRIOT Act and FISA mutated into an ambiguous and intrusive legal apparatus, this new law in New Zealand will be abused in an attempt to solve a problem. Like scenes from 1984, surveillance found in programs like PRISM and laws like New Zealand’s bring the two-way telescreens to life, create thought police that scour our metadata to find targets, and assure us that this is all for our own safety.
The people of New Zealand are in no imminent danger, do not have a history of terrorism, and are extremely nonviolent when compared to the rest of the world. Whatever view people have of America, our actions affect the way that global policy is made, and when a country as new as New Zealand adopts policies like these, the people of the world continue to have what should be global rights eroded. In the age of the internet, Americans and their policymakers should set the right example, push for our civil freedoms, and stop programs that violate the rights of its citizens. Big Brother may be watching, but more importantly, so is the rest of the world.