The Prime Minster of New Zealand says the Government Communications Security Bureau acted "unlawfully" by aiding in the arrest of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.
There's still a long way to go before it's over, but the case against Megaupload founder and alleged copyright infringement mastermind Kim Dotcom is looking more and more like an utterly bungled mess. The latest blow against it came from no less a figure than New Zealand Prime Minister John Key himself, who has ordered an inquiry into the "unlawful interception of certain individuals by the Government Communications Security Bureau." Those "certain individuals" are presumed to be Dotcom and other Megaupload executives and their families who were arrested at the request of the U.S. government.
The role of the GCSB in the Megaupload affair is problematic because it is legally forbidden from spying on citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand. Key said he was made aware of the situation after speaking to the head of the agency last Monday, after which he took the matter to Inspector General Paul Neazor for investigation.
"I expect our intelligence agencies to operate always within the law. Their operations depend on public trust," Key said. "I look forward to the Inspector-General's inquiry getting to the heart of what took place and what can be done about it." He said he was unable to comment further because of the relation of the matter to the Megaupload litigation currently before New Zealand's High Court.
Dotcom wrote on Twitter that he "welcomed" the inquiry and suggested that it be extended "to cover the entire Crown Law Mega case." Not everyone was as generous in their assessment of the situation, however, including New Zealand Labour Party Leader David Shearer, who said the Prime Minister is responsible for "signing off all intercept warrants by GSCB."
"John Key must also come clean about his claim that he hadn't heard of Kim Dotcom until the solicitor-general briefed him the day before the raid on the German businessman's mansion," Shearer said. "This is simply not credible given the range of people close to John Key who were involved in the Dotcom case."
The U.S. government's case against Dotcom has grown increasingly shaky since his arrest in January. In May, the U.S. was ordered to disclose its evidence against Dotcom to his legal team, something it had previously refused to do, and in June a New Zealand judge ruled that the raid on Dotcom's mansion and the seizure and search of Megaupload hard drives that followed were illegal. His lead attorney in the U.S., Ira Rothken, said he's looking forward to "learning [about] any U.S. involvement in alleged domestic spying in N.Z."
Dotcom's extradition hearing is currently scheduled to begin in March 2013.