5 Mar 2015

NZ spying on Pacific 'growing'

4:05 pm on 5 March 2015

Questions are being raised about the legality of what journalist Nicky Hager says is mass surveillance by New Zealand in the Pacific region.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)'s spy base at Waihopai, near Blenheim.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)'s spy base at Waihopai, near Blenheim. Photo: SUPPLIED

Basing his information on documents provided by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Mr Hager said the Government's spy agency intercepted communications from several countries in the region and shared the information with the United States.

Author Nicky Hager says it's the era of dirty tricks.

Nicky Hager Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) intercepted communications from countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa, and even nations as small as Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati, Mr Hager said.

New Zealand had gathered vast amounts of information and provided it en masse to the National Security Agency in the United States, and the surveillance was growing.

"During the last few years, in the period of the current government, they've gone from some selected targetting of the South Pacific states and other targets to a new stage of where they just hoover up everything.

"They take every single phone call, every email and they go straight off into the [US] National Security Agency databases."

Mr Hager said the Government had sold out New Zealand's Pacific neighbours to secure its membership of the Five-Eyes intelligence network of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

"The Five Eyes countries led by the US are literally trying to spy on every country on earth, and they do to an extent which we've been seeing in the overseas Snowden revelations as pretty mind-blowing with the high tech equipment they have.

Russel Norman

Russel Norman Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

"And what we're going to be hearing about in the next few days is New Zealand in all kinds of very surprising ways playing a role in that."

Questions over NZ citizens

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman wants John Key to confirm whether New Zealanders working and living in the Pacific have been spied on, which includes the nations of Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue. It is against the law for the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders, including those with New Zealand citizenship.

"It's time for John Key to be upfront and honest with New Zealanders about who our intelligence agencies have been spying on, and on whose behalf," he said.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said it was hard to see how New Zealand agencies would be able to assess whether the information passed on is legal, or relevant, because it was happening en masse.

A requirement of the new law passed for the GCSB was an independent review of both it and the Security Intelligence Service. The review will be carried out this year.

Mr Dunne said it review had to look closely at the roles and the mandate of these agencies.

"How does that equate with providing a whole raft of information that may or may not be of any interest to the United States?"

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said he was not surprised monitoring occured but he did not know it was a wholesale sweep.

Andrew Little

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"It doesn't seem to be targetted around particular threats - whether they're security threats or commercial threats or whatever they are - it just seems to be a hoovering up of all this information and supplying it to the United States," he said on Morning Report.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday said the Government does gather information from other countries, in order to keep New Zealanders safe, but he would not confirm whether Pacific nations were being spied on.

"Last time he [Nicky Hager] came out with all this stuff he was categorically wrong, he'll be wrong this time as well, because information changes, we review things all the time, different actions are taken."

Mr Key said he would not go into who New Zealand gathered information from or why. "But I can tell you that we do gather information, we have over successive governments, across a range of different places, but we do that for really, really good reasons."

French territories

Security analyst Paul Buchanan said the information seemed to show some of the spying was in French territories and that could cause diplomatic problems with France.

The French Pacific fleet was based in Pape'ete, Tahiti and the French Pacific army Noumea, New Caledonia, he said. "So they have military assets in the countries that we are spying on, so troop movements vessel movements could be all part and parcel of what we're gathering."

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