Key says mass surveillance considered but rejected

Published: 12:34PM Sunday September 14, 2014 Source: ONE News

Prime Minister John Key admits mass surveillance of New Zealanders and collecting their electronic metadata was considered but rejected and he says he has the documents to prove it.

Instead, Mr Key says the Government has created a cyber protection programme for individual entities.

He says companies and individuals have to request being part of that cyber security programme and he says New Zealand's GCSB spy agency cannot access information through the protection programme without a warrant.

Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist Glenn Greenwald has told TVNZ's Q+A that New Zealand spy agencies have conducted mass surveillance of New Zealanders and that the Prime Minister has been deceiving the public about it.

But Mr Key says that in 2011 two major New Zealand companies were subjected to a major cyber attack.

Mr Key wouldn't name the companies.

"The GCSB came to me and said 'we are increasingly worried about the cyber threats against New Zealand agencies and against New Zealand companies."

He says GCSB consulted with a number of intelligence agencies, including the U-S National Security Agency and offered up mass surveillance as one way of counteracting such attacks.

But, Mr Key says that proposal was rejected.

"Without a shadow of a doubt GCSB does not undertake mass surveillance against New Zealanders nor have they," he said on Q+A this morning.

He said that by about March 2012 the GCSB said it wanted to work up a proposal, 'and we said 'yep, go away and work on a business case looking at that. It essentially said 'show us what the gold standard would look like'."

Asked by ONE News Political Editor Corin Dann if that 'gold standard' would involve mass surveillance, Mr Key said : "No, it would be cyber protection, but mass cyber protection if you'd wanted to do that."

But he said that about September 2012 there was a shake-up of the GCSB.

"I started saying to the agency your law needs to change, your institution needs to strengthen and I'm a little uncomfortable with where you're starting to go.' It's really a Norton anti-virus at a very high level. I stopped it. March 2013, we said stop."

Will produce documents

Asked if he can produce documents that show there is no mass surveillance, Mr Key said: "Yeah, absolutely we will."

He said Mr Greenwald has miraculously turned up six days before an election "to try and bamboozle people and try to make all these claims which don't stack up.

"But he's only seen one bit, you see. He's hacked in. He's seen all of this information. He's said, 'uh huh, gotcha.' And of course what he doesn't realise is none of that ever happened."

"So I'll be able to produce a document that says here's rescinding the asking of the business case, here's the document that actually shows what's taken place. There is no ambiguity. There is not and there never has been any mass surveillance."

Mr Key again described Glenn Greenwald as one of Kim Dotcom's "little henchmen".

"They're a bunch of henchmen out here six days before an election trying to bamboozle people, making incorrect and false information."