The reasons why New Zealand’s comprehensive spying on Pacific states is wrong



There are so many reasons why it is wrong for New Zealand to engage in “full-take” surveillance of the electronic communications in the Pacific Islands, as show in documents released by Nicky Hager and Ryan Gallagher and David Fisher in this morning’s New Zealand Herald.

1. Such spying on the communications of peaceful Pacific Island neighbours is offensive and not what a friendly neighbouring state should do.

2. It is a breach of the privacy of the people in the Pacific Islands.

3. The documents show communications of Pacific Island governments are a particular target, spying on which is illegal under Vienna convention.

4. The “every nation does” argument is not valid, in that it is unlikely any of the Pacific states whose communications are being spied upon would be spying on New Zealand’s electronic communications. Nor is their any evidence they wish to.

5. “Fighting terrorism” is a pretty laughable justification in that Pacific nations have not been afflicted by terrorism and there is little prospect they will be. Clearly it is government communications in those Pacific states are the main target of the spying.

6. The electronic spying on Pacific Island states does create justifiable resentment. When I visited New Caledonia in 2000 with a New Zealand Parliamentary delegation we were criticized by the New Caledonian government for such spying – as a result of the then current European Parliament investigation into global surveillance by the Fives Eyes network (at that point going under the name of Echelon).

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7. The New Zealand government may use the information obtained for bad as well as good purposes. New Zealand’s foreign policy aims are not always laudable. Two examples, are when New Zealand earlier supported the Tongan monarchy’s sedition charges against Akilisi Pohiva (who is now Tonga’s Prime Minister) or when it tries to stop West Papuan representatives getting observer status at the Pacific Islands Forum.

8. The foreign policy purposes of the governments New Zealand shares the electronic intelligence with (the US, UK, Canada and Australia) are not always laudable, and sometimes conflict with New Zealand’s, as when the US successfully recruited Tongan soldiers to fight in the Iraq war, which New Zealand was opposed to. Much of the use of intelligence accessed by Five Eyes governments would be used for getting the votes of small island states at the UN, not always for good purposes.

9. Sharing all this intercepted information with the US, UK, Australia and Canada for them to use as they choose seriously erodes New Zealand’s reputation as an independent player in the world.

10. New Zealanders’ privacy is being breached, contrary what the National government says, in that the “full-take” Waihopai collection of phone call and email data passing through the Pacific Intelsat satellite would include the calls and emails of many New Zealanders, including New Zealanders holidaying in the Pacific, or citizens in New Zealand calling their Pacific Island relatives. This information would not be excluded from later searching by Five Eyes partners by virtue of the fact that few of the communications intercepted would contain information on the New Zealand citizenship status of the sender or receiver.

11. This interception of New Zealanders phone calls and email, and the passing of it on in bulk to Five Eyes partners is arguably illegal under our GCSB legislation.


  1. According to TV noon todays news;

    “Key said if we are spying on our neighbours then he says then it is wrong!”

    So what is Key going to do about it?

    Nothing we imagine.

    Until when the NZ people get up in numbers large enough and protest about it.

    They did over the large petition that closed down Key’s last idiot idea last month when he chose to send troops to Iraq without the usual whole of parliamentary voting procedure.

    Key is a bloody idiot and a careless, sloppy politician at best.

    At worst he is a danger and a hazard to us all.

  2. There are two obvious ways that information obtained in this way is most likely to be misused. (This apart from the moral argument which for some reason provoke no more than a sneer and accusation of Lala-Land naivite). First, massive commercial advantage can be gained if an negotiation adversary, be it a nation or a corporation, has already inadvertently divulged its strategy and bottom lines. It would be the height of Lala-Land naivite to imaging that either New Zealand or the US would not seize this kind or advantage with both hands. Second, in small communities, such as many of the Pacific nations, the reputation and mana associated with leaders is essential to the maintenance of a position of power. Black-op spying followed by State sponsored blackmail become, then a very useful tool in the arsenal of the unscrupulous seeking advantage, or to encourage a political stance on the part of the blackmailed party.

    Do we really believe that neither of these things have happened more than once as a consequence of the “innocuous” information-gathering conducted by benign neighbours.

  3. The true story behind this has not come out yet and Key is hoping it will not. Any talk of terrorism is a red herring.
    We are not spying on the pacific islanders. We are spying on the Chinese.
    The USA sets the policy for 5 Eyes and the USA is not interested in the comings and goings of Tongan Monarchists or Fijian army officers or the village chiefs of Samoa. Their biggest concern in the Pacific is the growing economic influence, power and control being exerted by China.
    The biggest threat to the power and dominance of the USA is not the war against terror and not even a resurgent Russia under Putin it is China.
    So from Key’s point of view better the minor embarrassment of sending new Zealanders holiday photos in a big bundle to 5eyes headquarters then revealing that the only keyword analysts are looking for in all that meta data is “china”

    • Many years ago my father said, if the US and Russia went to war, the winner would be China. Funny that, after all these years (about 50) it is beginning to look like he might have known what he was talking about.

