Key dismisses GCSB spying claims from Greenwald

TRACY WATKINS, STACEY KIRK AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 14:49 13/09/2014
STACEY KIRK/Stuff.co.nz

PM John Key dismisses GCSB spying claims from Glenn Greenwald.

THE WORDS: American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first published the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, testifies in front of the Brazilian Federal Senate's Parliamentary Inquiry Committee.
Reuters
SPIES AND LIES: American journalist Glenn Greenwald claims the Government has misled the New Zealand public over the extent of GCSB surveillance activities.

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Prime Minister John Key has rejected a claim from a US journalist that Kiwis are being spied on by the Government Communications Security Bureau.

Glenn Greenwald said his claim raised serious questions about whether Key had been telling New Zealanders the truth about government surveillance.

But Key this afternoon dismissed Greenwald as "[Kim] Dotcom's little henchman".

"There is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by GCSB, and there never has been mass surveillance of New Zealanders by GCSB.

"Now in the fullness of time we'll respond to Dotcom's little henchman, but mark my words, he's wrong."

Key said what the GCSB did do was "provide support to agencies like the police if required".

"It's very, very targeted. It provides cyber security protection for New Zealanders on a basis where they're invited to do that, and on a bespoke basis.

"And it's primary aim is to gather foreign intelligence, so it does do that - it's nothing new. It's done that over six successive governments and it does it to protect New Zealand's property and interest overseas."

Key said Greenwald was part of a Dotcom smear campaign to swing the election.

"Lets understand what's going on here; Kim Dotcom is paying Glenn Greenwald to come to New Zealand a week before an election and he's trying to influence New Zealanders. The problem is, he's got the story wrong."

Asked if the information to be released on Monday could prove embarrassing for New Zealand among other nations, Key said he would not comment on what the GCSB did overseas.

"But New Zealanders know that we've been part of Five Eyes [network]... for a very, very long period of time. There's nothing new in what we do in terms of my government - it's gone through successive governments.

"There are reasons why we undertake those activities and I think New Zealanders will understand even at the moment they can see what's happening with foreign fighters, they can see that countries around the world that we are closely associated with, like Australia, are upgrading their security.

"You can see that there are people fighting overseas and there are risks of foreign fighters comig back to countries like Australia, the UK and the United States and that includes New Zealand," Key said. 

Greenwald, flown out by the Internet Party founder Dotcom to expose New Zealand's role in the international Five Eyes network, said he had been working for months on documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden which revealed the extent of New Zealand's surveillance activities.

Speaking on TV3's The Nation, Greenwald said he had been working on the New Zealand documents for several months because of statements made by Key that Kiwis had nothing to fear from the government's involvement in Five Eyes.

"The government made a variety of statements in connection with the new spying law that it wanted and was enacted last year to try and assuage the fears of New Zealanders about what the government was doing, including  things like we don't engage in mass surveillance and we don't target New Zealanders indiscriminately unless they're involved in terrorism or cyber crimes and the like.

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"And one of the things we wanted to do was investigate the truth of those statements and do the reporting that would let the New Zealand citizens know whether or not their government deceived them about what their spy agencies are doing and I can tell you - although i cant tell you what the reporting is yet - I can tell you there are serious questions about whether the current government was at all truthful with its citizens in connection with that bill."

The Government changed the law in the wake of revelations the GCSB may have spied illegally on more than 80 New Zealanders.

The law at that time supposedly prohibited them from doing so. Leaked Snowden documents have revealed that other five eyes partners - Australia, the US, Britain and Canada - have been engaged in widespread surveillance on ordinary citizens.

Key said at the time of the law change that the "wholesale collection of metadata about New Zealanders" had not taken place.

Greenwald said he knew for certain that the New Zealand government engaged in "extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata". 

"Meaning whose talking to who, for how long, where they are when they speak, on a massive indiscriminate scale not just internationally but of New Zealanders as well."

New Zealand spent an "extraordinary amount of resource" for a country its size on electronic surveillance and "every single thing that the NSA does...involves NZ directly. They are full fledged allies of this effort."

That included spying on foreign governments, both friendly and hostile.

"New Zealand spies on a variety of countries on behalf of the US.  That's the reporting we are still working on,....but I can tell you for certain....the NSA is incapable of accessing certain countries because of hostile relations they have with those countries and they use a variety of allies including New Zealand to spy on those countries for them."

Asked if that might include China, Greenwald responded: "The GCSB spies on both hostile countries and allies for the US and the United Kingdom as well. Countries that probably New Zealanders would expect.....and [others] New Zealanders would say 'why are we spying on countries like this in a western democracy'?'."

Labour leader David Cunliffe Cunliffe said he hoped Key was right when he said there was no mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

"The questions based on whatever is received in the next few days are for the prime minister to answer... New Zealanders will place a lot of weight in the answers that he gives."

The claims so far suggested Key "may not have been entirely frank with New Zealanders for example about the use of metadata".

On Key's criticism of Greenwald as Dotcom's henchman he said people expected more from a prime minister "than calling people names".

"Hes developing a habit of this when he runs out if arguments and I think people would rather judge it on the evidence."

Cunliffe called Greenwald a "reputable journalist" whose work he respected.

Cunliffe said "logic and evidence is always more persuasive than name calling".

When asked whether Key was trying to minimise the allegations by attacking the messenger he said "you might well think so".

The allegations "adds more weight" to the views that Key was "not being as straight up as he used to be".

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- Stuff

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