In a testimony to the European Parliament, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had helped create and find "loopholes" in New Zealand law to allow widespread eavesdropping. The former NSA employee said the spy agency's Foreign Affairs Division pressured other countries to modify their laws to create legal gaps so a mass surveillance will be possible.
Mr Snowden said the lawyers at UK's GCHQ assisted in finding those legal hopes while both agencies slipped the changes past unknowing politicians. The Foreign Affairs Department's "legal guidance" operations have been going on between Sweden, Netherlands and New Zealand.
The exiled Mr Snowden gave no further details about the NSA's "legal guidance" to New Zealand. His written testimony was sent ahead of the ongoing debate in the European Union about the decision to freeze its data agreements with the U.S.
Mr Snowden's testimony has been associated with the new legislation passed in New Zealand in 2013 which altered the laws covering the country's electronic spy agency, GCSB. The New Zealand government also extended the powers of the spy agency in intercepting data sent and received in the country.
Following the spying claims made against Australia by Indonesia, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key sought confirmation from GCSB director Ian Fletcher that the spy agency does not collect metadata from Kiwis.
However, despite the GCSB assurance, Mr Key was unable to confirm to reporters whether the U.S. National Security Agency collected private information on New Zealanders. He told the press that he "didn't know".
A leaked intelligence memo was passed on to the Guardian from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The leaked document showed that the DSD, the GCSB's counterpart in Australia, had offered to supply metadata on Australian citizens in 2008. The reported data was offered to the Five Eyes network, the UK, U.S., New Zealand and Canada.
Prime Minister Key told reporters that he talked with the GCSB head and asked for confirmation if New Zealand had collected metadata on Kiwis. The GCSB chief told him that there was no such thing. Since no data was collected, there was nothing to share.