The British Foreign Secretary has called for a line to be drawn under leaks from Edward Snowden, just as the latest revelations from the National Security Agency whistle-blower further bog down New Zealand intelligence agencies and draw in Kim Dotcom.

Overnight Philip Hammond said the ongoing debate over intelligence agency actions "cannot be allowed to run on forever" and steps were being taken in Britain to address legitimate public concerns about oversight.


Mr Hammond made the comments in a speech where he said the saga needed to be addressed to allow intelligence agencies to "move on sooner rather than later if the agencies are not to become distracted from their task."


The comments came as documents relating to New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau have begun being published in the Herald and elsewhere, casting light on how the Five Eyes intelligence alliance - of which New Zealand is a member - functions in practice.

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The latest batch of leaked documents includes internal NSA briefings from March 2013 disclosing that the chief legal counsel of the NSA and GCSB were "working with" each other to understand the consequences of a lawsuit launched by Dotcom's alleging illegal spying.

Dotcom received an apology from Prime Minister John Key after being subject to surveillance from the GCSB, in contravention of legislation that forbade the agency from spying on New Zealand citizens or residents.

Internet entrepreneur Dotcom, who is fighting extradition proceedings aimed at taking him to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement, said the interest of the NSA in his case was "not surprising".

Prime Minister John Key greets British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond at the Beehive last month. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key greets British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond at the Beehive last month. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"The GCSB is, in my opinion, is just a subsidiary of the NSA in the Pacific. And the NSA is obviously concerned about more information - about the methods they are using and the tools are using, and how they were used in my case - coming out," he said.

Dotcom said he planned to extend his suit against the NSA if he was successful in a bid to unfreeze assets to cover legal costs.

Malware link to NSA

The documents revealed today show how New Zealand's spy agencies hacked into government-linked mobile phones in Asia to install malicious software to route data to the NSA.


The disclosure shows how an "Asean target", or member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was targeted by the GCSB in March 2013.

Malware called "Warriorpride" was deployed with a "data transfer mechanism" to feed the results to the NSA. Earlier Snowden documents describe this software as having the ability to compromise Android and Apple mobile phones.

Adam Boileau, convener of Wellington hacker conference Kiwicon that sees dozens of GCSB staff attend annually, said it showed New Zealand had a state-backed ability to make cyber attacks, something other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance - Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States - had declared some time ago.

"We're the only ones who don't admit we do this - when, clearly, we do," Boileau said.

John Key says new claims around intelligence collection are wrong - but he won't say why. He also says the GCSB is acting legally - but won't say how. And he says we are spying - but won't say on who. The Prime Minister has fronted media after a day of controversy caused by the publication of documents taken by whistleblower Edward Snowden while a contractor for the United States' National Security Agency.

GCSB director Una Jagose said the intelligence-gathering organisation operated within the law and was subject to independent oversight, but declined to answer specific questions about Warriorpride, or the GCSB's cyber capabilities.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key repeated denials first issued a week ago when the Herald began reporting on the Snowden cache, saying that the "stolen" documents "may even be fabricated".

The spokeswoman went on to repeat assertions that "to the best of the PM's knowledge, the GCSB acted within the law".

Uncomfortable revelations

The NSA denied suggestions the GCSB's involvement in the operation was to circumvent its own domestic restrictions on spying.

"We do not ask foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US Government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself," NSA spokesman Vanee Vines said.

Victoria University Professor of Strategic Studies Robert Ayson said the disclosures, including that the GCSB "targeted" the diplomatic communications of trading partners such as Vietnam, Iran and India, were not shocking but would be uncomfortable.

"Generally, governments would prefer there to be an informal understanding between them that, despite the public silence on this officially, a certain amount of surveillance and espionage does occur," he said.

Earlier stories published by the Herald in partnership with US news organisation The Intercept using the Snowden documents as sources have outlined how electronic communications across a large swathe of the Pacific are subject to what was described as "full take" collection by the GCSB, with information sent to NSA data storage centres for analysis.

The Prime Minister, asked this afternoon whether he had discussed the Snowden documents with Hammond during his visit to New Zealand in February, said through a spokeswoman: "No, this issue did not come up."

Read about the 'WARRIORPRIDE' malware