Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Goff warns on sharing crime data with US

MP says accord on access to details like fingerprints must exclude capital crimes

Phil Goff says New Zealand should not have blind faith the US system would use the personal details of New Zealand citizens only for the purposes set down. Photo / APN
Phil Goff says New Zealand should not have blind faith the US system would use the personal details of New Zealand citizens only for the purposes set down. Photo / APN

Labour's Phil Goff says New Zealand should refuse to hand over information such as fingerprint data on its citizens to United States authorities if it will be used to prosecute for a crime punishable by the death penalty, or if the request is predominantly politically motivated.

MPs on the Foreign Affairs select committee were briefed this week by officials about a pending agreement for mutual access by New Zealand and the US to fingerprint as well as other data for investigating crimes and terrorism, and for use by immigration. There is also provision for DNA data to be included in the agreement in the future.

The agreement allows either country to specify certain crimes for which it will not provide such information. Mr Goff said there were good reasons for two exemptions - if fingerprint or other evidence was to be used in the conviction and execution of a New Zealander under the death penalty, and if the data were requested for political rather than criminal reasons.

He said there were good reasons for sharing information to detect serious crime and terrorism but New Zealand should not have blind faith the US system would use the personal details of New Zealand citizens only for the purposes set down.

"Would we do this deal with China or Russia? I think the answer is absolutely not. Are we so confident the American political system has sufficient safeguards in it that this could not be abused within their system - go back and read about J. Edgar Hoover and you might find the answer to that question.

"I think we need some assurance that the fingerprints we supply, and then provide personal information about, are for legitimate purposes."

Foreign Affairs international legal adviser Penny Ridings told the committee the agreement primarily related to fingerprint sharing, and issues relating to convictions carrying the death penalty were dealt with by processes such as extradition.

Officials would look at what exemptions other countries had included in similar agreements.

The agreement is yet to be signed and will need domestic law changes before it can take effect.

- NZ Herald

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