Date
22 November 2017
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (right), with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott, said the Government Communications Security Bureau was gathering foreign intelligence in the best interests of the nation. Photo: AFP
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (right), with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott, said the Government Communications Security Bureau was gathering foreign intelligence in the best interests of the nation. Photo: AFP

Snowden leaks say New Zealand spying on Pacific neighbors

New Zealand is conducting mass surveillance over its neighbors in the Pacific region and sharing the information with the United States and other allies, according to reports citing documents leaked by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents published on Thursday reveal that New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) used its Waihopai base in the South Island to spy on allies in the region, BBC News said.

The bureau collected phone calls, emails and social media messages from the Pacific nations and shared the data with other members of the “Five Eyes” network, namely the US, Australia, Britain and Canada, according to the New Zealand Herald report.

Targets included Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Tonga and French Polynesia.

The GCSB base was running “full take” interceptions, meaning it was retaining all data from the communications rather than just focusing on specific targets, the report said.

The data collected was made available to analysts from the US National Security Agency via the agency’s controversial XKeyscore computer program.

XKeyscore was first revealed to the public in 2013, when Snowden leaked a huge cache of classified NSA documents.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the reports contained errors and false assumptions, but did not elaborate.

He said the GCSB gathered “foreign intelligence that is in the best interests of New Zealand and protecting New Zealanders”.

“If I was a New Zealander and the New Zealand prime minister got up and told me we had a foreign intelligence service that wasn’t gathering some foreign intelligence, I’d ask him ‘what the hell are we paying the money for? And what the hell are you doing?’” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

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