Prime Minister John Key is refusing to say whether the United States has snooped on New Zealanders, after revelations it has spied on British citizens.
Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden have also revealed a National Security Agency procedure for spying on the citizens of the Five Eyes intelligence network members, even if those member countries had explicitly denied it permission.
It was previously assumed the Five Eyes members - the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - had a gentlemen's agreement not to spy on each other.
The US and Britain reportedly struck a deal in 2007 which allowed the US access to the phone, internet and email records of British citizens, including those not suspected of any crime.
The information was part of so- called "pattern of life" analysis or "contact chaining" which meant US authorities could broaden their information gathering from specific targets to include friends of friends, for example.
The top-secret 2005 memo also revealed a proposed NSA procedure for spying on Five Eyes members, even when denied permission, and says those member countries should be kept in the dark.
Mr Key repeatedly refused to give any assurances yesterday that New Zealanders had not been caught up in the NSA's net.
"I'm not going to talk about that specific issue; we don't comment on security intelligence issues."
He said that our own agencies, the Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau, were not acting outside the law.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman called on Mr Key to tell the public whether a deal was in place allowing the spying on New Zealanders.
"Given that the US has done a deal with the UK, it is highly likely that they've done the same deal in New Zealand," he said.
Mr Key should seek assurances that Kiwi citizens had not been spied on as the revelations "blow apart" any suggestion of a gentlemen's agreement, he said.
The NSA was giving itself the power to spy on New Zealanders, and it was Mr Key's responsibility to ask the US if it was doing so.
"We cannot sit by while the rights of New Zealanders are trampled," he said. Fairfax NZ
- © Fairfax NZ News
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