University of Canterbury must improve crisis student communication and support

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Student communication

University of Canterbury James Hight libraryOn 22 July 2016 a woman was sexually assaulted while walking through the University of Canterbury owned Ilam Fields.

In response to a request from the Police, who informed UC Security of a “physical assault”, an email was sent to all students that day.

On 24 July 2016 a reporter from The Press contacted the University in response to the Police releasing a statement to the media. The Police told The Press that the assault was actually a sexual assault, and this fact was published in an article that day. In response to an Official Information Act request, most of which was initially declined, the University said that “the Police appeared not to have told the University of the sexual nature of the incident before telling the media”.

However, the University did not inform students of the sexual nature of the incident after it became public knowledge. The assault was alluded to in a 28 July UC blog post, which included 10 ’safety and security tips’ and a list of ’support for students’ links, including a link to the UC Health Centre. This content was also included in the next edition of the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’, a weekly digest sent to all students, on 31 July.


Last night a student died suddenly at the Rochester and Rutherford Hall of Residence.

The death has been reported as sudden and not suspicious, often used by the media as code for a suspected suicide.

UC acting vice-chancellor, Dr Hamish Cochrane was quoted by the media as saying “all the university’s students and staff were advised [Sunday], and made aware of the support available”.

Communication to students consisted solely of a UC blog post listing four UC support services that are available to students, including the UC Health Centre. Links to blog posts appear for a few days in the sidebar of Learn, UC’s online learning management system which is regularly accessed by students and staff. However, no email was sent to students, and there was no acknowledgment that a student had died.

Late on Sunday night, a link to the blog post was included in the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’ emailed to students.

UC Health Centre Counselling under pressure

Students are struggling to access support.

The UC Health Centre provides free counselling to UC students, however their website states that counselling appointments “are in high demand [and] you may have to wait a few weeks to be seen”. During office hours there is an on-call counsellor to deal with students facing an “emergency situation”.

During this year’s UCSA elections one group of candidates asked students on Facebook which one out of four campaign policies they thought was most important. “Increased mental health awareness and support” was voted second. In response to a question asking how the UCSA should help support those with mental health issues, students voted overwhelmingly for “increased health centre funding for more counsellors”.

Students wanting to skip the UC Health Centre counselling waiting list could choose to pay for sessions with a private counsellor or psychologist. Students may be eligible for the disability allowance, however there are restrictions, including a maximum payment of $61.69 a week (appointments with private psychologists can cost $150 or more).

When an internet forum solves a crime before the police

Hotel

“Seriously lacking hotel. Staff seems overwhelmed. Rooms are marginal at best. And then there’s the dead body in the water tower.” – Christopher Karwowski, Google Review

Elisa Lam went missing at the end of January 2013 and around February 19 was found in one of her hotel building’s water tanks, used by guests and residents for drinking and bathing. The hotel has a little history, like of serial killers staying there. To add to the weirdness her death was ruled an accident and the footage police released in an attempt to find her after she went missing was, well bizarre:

The police had searched the roof with dogs and either missed her body or it wasn’t there yet. A thread on Web Sleuth’s about the case makes eerie reading (look at the timestamps).

“Do you suppose LE physically checked every room (nook & cranny) in the hotel/hostel…??? or would they require a search warrant to do that…???”

tarabull at 02-09-2013, 03:56PM

“Ok, is there anywhere she may have gone into the water, or fallen off something?”

Wolf Dreamer at 02-14-2013, 04:29PM

“in my opinion i think it is very probable she got herself
stuck somewhere while hiding,
i really hope they have searched every mouse hole in that ***** hole”

Catchy kitty at 02-15-2013, 01:08AM

“Gotta ask the dumb question.

Do you think the police searched every room in the building?

Maybe she hasn’t left the building”

jetsetsam at 02-15-2013, 01:19 AM

“I have a hard time believing every nook and cranny has been searched – I feel like there’s a good chance she’s still in the building.”

tarabull at 02-16-2013, 12:01 PM

“There are other places in the hotel they could search without having to get a warrant, though… dumpsters, kitchen area, storage areas, the basement, to name a few. I’m sure the hotel managers would gladly allow it without a warrant.”

TxLady2 at 02-16-2013, 12:28 PM

“I really want to know if they have searched the WHOLE building. I think it is necessary.”

ahlang1226 at 02-16-2013, 03:50 PM

“Hoping that the roof and furnace room have been checked… Watched the video many times now and it really is freaky, wonder if Elisa’s friends can interpret any of her gestures?”

dotr at 02-17-2013, 01:14 AM

“Can the police just search the whole hotel please………Someone on facebook wrote this, bascically saying Elisa is still in the building:

‘I’m with Ken. She is still in the hotel. Either she was take to another hotel room, the roof, basement or… But I don’t believe she left. … I wish the police would check all the rooms and fire escapes and storage areas. I think she is still there.’”

ahlang1226 at 02-17-2013, 02:22 AM

Image credit: John Stavely

Secret SIS Search Warrants and Telco Data Retention

This phone is tapped

The SIS and police confiscated digital devices belonging to Former Fijian cabinet minister Rajesh Singh last week “in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Fiji’s leader Voreqe Bainimarama”.

