Editorial - NZ: 51st state of the US

In a brief media statement Prime Minister John Key heightened suspicions that this country's relationship with the United States has become one of servility rather than friendship.

The statement said the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has been asked to inquire into “the unlawful interception of communications of certain individuals” by the Government Communications Security Bureau. A memorandum has been filed in the High Court in the Megaupload extradition case to acknowledge the illegality of the GCSB's operations while helping the police to exercise arrest warrants.

It is unlikely the GCSB's involvement would have been flushed into the open had it not been for information disclosed in court while Kim Dotcom resists US attempts to have him extradited to face anti-piracy charges in that country.

It seems unlikely we will ever know the full truth about the circumstances surrounding GCSB's breach of the law, despite the prime minister's recognition that intelligence-agency operations depend on public trust. He wants us to believe this was a rare error, rather than egregious wrongdoing by agents keen to help the Americans bring Mr Dotcom to book, by hook or by crook.

But questions have quickly been raised about who in the Beehive knew what and when they found out. On Monday, Mr Key said he was not informed of the illegal bugging until a week ago (therefore he won't be accepting responsibility, even though he is the minister responsible for the agency). But his deputy, Bill English, has acknowledged he knew spies were involved in the Kim Dotcom case some time before that.

Spies? But Mr Dotcom is wanted in the US to face nothing more threatening than breaches of copyright laws. The GCSB's involvement - like so much about this case, including FBI agents, helicopters, heavily armed police and botched search warrants - has turned the pursuit of him and the operations of our law-enforcement agencies into the stuff of farce. It is preposterous to suggest Mr Dotcom threatens our national security. The Government's unquestioning readiness to co-operate with American authorities, on the other hand, seriously corrodes our claims to be an independent state.

Waikato Times