almost 2 years ago

Whistleblower backs mass surveillance claims

10:17 pm on 15 September 2014

Former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says he can confirm this country is under mass surveillance because while employed by the National Security Agency he had easy access to New Zealanders' email, social media, text messages and internet searches.

Edward Snowden talking via video link.

Edward Snowden talking via video link. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Mr Snowden was a late addition to the list of speakers at a meeting held in Auckland's Town Hall tonight, organised by the Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom.

More than 1000 people packed the Town Hall with another 800 people turned away for the meeting which was titled "The Moment of Truth".

Speaking by video link from Russia, Edward Snowden said there are NSA facilities in New Zealand, and one of them is in Auckland.

"What's incredible is I could see records of communications from people around the world," he said. That included communications from New Zealand.

Southern Cross Cables which most international electronic communications are sent through, today denied their cables were monitored, but Mr Snowden said the company would not know.

Mr Snowden said Prime Minister John Key must be asked about the XKEYSCORE programme which is collecting the individual communications of all New Zealanders.

He said the decision on whether such data was collected should be made by the people of the country and Mr Key should not be saying that people simply have to trust him.

The American journalist Glenn Greenwald began by saying he had been amazed by the Prime Minister's "adolescent" attacks on him. He said he had not been called a "loser" since he was in a school ground.

He presented slides from the American spy agency the NSA that suggested spying on New Zealanders was already underway before changes were made to the GCSB law.

Mr Greenwald said John Key had mislead the New Zealand public by saying, project "Spear Gun" as it is known, had not gone any further.

He said the media should ask John Key why his Government was proposing mass surveillance programmes that by his own reasoning were against the law.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also spoke at the meeting, saying New Zealanders had not agreed to the "radical extreme project" which meant all communications by New Zealanders were potentially being scrutinised.

He said people within the GCSB had become addicted to their relationship with the other Five Eyes countries.

The meeting was chaired by Internet Party leader, Laila Harre, who closed the meeting by calling on the audience to "share the truth, speak the truth and vote for the truth on Saturday".

Internet party leader Laila Harre addresses the crowd at the Auckland Town Hall.

Julian Assange via a video link during the meeting Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

LIVE COVERAGE

Speakers:American journalist Glenn Greenwald, his colleague and lawyer Robert Amsterdam, the Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom and the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange - who appeared via video link.

8.44pm

Laila Harre has just closed the meeting by calling on people to "share the truth, speak for the truth and vote for the truth on Saturday".

8.40pm

Bob Amsterdam said the Dirty Politics revelations are 'what Watergate looks like on email".

He referred to the resignation of former Justice Minister Judith Collins but said "if the system is corrupt, it isn't purged by one amputation".

He called for a Royal Commission into the behaviour of the Key Government.

He says John Key should have resigned on the day of the raid on the home of Kim Dotcom, and the breaches of human rights.

He says there be should laws against spying and surveillance of the political opponents of the Government, and said the TPP should be stopped.

8.29pm

Julian Assange says he and Kim Dotcom share the same prosecutor.

Kim Dotcom says there are two ways to fight mass surveillance, one way is politically, and the other is through encryption, which he used with his Mega site.

The lawyer, Bob Amsterdam, who represents Kim Dotcom, says his client is the subject of "a political trial in a first world country".

He spoke about the Trans Pacific Partnership and said New Zealand should not give up its rights to become part of the agreement.

He's praised the Law Society for speaking out about the Government's breaches of human rights.

8.11pm

Julian Assange began his presentation by paying tribute to "my friend" Nicky Hager, the author of the book Dirty Politics, who he describes as "a great journalist".

He said New Zealanders had not agreed to the "radical extreme project" which meant all communications by New Zealanders were potentially being scrutinised.

He said people within the GCSB had become addicted to their relationship with the other Five Eyes countries.

Mr Assange paid tribute to the independent stance of New Zealand, in banning nuclear weapons from the country. But even then, New Zealand's involvement in secret intelligence networks continued in the background.

Edward Snowden talking via video link at the meeting.

Edward Snowden talking via video link at the meeting. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

7.57pm

Mr Snowden says the New Zealand GCSB "without question" contributes to the metadata held by the NSA.

"If the Prime Minister is so comfortable releasing the information (about the cyber protection network) this week, why wasn't it released last year?"

Julian Assange is to speak next.

7.51pm

Mr Snowden has told the meeting that there are NSA facilities in New Zealand, and one of them is in Auckland.

He said that when personal information was collected in bulk, that was a violation of human rights by the Government.

"What's incredible is I could see records of communications from people around the world," he said. That included communications from New Zealand.

Southern Cross Cables has denied their cables are tapped, but Mr Snowden says the company wouldn't know.

He says he can read your emails, texts and Facebook messages through a network of sensors and one of those sensors is in New Zealand.

Mr Snowden says John Key must be asked about the XKEYSCORE programme which is collecting the individual communications of all New Zealanders.

He says the decision on whether such data is collected should be made by the people of the country and Mr Key should not be saying that people simply have to trust him.

7.41pm

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has just joined the meeting at the Auckland Town Hall by video link.

7.39pm

Mr Greenwald said the media should ask John Key why his Government was proposing mass surveillance programmes that by his own reasoning was against the law.

He said his job as a journalist was to hold those in power accountable. "There is no question that serious questions are raised, that Prime Minister Key should have to answer."

Hundreds of people packed the Auckland Town Hall.

Hundreds of people packed the Auckland Town Hall. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

7.32pm

Glenn Greenwald says the Government has systematically deceived the public.

He said even Edward Snowden's harshest critics don't say that his claims are untrue. He says he is meticulous about accuracy and his credibility as an expert. "His record of accuracy... is almost entirely pure and complete and 100%"

He says the cyber protection project - that Mr Key says never got off the ground - was described as being under way by the NSA in October 2012.

He showed a document which says the programme had achieved phase 1.

Mr Greenwald said Mr Key's claim that the programme never got under way was "an outright falsehood".

7.26pm

Mr Greenwald started by joking that he was surprised by John Key's adolescent attacks on him.

He said he had not been referred to as a loser since he was 14.

Internet Party leader Laila Harre and Robert Amersterdam who is the lawyer of American journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Internet Party leader Laila Harre and Robert Amersterdam who is the lawyer of American journalist Glenn Greenwald. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

7.15pm

The Internet party leader Laila Harre introduced the speakers: American journalist Glenn Greenwald, his colleague and lawyer Robert Amsterdam, the Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom and the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange - who is appearing via video link.