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Greenwald's claims of cable access total nonsense — Southern Cross Cable CEO

Key says test probe to monitor international broadband cable created, but never deployed.

Mon, 15 Sep 2014

UPDATE / Sept 15: With Edward Snowden making accusations this afternoon about international cables being accessed by spy agencies, Southern Cross Cable has reiterated its earlier comments to NBR denying such claims.

Prime Minister John Key said today that a test probe was created to monitor the 50%-owned Spark cable, which forms NZ's only major broadband connection with the outside world, linking Australia, NZ and the US.

CEO Anthony Briscoe said in statement, "The claims made today by journalist Glenn Greenwald that the Southern Cross undersea cables have been tapped into or accessed are total nonsense.

The cables, which link New Zealand to Australia, the Pacific and the United States, are untouched, Mr Briscoe said.

“I can tell you quite categorically there is no facility by the NSA, the GCSB or anyone else on the Southern Cross cable network.

“Let’s be quite blunt. To do this, we would have to take the cable out of service and I can assure you there’s no way we are going to do that.

“It is a physical impossibility to do it without us knowing. There is just no way it can be done. I can give you absolute assurances from Southern Cross – and me as a Kiwi – that there are no sites anywhere on the Southern Cross network that have to do with interception or anything else the NSA or GCSB might want to do.”

Greenwald didn't seem to have picked up on one recent development that would arguably bolster his case: the network security and monitoring deal announced in June between Emulex and Crown-owned company Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand (REANNZ). 

Emulex is the US company that bought NZ's Endace. The selling point of Endance's hardware and software is that it can monitor traffic without impacting performance.

Reannz is using Emulex's technology to monitor performance and the integrity of its research data, but both former Endace CEO Selwyn Pellett and current management have told NBR that Emulex's clients include security agencies around the world.

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PM flatly denies NSA and GCSB cooperating on NZ mass surveillance cable itercept site

Aug 1 Prime Minister John Key has flatly denies new accusations of mass surveillance.

The denial follows the revelation an NSA operative visited NZ in February 2013 for talks with the GSCB about a possible Special Source Operations or SSO interception site for monitoring communications over fibre optic cable.

"We do not use the term SSO or Special Source Operations. However, our understanding of what is being referred to is a cable access programme," a spokeswoman for the PM's office told NBR ONLINE late Friday.

"We can categorically state that there is no such programme operating in New Zealand, and any claims that there is are utterly wrong. In answer to any question of whether we are contemplating one, we are not and we have no intention of introducing one."

"The GCSB Act was changed to give the agency a clear legal framework to operate within and to strengthen oversight.

"As we have previously stated, there is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders and we do not use our partners to circumvent the law.

"An interesting developing story to keep an eye on: An NSA engineer visited NZ in February 2013 for discussions on a 'Special Source Operations' site."

RAW DATA: Green Party statement

Key must come clean on NSA/GCSB interception site on NZ cable

John Key must come clean after revelations that a US National Security Agency (NSA) engineer was in New Zealand in 2013 discussing with the GCSB the setting up of an interception site on New Zealand’s only fibre optic cable, the Green Party said today.

Documents obtained by the New Zealand Herald show that in February 2013, an engineer from the NSA visited Blenheim, the location of the GCSB’s Waihopai spy base, to participate in discussions about a future Special Source Operations (SSO) site.

SSO was revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013 as a division of the NSA with the responsibility for all programmes aimed at collecting data from major fibre-optic cables and switches.

“This is a remarkable admission from the NSA,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“It reveals that the GCSB and the NSA were in the process of establishing an interception site for all emails, internet communications and phone calls coming in and out of New Zealand.

“Key’s integrity is in question. He has given New Zealanders’ multiple assurances that their data is safe. Now it looks like he may have approved total interception through this SSO site.

“Setting up a site capable of collecting data from New Zealand’s fibre-optic cable is a major policy decision. John Key, as the Minister responsible, must have authorised this.

“Key has a lot of serious questions to answer. He must come clean on what he knew about this, whether he authorised it, whether it is currently in operation, and how it will be used.

“Data collection on this scale would represent a massive expansion in the capabilities of the GCSB and shows just how close the relationship is between New Zealand and US spy agencies.

“All New Zealanders’ electronic communications go through this cable. Just as Americans discovered excessive levels of surveillance on them, an SSO site on our shores would mean the same here.

“There was a very strong public reaction to the revelations of mass surveillance in the United States. New Zealanders deserve to know what this means for them and their privacy.

“If this interception site has gone ahead, it looks like New Zealanders’ private information is fair game for John Key.

“Once again we're seeing how wide-reaching the global surveillance state has become and how easily the public’s right to privacy can be disregarded,” said Dr Norman.

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Greenwald's claims of cable access total nonsense — Southern Cross Cable CEO