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New Zealand PM was aware of illegal Kim Dotcom surveillance

Published time: October 03, 2012 21:17
Edited time: October 04, 2012 01:17
Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom. (AFP Photo / Michael Bradley)

Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom. (AFP Photo / Michael Bradley)

The New Zealand prime minister who authorized the raid the netted Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom in January now admits he was briefed on the possible illegality of the case less than a month after it went down.

Only last month, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key publically apologized to Kim Dotcom, explaining that the mistakes carried out by the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) leading up to and during the January 20 raid on his Coatesville, NZ home was “appalling.”

"Of course I apologize to Mr. Dotcom. I apologize to New Zealand," Mr. Key said. "I am personally very disappointed that the agency failed to fully understand the workings of its own legislation” when conducting surveillance of Dotcom in the period before his arrest.

Now, however, Mr. Key confirms that he sat in on a debriefing meeting with the GCSB on February 29, during which the state’s spy agency discussed details of the mission.

Mr. Key admits to attending the meeting, but blames "brain fade" for forgetting the actual events of the encounter. A Government Communications Security Bureau review now confirms that the prime minister was put in the know only weeks after Dotcom was arrested, and right at the start of a case that the defendant calls “politically motivated” and appears to be weakening by the moment.

“A paper prepared as talking points for the staff member conducting a presentation contained a short reference to the Dotcom arrest a few weeks earlier, as an example of cooperation between the GCSB and the police,” the GCSB investigation appeals.

Mr. Key declines remembering the specifics of the sit-down, saying, “While neither the GCSB Director nor I can recall the reference to the Dotcom matter being made during my visit to the bureau back in February, I accept that it may well have been made.” What he does recall, he says, is seeing an image of Dotcom appear on the screen during a presentation made during the February meeting.

"They just flashed through it, I do vaguely remember the screen so I remember it being put up,” he says.

An investigation into GCSB practices have forced the agency to admit that the legality of three surveillance missions dating all the way back to 2009 may now be called into questions, only expediting the erosion of New Zealand’s case against Dotcom, a German national who has been raising a family at his Coatesville estate since being freed by authorities. His arrest in January was endorsed by the United States’ FBI, who has indicted Dotcom and his associates for allegedly operating a vast copyright conspiracy over the Internet. Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, maintains his innocence.