Dirty Tricks Dotcom
By Bernard LaganMay 3, 2013
When the most powerful lawyer in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder, jets into New Zealand next week, he can expect to find hundreds of people attempting to film him — and set his actions to music.
Though gifted, influential and a confidant of US President, Barack Obama, US Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t court celebrity status. He’s a reticent lawyer and father of three whose conscience has been known to overwhelm him; like the time he walked out of his office at the Justice Department and jumped on a plane to be with a Chicago family whose little boy had died on the way home from school — a victim of school bullies.
Holder will be in New Zealand to join the Quintet meeting with his four counterpart Attorneys General from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But Kim Dotcom — the notorious Auckland-based, German-born internet entrepreneur and founder of the massive global file-sharing websites Megaupload and Mega — is working hard to ensure that Holder’s fleeting visit is neither unnoticed nor routine. Kim Dotcom is offering $500 to anyone who can capture footage of Holder in Auckland and set it to music — specifically Dotcom’s own Megaupload song.
Dotcom has a gripe with Eric Holder. It is the United States Attorney General who is leading the effort to extradite Kim Dotcom to the United States to face copyright, racketeering, money-laundering and other charges, laid out in a 72-page indictment filed by the United States government last year.
In a country as small as New Zealand, the two-metre tall Kim Dotcom creates a mammoth footprint. He was living in high luxury and relative obscurity in a fortified mansion near Auckland until January last year when the New Zealand police Special Tactics Group, clad in body armour, made a dawn descent landing helicopters on his front lawn at the request of the FBI. The raid had been timed to coincide with Dotcom’s birthday celebrations because his Megaupload partners were flying in.
The US authorities had identified Dotcom’s Megaupload as, at one point, the internet’s 13th-most popular site. The US Department of Justice saw Megaupload as a huge internet pirate vessel; it had up to 50 million visitors a day — around 4 per cent of global internet traffic — and contained a USD500 million treasure chest of pirated movies, TV shows, music, books, video games and software.
Millions of internet users around the world were accessing Megaupload’s contents either for free or for a small fee, and Kim Dotcom and his associates were hauling in millions from fees and advertising — all on the back of pirated material. Just how well Kim Dotcom was doing could be seen from the what the police raiders impounded: 15 Mercedes cars, two Mini Coopers, a couple of vintage Cadillacs, a Lamborghini, a Rolls-Royce Phantom and a few motorbikes. And cash — stashed in 50 bank accounts around the world.
But Kim Dotcom has not gone away. He’s launched a replacement file sharing site out of Auckland — running on computers hosted in Germany — and already that site has three million international subscribers.
But more remarkable than this, perhaps, is the damage that Kim Dotcom has done to New Zealand’s government institutions — or rather the damage they’ve inflicted on themselves in pursuing Dotcom. Prime Minister John Key, members of Parliament and the New Zealand courts have all been tarnished in the fallout over the raid, but none more so than the country’s large and determinedly obscure foreign spy agency, with the appropriately opaque name, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
The organisation employs about 300 people and operates a spy station equipped with huge satellite interception discs in a sleepy valley in New Zealand’s south. Were its operations confined just to New Zealand, then the activities of the GCSB would matter little outside the country. However the GCSB and its spy station are part of the UKUSA signals intelligence spy network, also known as the Five Eyes Agreement, operated jointly by the governments of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Each country is assigned to collect intelligence from foreign countries — in effect spy upon — and share it with the partners in the UKUSA agreement.
New Zealand’s GCSB got dragged into the Dotcom saga when it agreed to gather intelligence about his activities and supply information to the New Zealand police prior to last year’s raid on his Auckland home. But the GCSB should never have been involved; Kim Dotcom was a New Zealand resident and it is unlawful for the GCSB to spy on New Zealand residents or citizens.
Compounding the New Zealand government’s embarrassment over the affair is the revelation — contained in the report from a government-ordered inquiry into the activities of the GCSB — that its foreign spy agency had gone rogue long before it got involved in the Kim Dotcom chase. It was shown to have a lengthy history of unlawful spying on New Zealanders and, presumably, sharing that information with its overseas spy-agency partners.
There are now bright red faces all around the New Zealand government. And the reddest of all is that of Prime Minister Key who, in the wake of the inquiry, has been forced to admit that he intervened to help get an old family friend appointed to run the GCSB.
Intelligence watchers around the world are now monitoring the Kim Dotcom affair because of its potential to cast very rare light on the internal workings of the UKUSA spy agreement. A New Zealand Court has ordered the GCSB to “confirm all entities” to which it passed information gain from its illegal spying on Kim Dotcom. New Zealand Chief High Court Judge Justice Helen Winkelmann said her order included “members of Echelon/Five Eyes and any United States authority”.
Meanwhile Dotcom’s new file-sharing site, Mega, is booming. CEO Vikram Kumar said this week they expecting users to reach six million within the next month. Kumar claims that the volume of traffic to and from Mega’s servers is equivalent to between 60 and 70 per cent of all internet traffic to and from New Zealand.
Fresh from his victories over the New Zealand government, Kim Dotcom will seek to use Eric Holder’s visit there to ramp up his campaign against his extradition to face charges in the United States.
The most wanted man on the net continues to crowdsource his defence.