PM doesn't hold back on inept spies

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 06:30 28/09/2012
KIM DOTCOM
SNOOPED ON: Internet millionaire Kim Dotcom.

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Opinion

Take your pick - lamb chops or steak Winston grinning at the sidelines The public deserves answers on spying Spy scandal impact on election far from certain Big tick for democracy Backlash now going in Key's favour? Team left out in Labour campaign Picking a government could get a bit hairy 'Moment of truth' - do believe the hype Bombshell or bomb from Dotcom?

OPINION: There was nothing polite about John Key's evisceration of state spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), after a report confirming they failed to make basic checks before snooping into German millionaire Kim Dotcom's private communications.

He used the word "appalled" about as many times as he used the words "failed" and "basic errors".

The other word he might have used was inept. That may be preferable to the other, more sinister, explanation -  that the GCSB spied on Dotcom knowing it was unlawful but, because it is so heavily protected by secrecy, believed it would never be caught. It was only rumbled because a policeman tripped over his words in court.

Key's fury over the GCSB's failures is in marked contrast to Justice Neazor's 5 -page report, ordered after it emerged the agency tasked with gathering foreign intelligence spied on Dotcom, even though he was a New Zealand resident and protected by law.

The Neazor report is long on detail about the potential for confusion over the wording of a law change in 2009, but does not explain how some of the supposedly brightest minds in the country preferred to rely on police assurances they were operating within the law, rather than check themselves.

Nor does it explain a review carried out by the GCSB in February into the Dotcom case after which we are led to believe - despite a wealth of media reports about Dotcom's residence status - the bureau apparently still did not twig that it had blundered.

It was left to Key to underscore the seriousness of the blunder by apologising not just to Dotcom, but New Zealand.

But if the rollout of humiliating apologies was designed to draw a line under the affair, it is probably too late to avoid the Government and Key, as the minister with oversight of the GCSB, being caught up in the backwash of the general air of ineptitude.

And as the Key Government has found to its cost so far in its dealings with the Dotcom phenomenon, he is a master of the Hollywood plot twist. It may not be over yet.

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- Fairfax Media

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