Prime Minister John Key yesterday sought another assurance from GCSB director Ian Fletcher that the spy agency had not been involved in wholesale collection of metadata on New Zealanders - and was given it.
But Mr Key was unable to tell reporters later whether the United States National Security Agency collected wholesale information on New Zealanders for its purposes.
"I don't know," he said.
Mr Key said yesterday: "I rang the head of the agency and said, 'Can you confirm for me that New Zealand didn't collect wholesale metadata about ordinary New Zealanders?' and the answer was, 'We didn't, and because we didn't, we couldn't have shared it'.
But do you believe them? There's plenty of wiggle room in that denial - how widespread is "wholesale", for example? - and this is an agency with an established track-record of lying. Given their apparent reinterpretation of their governing to permit domestic metadata interception (despite a clear prohibition on anything of the sort), we would be fools to just take them at their word.
Meanwhile, Key has opened another can of worms with this comment:
"We share information in isolated cases about New Zealanders with our partners, and we do that when there's a really good reason to do that."
Obvious question: was this shared information intercepted communications? If so, the GCSB have been breaking the law. Key needs to come clean about exactly what these "isolated cases" are. In the meantime, the only way to restore public trust in the GCSB is through a full public inquiry with full access to all their collection programmes.