David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Spying fiasco went right to the top

The lawyer for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is keen to see any briefings given to the Prime Minister's advisers. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The lawyer for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is keen to see any briefings given to the Prime Minister's advisers. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The police organised crime squad that carried out the Kim Dotcom raid has given briefings to a high-powered group charged with protecting New Zealand's "national security".

The briefings to the subcommittee of the group known as "O-Desk" have the potential to draw John Key's closest intelligence advisers into the ongoing court inquiry into the raid.

This also contrasts with the Prime Minister's insistence the Dotcom fiasco is a sideshow. He said last month: "The Government actually doesn't care about Kim Dotcom. The person who cares about Kim Dotcom is Kim Dotcom."

The Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand led the helicopter raid by armed police on Dotcom's mansion at Coatesville, Auckland, at the request of the FBI.

Since then, the Herald has discovered it has given three briefings to the subcommittee, which is focused on NZ's response to organised crime.

The subcommittee is one of a few that feed into Odesc - the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination.

It is a collection of spy agency, diplomatic, government, military and police leaders tasked to "act on the Prime Minister's behalf to exercise policy oversight of the New Zealand intelligence community".

Its terms of reference are to advise on matters of "national security, intelligence, and crisis management".

The briefings to the organised crime subcommittee will be sought by the tycoon's lawyers. Counsel William Akel said the connection would be a focus for ongoing court action. "We would like to see any briefing given by Ofcanz to Odesc."

Police spokesman Grant Ogilvie said the first briefing by Ofcanz was given to an Odesc subcommittee just 12 days after the first raid.

Two more briefings have been given since - in May and November. He said the briefings were updates on court actions.

Mr Ogilvie said Ofcanz briefings before the raid did not include any reference to Dotcom or his Megaupload company.

Mr Key has adamantly denied knowing of Dotcom before the FBI-inspired raid in January. He said Odesc dealt with Ofcanz on a strategic level, with operational matters handled by police headquarters.

Odesc has a number of subcommittees, historically named Odesc (G), Odesc (I) and Odesc (P). The letters stand for Governance, Intelligence and Policy. The subcommittee to which Ofcanz reported was run by Secretary of Justice Andrew Bridgeman and was known as the "Odesc subcommittee on Ofcanz".

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said backbone support for the subcommittee was provided by Ofcanz and it attracted agencies tied to fighting organised crime including the Serious Fraud Office, Customs, Inland Revenue, Ministry of Justice and the Department of Internal Affairs.

The spokesman said the subcommittee had a focus on "high-level strategic consideration and advice is appropriate".

Odesc will face scrutiny for reasons beyond the Ofcanz reporting lines. It also has responsibility for oversight of the intelligence community, including the Government Communications Security Bureau.

Chief High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann has ordered the GCSB to join the police as a defendant in a case probing the illegal search and seizure on the day of the raid. The GCSB illegally spied on Dotcom in breach of its own law which protects New Zealand residents and citizens from intrusion - apparently because it did not realise he was a resident.

The illegal spying is being investigated by police after a complaint by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. He said: "This is another group of people who should have known Kim Dotcom was a resident. Presumably they never asked if [the spying] was lawful."

He said the briefings to the oversight body were in contrast to the Prime Minister's comments.

The Herald has reported the GCSB knew in February that Dotcom was a resident but apparently failed to realise it had broken the law until seven months later.

- NZ Herald

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