Whistle blower Edward Snowden has detailed how New Zealand and other countries have been instructed by the United States on how to get around impediments to mass surveillance by their spy agencies.
In a transcript of written evidence to the European Parliament, Snowden, a former NSA contractor now living in exile in Russia, said tactics included searching for legal loopholes to justify ‘‘indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance’’.
‘‘Lawyers from the NSA, as well as the UK’s GCHQ, work very hard to search for loopholes in laws and constitutional protections that they can use to justify indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance operations that were at best unwittingly authorised by lawmakers,’’ Snowden’s evidence stated.
‘‘In recent public memory, we have seen these [NSA Foreign Affairs Division] ‘legal guidance’ operations occur in both Sweden and the Netherlands, and also faraway New Zealand.
‘‘Germany was pressured to modify its G-10 law to appease the NSA, and it eroded the rights of German citizens under their constitution.
‘‘Each of these countries received instruction from the NSA, sometimes under the guise of the US Department of Defense and other bodies, on how to degrade the legal protections of their countries’ communications.
‘‘The ultimate result of the NSA’s guidance is that the right of ordinary citizens to be free from unwarranted interference is degraded, and systems of intrusive mass surveillance are being constructed in secret within otherwise liberal states, often without the full awareness of the public."
Snowden does not detail how New Zealand’s laws may have been circumvented, but a report last year lifted the lid on potentially illegal spying on New Zealanders by the Government Communications Security Bureau, which is a member of the five-eyes surveillance network, which also includes Britain and the United States.
The GCSB is barred by New Zealand law from spying on New Zealanders.
Under a workaround devised between the GCSB, Security Intelligence Service, police and defence, GCSB staffers were ‘‘seconded’’ to other agencies acting under warrant.
But the Government has repeatedly denied that the GCSB is involved in mass surveillance on New Zealanders.
According to Snowden, once a loophole was found the NSA encouraged partners to perform ‘‘access operations.’’
These were efforts to gain access to the bulk communications of all major telecommunications providers in their jurisdictions, normally beginning with those that handled the greatest volume of communications.
The NSA provided some of the technology or the physical hardware required.
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