    • You are so right about that.

      It is all about the Chinese influence in the pacific realm. The pacific nations are turning more and more to china for assistance to help build their island nations provide assistance to its people.

      Imagine if a diplomatic ties break down the island nations will be more in assistance to those that threw a life line when they need it.That is why the Americans won’t let go of American Samoa., but that is not enough as that is only a small finger in the pie.

      US is vulnerable through the pacific simply because it has no control over these small islands and the surrounding waters, so the only thing left is to spy on them and who better to do that then NZ, Island Prime Ministers are too trusting they should be looking after their interest and ban John Key from anymore Island Forums but then again Key and his mates will be watching .

  4. Which provision of which Vienna convention states you can’t spy on communication of other governments?

    • Is that a rhetorical question, Gosman?

      That’s a pretty stupid, childish attitude to take (no surprise). What you’re saying is that if the law doesn’t expressly forbid something, then it’s ok to do it?

      Do you ever think through the consequences of what you imply?

    • Read the post again, Gozzy. It’s not just governments, but PRIVATE CITIZENS many of whom will be NEW ZEALAND CITIZENS who are caught up in the net. How legal is that?

      • Again which provision of which Vienna convention states you can’t spy on the communication of private citizens in other nations?

        • Gosman … that name… it a pseudonym?

          Just wanted to know….

          You write a lot about trusting Key and championing the lies that John XKEYscore told us about there being NO mass surveillance on New Zealanders…

    • I am glad you frank have the patience to respond to Gooseman’s rubbish.

      Most have now given him/her no response as none are ever worthy of any comment whatsoever.

      Better you do it rather than us anyway.

      • And yet my views are generally reflective of the views that seem to have the most electoral support at this point in time. If you are unable to engage these views it is no wonder the left is struggling for relevance.

    • Gosman ….just as an aside……..why do you use a fake name when you post yet say your all for mass surveillance in this country……

      Could it be that YOU actually do have things to hide you’d rather people not know?……

      Please explain.

  5. When China offers the pacific counterspying technology systems NZ will pay the price of forgetting their friends to suck up to America.

  6. Key’s attitude when first questioned about these allegations was basically a shrug of the shoulders and a “so what?, everybody’s doing it! so it must be OK.

    • Yep like torture, and starting illegal wars – ‘so what’. Yep the clubs in, so NZ should follow. That is all Key cares about, his 5 eyes mates.

  7. I is increasingly obvious that Key is putting the interests of the USA, and himself, ahead of NZ.

  8. So why did I call the little shit John XKEYscore for so long before the last general election?

    Precisely because he is , was , and always will be a lying little shit.

    Good one New Zealanders, …a creepy little snakeoil seller such as John XKEYscore would retire happily as a billionaire on the gullibility and naivety of a large percentage of the people in this country.

    Still sure you want to sit around a barbecue with someone like this who’d just as happily stab you in the back as smile at you? Think again.

    He doesn’t have your interests at heart – only the USA ‘s and global governance.

    Wake up.

  9. So far today the Tongan PM is unhappy but the Samoan PM is happy. As with the general public this is the case although the polls have the majority not caring. Could this be the big yawn of 2015? No doubt the next round of polls will tell the story.

  10. It’s really not a good look for NZ. Key has shot any reputation we had, right out the window. New Zealand – No longer 100% pure, but a 100% corrupt, down right dirty little nation.

    • According to many leftists he did that years ago so what does it matter if he annoys afew more nations. BTW are you aware of the large Chinese spy base in Kiribati? What do you think that this does?

      • Gosman , its getting a little ridiculous , – you still wont tell us your correct name…why is this ?

        You use a pseudonym on this forum yet you say there is nothing to worry about and the XKEYscore program is all to get the baddies anyhow….

        Gosman ….what did you DO to make you go into hiding and start using a pseudonym?

        What was it , Gosman ?

        You can tell us…and your REAL name .

        We will understand…were all nice people here.

  11. The spying on Pacific island neighbours is where there has been a bloody successionist struggle and successive political instability in PNG, anarchy requiring foreign intervention in Solomon Islands, military coups in Fiji, and assorted corruption, organised crime and drug trafficking in most of the rest.

    All in all, finding out what’s going on before it happen and who is on the take or up to no good in the Pacific Islands is wise.

    There are two complaints against the intelligence community. The first is that it goes round spying on people who should not be looked at until they commit an overt act. The second comes after any terrorist event where there are demands for public inquiries into the incompetence of the intelligence service because it was not spying on more people of vague marginal risk or who are mostly full of big talk.

    Every time a terrorist act is committed by someone marginally known to the security services, I don’t see anyone on the Left popping up after to say leaving that person of marginal interest free of surveillance was the price worth paying of not having meta data recorded?

  12. Some very strong comments about Key and his game playing. Like all of you, I want Key out. There’s a petition on fb, twitter and my time line, calling for Key to be removed. Last look told me today almost 1500 have signed it. Wanna put your moniker on it to stand and push Key out?

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