PM asks spy agency about possible joke

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012
John Key
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
JOHN KEY: The prime minister.

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Prime Minister John Key has asked his foreign spy agency if it taped a speech in which he allegedly joked about its work on the Kim Dotcom case.

Last night, Labour leader David Shearer claimed spooks taped Mr Key addressing staff at the Government Communications Security Bureau offices.

He says Mr Key may have made a quip about German millionaire and Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, now fighting extradition to the US. But Labour admits it does not have the physical evidence - and Mr Key says he does not recall the remark.

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Key confirmed: "We are checking that there is no recording that GCSB made."

If the recording exists, it will be damning - as Mr Key has insisted he first became aware of GCSB's involvement in Operation Debut, the raid to snare Dotcom, on September 17.

The foreign intelligence agency is under fire for illegally spying on Dotcom, who is a New Zealand resident and thus protected from its surveillance.

Mr Key has publicly criticised the bureau for its blunders, and he was further embarrassed last week when it emerged he was told about the Dotcom work in a briefing in February.

Mr Key and director Ian Fletcher have said they cannot recall the update. After the briefing, Mr Key addressed staff in the cafeteria.

Mr Shearer says this was taped and called on Mr Key and the GCSB to "confirm whether an audio-visual recording exists". He wants an independent inquiry.

He has made a request to the GCSB under the Official Information Act for the material.

A review of the bureau's handling of the Dotcom case says "no written record was kept of the meeting".

Meanwhile, Dotcom's lawyers have launched a fresh bid to have criminal charges against him in the US thrown out.

This hinges on the prolonged extradition process the US authorities have been mired in through the New Zealand court system.

It says keeping Megaupload in limbo, waiting for the extradition process to play out, is subjecting the firm to ongoing, irreparable harm, the same as if it is already criminally convicted.

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