New Zealand lawmakers approve government surveillance bill

[JURIST] The New Zealand parliament [official website] on Wednesday approveda bill [text] expanding the power of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). Approved in a 61-59 vote, the legislation gives the GCSB increased power to support other state departments including the New Zealand police, Defense Force and the Security Intelligence Service. The hotly contested legislation was reportedly opposed by over 75 percent of the New Zealand's population, who fear that the bill will result in increased surveillance of citizens in violation of their rights. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key defended the bill, insisting that it was necessary to protect the country against cyber-threats.

The GCSB amendment has been vehemently opposed by opposition parties, political leaders and concerned citizens since its introduction in May. On Monday more than 1,000 protesters crowded inside of the Auckland Town Hall to voice their concerns over the GCSB amendment. Amid questions regarding whether the bill would protect citizens from warrantless spying, Key abruptly ended the interview and left the press conference early. In June the New Zealand Law Society [official website] released a report [text, PDF] opposing the bill, arguing that it "empowers the GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents ... in a way not previously contemplated and that is inconsistent with the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure."

 

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