What Is Government Hacking? | Privacy International

Kicking off for the swimming season

First swim of the season at ‘my’ beach this morning … brrr! But totally worth it.

Judging by past years, I will be here quite a lot in the next few months. Bliss.

Insulting people in print

Perhaps contrary to appearances, I endeavour to keep my criticism of people in the spotlight here on topic, and confined to a recounting of facts (to the best of my knowledge) and then express my opinions and conclusions. I don’t set out to ‘destroy’ people but rather, to give them some feedback. And occasionally express my ire at someone’s actions, to be sure.

Of course, being an empathetic person, I understand how galling it must be at times for my ‘targets’ to read my criticisms. I expect some of those who cop it from me become somewhat sensitive to it, after a few mentions.

So my ears pricked up this week to hear on BBC Radio 4 novelist and literary critic Martin Amis’s 2001 comments in response to a question from a reader of The Independent about ‘the brutality of journalism‘ and criticism:

Q: You’ve attacked the brutality of journalists, yet when young, you could be a savage reviewer of older writers. Do you regret that now?

A: Insulting people in print is a vice of youth and a minor corruption of power. You ought to stop doing it as you get older, or else you look like mutton dressed as lamb.
Insulting people in your middle age is undignified, and looks more and more demented as you head towards the twilight.
I think I did write a couple of career-ending reviews in my youth and yes, I do regret that.

from Martin Amis – The Rub of Time BBC Radio 4

Here’s an excerpt from that BBC feature, beautifully read by living treasure Bill Nighy.

MP3 file

Referring to Amis’ comments at the time, Richard Ingrams wrote in The Observer about what he called “the regrettable tendency to mellow”. (Which made me chuckle.) Continue reading →

Is undisclosed, paid PR the new normal in politics?

It’ll be no surprise to readers of ThePaepae.com that I despise behind-the-scenes, subterfuge public relations and opinion shifting efforts, especially if they’re funded in a non-transparent way. 

By coincidence, if you examine the tags dirty PR and dirty politics on this blog, the same cast of characters keeps on appearing. Over time that can make me appear… a bit fixated, I admit. But in reality, it’s just that I have an attention span, I’m interested, and these roosters just keep coming up. So I just run with it.

Here’s how Mediawatch reported an episode of dirty PR yesterday… Turning up the noise on an unlikely ‘teal deal’. You can read host Colin Peacock’s article there at Radio NZ and listen to the 11 minute segment, or the whole Mediawatch episode. I subscribe to the podcast, which is always good.

Let’s go shopping

Like the Mediawatch crew, I saw this interchange on Twitter: the revelation by NZ Listener political writer Jane Clifton that people were being paid to shop the idea of a National-Green coalition, as unlikely as it was…

“…some people are actually being paid to shop this scenario around.”Jane Clifton spills the beans (click to see her tweet in context)

As Mediawatch reported, vastly experienced political reporter Richard Harman also observed the campaign, and described it as having ‘sinister overtones’… and oops, look who he says was ‘at the forefront’. David Farrar and Matthew Hooton. What a coincidence.

‘The dubious campaign to woo the Greens’ – Richard Harman at Politik.co.nz (click to read)

Wouldn’t you like to know who was paying for this PR campaign? I would too. But for some reason telling us is not seen as a priority for savvy political reporters.
Continue reading →

If you can keep your head …

Joni Mitchell, from her 2007 album Shine, which was (initially) distributed through a deal with Starbucks Coffee chain – I bought my copy there, like, in person – but of course now it’s on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify.

I find this track ‘If’, based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling (now derided by some as a racist) moving, challenging and inspiring in all sorts of ways. Just like the poem.

Shared here, now, because I’ve been playing Joni Mitchell this week, since I read this wonderful article about her by Jack Hamilton at The Atlantic. High recommended.

Click to read ‘The Unknowable Joni Mitchell’ by Jack Hamilton at The Atlantic

– P

Peters: “New Zealand First intends to tip their trough upside down.”

Presented without comment today, Friday, before coalition negotiations to form the next New Zealand government begin in earnest.  (I’ve left it out of blockquote style to aid legibility.)

