While domestic debates around the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) have focused on its role in spying on New Zealanders, more questions need to be asked about its involvement in mass surveillance of the electronic communications of people living outside New Zealand. Now the European Parliament, a body directly elected by the citizens of the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), is taking New Zealand to task for spying on Europeans’ communications.
The European Parliament’s powerful Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (the “LIBE” Committee) yesterday condemned New Zealand for its involvement in mass surveillance as part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network that comprises signals intelligences agencies of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The LIBE Committee voted to refer a motion to the Parliament regarding the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of European communications (a draft was first made public over a month ago, but appears to have escaped the notice of the New Zealand media). This motion includes the following statement:
“[A]ccording to the information revealed and to the findings of the inquiry conducted by the LIBE Committee, the national security agencies of New Zealand, Canada and Australia have been involved on a large scale in mass surveillance of electronic communications and have actively cooperated with the US under the so called ‘Five eyes’ programme, and may have exchanged with each other personal data of EU citizens transferred from the EU.”
The motion damningly states that the revelations “seriously affect trust in the legal systems of these countries [New Zealand and Canada] as regards the continuity of [data] protection afforded to EU citizens”. The draft motion is the result of a six-month long inquiry the LIBE Committee conducted into NSA mass surveillance, involving hearings with representatives of civil society organisations, parliamentarians from across the EU, members of the US Congress, journalists, IT experts, former members of the intelligence community, and others. The European Parliament will consider the motion in mid-March; seasoned observers consider that a majority of the members of that body will vote in favour of it. (more…)