A genuine mistake? Or a deliberate flouting of the law?
John Key was at pains yesterday to stress that the unlawful
eavesdropping by the GCSB on Kim Dotcom was in the category
of error rather than conspiracy. And a very isolated error at
Well, the Prime Minister would try to downplay this rather
large embarrassment, wouldn't he? Especially given he is the
responsible minister. Or is supposed to be.
Yesterday he was taking no responsibility for the illegal
bugging on the basis that he was not informed of the
operation until a week ago.
However - contrary to Key's assurances - this is not the
first time the GCSB's exercising of its powers has recently
come under question.
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Paul Neazor -
the public watchdog with oversight over the intelligence
agencies' activities and the person who will conduct the
inquiry into the breach of the law by the GCSB - last year
mentioned two instances which raised questions about whether
the bureau was operating within its legal boundaries.
Unfortunately, the paucity of information provided by Neazor
in his annual report makes it difficult to assess just how
out of kilter the GCSB was with the law.
Still, the watchdog barked. It appears no one was listening.
But Neazor's citing of his concerns means Key is consequently
more responsible than he clearly wishes to be.
From the infamous "pie and Penthouse magazine" episode to SIS
agents caught breaking into the home of anti-globalisation
activist Aziz Choudry, the history of New Zealand's security
services has been chequered by the ridiculous and the not so
The Dotcom bugging is right off the end of the scale in
magnitude, however. It does not matter what you think of
Dotcom. It matters that he is a New Zealand resident. The law
could not be clearer. It is not the role of the GCSB to
eavesdrop on Kiwi citizens or residents. That is the job of
It is now up to Neazor to get to the bottom of this
disgraceful business - and for Key to make public as much of
the information Neazor comes up with as possible.
Until then, the public will be left wondering whether it is
funding an agency to the tune of $64 million this year which
- as Labour's David Shearer put it - appears to have gone
- John Armstrong, NZ Herald