Too soon for blame over Dotcom spying, says Key
Tuesday 25 Sep 2012 5:25 p.m.
By Tova O'Brien
A High Court document has revealed that a mistake by New Zealand Police led to unlawful surveillance of Kim Dotcom.
Police asked the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) to spy on Dotcom and his colleagues, and said they were foreign nationals. This information is crucial because it meant spies wouldn’t be breaking the law, but it was the wrong information.
Dotcom's New Zealand residency was no great secret. In fact, he celebrated with $500,000 worth of fireworks.
A Crown Law memo shows it was the police who asked the GCSB to spy on Dotcom and his colleagues. The agency needs permission to bug New Zealand residents.
The GCSB sought assurance they were foreign nationals. OFCANZ, the police organised crime agency, gave that assurance.
But Prime Minister John Key says it's too soon to lay blame.
“I just caution you as a journalist to be careful about inventing things that are great for a Tom Clancy story but not necessarily accurate in New Zealand,” says Mr Key.
Mr Key's in charge of New Zealand's intelligence agencies and says no one told him about plans to bug Dotcom.
His deputy Bill English was told, however, when he was Acting Prime Minister. He signed a ministerial certificate suppressing details of the operation.
“All I can say is I was involved in an administrative procedure and I'd prefer not to comment further on that,” says Mr English. “I wouldn't want to mislead or give any sense that I can recall details that I can’t.”
The spying took place over summer last year. In mid-August, Mr English was told about the bugging and signed the certificate. A month later, Mr Key was finally told about the operation, but only because laws had been broken.
But it wasn't until last night Mr Key knew of Mr English's role.
“The fact that he didn't tell him on his return, didn't mention in a Cabinet meeting and didn't tell him until just the other day, I'm afraid that's beyond belief,” says Labour Party leader David Shearer.
So the Dotcom saga has deepened yet again and it has just dragged in two of the country's most powerful figures.