NZ passes law allowing domestic spying
AFPWELLINGTON--New Zealand passed legislation Wednesday allowing its main intelligence agency to spy on residents and citizens, despite opposition from rights groups, international technology giants and the legal fraternity.
August 22, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
The bill to expand the power of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) passed by 61 votes to 59 after impassioned debate, with Prime Minister John Key acknowledging the move had left some people “agitated and alarmed.”
“This is not, and never will be, about wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” Key told parliament.
“There are threats our government needs to protect New Zealanders from, those threats are real and ever-present and we underestimate them at our peril.”
The push to change the law came after it emerged last year that the GCSB illegally spied on Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom before armed police raided his Auckland mansion as part of a U.S.-led probe into online piracy.
At the time Key publicly apologized to Dotcom, who is a New Zealand resident and should have been off-limits to the GCSB under legislation preventing it from snooping on locals.
However, an official report found that Dotcom's case was only one of dozens in which the GCSB had overstepped its bounds.
Key then moved to change the law to let the GCSB spy on New Zealanders, arguing it needed to cooperate more closely with agencies such as the police and military in an increasingly complex cybersecurity environment.
Dotcom has been one of the strongest opponents of the bill, saying it gives government spies legal access to New Zealanders' electronic communications, including mobile phone calls.