GCSB incompetence or deception? What the Court affivadits show in the Dotcom spying saga



Did the Government Communications Security Bureau knowingly engage in illegal spying on Mr Dotcom, a New Zealand resident, or were they just incompetent? Were the Police, who requested the GCSB surveillance, co-conspirators in this unlawful behaviour, or were they also incompetent?

With the release of Police and GCSB Court affidavits to the Labour Party we are getting closer to the truth, but there are still pieces missing in this jigsaw puzzle.

A simple “incompetence” explanation is getting harder to sustain when you consider the following timeline:

9 December 2011: Detective Inspector Grant Wormald asks Immigration New Zealand for file information on Kim Dotcom and Mr van der Kolk.
14 December 2011: Wormald tells the two GCSB representatives at a meeting “that both Mr Dotcom and Mr van der Kolk were residing in New Zealand and were able to come and go, so they must have a form of residency” and, related to that, he “did not think it was possible for the GCSB to intercept either Mr Dotcom or Mr van der Kolk.”
16 December 2011: Police receive from NZ Immigration documents re the travel of Mr Dotcom and Mr van der Kolk. They show Mr Dotcom is listed as “resident” in his last two arrivals in New Zealand.
That same day the GCSB begins its illegal surveillance on Mr Dotcom, after a request from the Police.
11 January 2012: Police receive NZ Immigration files on Mr Dotcom confirming he had been granted residence on 18 November 2010.
20 January 2012: Surveillance of Mr Dotcom is ended.
21 January 2012: Mr Dotcom is arrested.
16 February 2012: Detective Inspector Wormald is in a debrief with GCSB in which he observes that “It appeared to GCSB that the interception may not have been lawful because of their (Dotcom and van der Kolk’s) residency status.”
20 February 2012: GCSB admits that both the Police and media reports confirm Mr Dotcom’s residency status.

Despite all this the GCSB sends out an email on 27 February claiming the surveillance was legal. They claim that Mr Dotcom could be spied upon because he was a “Resident” not a “Permanent Resident” – when in the Immigration Act all residents are treated as permanent, with the same rights, and according to the GCSB Act they can’t be spied upon.

The GCSB also says in another email to the Police that “People here have been very relaxed about it all” and “Absolutely no further action [is] required.”

So take your pick. The Police and GCSB are guilty of gross incompetence, or they consciously misinterpreted the law to make everything right. Or they were guilty on both counts.

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Looming over both agencies was the FBI, keen to get Mr Dotcom into custody.

For its part, the GCSB would have been a willing agent. It was created in the 1970s as a subordinate of the American National Security Agency, to extend the global reach of this giant electronic spying agency. NSA officers work within the GCSB and the NSA gives the GCSB the riding instructions for the operation of its main asset, the Waihopai satellite communications interception station.

There seems to be more oversight of our GCSB from American government than the New Zealand government. Our Prime Minister said it was ok that the GCSB didn’t tell him about its spying on Dotcom, because it was only an “operational matter”.

Under pressure, Mr Key now says he expects there will be a shakeup at the GCSB. But we need much more than that. We need a comprehensive independent inquiry, with public input, to critically examine not only the GCSB’s competence but also its worth to New Zealand.

[For more on the lack of accountability of the GCSB see my Op-Ed: “Dotcom case shows the cost of spying is spooky” published in the New Zealand Herald on 18 December 2012.]


  1. Under pressure, Mr Key now says he expects there will be a shakeup at the GCSB.

    Far better that there’s a “shake-up” on the Ninth Floor of the Beehive.It appears that it wasn’t solely the GCSB at fault here – but a Prime Minister who has a policy of not getting involved (even when it’s specifically his role).

    Now of course, as is his habit, he’s blaming everyone else but himself.

    If Key doesn’t have oversight of our spy agencies – then who the hell does?

    This is the question that the msm seems to be skirting and not looking into.

  2. Anyone who thinks the covert fascism we endure at the moment will not morph into overt fascism is deluded. The REAL power lies with the global elites (governments are just enforces of dysfunction), and the global elites are not going to allow ANYONE to get in the way of their plans for continued wealth transference from the many to the few.

    Increased surveillance, bigger and bigger lies (promulgated via the corporate media), and increased use of violence against the masses will be necessary for the global elites to hold the totally corrupt western economic-political system together.

    There are several flies in the ointment, of course. China, Russia and Iran etc. are not open to the bullying tactics nor the military might the west has used to intimidate in the past. Indeed, developments in Cyprus suggest the elites who have a firm stranglehold on western faux democracies are in very serious trouble on the international front.

    Now that currency wars and proxy/undercover resources wars are being fought all over the world we should not be surprised to see the commencement of World War III some time in the fairly near future, at which point governments everywhere will be able to declare almost anything a ‘matter of national security’ and manipulate and steal more than they already do.

    It’s a game that has been played repeatedly throughout history.

    The big difference from previous ‘plays’ is that the world is running out of cheapabundant liquid fuels needed to fight wars, and is in the early stage of environmental meltdown.

    Pity anyone under the age of 20 living anywhere on this planet.

  3. The power point presentation on 29 February 2012 made a brief mention of Dotcom’s residency, (Key was present).

    What did Key think that the GCSB were doing for the police that the police could not do for themselves?

    Possibly surveillance because of the High Court decision being on a case by case basis when it came to using footage/intercepting phone conversations on private property being permissible at trial.

    There was a heavy police presence on 20 January 2012 at Dotcom’s home and then five weeks later Dotcom’s residency was raised at GCSB.

    For GCSB to have raised the residency at all and to the PM, GCSB had to have been involved at some point.

    I would want to know why, what and when, were I the minister in charge?

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