A woman from the SIS turned up with three plain clothed police officers and said she had a search warrant. But she couldn’t show Rajesh it or give him a copy because it was classified. Because you know, wanting to know why people are raiding your house is a completely unreasonable request.

Idiot/Savant asks why, if the alleged plot was actually reasonable, was Rajesh or someone else not arrested. @civillibertynz points out that this secret warrant wouldn’t even need to be presented in court later on.

The laptop and phone were returned later in the day, assumedly after being copied. I wonder if the SIS are allowed to install spyware?

Data retention by NZ telecom providers

I also wonder whether they needed physical access to the phone for what they were looking for. Telecom companies here are very vague about how long they keep user data for. It doesn’t seem like customer facing staff (and thus customers) are generally privy to the period of time information is actually kept.

Telecom says text message content is stored for two to three months. Vodafone says up to six months. 2degrees said six months, but that the technical team could access archives further back than that (a detail I wonder if others didn’t mention).

I requested my data from 2Degrees and they sent me every text message I had sent involving 2Degrees (18+ months worth), including nine months of text messages I had sent to 2degrees customers when I was on another network.

I wonder whether in practice this Telecommunications Information Privacy Code rule is being followed:

“A telecommunications agency that holds telecommunications information must not keep that information for longer than is required for the purposes for which the  information may lawfully be used.”

I understand that there’s no legal requirement for telcos to keep a hold of this data at all (section 40).

Whose interests are being served by keeping information for such an unnecessary amount of time, especially when customers have no idea it’s happening?

And whose interests are being served when a secret search warrant is served on an ex-foreign cabinet minister in relation to a dubious overseas assassination plot?

Image credit: tenaciousme

Where Is The CCTV Footage From The Dotcom Mansion Raid?

CCTV camera

Ars Technica sez:

“Since January, the Dotcom legal team has asked for the footage, but police refused, until finally the agency agreed that an IT expert for DotCom could come and collect a copy of the footage. When the IT expert arrived at the police station, he found the server completely disassembled, and authorities said they could not reassemble it or give him any footage. Now, no one outside the police agency is sure the footage still exists.”

Here’s what the Police said to me on 13 February:

“Police do not have any equipment which may hold this security footage. This equipment is held by the Official Assignee on behalf of the Crown, not Police.”

And here’s what the Insolvency & Trustee Service said on 17 February:

“The Official Assignee has no knowledge of any security camera footage.”

So what exactly does this footage show that the police and friends don’t want getting out?

Image credit: Charbel Akhras

THAT’S A RECORDING DEVICE!

Spilt tea

Someone has finally released the teapot tapes, the recording of John Key and John Banks talking at a Newmarket café, inadvertently recorded by cameraman Bradley Ambrose. This should have happened before the election.

Stuff are probably referring to the partial phone number John Key gives out when they say the authenticity of the tape is confirmed by information in the tape.

Here’s Steven Price on why it’s okay to link to.

Apparently police want to talk to six people who were in the café during the talk, because, you know, they probably recorded the conversation as well! (Or they can provide better details than the camera footage the police have?)

Mirrors: YouTube, SoundCloud and here.

Highlights:
(first four based on XboomcrashbangX’s comment on YouTube)

2:40 National Party are working with someone they would rather not. They are careful not to mention who.

4:08 A lot of Winston Peters’ constituents/supporters will have died.

6:10 John Key purposely doesn’t text John Banks so that it appears they are not working too closely, so they can say that they haven’t been in contact.

6:52 Don Brash is a strange fellow.

7:22 Is that yours? That’s a recording device!

7:40 What’s that? Someone’s recording device. Let’s take it with us.

10:30 It’s right here and it’s still going. [something about turning it on/off.] Take the batteries out.

Image credit: Lee Jordan

I don’t consent to this search, Mrs Tolley

The Ministry of Education has released guidelines regarding schools searching students and confiscating their property. The Education Act doesn’t specifically give schools the power to search and the issue hasn’t come before a New Zealand court before, so the guidelines really are just that. It’s possible though that courts would say that searching is an implied power under the general umbrella of a board having “complete discretion to control the management of the school as it thinks fit.”

On the other hand, it could be argued that as significant privacy issues are involved and that the power of search is not specifically given to schools that such searches are not lawful.

The protection from unreasonable search and seizure comes from the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act:

“Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise.”

