The Prime Minister's office has said it has no factual basis for suggesting Edward Snowden documents which exposed GCSB secrets were "fabricated".

But it has also said some of those with access to the Snowden documents - apparently including journalist Glenn Greenwald - "have a track record of misrepresenting, misinterpreting and misunderstanding information".

The "fabrication" claim has been part of the Prime Minister's standard response to revelations of activities carried out by New Zealand's electronic eavesdropping agency.

Details of the GCSB's work have included spying on international diplomats in support of Trade Minister Tim Groser's bid to lead the World Trade Organisation, feeding information to Bangaladeshi security forces facing murder and torture allegations and sending "full take" communications data from the Pacific to the National Security Agency.


The stories - in a reporting partnership with journalist Nicky Hager and the Greenwald-founded news site The Intercept - showed New Zealand had a job-sharing role in international intelligence gathering for the Five Eyes group of nations, which also includes Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US. The Five Eyes intelligence gathering group is led by the US, with the other countries holding "second party" status.

Other nations outside the group are the "third party" or less partners.

The Herald sought any information held by the Prime Minister which informed him or his office over the alleged "fabrication".

The Prime Minister's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson said "no information has been identified". He said the PM's office had to refuse the request because the "information requested does not exist or cannot be found".

Asked for the basis of the claim, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: "Given these documents were stolen and these people have a track record of misrepresenting, misinterpreting and misunderstanding information, as shown in the Moment of Truth, we can't discount that some of what is being put forward may be fabricated."

The high profile Moment of Truth event saw Greenwald make claims Snowden documents showed a cable tapping operation was underway to access all New Zealanders' communications. Documents presented as proof showed the operation was planned but there was nothing proving it went ahead.

The government said there was a plan but it had never gone ahead.

OIA request responses from the PM's office and the GCSB show response to the Snowden stories was scripted from the outset. In only a few circumstances to it deviate regardless of the issue raised.


Large chunks of communications were withheld with officials saying it would place at risk the "security and defence of New Zealand".

The only information released which appeared to shed light on the claims from the Snowden files was a summary of comments by a former GCSB advisor.

In an email from one unnamed official to another, it summarised comments by Dr Damien Rogers on TVNZ's Q&A. According to the summary, Dr Roger's had rejected claims of "mass surveillance" on the Pacific in favour of the terms "widespread, systematic monitoring".

The official commented on the description saying it was "not helpful and untrue".


What was the issue?

Top secret GCSB and NSA documents detailed the way the agencies operated.


How did the Prime Minister respond?
John Key refused to comment on "stolen" information which could be fabricated.

Was there a basis for the suggestion they were forgeries?
The PM's office has confirmed there was no basis to the claim.

Has any Snowden document been shown to be "fabricated"?
No, not in any of the countries in which there has been extensive reporting.