WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Responding to the government-surveillance controversy engulfing New Zealand’s security-alliance partners in Washington, Prime Minister John Key said Tuesday his country doesn’t use foreign intelligence agencies to circumvent local laws and illegally spy on its citizens.
But Key declined to say exactly what help New Zealand does get from agencies like the U.S. National Security Agency. He said any help the South Pacific nation has received from foreign intelligence agencies would have been lawful and in the country’s national interest.
Key was responding in Parliament to questions raised by opposition lawmakers. They’ve raised fears the NSA may have spied on New Zealanders under an intelligence-sharing alliance known as Five Eyes that includes the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
Revelations in recent days about U.S. spy programs that track phone and Internet messages around the world have created an international uproar. Details about the programs were leaked by an American defense contractor to The Guardian newspaper in Britain and to The Washington Post.
Key said he believes the public has retained confidence in New Zealand’s spy agencies, including the Government Communications Security Bureau.
“I’m not going to go into the operational matters or techniques used by GCSB,” he told Parliament. “But what I can give people an absolute assurance is that we don’t ask foreign intelligence agencies to act in any way that circumvents the law.”
The GCSB did not immediately respond Tuesday to questions from The Associated Press.
In Australia, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the government was looking into the implications of the leak. Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and the country’s main spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, declined to discuss the case.
“We work closely with the intelligence agencies of our closest partners because we are facing common threats,” Dreyfus said in a statement. “Consistent with long-standing practice, I as Attorney General am not going to discuss such arrangements in detail since to do so would potentially expose these important capabilities to those who would do us harm.”
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague sought to assure Parliament that allegations that the British government had used information provided by the Americans to circumvent British laws were “baseless.”
“Our agencies practice and uphold U.K. law at all times,” he said, “even when dealing with information from outside the U.K.”
In Canada, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said Monday she would look into the implications for her country, saying the scope of information reportedly collected raises “significant concerns.”