Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
5 mins to read

'Dotcom's little henchman'

UPDATED: PM says he'll declassify documents to debunk Glenn Greenwald's claim the GCSB has engaged in mass surveillance of New Zealanders

Sun, 14 Sep 2014

LATEST: Dotcom's 'Moment of Truth': cheers, cringes, no bombshell

UPDATE: Prime Minister John Key has gone on the counter-attack, rubbishing claims by visiting US journalist Glenn Greenwald and labelling him "Dotcom's little henchman".

"There is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the GCSB and there never has been," Mr Key told media.

"Mr Dotcom's little henchman will be proven to be incorrect because he is incorrect."

Mr Key told TV3 a "mass protection" plan was considered in response to cyber attacks targeting two large New Zealand businesses in 2011. But it was never implemented, he said. He would declassify sensitive documents to prove that point and debunk Mr Greenwald's theory

That promise angered the Internet Party, which released a joint statemetn from Hone Harawira and Laila Harre saying, "The reported intention of the Prime Minister to arrange the selective declassification and release of documents for his own political purposes represents an abuse of the Prime Minister’s authority in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS ... If the purpose of classification is to protect our national interests, then what has changed today? Either these documents should have been previously released or they have been withheld to suit the Prime Ministers personal political agenda?"

The PM believed Mr Greenwald was jumping to conclusions based on partial information.

"There are a variety of reasons why, in the international environment we collect information. But when it comes to New Zealanders, there is no mass surveillance, there never has been mass surveillance. Dotcom's little henchman is wrong and unfortunately, he might have hacked some information but not all of it," Mr Key said.

"Mark my words: I'm right and he's wrong and I'll prove I'm right."

Mr Key said he stood by his statement last year that he would resign if the GCSB was shown to have conducted mass surveillance.

The PM has acknowledged talks about mass surveillance technologies, but has denied several times that they have been implemented — most recently in August when the Greens revealed a visit by an NSA operative in February 2013 for talks with the GSCB about a possible interception site for monitoring all communications over fibre optic cable.

For now, some voters will be left scratching their heads. Mr Greenwald and the Internet Party have thrown accussations at the PM, and the Mr Key has returned fire. And lots of insults have been thrown, too (failing to rise above the "henchman" fray, Mr Greenwald called the PM "unhinged"). But so far, neither side has tabled any evidence to back up its claims.

GCSB has engaged in mass surveillance of New Zealanders — Greenwald

EARLIER: American journalist Glenn Greenwald says John Key's repeated claim that the GCSB has not undertaken mass surveillance of New Zealanders is a lie.

Mr Greenwald, who has been hired to speak at Kim Dotcom's "Moment of Truth" event at the Auckland Town Hall on Monday, told TV3's The Nation he has been working on documents for months, which revealed the interception of emails, telephone calls and all types of communications.

"The statement from the GCSB to New Zealand citizens last year that they do not engage in mass surveillance on New Zealanders is one that is not truthful," said the Pulitzer Prize winner, who is best known for covering the Edward Snowden leaks during his time with UK paper The Guardian.

"What I can tell you for certain is that the Government does engage in extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata - meaning who's talking to who and for how long ... on a massive indiscriminate scale, not just internationally, but on New Zealanders as well."

He added that "New Zealand spends an extraordinary amount of resources, for a country of this size, on electronic surveillance, and every single thing that the NSA does that we have been reporting on over the last year and a couple of months involves New Zealand directly. They are full-fledged allies of this effort."

New Zealand spies on a variety of countries on behalf of the United States, Mr Greenwald said.

NZ has access to and contributes to the sweeping XKeyscore surveillance programme, he claimed.

"Could turn the election" — Cunliffe
Labour leader David Cunliffe told media shortly after the interview that if Mr Greenwald's claims were true, then Prime Minister John Key may not be fit for office.

NBR is not so sure. Mr Greenwald's claims are disturbing, if correct, but echo accusations already made against Mr Key by various opposition parties, particularly around the passage of the GCSB Bill. However, it hasn't proved an issue that's gained traction with middle New Zealand so far.

It remains to be seen how far Mr Greenwald will go, or not, in documenting his claims at the Internet Party "Moment of Truth" rally Monday night (the Internet Party has said the event will also reveal "the sordid workings of Hollywood").

"I think the credibility and truthfulness of the Prime Minister of the day is always important and it is always fundamental to the trust of New Zealanders," Mr Cunliffe.

"If the Prime Minster of the country has lied to New Zealand, I expect New Zealanders will react in the ballot box ... Let's not forget the Inspector General of intelligence and security is already investigating the Prime Minister's office over the Cameron Slater link."

Green co-leader Russell Norman said, "We need a full and independent inquiry into the spy agencies once we get a new government on Saturday."

Look in the mirror — Key
Prime Minister John Key appeared on The Nation before Mr Greenwald, and was asked by host Lisa Owen: "Glenn Greenwald, the investigative journalist, is going to be on this show shortly. What do you think he's got on New Zealand, and should you be worried?

Mr Key  replied, "[I] don't know, but Kim Dotcom might not like surveillance agencies or intelligence agencies. Fair enough. He's got his own reasons, and he can look himself in the mirror and ask himself why. But for other New Zealanders, there is a risk in New Zealand. It's much smaller than other countries, but there is a risk. And as Prime Minister, I have to take the responsibility to do everything I can to protect New Zealanders."


TV3/The Nation transcript: Lisa Owen interviews Glenn Greenwald 

John Key: GCSB looked into a mass surveillance plan but he rejected it

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'Dotcom's little henchman'