New Zealand Spy Agency Trained by NSA in Mass Surveillance; PM John Key Refuses to Comment

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New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key Smiles After the General Election in Auckland.
IN PHOTO: New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key smiles after the general election in Auckland November 26, 2011. Reuters/Stringer

New Zealand Labour has asked Prime Minister John Key to admit that the country's spy agency has been trained by the U.S. National Security Agency to do mass surveillance. Documents published in a new book revealed that all agencies involved in the Five Eyes Network were trained to operate a sophisticated system that can sift through phone numbers, email addresses and online chat messages.

The documents based on new revelations by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snow appeared as part of journalist Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide. According to reports, Greenwald has been working closely with Snowden.

One document contained an invitation to New Zealand's spy agency and other members of the Five Eyes network to "sniff it all, know it all, collect it all, process it all and exploit it all."  Documents in the recenty published book also revealed New Zealand forwarding intercepted emails, phone calls and texts between the president of Brazil and staff.

Prime Minister John Key has previously denied of having known of any mass surveillance on Kiwis. He said he and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) head Ian Fletcher would resign from their posts should allegations turn out to be true.

Fletcher has denied accusations that the spy agency is conducting a mass surveillance on Kiwis. In a seminar in Wellington organised by the Privacy Commission on May 7, Fletcher said the country has legitimate concerns in preventing organised crime, terrorism and nuclear arms trade.

The GCSB head said the actual surveillance affects only a few people whom he said are "doing really bad stuff." Fletcher said it would take a huge increase in his salary budget to implement mass surveillance. He added it would be impractical because the agency will need 130,000 staff to listen to everyone's phone calls and monitor their text messages.

On May 15, a spokesperson for Mr Key said the prime minister did not give any comment on intelligence or security matters. He maintains his previous statement that New Zealand does not engage in the wholesale collection of metadata.

Both New Zealand Greens and Labour want an independent inquiry into the activities of the country's spy agency. Greens party co-leader Russel Norman said the recent revelations directly link New Zealand to the global network for mass surveillance. 

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