OPINION: The lickspittle anxiety of New Zealand Government agencies to impress Kim Dotcom's would-be prosecutors in the United States has become more than a general national embarrassment. It is now acutely troubling.
To recap: Dotcom has not yet been proven to have done anything illegal or - his musical tastes aside - demonstrably bad, whereas the US's stance has been arrogant and the actions of our own authorities a vortex of malice, incompetence, or both.
It was one thing for people to be able to get over some of the sillier accusations, more barking than legally compelling, in a 72-page FBI document setting out the putative offending of Dotcom's Megaupload site as a forum empowering piratical internet wickedness.
For that matter, not everyone was too terribly troubled about how appropriate it maybe wasn't for FBI agents to have been allowed to clone material from 17 seized computers because, see, the FBI are global good guys and they wanted it.
You could also choose to have no problem with the ardour with which the US is now appealing a New Zealand court instruction that it reveal the actual grown-up and legal basis of the case against Dotcom should he be extradited. The US response, in effect, is that that's for them to know and for him and us to find out once he's been frogmarched from our shores at their beck and call.
But shovel all of that to one side and we still have the small matter of a New Zealand court ruling that the search and seizure actions carried out by our own authorities against Dotcom were just plain illegal. And now, only now, comes the gaspingly bad admission (because it came out in court) that Government Communications Security Bureau agents illegally intercepted communications between Dotcom and a co-accused. Given the complete absence of national security issues, these broken rules had been set up to prevent spying on any New Zealand citizen or (as this man is) someone with resident status.
The bureau did, reportedly, check Dotcom's status with the police, only to be given wrong information. Swell. If so, this is a particularly dullardly mistake, given that Dotcom lit up the sky with the news of his residency. He used some of his wealth to set off a monumental and widely publicised public fireworks display to celebrate gaining resident status.
It gets even worse. No sooner had Prime Minister John Key, who has ministerial oversight of the nation's spooks, confessed his displeasure and ordered an inquiry, than out came further revelations yesterday. Not only did Finance Minister Bill English know spies were involved in the case, but the Government signed an indemnity order, which makes our taxpayers liable for any costs should Dotcom choose to sue over the illicit eavesdropping.
On the positive side, if the agenda was to impress the US with just how much New Zealand is prepared to sacrifice, short-circuit or just plain disregard to shore up its good-buddy status, it's hard to imagine a more abject Pontius Pilate act. Actually, Pilate stuck to the law, so he did better than this craven catalogue of compliance at the expense of little more than law, human rights and (small point) national self-respect.
You don't have to be a Nicky Hagar or a Waihopai protester to be concerned about what else might have been going on, and how laissez-faire the supposed political oversight of our intelligence service has been.
We do need a national intelligence service, but we don't need rogue spies, ungoverned spies or spies so stupid that they are making quite so many national and international headlines on that basis.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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