A few days before New Zealand’s general elections, Kim Dotcom has turned a rally of the Internet Party into a star-studded panel against Internet surveillance. The controversial German entrepreneur dubbed it “The Moment of Truth”.
He sat in a packed Auckland town hall alongside his lawyer Bob Amsterdam, the leader of the Internet Party Laila Harré and US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who worked with whistle-blower Edward Snowden on his revelations on mass surveillance.
Snowden and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange joined the event via live video stream from, respectively, the Ecuadorian embassy in London and an undisclosed location in Russia, to thunderous applause from a passionate audience. The whole event was streamed live online.
Dotcom and his guests took turns to talk about online mass surveillance. Greenwald locked horns at a distance with New Zealand’s prime minister John Key, accusing him of declassifying documents on the Kiwi surveillance program for political gains. Greenwald argued that the said documents were classified in the first place not to protect state security, but to hide what was going on from the NZ public.
In addition to plugging, not so subtly, the Mega-developed “fully encrypted video conference solution” used by Assanage and Snowden to talk during the event, Dotcom promised to “close one of the ‘Five Eyes’,” in reference to the name of the intelligence alliance that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Watch again the #MomentofTruth event
The rally starts at the 21:55 mark
The Moment of Truth rally is only one part of the offensive against the alleged mass surveillance program in place in New Zealand. In The Intercept, a news website he co-founded, Greenwald published on Monday an exposé revealing that “the New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted.”
“Top secret documents provided by the whistleblower demonstrate that the GCSB, with ongoing NSA cooperation, implemented Phase I of the mass surveillance program code-named “Speargun” at some point in 2012 or early 2013. “Speargun” involved the covert installation of “cable access” equipment, which appears to refer to surveillance of the country’s main undersea cable link, the Southern Cross cable, the Pulitzer prize winner writes. “This cable carries the vast majority of internet traffic between New Zealand and the rest of the world, and mass collection from it would mark the greatest expansion of GCSB spying activities in decades.”
In another article published on The Intercept on Monday, Edward Snowden explains that Kiwi prime minister John Key’s claim “to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” [in New Zealand] is false.”
“If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched”
The former NSA contractor adds “the GCSB, whose operations [Key] is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.”
In short, it means the 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,” the whistleblower alleges. “If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.”
According to Snowden, who worked for the NSA with a top secret clearance, surveillance of New Zealand is possible despite the country being part of the “Five Eyes”. Quite the contrary, he said “mass surveillance data” on New Zealanders are shared with these countries in the XKeyscore program and the country’s intelligence agency collaborates directly with the NSA.
Dotcom is still at risk of extradition from New Zealand to the United States to face online piracy charges over Megaupload, his outlawed file-sharing internet website.