5AA Australia: Across The Ditch With Sean Perry & Selwyn Manning – The Illegal GCSB Spying Scandal
It is amazing what can occur in two weeks… The National-led Government has been rocked by revelations that one of NZ’s spy agencies, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) conducted illegal surveillance on Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom and his crew.
Kim Dotcom was arrested in Auckland early this year after the FBI requested New Zealand’s Police and security agencies to apprehend the internet tycoon on money laundering and copyright piracy charges. The FBI then sought to extradite Dotcom and members of his team to the United States to face charges. But the extradition proceedings have been hampered at almost every stage after it was found warrants and search and surveillance procedures were not lawfully observed.
Last week the Prime Minister revealed to the public that his agency the GCSB had been asked by the Police to spy on Dotcom. It did so even though it is unlawful for it to spy on New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. Dotcom was at the time and remains a permanent resident of New Zealand.
Adding to this saga, it has been revealed that the New Zealand Police’s head officer in charge of the operation against Dotcom apparently perjured himself in the High Court. In August, he was first asked to identify what Government organisation was involved with the planning of the Dotcom surveillance operation. The officer refused to identify the agency. The officer was then asked if that organisation took part in the operation. He said a categorical “No”.
In the week that followed the officer’s response, the Police sought a suppression order – requesting the Acting Prime Minister, Bill English, sign a ministerial certificate preventing Police from identifying to the High Court that the GCSB was the agency that had been involved with the illegal surveillance. The Acting Prime Minister signed the suppression order in what is now seen by some as a move by the Police to cover up the illegal spying, and also to cover up the untruth it stated on oath in the High Court.
Parliamentary Party leaders are all in an uproar, calling for independent inquiries into the whole affair. The Green Party made a formal complaint to the Police requesting it investigate the illegal surveillance. The Police have agreed and are now in essence investigating itself.
Back to the Prime Minister’s role: Two weeks ago the GCSB alerted the Prime Minister to the fact that it had been conducting illegal surveillance. He stated to Parliament and to the public that he knew nothing of the operation until mid September. Yesterday, he had to admit that statement to Parliament was incorrect. He had been told about the operation back in February at a meeting at GCSB HQ in Wellington.
The Prime Minister says he cannot recall being told. He is being criticised at being too relaxed to govern the country’s spy agencies, and too casual and lacking the gravitas required of a minister who has sole oversight control of the intelligence network in New Zealand.
In Summary: For over ten days now the Prime Minister, John Key, who is in charge of the GCSB spy agency, has attempted to weather a political storm over his apparent inattention to his intelligence responsibilities. He said he was not informed that his agency was involved in an illegal surveillance operation against Dotcom – only to reveal last night that he was told of the operation back in February.
He has attempted to restore public confidence in his handling of the affair by calling for an inquiry into the GCSB operation, a review of the GCSB, of its processes, its legal considerations, on how it reports back to the Prime Minister’s department etc. But in the case of both the inquiry and the review the information revealed further entrenches the Prime Minister in what has been revealed (at best) as a serial case of gross incompetence.
And with regard to the Police, the public are left wondering whether its actions were a cover-up founded on incompetence or corruption.
In Conclusion: The Prime Minister has taken off to visit movie makers in Hollywood, and the Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has scarpered off to north Europe to pick their brains about how they govern their respective economies.