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John Key accused of Dotcom ‘brain fade’

February briefing hinted at illegal wiretaps

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New Zealand opposition politicians believe they have a sniff of prime ministerial blood in the Kim Dotcom case, after PM John Key released the results of a review by that country’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Releasing the results of the review here, the prime minister says “I received no briefing on the operation from GCSB prior to 17 September”, but as the New Zealand Herald notes, the PM’s statement refers to a February 29 briefing in which the Dotcom arrest was used “as an example of cooperation between the GCSB and the Police”.

Both the director of the GCSB and John Key now apparently agree that the Dotcom case was raised in February, but neither appear to recall it – with GCSB director Ian Fletcher apparently relying on assurances by his staff of the mention.

The NZ PM had used the “brain fade” line in reference to the GCSB, offering an opening for Labor leader David Shearer to respond “Suddenly it’s John Key having a brain fade”.

The GCSB’s role in the Megaupload case has become a cause celebre in New Zealand, with Key recently apologizing for the bureau’s illegal spying on Dotcom prior to the arrests. The bureau decided it had the right to snoop on Dotcom because it had the wrong idea about his residency status, believing that as a non-citizen he was fair game for wiretaps.

The fallout could spread beyond the Kim Dotcom case, with director Ian Fletcher identifying three other cases since 2009 in which the bureau had co-operated with the police, and for which Key says the GCSB cannot “assure me that the legal position is totally clear”. ®

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