Winston Peters

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland
18 November 2016

National Never Out of the Trough

It seems as though the National Party is never out of the trough with its latest ‘jobs-for-the-boys’ recipient, says New Zealand First.

“Former Cabinet Minister Tony Ryall was appointed to the board of Trustpower on May 2 and on September 30 he became Chairman,” says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“What Tony Ryall knows about electricity reticulation heaven only knows, but then inappropriate appointments from National has been the order of the day.

“The National Party went ahead with the appointment despite Treasury advising otherwise.

“Treasury opposed the new appointment on the basis that the ‘national grid operator had gone through too much turnover at the top and Mark Verbiest should remain chair for longer’ (NZ Herald, November 18, 2016).

“This is yet another example of National’s unabashed arrogance and cronyism.

“Many of these candidates leave parliament quoting ‘fresh challenges’ and ‘new opportunities’ but come back to dip into the public purse, thanks to their National Party connections.

“In short, they are long on free enterprise and the market until it comes to their own egregious self-interest.

“Mr Ryall joins a long list of National Party appointments, including: Phil Heatley, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (Board); Eric Roy, Landcorp Farming Limited (Board); Wayne Mapp, Law Commissioner; Georgina Te Heuheu, Maori Television (Board); Kate Wilkinson, Environment Court (Commissioner); Jenny Shipley, Canterbury earthquake roles, Genesis Energy (Chair); Katherine Rich, Apec Business Advisory Council, Health Promotion Agency, Agriculture Emissions Trading Scheme Advisory Committee; Michelle Boag, Middle East Business Council (Executive Advisor); and many, many more.

“The real issue here with some exceptions is how many had no qualifications for these positions before they came to parliament, gained no experience that improved that limitation whilst in parliament, and are now beneficiaries of the public purse to the extent that it would make a rabid sponger embarrassed.

“This is just a short list, there have been hundreds of other appointments made purely for political preference and not for ability and experience, and not for contributions to the industries and businesses affected.

“New Zealand First intends to tip their trough upside down.”


Source: Scoop Business

Carrick Graham and Slater Jnr’s PR attack blog smear campaign inches towards court – with Katherine Rich attached

Former National Party MP, chief executive officer of the NZ Food and Grocery Council Inc industry lobby group Katherine Rich is innocent until proven guilty of the charge that she ‘procured’ defamatory statements to be published against health researchers carrying out public education and advocacy regarding the bad health effects of fatty and sugary foods and beverages. (pic: Tim Hales, Fairfax)

I mentioned in an earlier post, Most Defamed Man Ever Jordan Williams to appeal ruling, that NZ Food and Grocery Council Inc lobby group head, former National Party MP and bright young hopeful Katherine Rich, had been ‘joined’ to a defamation action against dirty PR operator Carrick Graham and his glove puppet Cameron Slater.

This arose from revelations in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics that the NZFGC Inc. had employed/contracted Carrick Graham’s dirty PR one man band to attack several health researchers though blog posts ghostwritten by Graham but published by Slater Jnr on his hate blog as if he were the author.

Hager’s book also showed that, just as Jordan Williams apparently did in his campaign against Colin Craig, Carrick Graham then added more insults and derogatory statements in the hate blog’s comment stream using pseudonyms (‘Naylor’ and ‘Lion King’ in Graham’s case). To me, that thoroughly dishonest practice indicates bad faith and an ill-will motivation. In my eyes, such subterfuge defeats an ‘honest opinion’ defence. (Oh, did I mention I also think it’s sleazy?)

How Nicky Hager described Katherine Rich’s role

Obviously, Ms Rich and the sugary fatty food and beverage merchants her lobby group represents were unhappy about their hidden role being exposed by Nicky Hager and Whaledump through Slater’s [allegedly] hacked emails and Facebook message interchanges with Carrick Graham – and even more so being attached to the resulting defamation action. Predictably, they hired expensive lawyers to try to extract themselves from the action.

