28 Sep 2012

PM doesn't back further inquiries into Dotcom spying

9:36 pm on 28 September 2012

Prime Minister John Key says he doesn't see the need for any further investigations into intelligence agencies' handling of the Kim Dotcom spying saga.

The Green Party has lodged a complaint with police, alleging the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) breached the Crimes Act with the illegal surveillance of Mr Dotcom.

The Labour Party has written to Mr Key, requesting a wide-ranging and independent inquiry into what it calls the serious failures within the intelligence services.

A report released on Thursday by Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Paul Neazor, found human error was to blame for the illegal surveillance.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Key said the Greens are just playing politics by lodging a complaint with police as, he says, the report is transparent.

But Labour says the report was too limited and the Prime Minister will be doing the country a disservice if he tries to sweep the scandal under the carpet.

Mr Key says it was a failure by one individual, not a conspiracy.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman says the GCSB appears to have breached the Crimes Act, which bans interception of private communications.

Public's confidence dented - Labour

Labour leader David Shearer says New Zealanders' confidence in the integrity and actions of the Government's intelligence agencies has been severely dented by the Kim Dotcom affair.

Mr Shearer says the report is too limited and will not, on its own, restore the faith of New Zealanders given that there are dozens of questions remaining unanswered.

Mr Dotcom, a German national who has New Zealand residency, is fighting extradition to the United States to face copyright, money laundering and fraud charges.

Justice Neazor's report found the GCSB relied on incorrect police information about Mr Dotcom's status and did not check further.

He says the GCSB and police misinterpreted the Immigration Act, which changed in 2010, altering Mr Dotcom's status and giving him protection from being spied on.

Dr Norman said on Friday Justice Neazor's report clearly concludes that the GCSB had no authority to intercept Mr Dotcom's communications.

He says the Crimes Act prohibits the surveillance of private conversations without lawful authority to do so.

"The GCSB has admitted that they didn't have lawful authority to be intercepting Kim Dotcom's private communications. They are clearly in breach of the law and we expect the police to investigate."

Dr Norman says he would expect police to determine whether the illegal spying was, in fact, a case of human error or a total disregard for the law.

The Greens co-leader says it would be hypocritical of the Prime Minister to not support a police investigation.

He says the complaint is not unlike one John Key made last year against freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose over the secret recording of a pre-election conversation he had with the then-ACT candidate John Banks.

"He made a big song and dance about the principle of protecting private communications from recording and he laid a complaint with police over that case.

"This is a much more serious breach, because it's a breach by a government agency. So if the Prime Minister didn't support this complaint, then he would be a hypocrite."

Dr Norman told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the party's call for a police investigation is not a stunt.

Conflict of interest - Greens

The Green Party points out that Justice Neazor said in his own 2011 report that part of his job is ensuring that the spy agency complies with the law and having him conduct the inquiry was, therefore, a clear conflict of interest.

David Shearer called the report a whitewash, saying a broader inquiry is needed into failures in the top echelons of government.

"What we are calling for is an independent, wide-ranging inquiry into what has gone on here. We are dissatisfied for a couple of reasons - one is the report is only really looking at the lower levels, it's very narrowly focused. Secondly, it doesn't deal with the real accountability which goes right to the very top - which is John Key's accountability."

The Labour Party leader says John Key has failed to take any responsibility for the failures.

No detail, says Dotcom lawyer

Kim Dotcom's lawyer Paul Davison told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Friday he also found Justice Neazor's report unsatisfactory and lacking in detail.

"I find it singularly lacking in any real information. It concludes that there was some misunderstanding without providing any details as to the basis upon which those responsible sought the requisite information that would have enabled them to establish whether or not they had the jurisdiction to proceed."

Mr Davison says he still does not have the level of access his legal team needs to know exactly what information the GCSB intercepted about Mr Dotcom, including when they began to gather it.

"How did they get involved? What did they do? Who authorised them under the Act? All of those sorts of issues.

"We're not satisfied that the material gathered was necessarily that limited to the movements of Mr Dotcom. It's very likely, in my view, that they had a wider role."

PM stands by report

The Prime Minister maintains that the inquiry was independent and stands by Justice Neazor, saying he can be highly trusted to have done a good and honest job.

John Key says he is appalled by errors made by the GCSB and very disappointed that it failed to understand the workings of its own legislation.

"I've made it quite clear to the director of GCSB my level of dissatisfaction and frankly, I'm pretty appalled by what I've seen because these are basic errors ... the organisation should be able to get these things right."

On Thursday, Mr Key apologised to Kim Dotcom and New Zealanders over the unlawful surveillance, calling the spy agency incompetent.