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Snowden claims US spy sensor ‘in NZ’

by Sunday Express
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Edward Snowden claims there is a US National Security Agency facility in Auckland and in the north of New Zealand.

The former US contractor-turned-fugitive whistleblower was beamed into the Auckland Town Hall from Russia for Kim Dotcom’s “Moment of Truth” event.

As an NSA infrastructure analyst he “realised the absolute scale of how deep this went.”

Hours beforehand, in a report on the website of journalist Glenn Greenwald, Snowden claimed that while working for the US NSA he “routinely” came across the communications of New Zealanders while working in the XKeyscore mass surveillance tool.

“It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic,” he wrote.

A network of sensors placed around the world would allow him to search on an email address. One of those sensors is in New Zealand.

Snowden said X-Keyscore is collecting the communications of people in New Zealand and it is not related to foreign intelligence.

Snowden said that within the Five Eyes intelligence network, New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) contributes to the collection of communications.

“There is not just metadata… and specifically the GCSB not only uses X-Keyscore, they have expanded it, they have contributed to its development.”

Only a “checkbox” in the programme prevents the communications – which contains intimate personal details – being revealed to other overseas agencies, he said.

Before the event began, Prime Minister John Key released a series of Cabinet papers in a bid to counter what he claims is “misinformation” about the operations of GCSB.

“Claims have been made tonight that are simply wrong and that is because they are based on incomplete information.”

“There is not, and never has been, a cable access surveillance programme operating in New Zealand,” Key said in a statement.

“There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB.”

Click here to see the Project Cortex Business Case document.

Click here to see the Vote Communications Security and Intelligence: Contingency Item document.

Click here to see the Creating an Effective National Cyber Security Centre document.

Click here to see additional document on Project Cortex.

Snowden said, hours before the event: ‘‘If you live in New Zealand you are being watched.”

In the Town Hall, Greenwald told the crowd he was astonished that within 24 hours he was ‘‘publicly maligned ‘‘ by Key using the most ‘‘adolescent epithets imaginable.’’

He said it was weird to say ‘‘I’m not going to lower myself to the Prime Minister’s level.’’ It was also ‘‘stunning’’ for Key to admit ‘‘for the very first time’’ the Government had planned to engage in mass surveillance.

‘‘As this country was immersed in this very serious and sustained debate [about the GCSB legislation]… he concealed from the citizens for all of that time…that his own government was developing over many months a programme of mass surveillance.

‘‘What possible justification is there for concealing that for well over a year?’’

He also criticised Key for declassifying documents to help him politically.

He said the information was either classified top secret for national security reasons or it should never have been classified ‘‘because it was being hidden… to conceal from the public what the government was doing in planning mass surveillance.’’

Greenwald said that it was a conspiracy theory that he was here to disrupt the general election. And he reiterated that his standard fee was donated to charity by the Internet Party, and he was not paid for his travel or reporting here.

Mass surveillance was ‘‘a serious menace to all sorts of political values,’’ he said.

Snowden was considered a ‘‘hero’’, Greenwald said. Even his ‘‘harshest critics’’ have not been able to doubt his credibility as an analyst.

‘‘His record of accuracy… is almost entirely pure and complete and 100 per cent,’’ he said.

Key ‘‘radically misled’’ the public by saying mass surveillance was just a proposal, Greenwald said.

He produced an NSA slide in which Project Spearhead was described as being  ‘‘under way.’’

A second slide showed ‘‘phase one’’  was complete: ‘‘partner access program achieves phase one,’’ it reads.

According to Greenwald, the Snowden documents show that in 2012/2013, the GCSB and NSA began working on phase one of a ‘‘mass surveillance program’’ called Speargun.

This involved installing equipment that would allow access to the main undersea internet cable link, the Southern Cross Cable, Greenwald wrote on his Intercept site.

Phase two involved inserting ‘‘meta data probes’’ onto the cable, beginning in mid-2013

Greenwald said he was fascinated by the ‘‘polarising’’ debate on the GCSB legislation. It was adopted because Key repeatedly told the public the bill did not allow for mass surveillance.

‘‘Internally, however, the Key Government was saying exactly the opposite,’’ he said.

Another slide said the Speargun project was ‘‘awaiting new GCSB Act, expected July 2013.’’

Greenwald then pointed to the article written by Snowden, in which he details seeing metadata from New Zealand citizens, processed by the GCSB.

This was exactly the kind of surveillance Key vehemently denied took place – and promised to resign if this was proved otherwise, Greenwald said.

Anthony Briscoe, chief executive of the Southern Cross Cable, dismissed a claim by Greenwald that the cable had been tapped into by spies.

Briscoe said neither the NSA nor the GCSB had any tap on the cable.

“It is a physical impossibility to do it without us knowing. There is just no way it can be done. I can give you absolute assurances from Southern Cross – and me as a Kiwi – that there are no sites anywhere on the Southern Cross network that have to do with interception or anything else the NSA or GCSB might want to do,” Briscoe said.

Southern Cross had monitoring systems built into its computers watching for any such break and they would be triggered as soon as any attempt was made, he said.

“There isn’t a technology in the world, as far as I am aware, that can splice into an undersea fibre optic cable without causing a serious outage and sending alarms back to our network operation centre, that something’s wrong.’’

– Stuff

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