Greens ask watchdog to investigate Pacific spying claims

Former spy boss Sir Bruce Ferguson has confirmed claims that there is a mass collection of electronic data in the Pacific by New Zealand spies.

It comes after a former spy boss confirmed revelations that there is mass surveillance in the Pacific. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government's spy watchdog has now been asked by the Greens to investigate.

Prime Minister John Key says there haven't been any calls from our Pacific neighbours angry over revelations we spy on them. "Not a single one, no," he says.

But it has put the focus back on what the GCSB does and whether Kiwis are getting caught in its net.

"The question I was once asked was would I resign if the GCSB was undertaking mass surveillance of New Zealanders. I said I would because they are not. And they are not and they never have," Mr Key says.

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager says communications in the Pacific, including those of Kiwis working or holidaying there, are all hoovered up by our spies and passed on to the United States.

And his claims have been given weight today by a former head of the GCSB, Sir Bruce Ferguson.

"There will from time to time to be inadvertent collection, mass collection of these things. But the Act specifics that they cannot then use that information," Sir Bruce told Radio New Zealand National's Morning Report.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says: "The question is what on earth is the legal basis for that kind of mass surveillance, given that the GCSB Act says that the GCSB shouldn't be targeting New Zealanders."

Mr Key however won't go into those legal justifications. "The legal advice I've had from GCSB is that they're 100 percent confident they've complied with the law," he says.

Privacy lawyers says it appears Mr Key is on solid ground with his assurances that the GCSB is acting legally. The law states that the communications of Kiwis can be collected, so long as it is done "incidentally".

"The new legislation certainly envisages a process for the incidental collection of New Zealand data in the course of a foreign intelligence operation," says James Dunne, Chen Palmer Lawyer.

The Greens however aren't convinced. "There's not some process whereby they filter through these many millions of communications to find anything done by a New Zealand citizen," Dr Norman says.

The Greens have now asked our spy watchdog, the Inspector-General of Intelligence, to investigate.

ONE News political editor Corin Dann says with more spying revelations set to come out next week, we can expect more heat to come on Mr Key when Parliament resumes on Tuesday.