Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom accused New Zealand Prime Minister John Key of lying yesterday when he appeared in parliament to denounce plans to let intelligence agencies spy on local residents.
Dotcom was giving evidence to a select committee chaired by Key, which is examining a bill to reform intelligence services following revelations that government agencies illegally spied upon the Internet mogul last year.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between Dotcom and Key, whose government signed off on German’s arrest by armed police last year for alleged online piracy.
Dotcom began by admonishing Key for only giving him 15 minutes to testify, rather than the 25 he had been promised. He went on to accuse the prime minister of fibbing when Key denied any knowledge of Dotcom prior to his arrest in Auckland in January last year as part of a massive US investigation.
“You know I know ... why are you turning red, prime minister?” Dotcom asked Key, prompting Key to fire back at the portly tech guru: “Why are you sweating?”
Outside the hearing room, Dotcom said the privacy concerns raised by his evidence were more important than any personal issues between Key and himself.
His voice at times shaking with emotion, Dotcom testified that he had been the victim of “massive overreach” by the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and that the proposed reforms would make it easier to abuse surveillance powers.
“We should avoid blindly following the US into the dark ages of surveillance abuse,” he said, referring to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations.
Under existing laws, the GCSB is supposed to focus on foreign intelligence and cybersecurity, and is explicitly forbidden from spying on New Zealand citizens or residents. However, it was revealed last year that it spied on Dotcom, a German national with New Zealand residency, before his arrest.
Dotcom is suing the agency, while the government wants to close what it calls as a technical loophole limiting the agency’s operations.