Snowden weighs into New Zealand election with surveillance claims

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has accused New Zealand prime minister John Key of lying to the country’s citizens about the surveillance they’re under.

In a Monday missive published in The Intercept, Snowden said the New Zealand spy agency GCSB has “the ability to see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online” – and makes all of this available to the NSA and other partners in the Five Eyes club (also including the spy agencies of the U.K., Canada and Australia) through the XKeyscore system.

Snowden said he knew this because of his time working at the NSA, and warned that spies could easily uncheck a tickbox marked “Five Eyes Defeat” to stop filtering out information from those countries, as their policies may or may not dictate (the Five Eyes arrangement has been long thought to include limitations on mutual spying, but Barack Obama has denied that the U.S. has a no-spy arrangement with any country.)

Key, however, said that any claims suggesting New Zealanders were under local surveillance were “simply wrong”, explaining that he had rejected a GCSB plan to monitor the country’s people. “The GCSB does not collect mass metadata on New Zealanders, therefore it is clearly not contributing such data to anything or anyone,” he said.

Snowden’s statement was a politically-charged move, as New Zealanders will go to the polls on 20 September to elect a new government. “It’s time to stand up. It’s time to restore our democracies. It’s time to take back our rights,” Snowden wrote. His contribution to the election run-up was also made verbally via videolink, as part of a “Moment of Truth” event that also featured The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, entrepreneur/scoundrel Kim Dotcom and, also via videolink, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.