GCSB 'arguably' didn't break law - Neazor

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 13:32 21/05/2013

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The country's spy watchdog says the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) "arguably" didn't break the law in the cases of 88 Kiwis.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor was investigating after an internal review found the foreign spy agency may have have unlawfully spied on New Zealanders.

Following the report, the Government moved to change the law to make it legal for the GCSB to conduct surveillance on Kiwis on behalf of the police, defence force and Security and Intelligence Service.

The GCSB have not released Neazor's findings - instead issuing a written statement.

Neazor, who is retiring, says the law is "unclear". He has also recommended the GCSB improve the ''precision" of their paper work.

The GCSB says five people were targeted under an SIS warrant, which the GCSB "executed."

"The Inspector-General is of the view that there were arguably no breaches and the law is unclear," the GCSB said.

In three cases, the Bureau "only provided technical assistance which did not involve interception of communications."

Another 22 people did not have any information collected, they said.

In the remaining 58 cases, the GCSB says it only intercepted "meta-data" (data about data, for example information that appears on a telephone bill.)

Neazor has decided "there had arguably been no breach, noting once again that the law is unclear."

GCSB Director Ian Fletcher says: "The Inspector-General formed a view that there have been no breaches, although the law is unclear and the Inspector-General recommends amending it."

Fletcher said Neazor found "all of the cases were based on serious issues including potential weapons of mass destruction development, people smuggling, foreign espionage in New Zealand and drug smuggling."

However, police made no arrests and there were no prosecutions in any of the cases.

Fletcher says Neazor found that there are "uncertainties" around meta-data.

"An example of metadata is the information on a telephone bill such as the time and duration of a phone call, but not the content of the conversation or identification of the people using the phone," he said.

Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge was drafted in to complete an internal review last year, after it emerged the GCSB had illegally spied on internet piracy-accused Kim Dotcom.

She made a series of recommendations in a scathing report of the agency. Fletcher will deliver a progress report next month.

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