At exactly 7pm, Kim Dotcom and allies – Laila Harre (leader of the Internet-Mana party), Glenn Greenwald (American lawyer and adversarial journalist) and Bob Amsterdam (Dotcom’s lawyer) – took the stage at the Auckland Town Hall, to raucous applause. Adding to the atmosphere was Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden via videolink.
They had come for Dotcom’s ‘Moment of Truth’ – the long-touted spectacle in which Dotcom had promised to drop a timely ‘political bombshell’.
So began a performance that would not end for nearly two hours. Harre welcomed the “whanau” before Greenwald took the floor asking “Why am I here?”
Not to influence the election, apparently. Not because he’s being paid. But because: “As a journalist, and as a custodian of the Snowden archives, I have an obligation which I take very seriously.”
“Mass surveillance is a serious menace to all sorts of political values.”
Almost every note hit upon by Greenwald was punctuated with a well-designed pause looking to foster an enthusiastic expression of agreement from the crowd.
Greenwald then gave way to Edward Snowden, whose face looked down from one of the screens.
After a thunderous standing ovation, Snowden prefaced his segment by mentioning Key’s denial of mass surveillance in New Zealand. He explained when he worked for the NSA he had examined network infrastructure and connection points around the world, breaking into them so the NSA could monitor communications running through them. He mentioned cable taps specifically, and vaguely hinted at more. “Let’s just leave it there,” he said (not for the last time that night) provoking the crowd into knowing laughter.
An uncomfortable irony sat alongside the presentation of the ‘bombshell’ evidence that New Zealand operates a program of mass-surveillance and communications to the United States consistent with the idea – amplified by powerpoint – that the value of Snowden and Assange’s breed of reporting is that citizens no longer have to accept what they’re told by their governments because whistleblowers (Snowden and Assange) are now telling us what is actually going on. Essentially: take our word for it, not theirs.
The substance of the ‘Moment of Truth’ was actually very scarce.
Morsels of information- that the NSA has bases in New Zealand, for example – were used as a platform from which to launch anti-spying and pro-New Zealand rhetoric.
This seemed to be enough for the crowd, but likely is not enough to cause John Key any concern.