GCSB head Ian Fletcher yesterday acknowledged there was no protection of New Zealanders' data stored in servers overseas from lawful interception by spy agencies in those countries.
He and the head of the Security Intelligence Service, Warren Tucker, both gave Parliament's Intelligence and Security committee an assurance that their respective agencies were not involved in mass collection of New Zealanders' data. And nor did it use other countries or allow itself to be used by other countries to get around domestic laws prohibiting spying on nationals.
But Mr Fletcher explained that the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) did not affect each country's ability to conduct surveillance of New Zealanders' data stored in their countries.
When questioned by Labour leader David Cunliffe, Mr Fletcher said he had "no reason to believe there is any particular targeting of New Zealanders' data".
But he gave more information about the intelligence alliance than has been heard before at Parliament.
He said that under the original agreements, each partner would have bits of its work that it would not share. But he gave an important caveat.
"None of this impedes the sovereignty of Parliament here or in our partners to pass laws that provide for domestic lawful interception. So each country does not provide a kind of sovereign exemption."
Hypothetically, he explained, if he were to send Dr Tucker an email and Dr Tucker's email server was based in Country A and Mr Fletcher's was based in Country B, the emails would be subject to the laws of New Zealand and both countries, and could be lawfully intercepted in either.
Many of Greens co-leader Russel Norman's and Mr Cunliffe's questions were based on leaked documents by a former US National Security Agency contractor suggesting there had been mass collection of metadata by the NSA of US citizens and in Britain.
Dr Tucker revealed that SIS agents had been deployed to Afghanistan in August last year following a spike in Defence Force casualties.
He sent SIS personnel to Kabul and to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan up until their withdrawal in April this year.
"NZSIS made a material difference to that deployment and almost certainly saved lives."
Dr Norman said last night that even though he disagreed with New Zealand being in Afghanistan, he supported the deployment of the SIS there to help keep them safer.
Read our full GCSB coverage here.