NSA WHISTLEBLOWER Edward Snowden has poured a bucket of ice water on New Zealand government claims that it doesn't engage in mass surveillance.
The New Zealand government line is that there is no wholesale snooping being conducted by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
In an editorial on the Intercept website, Snowden said that he had seen evidence at the NSA of metadata collection, mass surveillance and use of the NSA's XKEYSCORE system by New Zealand.
"If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called 'XKEYSCORE'. It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance," he said.
"It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals' private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance."
The New Zealand government has already reacted and prime minister John Key has released a series of denials.
"Claims have been made tonight that are simply wrong and that is because they are based on incomplete information. 'There is not, and never has been, a cable access surveillance programme operating in New Zealand," he said, according to a report in the New Zealand Herald.
"There is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB... The GCSB undertakes cyber security operations to protect individual public and private sector entities from the increasing threat of cyber-attack and this is very important work. It does not, however, remotely resemble what has been claimed."
Snowden is unmoved by official denials and encouraged people to look into the documents that have been leaked and published. He said that these contain all of the evidence that people need.
"The prime minister's claim to the public, that 'there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance' is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone network," he said.
"If you have doubts, which would be quite reasonable, given what the last year showed us about the dangers of taking government officials at their word, I invite you to confirm this for yourself. Actual pictures and classified documentation of XKEYSCORE are available online now, and their authenticity is not contested by any government."
'Some of us like the misery'
That'll surely affect its credit score