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PM waits for spy claims before counter

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 15:21 14/09/2014

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Prime Minister John Key will release documents to prove he's not lying but not before journalist Glenn Greenwald unveils papers he says prove the New Zealand government is spying on its citizens.

Key was reportedly preparing to declassify documents that show New Zealand's foreign spy agency considered mass surveillance, but the Government decided not to go ahead.

But today Key said while the papers existed - including a cabinet paper - he wanted to wait to see what Greenwald had.

"We'll counter documents that come out. So, in the end, I can't tell you the exact date. It's incumbent on them [Greenwald] to release those documents. We are absolutely rock solid in our position."

Greenwald was invited to Auckland by Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom and will reveal his evidence at a "Moment of Truth" event on Monday night.

The American journalist said US National Security Agency documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, showed the GCSB had carried out widespread surveillance. The documents cast doubt on how truthful the Government had been about the spying laws it passed last year, he said.

Key has been questioned repeatedly about mass surveillance of New Zealanders and has said he would resign if it was taking place. 

Asked why he hadn't produced the papers before Greenwald's claims, Key said: "That's because he is wrong. He's is absolutely wrong. He said the GCSB is undertaking mass surveillance against New Zealanders. They are not. There is no ambiguity, no middle ground. I'm right, he's wrong."

Key said there is a difference between mass surveillance and "widespread cyber protection".

However, is still unclear what "bespoke" service GCSB offers to companies and how their initial plans for mass snooping would have stopped cyber attacks.

"I know that is the trendy little term but we never did that. We certainly looked at what would be the whole range of options available to protect against cyber [attacks]."

The GCSB came to Key after two significant attacks on New Zealand companies. He said he would declassify documents, which show the GCSB's suggestion, and the proposal that he brought to Cabinet, asking that the agency be allowed to prepare a business case.

Cabinet approved that the agency do the work on the proposal and talk to other Five Eyes agencies. Key said those were the documents Greenwald was holding. The conversations with overseas intelligence partners took place over the course of a year. 

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"I am going to declassify the point that shows we decided not to do that, we rescinded and I am probably going to declassify the actual programme that's there. In the end I never actually got the business case and I never took the business case to cabinet," he insisted.

Key said he understood why the GCSB wanted "the gold standard" but he had deemed mass surveillance too broad. He put a hold on the work in March 2013.

He said he "didn't need to" release the papers before now.

"There's nothing new here.

"I'd be pretty stupid to be making these things up 24 hours before he is going to release stuff. He releases things; we will prove that we are right."

Key has repeatedly refused to say if the GCSB had access to X Keyscore, the controversial spyware used by the NSA. He again refused to do so today.

And he said that no matter what Greenwald produced, he would not talk about the GCSB's foreign intelligence activities.

He continued to attack Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist as Dotcom's "henchman" and derided their "sound and light show".

"He got his costs paid for by Dotcom."

- Stuff

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