Moment of Truth event in Auckland: Julian Assange and Edward Snowden joined Kim Dotcom to highlight mass surveillance in New Zealand ahead of this weekend's general election
Moment of Truth event in Auckland: Julian Assange and Edward Snowden joined Kim Dotcom to highlight mass surveillance in New Zealand ahead of this weekend's general electionMoment of Truth

Kim Dotcom has played an interesting card in his Internet Party's election campaign ahead of this Saturday's New Zealand 2014 General Election, by inviting pals Edward Snowden and Julian Assange to reveal how the New Zealand government has been involved in mass surveillance.

The internet entrepreneur held the Moment of Truth event on Monday in Auckland Town Hall, which was attended by more than 3,000 New Zealand citizens, as well as special guests Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, via heavily encrypted video link using Dotcom's new Mega secure communications suite, and millions of viewers online.

Just before the event started, online newspaper, The Intercept, released an article by Edward Snowden, accusing the New Zealand government of secretly enacting an internet surveillance law, called Speargun in 2012 and 2013.

Speargun involved covertly installing equipment that could hack into the Southern Cross cable, the country's main undersea cable link, so as to capture the bulk of communications sent between New Zealand and the rest of the world.

New Zealand prime minister John Key has been embroiled in claims by The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald in recent weeks that his government sanctioned wholesale spying of citizens by the New Zealand intelligence agency, Government Communications Security Bureau, (GCSB), according to New Zealand's 3 News.

Key has refuted the claims and said that he would be willing to declassify documents to prove that he had not sanctioned mass surveillance ahead of the election.

NSA sensor networks in New Zealand

However, during the Moment of Truth event, Snowden said that it does not matter if Key shows off declassified documents as the NSA has facilities in New Zealand so the government would have had knowledge about it.

"When I was doing this, I could see records of communications from people around the world. I was sitting at the NSA facilities in Hawaii. Let's say I wanted to see John Key's email. I'd send the request and it gets sent to these sensor networks around the world and these networks search their metadata," said Snowden.

"I can see everything - what book you looked at on Amazon last week. I can see who you talked to, who your friends on Facebook are. I can read your text messages. I can set up fingerprints to see what you did on the internet, even if you're using anonymising tools.

"One of those NSA sensor network facilities is here in Auckland. When John Key says there is no mass surveillance in the NZ, they're distracting from the main questions.

Moment of Truth
The Moment of Truth panel, from left: Internet Party leader Laila Harré, Dotcom's lawyer Robert Amsterdam, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Kim DotcomMoment of Truth

"Journalists need to press. I think it's a careful phrasing of words - the NSA can collect the records and we can just read their copies of the records."

Assange agreed and said that due to the Five Eyes alliance, an intelligence cooperation agreement signed between the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, that these countries now have the ability to change the world order.

"There is no proper oversight to this club... It is all backroom deals on how to construct laws between countries on how to subvert laws governing intelligence agencies. Covert intelligence agencies are designed to operate outside proper scrutiny and outside the law and they cannot be trusted. The people who get into bed with them also cannot be trusted," said Assange.

"The level of mass surveillance has increased over the last 10 years. It's now at the level where it must affect our society domestically and the structure of domestic order. When you hack into other countries and you are able to control its police forces, you are in effect annexing that country."

Yesterday, The Intercept released NSA and GCHQ documents given to them by Edward Snowden, showing the NSA has a program called Treasure Map that is able to spy in real-time on every single broadband network, landline and mobile network in the world.

NZ PM's rebuttal to spying claims

Key has admitted that GCSB considered mass surveillance in late 2011 and early 2012, but says it never got past the business stage and stopped in March 2013.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in a televised debate on TV3 last weekReuters

After the Moment of Truth event ended, he declassified a series of GCSB documents showing that the GCSB implemented a cyber-security operation project, which did not involve spying.

"We don't discuss the specific programs the GCSB may, or may not use, but the GCSB does not collect mass metadata on New Zealanders, therefore it is clearly not contributing such data to anything or anyone," Mr Key said, according to the New Zealand Herald.

"The GCSB undertakes cyber security operations to protect individual public and private sector entities from the increasing threat of cyber-attack and this is very important work. It does not, however, remotely resemble what has been claimed."

However, he refused to discuss XKeyscore, a formerly secret NSA programme that analyses internet data.

Dotcom's Internet Party has 15 candidates (which do not include Dotcom) and the party aims to create "positive change for New Zealand in the digital age", according to the party's official website.

"You, Julian and you, Edward, you are heroes, and I thank you for everything you have done. We are going to do everything we can to stop NZ from participating in mass surveillance and we will close one of the five eyes," Dotcom pledged during Moment of Truth.