8 May 2014

Spy boss quiet on Snowden speculation

9:04 am on 8 May 2014

The head of the Government's electronic spy agency is refusing to discuss potential information about New Zealand's spying activities that could be leaked by American whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

There has been speculation the fugitive intelligence analyst, who has been granted asylum in Russia, will release the information - which could show New Zealand spied on its allies - ahead of the September election.

GCSB director Ian Fletcher

GCSB director Ian Fletcher. Photo: RNZ

Prime Minister John Key has said he is not worried, saying intelligence agencies follow the law.

Speaking with presenter Susie Ferguson on Morning Report on Thursday, Government Communications Security Bureau director Ian Fletcher declined to discuss the Snowden speculation.

Susie Ferguson: "There's some speculation that he (Edward Snowden) has files that pertain to New Zealand, what do you have to say about those?"

Ian Fletcher: "I think the Prime Minister answered that very clearly yesterday."

Susie Ferguson: "Some more detail on it though, what sort of things does he have?"

Ian Fletcher: "I certainly can't answer that, sorry."

Susie Ferguson: "Is it about spying on allies?"

Ian Fletcher: "I can't answer that, sorry."

Susie Ferguson: "Is it about spying during the TPP negotiations?"

Ian Fletcher: "I can't answer that, I'm sorry."

Mr Fletcher said the GCSB has a clear policy of not commenting on operational matters.

He did give an assurance the bureau does not carry out mass surveillance on New Zealanders, saying it would be illegal and completely impractical.

"The real interest that governments have focuses on really bad stuff, and the scale of the internet is just such that the resources of governments get focused on the stuff that really matters rather than behavour that people wish other people didn't know about, but doesn't amount to the kind of threat we are talking about."

He said there was a need to watch a small number of people on matters such as terrorism and organised crime.