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Saturday, 12 May 2018

What is the threat to New Zealand so secret that the Squirrels don't want you to know about it? The answer may shock you!

File this under REDACTED

I originally wrote this in early 2018 but placed it in the dead end file when other things came up and it did not seem like enough for a post BUT after speaking to a certain third party on the matter last week (thank you D) I have decided to “reactive” it.

Don’t you just hate reading through a document released under the OIA (official Information Act) when sections of it have been removed?

For example how about the recent report from REDACTED which talks about the REDACTED REDACTED to New Zealand but won’t tell what one of those REDACTED is.

Yes for those people who took the time to visit the NZSIS website after the change of government last year would have found a copy of the Briefing to the Incoming Minister (BIM) for the NZSIS and GCSB on file for their perusal.

And if you have ever read a BIM you will know that each government department will use its BIM to paint itself and its situation in the best possible light while minimising any issues that may have arose in the last 12 months.

BIMs highlight the who and what of each department and promote the various areas and programs that are being undertaken and its common for every Tom, Dick and Harriet department head to try and cram in as much “good news” as possible into their allotted word limit that a reader could be forgiven for thinking that it’s was all plain sailing for the public service with nary a cloud on the horizon.

Of course that would be wrong.

BIMs can be useful documents for new ministers to read as they try to get their heads around whatever portfolio (or portfolios) they now handle and a good BIM will contain just enough information for the minister to understand the situation and feel like they know what’s going on but not enough so that they know everything or don’t need to rely on their various advisors, secretaries or departmental heads for advice and instruction (such is the bureaucratic arts) as they go about their duties as minister.

Of course a good BIM will also be tailored to the ministers intellectual capabilities and I have heard of more than one (and read a few as well) BIMs that had been “simplified” due to the minister “not reading so good” or because in one instance because the minister was REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED.

However the BIM for the incoming Minister for the GCSB and NZSIS (Andrew Little) is not a case of Little “not reading so good” and more a case of REDACTED.

So as I browsed my way through the document, noting the odd redaction of information here and there, and knowing that once we got to the juicy details later on I could expect whole pages of blank spaces, I was somewhat surprised when there on page 8 in the introductory section called New Zealand’s Threatscape* there was a strange redaction in the second sentence which read as follows:

It outlines four core national security threat areas (cyber, violent extremism, REDACTED and espionage) which together provide an overview of New Zealand’s threatscape.

Thus, according to our intelligence services there are four core threats to New Zealand but the public are only allowed to know three of them.

The three known areas (cyber, violent extremism and espionage) are pretty common in security documentation and I have been seen at least two of them (violent extremism and espionage) cropping up in the reports to parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee over the years while the third (cyber which relates to cyber weapons and cyber-espionage etc) has been a known and growing concern for some time now with the creation of CERT NZ (New Zealand’s Computer Emergency Response Team) and the GCSBs own CORTEX program being formed to deal with this area of risk in the digital age.

But that still leaves the fourth area, what could it be? What kind of threat to NZ would need to be REDACTED from a BIM so that the public does not know?

So I scoured the rest of the BIM and all the other documentation on the NZSIS and GSCBs websites but to no avail**.

I did however find the following:

·         The 2017 BIM to the minister did list a section called “regional stability in the South Pacific” in the same areas as the other three areas were outlined but this area was completely REDACTED except for the title.
·         The 2017 Annual report for the GCSB which came out after the election notes three areas in its section titled “strategic operating environment” on page 15 which are “Cyber Security, Foreign Interference and Violent Extremism”.
·         The 2017 Annual report for the NZSIS which also came out after the election notes two areas in its section titled the same as above and those are “Violent Extremism and Espionage and Foreign Interference Activity”

This means that the 2017 BIM to Andrew Little listed four threat areas as part of the threatscape to NZ BUT both the end of year GCSB and NZSIS reports (both public documents) list only three and two threat areas respectively.

This leaves us with a few questions:

·         Is regional stability in the South Pacific the missing fourth area of threat to NZ?
·         If it is why is the title redacted in the text of the BIM but the actual title itself remains in the BIM with just the content REDACTED? (just an error?)
·         If regional stability in the South Pacific is the fourth threat why would this need to be kept secret? (as it does not show up in their public end of year reports)
·         If it’s not the fourth threat then why was it included in the threatscape section AND what is the fourth threat?

Thus we are left with a few more questions which boil down to one of the following:

·         Stability in the south pacific is one of the threat areas important to New Zealand’s security services (possible but seems unlikely in and of itself).
·         There was an error in the redactions on page 8 of the original BIM (I’m not believing that just yet).
·         There is another threat to New Zealand which the government does not want the public to know about (this is where my money is because - hey its ME!).

So what is the secret fourth threat to New Zealand? A threat so terrifying that it had to be REDACTED out of a report to the Minister before it could be released to the public.

It could be that regional stability in the South pacific is the fourth area but I am guessing that with all the REDACTED its more than just a case of our Pacific neighbors being a threat, could it have something to do with the recent surge of Chinese soft power in the region?

But because its REDACTED we are free to speculate on what it actually is because at this point if China is the big secret threat to NZ its probably not wise to advertise this publicly when the secret threat is also our major trading partner***. Perhaps its time to diversify.

So in lieu of actually knowing what it is lets take a few wild guesses.

In no particular order the possible secret threats to New Zealand that I can come up with are: Aliens walking among us (see the movie They Live), a (not so) secret Chinese conspiracy to take over New Zealand (no, it can’t be that because the Chinese infiltration of the National party is already well known), a secret cabal of bankers working together to steal all our money, an  super intelligent AI takeover, invasion by the mole people, a penguin army invading from Antarctica or even Great Cuthulu finally awakening from his slumber?

However after some time and consideration I managed to figure out the answer to this mysterious fourth threat to New Zealand and its clearly REDACTED  REDACTED REDACTED.

Readers can add their own theories in the comments.

*-this seems to be one of the new buzz words in intel circles these days
**-although it is possible that I did miss something
***-Given how China has been behaving as of late its might be time to start thinking about the value of doing bulk business with a non democratic, human rights abusing police state - #justsaying.


  1. Is this post supposed to be humorous? I don't get it

  2. As the saying goes with humor; if I have to explain it it kills the joke. Sorry.

  3. They also say, if you have to explain a joke... it's probably a really good joke