World spies in NZ only days before Dotcom bolt

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 03/10/2012

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The world's most powerful spies are believed to have met in Wellington just two days before Prime Minister John Key announced an inquiry into illegal snooping on Kim Dotcom.

The intelligence alliance of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - known as Five Eyes - regularly meets across the globe.

The Dominion Post understands the agencies met on the weekend of September 15 and 16. Mr Key was in Auckland meeting US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta that weekend.

The US wants to extradite Dotcom on internet piracy charges and his north Auckland home was raided in a joint police and FBI raid in January. It has since emerged the foreign intelligence agency's spying on Dotcom and co-accused Bram van der Kolk was illegal because their New Zealand residency offers legal protection.

Mr Key announced on September 17 that he had ordered an investigation into the illegal spying by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), by which time the top-level spies had left the country.

It is understood Intelligence Co-ordination Group director Roy Ferguson, a former ambassador to the US, was at the meeting. The State Services Commission would not confirm this, referring an inquiry to Mr Key's office.

A woman at Mr Ferguson's Wellington home said he would not be returning a call.

It is believed he was joined by representatives from the US Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Britain's Communications Headquarters, Canada's Communications Security Establishment and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

The Dotcom spy scandal has continued to dog Mr Key. Police yesterday launched an inquiry into the illegal surveillance of Dotcom and van der Kolk. They also appointed lawyer Kristy McDonald, QC, to review the case.

The investigation was sparked by a complaint from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. He believes the agency breached section 216(B) of the Crimes Act. “If police find the law has been broken they should prosecute."

However, Labour leader David Shearer wants a more wide-ranging probe. “The failings exposed in the Dotcom debacle go far wider and deeper than whether or not junior staff at the GCSB screwed up," he said.

An internal review of the bureau by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge, who has been seconded to the agency, began yesterday.

Inspector-General Paul Neazor's report into the GCSB's role in Operation Debut was widely panned as a whitewash.

“We don't need a piecemeal mish-mash of reviews and reports, we need a proper independent inquiry," Mr Shearer said.

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Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said Ms McDonald's appointment would "provide an overview".

Mr Key has dismissed the Greens' complaint as a "political stunt" but said the police must take complaints seriously.

- Fairfax Media

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