Aaron Lim: GCSB legislation could prevent a Boston Bombing

First responders rush to where two explosions occurred along the final stretch of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street in Boston. Photo / AP
First responders rush to where two explosions occurred along the final stretch of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street in Boston. Photo / AP

The recent bombings at the Boston Marathon are a vivid example of the fragmented nature of modern warfare, and changes to the GCSB legislation are a necessary safeguard against a similar incident in New Zealand.

New Zealanders have long been complacent about national security. Our geographical distance from conflict-zones has incubated a false sense of security. Much in the same way Americans felt safe before September 11.

But the subsequent bombings in London, Madrid and more recently the attack in Boston are stark reminders of the changing nature of 21st century conflict.

Once the domain of nation-states, modern warfare now encompasses individuals and groups with interlocking layers of motivations and tools.

And as the Chechen linked Boston bombers showed yet again, motivations behind such attacks are no longer bounded by geography.

In the 21st century, individuals can wage war against a state. The fact that such attacks serve no strategic purpose and are ultimately futile does not negate the loss of lives caused by such incidents.

Opposition to changes in the GCSB legislation are primarily based on safeguarding individual freedom and privacy.

But the reality is that the hacking of email accounts and the accidental release of private data from government departments poses a more serious threat to privacy and identity theft than changes in the GCSB legislation.

There is some truth to the criticism that changes in the GCSB legislation could blur the lines between agencies responsible for internal and external security.

But this is precisely the response needed in responding to the modern national security environment, one in which foreign and domestic threats have converged.

Argument by the liberal left-wing opposition to the GSCB legislation are relying on their traditional response that New Zealand will become a "national security state."

This is however exactly what New Zealand needs.

A quick scan on the global map reveals a global environment filled with conflict zones, ranging from the traditional battles between nation states in North Korea; a protracted civil war in Syria and low intensity attacks such as Boston and Madrid.

The truth is that New Zealanders' perception of our own security has as much substance as our claims to be 100% Pure.

A Boston type attack in New Zealand is unlikely, but not impossible. But the psychological and physical impact of such an attack will make the trauma of the Christchurch earthquakes seem like a sweet-dream.

Ceding a measure of privacy to our intelligence agencies is a small price to pay for safe-guarding the country against a low-probability but high-impact domestic incident.

And if you have nothing to hide from the GCSB, then you have nothing to fear.

Aaron Lim completed his master's thesis on strategic studies. He has worked as an analyst for the NZ Army and as online manager, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. He has also worked for stock-market operator NZX and as a journalist.

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