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Controversial spy legislation gets majority in New Zealand Parliament


18:23, July 22, 2013

WELLINGTON, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Proposals by the New Zealand government to extend the spying powers of its intelligence and security agencies looked set to go ahead Monday after a minor supporting party secured guarantees of extra oversight of the organizations.

Prime Minister John Key said the agreement would see amendments to strengthen the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

He said he was confident that the amended legislation struck the right balance between privacy and national security.

"Our intelligence agencies have an important role to play and need a clear legal framework to operate within," Key said in a statement.

Additions to the Bill included "a set of guiding principles" and a two-person advisory panel to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, who currently works unassisted.

The agreement also limited the agencies authorized to request surveillance assistance from the GCSB to the police, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) domestic security agency and the New Zealand Defence Force.

"New Zealanders can take comfort the GCSB and NZSIS will be operating under a far stricter and more proactive oversight regime as they undertake important activities to ensure the safety of this country," Key said.

The Bill has been widely criticized by organizations including the government's own Human Rights Commission and the Law Commission for its failure to provide enough checks against unwarranted intrusions into individual privacy.

The GCSB is forbidden to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents, but the government wants to overturn this ban after the agency was caught illegally spying on the communications of German Internet mogul Kim Dotcom.

The founder of file-sharing site Megaupload, Dotcom had his Auckland home raided by police in January last year at the behest of United States law enforcement agencies, who are seeking his extradition on Internet piracy, money-laundering and racketeering charges.

A subsequent government report found the GCSB might have illegally spied on more than 80 people.

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