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GCSB head knew of surveillance

Monday 05 Nov 2012 9:45a.m.

GCSB head knew of surveillance

The Government spy agency has confirmed knowledge of its surveillance of internet piracy-accused Kim Dotcom went right to the top of the organisation.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) admitted in September that its surveillance of Dotcom, ahead of his arrest in January, was illegal, because he is a New Zealand resident.

By law, it cannot spy on New Zealand citizens or residents.

In response to a request from Radio New Zealand, under the Official Information Act, the GCSB said its acting director at the time, Hugh Wolfensohn, knew about the surveillance.

Mr Wolfensohn, who has been with the GCSB for at least 16 years in senior positions, including head of corporate relations and chief legal adviser, is understood to be on gardening leave and facing the sack over the debacle.

Current director Ian Fletcher would not say how many other staff knew about the operation, saying that could jeopardise future operations by the agency.

The GCSB maintains it became aware only on September 12 that its surveillance was illegal, despite media reports almost immediately after Dotcom's arrest saying he and one of his co-accused were New Zealand residents.

Police were also given information from Immigration New Zealand in December last year, stating that Dotcom was a New Zealand resident.

Mr Fletcher says the GCSB communicated only with police, particularly the Organised and Financial Crime Agency (Ofcanz) - an indication the agency did not communicate with the FBI about its surveillance.

After it discovered the illegality of the surveillance, the GCSB contacted the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, and Crown Law.

It withheld the content of those communications on the basis it might prejudice national security or the maintenance of law, or legal privilege.

Police last month announced a team of senior police investigators will deal with a complaint from the Green Party about the GCSB's illegal surveillance, with an initial report due by November 15.

NZN

 
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