Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cablegate: Spying for the Americans

Over the weekend the Sunday Star-Times released a selection of leaked US diplomatic cables relating to New Zealand. Attention so far has focused on the (accurate but sometimes unflattering) assessments of our politicians, and the government's snuggling up to the Americans while demanding it be kept secret to avoid being held accountable by the electorate (who would not approve of such arrangements). But Fairfax's Michael Field has noticed a more interesting story: we've been using Waihopai to spy on Fiji for the Americans:

A leaked cable reports on meetings that then United States assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, Randall Fort, had in October 2008 with the then External Assessments Bureau, the GCSB, the Prime Minister's Department and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

US deputy secretary Margaret McKean wrote a cable summing up the meeting. "New Zealand views the situation in Fiji as `acute', and appreciates USG [US Government] support for the Pacific Island Forum position on Fiji. Fort commented that GNZ sigint [ New Zealand government signals intelligence] had been critical to USG understanding of the 2006 coup."

(Emphasis added)

The original cable - 08WELLINGTON356 - is here.

Field has also connected the dots between that cable and an earlier one on Helen Clark's 2007 trip to Washington (07WELLINGTON194), which noted that Clark had "been willing to address targets of marginal benefit to New Zealand that could do her political harm if made public":

Mr Fort was briefed on Chinese activities in the Pacific by Maarten Wevers, chief executive of the Prime Minister's Department, and on Venezuela and Cuba, whose interest in the Pacific he likened to "that of the Russians in the past".
So there you have it: not only are we spying on our neighbours and supposed friends, we're also spying on Venezuela and Cuba for the Americans - countries we have no interest in whatsoever. Again, I have to wonder whether the people of New Zealand would approve of that.