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New Kiwi spook law allows domestic prying

Kim Dotcom fair game under revised statute

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New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which illegally spied on resident Kim Dotcom, is on the cusp of gaining sweeping new powers that include wiretapping NZ citizens.

The GCSB's domestic spying first came to light last year when it mistakenly tapped Dotcom's communications, not realising that his residency status at the time meant its actions were illegal. Rather than punish the organisation for its domestic snooping blunders, the New Zealand government has spent some time steering new laws through parliament to increase the GCSB's powers.

The legislation had been resisted by opposition parties until the leader of New Zealand's United Future party Peter Dunne negotiated amendments to the bill. According to the New Zealand Herald, these include regular reviews of the GCSB and the country's domestic spy agency, the SIS; annual declaration of how many times the GCSB makes its facilities available to local agencies; and annual reports of warrants issued against locals.

However, the capacity of the GCSB to spy on locals – the reason for opposition to it – remains intact.

With the United Future party agreeing to support the bill, it will now have the numbers to get through parliament.

InternetNZ has noted that the changes to the bill haven't yet been formally documented and has received the mooted changes cautiously. The bill with the proposed amendments is to be returned to parliament later this week.

However, QC Rodney Harrison has criticised the changes as holding out “false hope” that the GCSB won't abuse its spying powers. The NZ Herald says Harrison and Kim Dotcom are planning a protest meeting to rally resistance to the bill. ®

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