A screengrab shows Edward Snowden speaking via video conference. REUTERS/ACLU/Handout via Reuters
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says the United States' spy
agency has helped find or create loopholes in New Zealand law
to enable widespread spying.
In testimony to the European Parliament, the exiled former
NSA worker said the agency's Foreign Affairs Division put
pressure on other countries to change laws to create legal
gaps through which mass surveillance could be carried out.
He said lawyers at the United Kingdom's GCHQ were also
engaged in finding loopholes and both agencies slipped
changes past unwitting politicians.
"In recent public memory, we have seen these FAD 'legal
guidance' operations occur in both Sweden and the
Netherlands, and also faraway New Zealand."
Mr Snowden offered no further detail in his testimony about
pressure placed on New Zealand. His written testimony was
sent ahead of a EU debate on freezing data agreements with
It has been linked to new legislation passed in New Zealand
last year which changed the laws governing the electronic
spying agency, the GCSB, to allow it to spy on Kiwis. The
government also passed legislation which extended the
bureau's powers over intercepting information sent and
received in New Zealand.
Mr Snowden told the EU Parliament: "One of the foremost
activities of the NSA's FAD, or Foreign Affairs Division, is
to pressure or incentivise EU member states to change their
laws to enable mass surveillance.
"These efforts to interpret new powers out of vague laws is
an intentional strategy to avoid public opposition and
lawmakers' insistence that legal limits be respected, effects
the GCHQ internally described in its own documents as
'damaging public debate'."
The changes were used to "justify indiscriminate, dragnet
surveillance operations", he said.
In listing New Zealand among countries targeted, he said:
"Each of these countries received instruction from the NSA,
sometimes under the guise of the US Department of Defense and
other bodies, on how to degrade the legal protections of
their countries' communications."
Cyber rights group Tech Liberty's spokesman Thomas Beagle
said the new laws introduced in New Zealand last year
appeared surprisingly quickly.
"It was like someone had it sitting in a drawer ready to go.
Who is really writing these laws."
He said the greater concern was the lack of oversight. "It's
never being able to test what they are doing what they say."
- David Fisher of the New Zealand Herald