It didn’t work. Twice so far. Continue reading →

Why is Matthew Hooton SO UPSET at efforts to increase voter turnout? (AUDIO)

A younger Matthew Hooton. I reckon this guy would have APPLAUDED greater participation in democracy — unlike today’s grumpy grizzler. But I could be wrong.

Here’s some commentary from PR professional Matthew Hooton, owner of the ‘Exceltium’ PR agency*, on how he sees efforts by New Zealand’s Electoral Commission to increase voter turnout.

“I think the way the Electoral Commission has behaved, taking upon itself (despite having no statutory basis) to try and massively increase the turnout to try and attract these “Missing Million” — this left-leaning Missing Million, who usually don’t vote. I think that might win it for her [Labour Party Opposition Leader Jacinda Ardern].
I think that we may have a bizarre situation that by the time the next Leaders’ debate occurs on Wednesday night – which I think by all accounts Jacinda Ardern will be throughly discredited in by Bill English – by that time, we might find that half of all voters have voted, as planned for by the Electoral Commission.
And what we know from the research is that Missing Million that the Electoral Commission is deliberately targeting – they are overwhelmingly likely to be Labour and Green voters.
So it might be that Jacinda Ardern, despite all this, becomes the Prime Minister – thanks to the unlawful (in terms of not having a statutory basis) intervention of the Electoral Commission.” — Matthew Hooton, NBR Radio 15 September 2017

And here’s an audio file, courtesy of the National Business Review, of Matthew actually saying it:

MP3 file


Two observations: (1) Matthew appears quite wound up about the idea that people who “usually don’t vote” are ‘left-leaning’ — claiming the ‘Missing Million’ are “overwhelmingly likely to be Labour and Green voters”.
(2) Wow, he’s actually portraying the Electoral Commission’s campaign to encourage voter turnout as “unlawful intervention”.

I’m not going to say much more about this, except to express my puzzled disappointment that such a widely publicised political commentator would let himself get so carried away by partisan politics that he would lose the plot like this.
And also, to an certain extent, to ask why such a mature and respected media outlet as The National Business Review would let its platform be used to launch such a bizarre attack. For it seems absurd and undignified to attack the Electoral Commission in this way.

As a commenter on Twitter said, and I agree completely:

If the Electoral Commission makes any progress with increasing the turnout then they should be lauded for a job well done. – @nachomadmess

Quite right. Who could disagree? Well, Matthew Hooton could, it seems.

– P

* At least two Exceltium employees are involved in campaign work in the 2017 New Zealand General Election.
Matthew’s apprentice commentator Ben Thomas disclosed once each on two of the platforms on which he appears (TV3’s The Nation and The Spinoff’s ‘Gone By Lunchtime’ podcast) that he was “doing a little bit of work for the ACT Party before the election”.
Exceltium PR consultant Brooke van Veldon is in fact an ACT Party candidate for Parliament – number 3 on the Party list, requiring around 3% of the Party Vote in the election to become an MP. Most pre-Election polls show ACT at around 0.6% support, so it seems chances are Brooke will be a PR consultant a little longer.

‘Dirty Politics’ – two worthwhile retrospectives & some new developments

Who’s that? Oh, hello Matthew.

The Spinoff website recently carried two worthwhile retrospective articles looking at the impact of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. Read them if you’re interested via the links below.

First, ‘Sunlight did what sunlight does: Nicky Hager on Dirty Politics, three years on’ (link to The Spinoff here) which includes a good number of points with which I agree, including this about political operative David Farrar:

Nicky Hager’s point here is entirely correct. David Farrar is a cynical & calculating political operative. Media should treat him like one.

Hager also refers to Jordan Williams, and to the shadowy PR attack machine, ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ he fronts for David Farrar. Lazy or credulous news media workers treat this enterprise as if it were genuinely representative of something other than demeaning its principals’ political and commercial opponents, in classic Dirty Politics brigade style:  Continue reading →

About Matthew Hooton’s declared loyalties

Like part of the furniture, Matthew Hooton is a fixture on Radio NZ.

I’ve discussed Matthew Hooton a few times here at The Paepae. My views of his ‘service’ to political commentary in New Zealand have hardened lately.

