Kiwi email safe from Big Sister

Big Brother, or in our case Big Sister, won't be spying on Kiwis like her counterpart in Britain.

Big Brother, or in our case Big Sister, won't be spying on Kiwis like her counterpart in Britain.

The UK secret service agency MI5 is building a new $80 million email surveillance centre that will have the power to monitor all email in Britain.

But the New Zealand Government says nothing similar is planned here.

"The Prime Minister does not discuss operational matters in the area of security and intelligence. However, there is no such facility [along the lines of that being established in Britain by MI5], and nor is one being planned," says a spokesperson for Prime Minister Helen Clarke.

Despite this denial the New Zealand government's agencies are already accused of monitoring emails.The Waihopai electronic intelligence gathering base near Blenheim is operated by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and involves the intelligence agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Its two satellite interception dishes reportedly intercept a huge volume of telexes, faxes, electronic mail and computer data communications. It gathers this data from Asia-Pacific countries and forwards it on to the major partners in the UK/USA Agreement, specifically the US National Security Agency. Critics say its targets include international communications involving New Zealanders. The second and newer dish allegedly enables Waihopai to intercept international phone calls, including New Zealanders'.

In its move, the UK government is to require ISPs to have "hardwire" links to the new computer facility allowing messages to be traced across the Internet. The GTAC- government technical assistance centre -- is due for completion this year in MI5's London headquarters. The UK government already has the power to tap phone lines linking computers, but the growth of the Internet has made it impossible to read all material.

By forcing ISPs to install cables that will download material to MI5, the government can then read everything that passes over the Internet. Civil liberties groups say the development will breach individual privacy.

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