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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 the US.
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