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New Zealand gives go-ahead to spy on own citizens

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New Zealand spy agencies now can conduct surveillance operations on its own citizens, thanks to legislation signed into law Wednesday giving government intelligence the expanded powers.

The new law specifically gives the Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, which is the nation's main intelligence agency, the lawful right to spy on those who were born or are living in New Zealand if suspicions warrant, Agence France-Presse reported. The bill was passed by a slim margin — 61-59 — and was strongly contested by privacy groups.

Prime Minister John Key admitted the legislation left many "agitated and alarmed" but issued this assurance, in AFP: "This is not, and never will be, about wholesale spying on New Zealanders."

He continued: "There are threats our government needs to protect New Zealanders from, those threats are real and ever-present and we underestimate them at our peril."

The impetus for the law came last year after media reports revealed that the GCSB unlawfully spied on Internet mogul Kim Dotcom as a prelude to police raiding his mansion. In the controversy that resulted, it was further revealed that the intelligence agency had spied unlawfully on dozens of New Zealanders in past years.

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