New Zealand dismisses Snowden’s claim that it planned mass spying
New Zealand was preparing to conduct mass domestic surveillance last year, a US investigative journalist said on Monday, five days before the country goes to the polls, provoking immediate denials from Prime Minister John Key.
The accusations by Glenn Greenwald were based on evidence disclosed by former U.S. National Security Authority contractor Edward Snowden that Key’s centre-right government planned to exploit amended spying laws to sharply widen domestic spying.
Greenwald said the NSA documents showed New Zealand’s electronic spy agency took the first steps towards the surveillance in a project dubbed ‘Speargun’, by tapping into an undersea telecoms cable into the country, while waiting for the legal authority to do so.
‘Phase one entailed accessing that cable, tapping into it, and then phase two would entail metadata probes,’ Greenwald said on Radio New Zealand National.
Key rejected the charges as ‘absolutely wrong’, and said a business case put up by the agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), early last year aimed at mass cyber protection, but was turned down by his government.
‘There is not, and never has been, a cable access surveillance programme operating in New Zealand,’ Key said in a statement, as he released several declassified papers to back his position.
‘There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB.’ New
Zealand law provides that the GCSB, which conducts electronic surveillance and is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance network along with the US, Britain, Australia, and Canada, can only spy on the citizens
if requested by an intelligence agency.