I find Matthew a personally very engaging, even charming man. There can be few smoother and more persuasive spin doctors in the slippery ‘opinion-shaping’ game in New Zealand – especially when he is trying to recruit one to act as a proxy.

There’s a type, the PR agency types that go into ‘government relations’. They’re all good at greasing up people. I met a bunch when I worked in the press gallery. Matthew is the equal of any of them.

I have been struck at, for instance, Radio NZ’s codependent embrace of Hooton (which shrieks ‘Who will I be if you leave me?’). But there’s also his frequent, near-ubiquious presence on cosy commentary couches such as those on TV current affairs shows only political tragics like me watch. But at another level, having myself briefly basked in the warm glow of one of his charm offensives, I can understand it. He makes people feel like they’re ‘savvy’ – and he is available … don’t underestimate the value of that noble attribute to a hard-pressed producer of a current affairs programme. (I know that from my days producing Paul Holmes.)

Matthew does slip up at times — see Govt’s mischievous pet monkey flings own dung at zookeeper. (Matthew Hooton disgraces himself. Again.) and Frankly, I can’t see how ‘bomber’ Matthew Hooton can survive as a political commentator [UPDATED] and Matthew Hooton regrets (cough) using ‘that particular word’. Of course he does.

In what can no longer be seen as just a testament to the ‘thinness’ of political commentary in New Zealand, the right wing Energizer® bunny just keeps going, and going and going. For some reason, despite the (obvious?) conflicts of interest, and Hooton’s openly declared political allegiances and voting intentions (see below) he’s still in demand.  Continue reading →

On the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ PR attack machine

Following some discussion on Twitter about this astroturf political attack machine’s activities, I’ve been asked for these. They’re public documents available on the Register of Incorporated Societies

Curious about the source of this attack group’s finances, I looked at its public filings…

Funnily enough, I hear there have been moves towards changing the status of the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ PR attack machine — from an Incorporated Society, moving to a Limited Liability company structure with a Company Constitution and a Trust Deed.
Continue reading →

Jordan Williams is still a lawyer

New Yorker

A quick follow-up. Earlier, I had wondered aloud whether New Zealand’s most defamed man, part-time propagandist and bad boyfriend Jordan Williams would still be ‘good to go’ as a lawyer, by New Zealand Law Society standards. I noted his practising certificate was due to expire on June 30.

Published on the NZ Law Society’s website as part of the public register of lawyers. (Click to visit the page at www.lawsociety.org,nz)

And it seems it’s been renewed (right). This despite Judge Sarah Katz’s blistering assessments of Williams’s actions:

…among other things, repeatedly breaking confidentiality undertakings he made to a woman with whom he was ‘romantically involved’ (and to her lawyer); launching a campaign to remove a political party leader using untrue statements, leaks, and providing ghostwritten material to a notorious PR attack blog; issuing untrue denials of his actions, etc. (See my earlier post ‘About that Jordan Williams damages award…‘ for a summary.)

A friend told me the process of renewing a Lawyer’s Practising Certificate is pretty much a rubber-stamp thing, rather than involving assessments of ‘fit and proper’ person. Yeah, I thought it was pretty automatic. But I had wondered if Judge Katz’s let’s face it, pretty adverse findings might have had an impact.

The Law Society is, naturally, fairly protective of the income-producing capacity of its members — somewhat like a real trade union, in contrast to the transparent astroturf group dubbed ‘Taxpayers Union’ which Williams fronts for god-knows-which special interest groups.

Sugar-laden food and beverage manufacturers are on the roster, I suspect, given some of the positions the TPU propaganda team seems to have adopted in recent months. (Somewhat Carrick Graham-esque issues? But that’s just a fat-free theory.)

Anyway, that’s happened. Jordan Williams is still a lawyer.

– P

Michael Hayden on James Comey

Former CIA boss Michael Hayden talking on BBC Newsday about what an honest, careful, note-taking, honourable and honest opponent James Comey is, in his experience.

Archived here in case BBC audio fails to play. MP3 file

“Michael Hayden on James Comey” by BBC Newsday 8 June 2017 prior to his appearance before the US Congress on Donald Trump’s obstruction of probes into Russia influencing the 2016 US Presidential election.

