Did New Zealand Spooks Tap Into PRISM To Spy On Dotcom?

from the suggestive dept

As Techdirt has reported, the attempts to extradite Kim Dotcom from New Zealand to the US have turned into one of the most catastrophically bungled legal cases in a long while. One of the biggest scandals to emerge was that New Zealand citizens had been wiretapped in an effort to gain evidence against Dotcom, since domestic spying was forbidden there just as it is in the US (oh, wait…). Unfortunately, rather than rapping knuckles and telling the local spooks not to do it again, the New Zealand government has instead just brought in new legislation to make it legal in the future.

But it seems that the revelations in the Dotcom case aren’t over yet. A story on the Australian site ITnews drawing on a blog post by Keith Ng has the following remarkable claim:

Police affidavits related to the raid on Kim Dotcom’s Mega mansion appear to show that New Zealand police and spy agencies are able to tap directly into United States surveillance systems such as PRISM to capture email and other traffic.

Here’s why Ng thinks that’s the case. On page 13 of the Kim Dotcom affidavits (pdf), which have been released in a redacted form (and are embedded below), there is a request from the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) to the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), New Zealand’s signals intelligence unit, to “conduct SIGINT analysis against persons associated with Mega Media Group” — notably Kim Dotcom.

The police then provided a list of what page 19 of the affidavits calls “selectors” — precisely the word used by the NSA for PRISM search terms. Page 17 contains some more tantalizing hints of what is going on, as Ng explains:

The selectors were entered into █████, in an email classified as “SECRET//COMINT//REL TO NZL, AUS, CAN, GBR, USA”. In other words, the selectors were entered into a secret communications intelligence system, and this secret system was considered related to Five Eyes

Five Eyes” is the cosy club of Anglo-Saxon countries — US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — that form a kind of inner circle for swapping surveillance information. It’s probably fair to say that these documents don’t constitute cast-iron “proof” that the New Zealand police drew on information from PRISM supplied through the Five Eyes collaboration, although it is certainly consistent with that. However, what this does show without doubt is that Kim Dotcom’s case was being discussed with New Zealand’s spy agency in the context of the Five Eyes group.

At the very least, this demonstrates the completely disproportionate lengths to which the New Zealand government was prepared to go in order to try to obtain evidence against Dotcom for a case that was essentially about alleged copyright infringement. It may even be the first indication that PRISM’s global surveillance system is also being deployed in areas that have nothing to do with terrorism or serious threats to the US or its citizens.

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Comments on “Did New Zealand Spooks Tap Into PRISM To Spy On Dotcom?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Megaupload knowingly hosted infringed content.

“”alleged copyright infringement,” eh? ALLEGED? Who am I to believe, a pirate or my own eyes?”

Has he be found guilty of copyright infringement in a court of law???? Until then it is “alleged”.

If anyone is to blame for copyright infringement it is the users who used Megaupload to commit copyright infringemnt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Megaupload knowingly hosted infringed content.

Please excuse out_of_the_blue, due process isn’t really his thing. So he’s kind of shaky on points like “No matter how obviously guilty they are, until they’re actually found guilty in a court of law, their crimes are only “alleged crimes”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Information is now coming out in other places around the globe that while it does not say they read the contents of the emails strongly suggest that was indeed done.

Once more it will not surprise me to learn that this is one of the secrets the NSA and it’s supporting groupies don’t want you to know or to have verification of.

This seems to lean strongly in that direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anton Vickerman


During Anton Vickerman’s trial in the UK, also for copyright, there was a portion of evidence heard using the rule designed to protect witnesses in terrorism cases.

This is a deeply troubling portion of the prosecution. How can a defendant defend against accusations and evidence he isn’t allowed to know or hear?! That cannot be justice, how can a competent judge allow such a travesty?

It could well be that this was NSA/GCHQ evidence in which case it was domestic spying in violation of GCHQ’s charter. That would fit with this pattern with Mega Upload in New Zealand.

In this case the witnesses would be kept secret not to protect them from reprisals, but to protect the domestic spying from exposure to the authorities.

“the PII hearing took place on 6 September 2010 between the judge and prosecution only. I do not know what was said, what was discussed or what it was about but I do know that from this date Judge Evans went from hostile to incredibly hostile to myself and my defense team”

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Anton Vickerman

So the big question here is… Who ELSE has been thrown under the bus for these Kafkaesque courts?

I know that Ninjavideo was targeted with this information based on just Skype.

We have Megaupload being thrown to the wolves for a big dramatic takedown that has made the FBI look pretty poor since.

We have Anton Vickers in the UK.

We have the four Pirate trials of Sweden and a judge with a biased record.

And we have LEOs admitting to wanting to throw people in jail.

Further more, the innocents in this case are getting too numerous to ignore…

Aaron Schwartz…

Richard O Dwyer…

Justin Carter…

What the hell is going on here? How many more people’s lives have to suffer for a quota system that only benefits the very few?

How does this sound like freedom and opportunity when the only people that can have their liberties are the ones funding the government and its actions?

We have a lot of things that need changing. Copyright is a small one but looking at how the mission creep of the government’s actions have basically shown it to destroy people’s lives more than it helps, I think it’s time to address the bigger issue here. Our government seriously needs an overhaul in how it does business because these destruction to people for jail time is not serving the world all that well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Have another down vote ootb. You just can’t keep from attacking those you depend on for your attention feed.

Nor do you seem able to comprehend that it was not Dotcom that put any alleged infringement material on his site.

I can not believe you can actually mix and match your pet peeves with some sort of outlandish justification when they get mixed. It’s really sad the mental contortions you have to do to even talk about them in this topic. On one hand you have the anticopyright stuck up your ass, you have security issues with Google, and yet can’t somehow connect the dots that anticopyright pretty much requires anti-privacy in order to identify. Yes, that means spying.

So either you are good with it by this first post and Goggle isn’t such a problem or you are wholly blind to the former and unable to make the mental effort of connection.

DCL says:

meta data is harmless!

This article shows how the usage of meta data can strongly infer details that are not otherwise overtly shared…
… and the NSA wants us to believe that the collection of meta data is harmless?!?!?!

Sad thing is the only lesson they the spy network will learn is that they need to redact more and do a better job at deleting damning evidence…. I think I Just heard all the printer cartridge supply chains of the world shout in joy with the coming demand increase for black ink.

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:


I’d be a bit more convinced if “selector” wasn’t common jargon for any term that selects a subset of a pool of potentially responsive nodes. (For example, in CSS. Or jQuery. Or a million other languages.) Any term used to search or filter a data stream or database could be properly referred to as a selector.

Analyzing their font and measuring the length of the redaction would provide better data. In fact, my eyeball guess is that the redaction could very well be PRISM, and it’s a little short for many of the other program names we know about. But that’s got nothing to do with the use of the word “selector.”

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