Risk to safety

Backpack contentsThese three words form the basis of the guidelines. The item being searched for must pose a risk to safety.

“Risk to safety means that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that students or staff are at risk of harm from an item that poses an immediate or direct threat to physical or emotional safety.”

I interpret an item posing an immediate or direct threat as one when the student possessing it has an intention to use it right now. In the examples attached to the guidelines, staff involved consider “whether there is an imminent risk to the physical or emotional safety of students or staff …”

I struggle to think of an example where a dangerous item is all at once: not visible (because if it was visible, no search would need to take place), is about to be used, and where it would be a good idea to start trying to search the student rather than try to deescalate the situation so the item isn’t pulled out.

A common sense approach!

So basically, instead of taking the student away from others and getting the police involved to begin with, school staff should involve themselves with dangerous or illegal items, potentially escalating a volatile situation. And of course, the student that won’t willingly hand over an item they’re suspected to have will obviously be happy to comply with an intrusive and legally questionable search.

Violate rights, tell parents later

“Except in exceptional circumstances you should inform parents or caregivers after a search has been conducted (if you have not already contacted them).”

No. Parents should be contacted first, always.

Diaries, mobile phones, and laptops

The guidelines mention searching correspondence under the definition of a search. They state that this would include “written and electronic material (e.g. in a diary, on a mobile phone or on a laptop).” None are mentioned again in the guidelines, except for a laptop in a weak example (see below).

This gives the impression that a diary, mobile phone or laptop could theoretically be searched in accordance with the “imminent risk of physical or emotional harm” criteria. Cue alarm bells. How that criteria could be construed as applying to electronic devices and diaries potentially containing very private material is beyond me.

Lukewarm examples

There is no strong scenario provided with the guidelines where a search should actually be conducted.

Scenario 1: Pornography on a laptop. Example correctly concludes that a laptop isn’t a threat if it’s not turned on and so shouldn’t be searched.

Scenario 2: Students caught smoking marijuana say they were sold it by another student. No search because police have to be called because of the illegal items potentially involved.

Scenario 3: Students are lighting deodorant on fire. Friends of a student hand over their lighters. Student is suspected to still have a lighter. Example says that there is an imminent risk to the physical or emotional safety of students or staff in this situation because “a student could easily be burnt if the activity continues.” Imminent risk, really?

Concludes that “as the risk is significant it is likely that the search should – if it safe to do so – be conducted.” I say education would be better than a search. There’s nothing stopping the student from bringing another lighter the next day after he’s searched. Searching isn’t going to magically solve the underlying problem.

Scenario 4: Hearsay that a student is going to “get” another student and more hearsay about a “knife.” Student seems upset and angry, doesn’t stop when teacher asks him/her to. Example correctly concludes that searching straight away when a situation isn’t calm isn’t a good idea. Example says if staff conclude there’s an immediate risk to call the police. Tick.

Or if the situation isn’t considered an emergency: the student has calmed down, staff don’t feel threatened, they only think a small pocket knife is involved, staff can “proceed to consider … if a search is appropriate in the circumstances.” Except they can’t have it both ways. If the student is calm and wouldn’t use a knife if he/she had one (no imminent threat) then a search isn’t necessary. If the student would use a knife if he/she had one, then the police should be called.

Unnecessary and a breach of BORA

Vanushi Walters, YouthLaw solicitor speaks the truth. If the situation is serious enough for a search, it’s serious enough for the police.

“Search and seizure powers in schools are unnecessary and a breach of the Bill of Rights Act. She said the most appropriate course of action is for principals and teachers to call the police.”

Let’s make the guidelines law

But wait, there’s more.

“The Ministry was also looking in to possible legislative changes to give schools more support in what was ‘a complex legal area,’ she said.”

Give school staff equivalent or greater powers than the police have so they can search students? Okay!

You want to violate my privacy? You’ll have to put up a fight, I don’t consent to this search.

Image credit: Hello Turkey Toe

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.

Fact checking

What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.

The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.

Red flags

9000 passports!James Bond cameras

The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.

The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.

Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?

He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.

12 hours

Passport stamps

Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.

This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.

The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.

A mysterious seventh Israeli

Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.

Five Facebook likes

A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.

Four phone calls

It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.

Two search and rescue teamsMission control

There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.

The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?

Strange.

Perhaps stranger is Hilik Magnus, who runs the search and rescue company in question, Magnus International Search & Rescue:

“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”

Stranger?

Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”

One Israel Civil Defense Chief

The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.

This doesn’t seem suspicious.

A groups of forensic analysts

An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:

“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff

It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.

Why New Zealand?

Intelligence

Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.

He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”Passport

Passports

New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.

 

The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.

Image credits: Ian Rutherford, Ludovic Bertron, J Aaron Farr, Tom Raftery