Pulitzer Prize-winner hints China may have been targeted under Five Eyes agreement

- Journalist claims US relies on New Zealand's "harmless" image
- Value is "its relationship with countries US might not have access to"
- Forthcoming revelations likely to include claims NZ spied on China
- MORE: Prime Minister hist back at spy-law claims
- ARMSTRONG: Dotcom's bubble has burst

New Zealand has sent spies into friendly countries to electronically snoop for the United States, an award-winning journalist claims.

The allegation will be canvassed in a story from Pulitzer Prize-winner Glenn Greenwald, and seems highly likely to include claims about electronic spying operations inside China.

Greenwald, who earlier this week alleged on his news site The Intercept that New Zealand launched mass surveillance project while publicly denying it, has warned of potential diplomatic turmoil as a result of the disclosures.

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A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key refused to comment last night. "It's been the longstanding practice of New Zealand governments not to comment on foreign intelligence matters," she said.

Greenwald has drawn comparisons between the value of New Zealand's image as a harmless, friendly nation with spying revelations that sundered Canada's relations with Brazil and raised questions over diplomatic missions to other countries.

The Canadian equivalent to the GCSB targeted Brazil with hacking tools to access computers and devices belonging to other countries. Documents showed Canada's eavesdropping agency used the nation's benign reputation to set up covert spying sites in 20 "high-priority countries".

Snowden, Assange and Dotcom accuse Key on spying

Former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden and fellow fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange joined forces Monday to attack the New Zealand government, accusing it of mass surveillance on its people.

Greenwald said part of New Zealand's value to the Five Eyes was "its relationship with other countries the US might not have access to".

He said the Canadian example showed "how the NSA [National Security Agency] uses Canada to access certain places on the planet which for whatever reason the NSA cannot access, and they gather data for the NSA".

"Absolutely New Zealand does exactly the same thing and the language in the documents that are used to describe the NSA-GCSB relationship are almost identical," he said.

On that list of countries that the GCSB spies on are adversarial countries that probably New Zealand would expect to be on that list but also [other] democracies and allied countries that I think a lot of New Zealanders would be surprised about."

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Asked about whether New Zealand was spying in China, he made it clear he had not specifically singled out the country but said it was dealt with in an upcoming story.

Snowden: NSA has Auckland facility

Renegade former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden claimed his former employer spy agency National Security Agency has a facility in Auckland. Snowden, who is sheltering in Moscow from US attempts to extradite him on espionage charges, appeared by video link before a capacity crowd at the Kim Dotcom organised Moment of Truth event at Auckland Town Hall. Footage The Moment of Truth/YouTube

"I said that is part of the reporting I am doing, especially given the consequences of that revelation.

"I think there is probably an expectation that China has that there is some surveillance going on. China knows full well New Zealand is part of the Five Eyes alliance and they know how that functions.

"The extent of it, the purposes of it, would - I would think - create a lot of discomfort diplomatically."

He said the issue became huge in Canada over the Brazilian spying because it was done for economic reasons. "Canadians just don't think of themselves as the kind of country that spies on the agencies of other countries for purely economic ends. I think there's a bit of that going on in New Zealand too."

Key: US journalist Greenwald 'a loser'

The war of words between Prime Minister John Key and US journalist Glenn Greenwald has escalated with Mr Key calling Greenwald a "loser" and Greenwald accusing Key of changing his story every day. Speaking to Mike Hosking at the Newstalk ZB Breakfast this morning, Mr Key said he would have more respect for Greenwald if he had timed his visit differently. Greenwald is in New Zealand to present evidence he claims shows the GCSB was involved in mass surveillance at Kim Dotcom's 'Moment of Truth' tonight.

Greenwald said documents from the Snowden archive showed New Zealand benefited from the information gathered by the Five Eyes.

The grouping of nations was also driven by a unifying purpose: "'Collect it all' is the motto. It appears over and over again in those documents.

"Mass surveillance is the principal goal and purpose of the Five Eyes alliance."

The Chinese Embassy was asked for comment but did not respond.

Cheryl Gwyn, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, said she had not identified "any indiscriminate interception of New Zealanders' data".

"As part of my role as Inspector-General, I review whether the GCSB complies with the restrictions upon interception of New Zealanders' communications and with the requirement to intercept communications only for authorised purposes. That review is ongoing.

"I am only able to comment on specific GCSB activities through my annual and inquiry reports. However, I can advise that I have not identified any indiscriminate interception of New Zealanders' data in my work to date. I will continue to monitor these issues."

Key challenges Snowden and Greenwald

Prime Minister John Key has challenged Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald to front up with evidence of their claims of mass surveillance and NSA bases in New Zealand. Mr Key responded this morning to Snowden's claims that New Zealanders' metadata was included in the XKeyscore data harvesting programme used by the US and that there were two NSA bases in New Zealand. Mr Key said neither had provided any actual evidence of their claims and said it was simply rhetoric.