WELLINGTON – New Zealand’s watchdog over the country’s spy agencies launched an investigation on Thursday into claims that the electronic surveillance agency illegally spied on New Zealanders across the South Pacific.
The probe followed a series of revelations by a local newspaper and U.S.-based a news site that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) conducted “full-takes” surveillance on Pacific nations.
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Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, said she would start an inquiry into complaints over alleged interception of communications of New Zealanders by the GCSB.
“The complaints follow recent public allegations about GCSB activities.
“The complaints, and these public allegations, raise wider questions regarding the collection, retention and sharing of communications data.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
She said for that reason, she had decided to also bring forward and expand the relevant parts of an ongoing review and audit of GCSB procedures and compliance systems.
The opposition Green Party, which made one of the complaints to Gwyn’s office about the spying, welcomed the inquiry, saying the allegations were very serious.
“The documents that were released show systemic spying on New Zealanders who were working or traveling in the South Pacific.
“There have been over 1.6 million visits by New Zealanders to the Pacific since 2009.
“All of those people deserve to know whether they were spied on,’’ Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman said.
Norman also called on Prime Minister, John Key, who has ultimate responsibility for the spy agencies to “come clean on what the activities of the GCSB were and how much he knew.”
The revelations were based on materials supplied by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden and showed New Zealand spy agencies operated surveillance on friendly countries in the Pacific and Asia.
However, it was revealed the GCSB had also monitored e-mails.
It also revealed Internet traffic about diplomats vying for the job of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation during Trade Minister Tim Groser’s failed campaign for the post. (Xinhua/NAN)