15 May 2014

PM refuses to comment on spy links

7:56 pm on 15 May 2014

The Prime Minister is refusing to comment on the latest revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, which implicate New Zealand's spy agency the GCSB.

More questions are being asked about the GCSB's operations following new revelations from Edward Snowden that New Zealand spies have been trained on how to do mass survellance.

Documents in a new book, No Place to Hide, by journalist Glenn Greenwald, about Mr Snowden reveal a slideshow on how to operate a system that trawls through massive amounts of phone numbers, email addresses and online chat.

It was for agencies in the so-called Five-Eyes network which includes this country, Australia, Britain, the US and Canada.

One document invites those countries to "sniff it all, know it all, collect it all, process it all and exploit it all."

They also show New Zealand was forwarded intercepted phone calls, texts and emails between the Brazilian president and her staff.

Green party co-leader Russel Norman has called for an independent inquiry into the GCSB following the release, which he said directly links New Zealand spies to a global mass surveillance network.

He also said that kind of monitoring of communications of allies and trading partners could be politically damaging to the Key government.

PM continues to give assurances

John Key repeated his stance that he would not talk about about the GCSB operations, but did give assurances once again that there is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders or collection of their metadata.

Mr Key also said New Zealand's partners are not used for that activity, to circumvent the law.

Last year's Kitteridge report on the GCSB, which found it had potentially illegally spied on New Zealanders, said the Bureau believed that metadata - which reveals patterns of communication such as numbers called - was not a "communication", when it came to restrictions on their spying on New Zealand citizens or residents.

Legislation passed last year to update the GCSB Act doesn't refer to metadata, but a Deparment of Prime Minister and Cabinet assessment of the Act's intention is that metadata is treated the same as content - which means warrants would be required.

Both Labour and the Green Party have said there needs to be an independent inquiry into the GCSB's activities.

GCSB listening station at Waihopai in Marlborough.

GCSB listening station at Waihopai in Marlborough. Photo: PHOTO NZ