WELLINGTON, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand lawmakers demanded Friday that the government reveal whether the United States National Security Agency (NSA) had set up an interception site on New Zealand's only international fiber optic communications cable.
The call was made after the New Zealand Herald newspaper obtained documents showing that in February 2013, an NSA engineer visited Blenheim, the location of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) spy base, to participate in discussions about a future Special Source Operations (SSO) site.
The SSO was revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013 as a division of the NSA with the responsibility for all programs aimed at collecting data from major fiber-optic cables and switches, opposition Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said in a statement.
"It reveals that the GCSB and the NSA were in the process of establishing an interception site for all e-mails, Internet communications and phone calls coming in and out of New Zealand," said Norman.
Prime Minister John Key, also Minister Responsible for the GCSB, had given multiple assurances that New Zealanders' data was safe, but it now appeared that he might have approved total interception through the SSO site.
"Key has a lot of serious questions to answer. He must come clean on what he knew about this, whether he authorized it, whether it is currently in operation, and how it will be used," said Norman.
"Data collection on this scale would represent a massive expansion in the capabilities of the GCSB and shows just how close the relationship is between New Zealand and US spy agencies."
In August last year, the government passed a controversial law to extend the spying powers of the GCSB, the electronic intelligence agency, so it could spy on New Zealand citizens and residents.
The GCSB had been forbidden to spy on citizens and residents, but the government decided to overturn the ban after the agency was found to have illegally spied on more than 80 people.
Denis Tegg, a lawyer with an interest in civil rights issues who identified the SSO connection in the documents, told the New Zealand Herald Friday that the new law now appeared to be designed to allow foreign intelligence services to spy on New Zealanders within New Zealand.
"It means there is the potential for everything New Zealanders do on the Internet to be accessed on New Zealand soil," he told the Herald.