Monday, February 28, 2022

Utterly reprehensible

Declassified Australia has published a new piece by Nicky Hager on New Zealand and Australia's spying on the Pacific. Most of it is a summary of past revelations from the Snowden leaks, but there is something new: the New Zealand navy spies during aid missions:

The surveillance includes “COMINT [communications intelligence] operators on navy ships, locked away in a two-man room just behind the bridge”. They eavesdrop on South Pacific countries during regular port calls.

The officer described how all military staff on aid, disaster relief and training deployments are also sent with “intelligence collection tasks”. They are debriefed by intelligence officers on their return “to find out what they’d learned and what we could turn into intelligence”.

“They told us it was for humanitarian aid missions. But why do we need to know how many weapons they have, and what are the routine guard patrols, and how high are the fences?” This intelligence collection activity described by the contact also includes “Tonga, Tuvalu, Niue, not the Cook Islands. Fiji – Fiji they’re always very interested in.”

This is utterly reprehensible, akin to hiding an intelligence operation under the guise of a medical facility in wartime (which would be a war crime). Its made worse by the fact that the victims are our Pacific whanau, countries who are our closest friends. And it obviously has consequences, in that governments may be less willing to accept New Zealand disaster relief if it comes at the cost of spying.

The New Zealand government needs to stop this practice immediately, and destroy all the data it has collected. Anything less is an abuse of our friendship with these countries.