– P

PS Here’s Comey’s statement for the record, released the day before. (PDF 109kb)

Phishing season is open

Wow, this phishing season is really stepping up – three attempts today and it’s only early afternoon.

I hadn’t seen this ‘You have remaining funds in your account, [target email address]’ one before, but I got two of them today.

Coincidentally, I received them about the same time as I had two calls on my cellphone from Caller ID  ‘+00 1 00’.

I answered the first call and was subjected to a faint but clear stream of what sounded like a female Asian woman speaking in a language I didn’t recognise. She didn’t respond to anything I said, and there was ringing signal in the background like a call waiting to be merged. I hung up. I just ignored a second call which came in with the same Caller ID.

Those calls may have nothing to do with the phishing emails. I don’t know.

Naturally, I didn’t respond to this. You shouldn’t either if you receive it. Ridiculous.

The third phishing email I got (today) purports to be from the ANZ bank. (Similar to this one ‘Another day, another phish‘ earlier in the week, and sent to the same email address as that.

Fake fake fake. They really are scumbags doing this.

In this case,the ‘Start’ button would take to you
https:// redirect.businessresultsrevolution [dot] com/ <DON’T CLICK THIS. And the sender address, far from being anything to do with ANZ Bank is a human-sounding address at xtra.co.nz

It makes you wonder if any selection process is engaged to identify targets. Probably not.

ANZ Bank, to its credit, has published a warning on its website …

Click to read the warning page at ANZ bank website (the real one!)

– P

Teach a man to phish

I’m still not taking these personally.

This is clearly fake…(i.e. Not really from Apple. Looking behind the sender, the address is kiwe@ovcsexn.com and the link goes to a domain using a Twitter t.co URL shortener. Very unApple-like.)

Oh gee, really? Will these phish attacks never end?

Again, you’re in for a hard time if you actually click on these things, but hey, it’s a numbers game for these deceitful guys, whatever they’re actually after.

I listened to Susan Glasser’s Global Politico podcast with John Podesta (Clinton campaign manager whose gmail was hacked after a very sophisticated phish) this week and it was interesting to hear his take on the whole thing. He doesn’t blame the assistant who clicked on the link, nor the technical expert she consulted who said it was OK to do so.

Podesta: You know, look, there’s a long, complicated story about that. I had assistants that had access to the link. One of them checked what—one of them saw this question, changed the password, asked our cybersecurity expert. He inadvertently told her to click on it, and she did. So, I don’t blame them. I mean, it was, you know, a fast-moving campaign. It’s easy to say, oh, if you’ve already done this and that and the other thing—I think we’re—I’m, you know, I’ve been around for a while. I’m fairly careful. I don’t just go click on random links, and—but, you know, if—I’m sure that if I had gotten the advice to go ahead and click on it, I probably would have done it, too, so you know, it is what it is. And people make mistakes. And if you look—if you think about it, the Bundestag has been hacked, you know, the Norwegian defense department has been hacked, the White House was hacked by the Russians, and the State Department’s been hacked. It’s like, I think you can’t come back and blame the victim for this. This was a crime; it was painful. You know, I thought I was, you know, had a relatively secure profile. It turned out I didn’t, but a lot of other people have fallen prey to fairly sophisticated hackers that are operating under Russian intelligence. In this case, most likely, from the GRU, but it’s Russian military intelligence. It’s pretty sophisticated, so they did this. So, it is what it is. I can’t really beat myself up or beat my team up over that. I just have to move on, and you know, they committed a crime. I was a victim of the crime.

“It was painful” sounds like an understatement!

I’ve been thinking about what I leave accessible online lately. I try to keep it light and tight, and to download things off the server, (or encrypt tightly and protect what’s left up there). But none of us is immune. And if you read this Motherboard article referred to by John Gruber, Russian Hackers Are Using Google’s Own Infrastructure to Hack Gmail Users  you too might start to see gmail might just be a bad place to be, despite their wonderful security (these days) and legal teams protecting your privacy etc etc.

Anyway, take care.

– P