New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English is the latest high-ranking official to come under pressure as a result of the Kim Dotcom spying fiasco. English, who was acting Prime Minister in 2012 when much of the spying took place, now stands accused of acting unlawfully when he tried to have the surveillance of Dotcom recognized as a state secret.
In the lead up to the January 2012 raid on cloud storage site Megaupload, authorities in New Zealand used the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) agency to spy on Kim and Mona Dotcom, plus Megaupload co-defendant Bram van der Kolk. That should not have happened.
Intelligence agency GCSB was forbidden by law from conducting surveillance on its own citizens or permanent residents in the country. Former Prime Minister John Key later apologized for the glaring error but for Dotcom, that wasn’t enough. The entrepreneur launched legal action in pursuit of the information illegally obtained by GCSB and appropriate compensation.
Last week the High Court decided that Dotcom wouldn’t get access to the information but it also revealed something of much interest. Instead of confirming that the illegal spying on Dotcom took place December 16, 2011, through to January 20, 2012, the range was extended by two months to March 22, 2012.
The implications of the extension are numerous, not least that GCSB continued to spy on Dotcom even after it knew it was acting illegally. The reveal also undermines an earlier affidavit from a GCSB staff member, problems which are now returning to haunt New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English.
When the spying was taking place, John Key was Prime Minister but when Key traveled overseas, English was left at the helm. As a result, when the possibility that Dotcom had been spied on was raised during court hearings in 2012, it was English who was approached by the GCSB with a request to have its involvement made a state secret.
According to NZHerald, English was briefed by then-GCSB director Ian Fletcher and former acting director Hugh Wolfensohn on GCSB’s assistance to the police in the Dotcom case.
The content of those discussion has not been made public but English appears to have been convinced of the need to keep the information private. He subsequently signed a ministerial certificate, which barred disclosure of GCSB activities, even by people asked to provide them in a court of law.
However, since GCSB had broken the law by illegally spying on the Dotcoms and van Der Kolk, the certificate subsequently collapsed. But, like a dog with a bone, Dotcom isn’t letting this go, claiming that acting Prime Minister English acted unlawfully by signing the certificate in an effort to suppress wrong-doing.
“The ministerial certificate was an attempted cover-up. Bill English must have been briefed that GCSB was facing legal troubles because of unlawful conduct,” he told NZHerald.
“And only after the attempted gag-order failed in the High Court did the Government admit unlawful spying with a fake narrative that it was all a big mistake, a misunderstanding of the law, an error.”
Following the judgment last week that revealed the extended spying period, Dotcom confirms that there will be fresh legal action to obtain information from GCSB.
“The new revelations completely undermine the government narrative and it raises new questions about what really happened,” Dotcom concludes.
July 25, 2017