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Dotcom, NZ PM clash over spy laws

'Why are you turning red, prime minister?'

Kim Dotcom at the NZ parliamentary hearing

New Zealand's proposed revisions to the laws that govern its Government Communications Security Bureau have provided a venue for political theatre by Kim Dotcom, who choppered into Wellington to speak against the bill.

With only 15 minutes to speak to a parliamentary hearing into proposed spy laws in New Zealand, Kim Dotcom didn't have time to deliver much of substance, so the resulting political theatre shouldn't surprise anybody.

He fired off a tirade directed at the United States, New Zealand's spy agency the GCSB, and prime minister John Key.

The hearings cover the increasingly sore point of expanding the Government Communications Security Bureau's remit to allow it to spy on New Zealand citizens. Like spy agencies in many other countries, the GCSB is prevented by law from spying on locals.

Dotcom's gripe against the bureau, upheld by NZ courts, is that it spied on him although he was a Kiwi resident – and the hearing gave him a platform to take his complaint directly to the prime minister.

“I have the misfortune of experiencing what happens when surveillance powers are abused and unlawful destruction of property, reputation and freedom. It is an injustice that I continue to fight every day,” he told the hearing.

The fire was lit when an opposition member asked Dotcom if he thought the PM knew he was going to be raided before American and New Zealand law enforcement raided his mansion north of Auckland in 2012.

Kim Dotcom: “Oh, he knew about me before the raid. I know about that.”

John Key: “I didn't know.”

Dotcom: “You know, I know.”

Key: “I know you don't know. I know you don't know, but that's fine.”

Dotcom: “Why are you turning red, Prime Minister?”

Key: “I'm not. Why are you sweating?”

Dotcom: “It's hot. I have a scarf.”

However, even with the theatre, the nature of the amendments to the spy bill got a serious look-in. The bill would allow the GCSB to provide co-operation with other agencies (including in some cases agencies from other countries), and that co-operation could include spying on New Zealand residents.

“The new GCSB bill is drafted to pave the way forward for the agency to perform spying on behalf of other agencies. Just like any partner in the five eye spy club, the GCSB gets access to the five eye spy cloud. This cloud contains every email, phone call, checked message, SMS message, almost all communication of every New Zealander. The proposed GCSB bill is not a clarification. It's a huge overreach by an agency that has shown it cannot reach eagerly within the far more limited powers it has right now,” he said.

The PM put forward the argument that agencies outsourcing an activity to the GCSB was similar to individuals outsourcing their file storage to Megaupload, to which Dotcom responded “On the GCSB spy cloud you share private information about citizens that you don’t have any right to access. That is the big difference.”

TV New Zealand has video of some of the exchange between Dotcom and Key here. ®

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