22 May 2013

GCSB says report clears it of illegal spying

6:06 am on 22 May 2013

The Government's spy agency says it's been cleared by its inspector-general of illegal spying. However, Paul Neazor says he has not found there were no breaches - only that its spying on New Zealanders may have been legal.

Mr Neazor, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, was asked to investigate the Government Communications Security Bureau after a review by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge found that 88 New Zealanders may have been monitored unlawfully.

The GCSB has not released Mr Neazor's report, but instead issued a written statement on Tuesday afternoon.

In the statement, GCSB director Ian Fletcher said Mr Neazor's inquiry has found there have been no breaches of the law, and all of the cases were based on serious issues such as the development of potential weapons of mass destruction, people smuggling and drug smuggling.

However, Paul Neazor has clarified that statement, saying the law around the spying is unclear.

Mr Neazor said he has not found that there were no breaches - only that the GCSB's spying on New Zealanders may have been legal. He is recommending that the law be amended.

New legislation amending laws governing the GCSB to allow it to legally spy on New Zealanders is before Parliament.

Labour wants report released

Labour leader David Shearer said on Tuesday it is hard to draw any conclusions from the statement and is calling for Paul Neazor's report to be made public.

"Arguably legal is not what I would call an emphatic response. And not releasing the report means that we won't be able to see for ourselves.

"This is a schmooze to try and get it off the agenda, rather than a real attempt at trying to provide confidence in people about our agencies.

Mr Shearer said there should be an independent inquiry into the GCSB.

Dotcom case

A lawyer for internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom believes a statement from the spy agency saying it has been cleared of wrongdoing is unlikely to affect his case.

Mr Dotcom is suing the GCSB for damages after his lawyers discovered that the German national with New Zealand residency was being spied on, which is currently against the law.

His lawyer says Tuesday's findings should not affect the hearing, as it focuses on the 88 cases, not Mr Dotcom's.

The lawyer says the GCSB has also previously accepted the unlawfulness of its actions in relation to Mr Dotcom.