Kim Dotcom has criticised legislation expanding the powers of New Zealand’s electronic spy agency as unjustified and unwarranted at a parliamentary committee. But Prime Minister John Key was unimpressed, dismissing the internet entrepreneur’s submission as “a circus”.
Mr Dotcom and his business associate Bram van der Kolk appeared before Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee late on Wednesday afternoon, which is hearing submissions on a bill that if passed would make it legal to monitor New Zealand citizens and residents.
The Prime Minister, who chairs the committee, introduced the legislation after it became clear that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) had illegally monitored Mr Dotcom, a German national with New Zealand residency, on behalf of police last year.
The FBI is trying to extradite Mr Dotcom to the United States to face charges of internet copyright fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Dotcom referred to the involvement of the GCSB in the police investigation into his internet site Megaupload, which has since been shut down. He said the illegal monitoring of his activities by the bureau and subsequent police raid on his Coatesville mansion near Auckland in January 2012 led to the legislation being drafted.
“The proposed GCSB bill is a betrayal of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights. As the New Zealand Law Society has quite rightly pointed out, it is not a clarification. This new GCSB bill is totally unjustified in a free and democratic society.”
Mr Dotcom said what he endured represents an extreme example of what can happen when spy agencies misuse or misunderstand their powers. He said he had suffered unlawful destruction of his property, reputation and freedom.
Mr Dotcom said the expansion of the GCSB’s powers are unjustified, the bill does not provide adequate safeguards and poses a threat to civil liberties.
But John Key later told reporters he was not impressed with Mr Dotcom’s submission.
“It’s all circus isn’t it? It’s a PR campaign – not a serious attempt to have a go at the bill – but there was nothing new there. I mean, his actual case which was as I said to him was illegal, would be illegal under this legislation as well. The truth is, the GCSB got it wrong.”
However, Mr Key said other submissions have made good points and expects changes would be made to the bill.
Also making submissions on Wednesday were Green MP Keith Locke, Internet NZ and TechLiberty, an internet freedom group.
Govt urged not to rush legislation
The Government has been urged not to rush spy legislation through Parliament because of embarrassment over Kim Dotcom.
Lawyer Rodney Harrison, who made a submission on behalf of the Law Society, on Tuesday criticised the haste with which the bill is being pushed through Parliament.
Dr Harrison said the Government should not be reacting to the Dotcom case. He said it is clear that the Government lost face with the US and wonders whether the bill is being rushed through in response.
An academic specialising in security studies predicts there will be increasing intrusions on people’s privacy. Jim Veitch, a defence and security academic, said that if law and order breakdowns in the Middle East move to South East Asia, New Zealand will be have to be prepared to deal with it.
Meanwhile, Greens co-leader Russel Norman, a member of the intelligence and security committee, said the Prime Minister was disrespectful during Tuesday’s hearing.
Dr Norman told Radio New Zealand’sÂ Morning ReportÂ programme that John Key appeared to be just going through the motions and simply acted as a timekeeper. He said members of the committee should be using the submissions to scrutinise the legislation and hear different perspectives.