David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

PM keeps mum on spy agency's links to US security machine

The GCSB's Waihopai Valley Satellite Station. Picture / Mark Mitchell
The GCSB's Waihopai Valley Satellite Station. Picture / Mark Mitchell

John Key has said he is aware of "some" but not all of the tools used by the Government Communications Security Bureau amid fresh questions over an intrusive piece of spyware showcased by the United States' NSA to their Kiwi partners.

The Prime Minister stuck to his position in refusing to talk about "operational" details of the spy agency's work.

The refusal came the day after material emerged from whistleblower Edward Snowden showing New Zealand was enmeshed in some of the most controversial aspects of the United States' spy machine.

Among those was a slide shown at a conference for the Five Eyes group of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US which illustrated the capabilities of the X-Keyscore tool, which the NSA uses to search mass-harvested phone and email records.

Asked if he knew the tools used by the GCSB, he said "some of them". "I don't go into the techniques the GCSB or SIS use."

But he repeated his oft-stated position that there was no mass surveillance of New Zealanders and that partners in the Five Eyes network were not used to get around the law.

The new slides also showed Australian spies asking for the NSA's help to monitor citizens involved in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Mr Key, asked if the GCSB sought NSA help to watch the Kiwi killed there in a US drone strike, said: "I don't have those details."

Mr Key refused to say whether the NSA helped fund the GCSB, despite Snowden documents showing Canadian and United Kingdom agencies received funding.

"I think New Zealanders actually accept that there is a place for intelligence agencies [and] those intelligence agencies provide very important services."

The online community's voice, Internet NZ, said Mr Key needed to front up about the extent of the GCSB's involvement with the NSA.

Internet NZ chief executive Jordan Carter said the Snowden material appeared to show the GCSB involved in some of the NSA's most controversial activities.

"The latest leaks appear to show that the GCSB was shown X-Keyscore, the data harvesting software; that New Zealand was advised that there was spying on leaders of 'allies' and that the NSA was putting backdoors into company's systems. What New Zealanders deserve to know is whether New Zealanders took part in any of those activities."

- NZ Herald

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