New Zealand’s intelligence watchdog has launched a probe into the operations of the country’s electronic surveillance agency after claims that it spied on foreign rivals in Trade Minister Tim Groser’s failed bid to head the World Trade Organization (WTO).
WTO Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn said Thursday the inquiry would focus on how the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) considered undertaking foreign intelligence activities and avoided being politically misused.
It was unlikely she would be unable to publicly confirm or deny allegations that the GCSB spied on Groser’s rivals in his campaign to become director-general of the WTO in 2013, but she would inquire generally into how the GCSB determined what intelligence activity to undertake and how its activities were regulated.
The inquiry would also consider issues of potential or perceived political advantage and how the GCSB identified and managed any issue regarding its political neutrality, Gwyn said in a statement.
The WTO claim was published by the New Zealand Herald newspaper in March and was based on material from U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The report said the spying operation was active in 2013, when Prime Minister John Key was directly in charge of the security services and involved covert surveillance of candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and the Republic of Korea.
Groser and Key have previously refused to comment on the allegation, but opposition lawmakers accused Groser of “personal use” of the spy agency to secure a job.
It followed claims that New Zealand agencies as members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence network that includes the U.S., Britain, Canada and Australia spied on friendly countries in the Pacific and Asia.
The Herald reported last month that Snowden documents showed the GCSB and U.S. spy agencies had planned to jointly hack into Chinese diplomatic communications in Auckland in 2013.
Last year, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security investigated and upheld allegations that Key’s office had used information from the Security Intelligence Service spy agency to gain a political advantage in the 2011 general election. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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