No spying concerns from Pacific govts over planned cable
Pacific Island governments involved in talks with New Zealand over development of new submarine cable links appear mainly unconcerned about major powers having access to their communications.
Pacific Island governments involved in talks with New Zealand over new submarine cable links appear mainly unconcerned about their communications being further tapped.
Talks on new cable and internet access developments were held this month in Auckland, involving representatives from New Zealand's realm countries - Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau - as well as Samoa and French Polynesia.
Johnny Blades reports that for these territories, the need to have better internet access overides concerns about intelligence security.
Documents leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden last year revealed that New Zealand expanded its spying on its Pacific neighbours in recent years. New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau scoops a "full-take collection" of the communications by neighbouring Pacific Island states and hands these on to the US and other partners in the Five Eyes intelligence network, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. At the Auckland meeting, there was discussion about options for branching the Polynesian countries or territories to a new fibre optic cable linking Hawaii and New Zealand. The Chief Executive Officer of Samoa's Ministry of Communication Information and Technology, Tua'imalo Asamu Ah Sam was there.
TUA'IMALO ASAMU AH SAM: With the New Zealand minister of foreign affairs Murray McCully present in the meeting, we did not discuss that part of the equation, in terms of spying and security although every cable system that is put in security is one of the requirements that needs to be looked at and considered from all angles. It is certainly something that we will be looking at on our new cable to Fiji.
The Polynesian governments are in talks with various service providers and considering what they have to offer for linking them to better internet access in the next couple of years. Niue's secretary to government, Richard Hipa, says Niue's considerations on the cable options are not about the spying concerns.
RICHARD HIPA: Ours is just focusing on improvement of an activity but if you're going to bring this subject of tapping into...I don't think that's the intention of the discussion or the New Zealand initiative in supporting the island countries with regards to our connectivity. We just look at ICT as a very important tool for
our future social and economic development. It's critical.
The Cook Islands Telecommunications minister Mark Brown concedes he doesn't have an extensive understanding of how New Zealand uses the intelligence it gathers. He says it's not a priority, with the Cook Islands government chiefly concerned with improving basic service delivery and economic development.
MARK BROWN: Gathering information on our citizens is not something that we do.
JOHNNY BLADES: But it's something that New Zealand might do instead?
MARK BROWN: We can't control what other countries do in terms of their intelligence services. That's something that is beyond our control.
Not all of the cable options before the islanders involve hooking up with New Zealand's link. However interception would probably be happening in Hawaii anyway, leaving it likely that New Zealand would do the analysing of the intelligence.
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