'Moment of truth' - do believe the hype

When people tell you the "moment of truth" was an anti-climax, a fizzer, a nothing - don't believe them.

Edward's Snowden's appearance, by livestream, in the Auckland Town Hall last night was remarkable. It had nothing to do with Kim Dotcom's spurious claims about a Hollywood plot. The dodgy Warner Bros email is as relevant to the NZ Snowden Files as John Key's declassified documents.

> There's a US spy base in NZ: Snowden

> Opinion: Bombshell or bomb from Dotcom?

> A night out with the rebel alliance

The timing of Glenn Greenwald's reporting is pertinent only to the spin which National is pushing.

Snowden says New Zealand had access to X-KEYSCORE, the data harvesting programme at the centre of the global spying scandal which his whistle-blowing sparked last year.

Not only that, but the Government Communications Security Bureau contributed to its development and expansion.

Snowden also says the NSA operates a facility in Auckland. None of Snowden's previous disclosures about the US, Canada, Australia and Britain have been disputed.

His assertions came after journalist Glenn Greenwald published details of Project Speargun - GCSB's masterplan for mass surveillance. He backed up his reporting with NSA documents showing the operation was underway, and US and New Zealand spies were waiting for domestic legislation to complete the project.

In his captivating broadcast, Snowden raised two extremely important questions.

Firstly, why did Key not make details of Project Spearhead public during the public debate about the new spying laws?

That trashes Key's claims about enhanced transparency on intelligence and security issues.

Secondly - and this is the point which demolishes Key's counter attacks this week - why was the GCSB planning (and partly implementing) a programme of mass surveillance when it would have been illegal?

For the GCSB/NSA proposals to get off the ground, the agencies needed that law reform.

Click here to see the Project Cortex Business Case document.

Click here to see the Vote Communications Security and Intelligence: Contingency Item document.

Click here to see the Creating an Effective National Cyber Security Centre document.

Click here to see additional document on Project Cortex.

The Government painted the legislative changes as necessary to close the loopholes exposed by the illegal spying scandal.

But it is now clear, thanks to Snowden, that they were on the cards from well before the unlawful snooping on Dotcom and a further 88 Kiwis came to light.

The GCSB got those law changes. And no matter what Key says about the legislation it does not explicitly forbid the type of wholesale surveillance that the NSA stands accused of.

Most significantly, the restrictions put on snooping on Kiwis do not apply to its cyber protection work. Key has spent much of the last few days calling mass surveillance "cyber protection."

Today, Key will choose to attack Dotcom's allegedly fake email.  The Internet Party have only themselves to blame for this - with the clumsy leak, they handed him the ammunition.

If Snowden and Greenwald had made their revelations independent of the Dotcom-Laila Harre circus, Key would be bereft of a defence.

What should not get lost is that Key is not denying that New Zealand has been using X-KEYSCORE. And according to Snowden and Greenwald that amounts to mass surveillance.

Snowden's bombshell was not about Speargun, or Cortex (the cyber-protection scheme Key says GCSB now deploys). It was about X-KEYSCORE. And the onus is now on Key to explain how that does not amount to wholesale spying.

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