GUEST BLOG: Murray Horton – WAIHOPAI A US SPY BASE & A WARFIGHTING ONE

WE TOLD YOU SO - Waihopai Is A US Spy Base And A Warfighting One

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WE TOLD YOU SO – Waihopai Is A US Spy Base And A Warfighting One

The news that the Waihopai spy base was going to be built led to the birth
of the Anti-Bases Campaign in 1987. ABC has campaigned for the closure
of Waihopai ever since (our most recent protest there was in 2023). We
have consistently said that it is a US spy base in all but name i.e., that the
NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB, NZ’s spy agen-
cy in the Five Eyes international spy alliance) works as directed by the US
National Security Agency (NSA). We have also consistently said that it is a
warfighting base, not just a spy base. The powers that be in NZ’s covert
state, and their political mouthpieces, have always denied this and/or asked
us, where is your evidence?

Soothing Reassurances From GCSB Bosses

For example, this from the New Zealand Herald, (9/4/10), with the eye-
catching title “It’s Ours And It’s Not Evil, Say Spy-Base Masters”. “New
Zealand’s secret spies emerged from the shadows yesterday to deny their
Waihopai station is an American spy base contributing to torture and war.
Present and past Directors of the Government Communications Security
Bureau took the unusual step of commenting publicly on allegations made
during and after last month’s trial in which a jury acquitted teacher Adrian
Leason, 45, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, 69, and farmer Sam Land, 26,
of charges of burglary and wilful damage after they broke into the base in
Marlborough”.

“Father Murnane said after the verdict: ‘We have shown New Zealanders
there is a US spy base in our midst’. In court, he said the trio felt strongly
about the evil caused by activities of spy bases, such as torture, war and
use of weapons of mass destruction such as depleted uranium. Air Marshal
Sir Bruce Ferguson, the Bureau’s Director, and his predecessor, Dr Warren
Tucker, said the allegations demanded a response because they brought
into question the integrity of New Zealand’s security and intelligence appa-
ratus. ‘The Waihopai station is not a US-run spy base’, they said. ‘It is total-
ly operated and controlled by New Zealand, through the GCSB as an arm
of the New Zealand Government”.

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“‘This has been formally investigated and reported upon by the Inspector-
General of Intelligence and Security, for example, at the request of then
Prime Minister (Jim) Bolger, in response to claims made by peace move-
ment activists at the time. ‘The Waihopai Station was not – and is not – be-
ing used to contribute to ‘torture, war, and the use of weapons of mass de-
struction such as depleted uranium’ as claimed. It was not – and is not –
contributing to ‘unspeakable evil.’ Quite the reverse’”.
Waihopai Hosted US NSA Spying/Warfighting System

For Nearly A Decade

Case closed? Not so fast. 2024 has unearthed fresh revelations. “The oper-
ation – that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) did
not tell Government ministers about – ran from 2013-20, but was only ex-
posed by an official watchdog last month (March 2024). Intelligence docu-
ments strongly suggest the Bureau hosted – but exercised virtually no over-
sight over – a system run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to help
acquire targets classified as terrorists for killer drones, bombs and raids us-
ing GCSB data”.

“An important aspect of the deal document – called a memorandum of un-
derstanding (MOU) – was that it dealt with concerns that arose within the
GCSB about the system’s military capabilities. The Inspector-General of In-
telligence and Security (IGIS) said the system was ‘largely controlled by the
partner agency’, even though the Bureau could have vetoed operations it did

not like under the MOU. It chose instead not to keep track of them,
the Inspector-General’s report last month showed”. “The public report did not identify
the foreign agency, and the Inspector-General later told RNZ he did not ask if the system was used for military operations. His report revealed the MOU was signed with the foreign agency in March 2012 by a GCSB Deputy Director. An internal GCSB document from 2012 showed it signed an MOU with the NSA that year to host the APPARITION system”. “‘The decision to host the capability on the terms set out in the MOU was significant, particularly given the potential uses of the capability to support military operations’, said the
Inspector-General report. The MOU was poorly implemented, it said. A subsequent policy requires the Bureau to get Ministerial approval for an international agreement that
deals with new policy. The Inspector-General said this should be triggered if the Bureau looked at a hosting deal like this again” (RNZ, 25/4/24, https://www.rnz.co.nz/new
s/political/515190/gcsb-refuses-to-release-details-of-spy-deal-to-protect-interests).
Nicky Hager Explains

APPARITION

So, what was this all about? Fortunately, we could rely on Nicky Hager to flesh out the details. Here’s what he wrote. “The IGIS (Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security)
report said the GCSB decision to host a foreign system from 2012-2020 was ‘improper’ and that the GCSB ‘could not be sure the tasking of the capability was always in accordance with… New Zealand law’. The Inspector-General said: ‘I have found some of the GCSB’s explanations about how the capability operated and was tasked to be incongruous with information in GCSB records at the time’”. “But the Inspector-General could not
reveal details of the system to the public because they are ‘highly classified’. The name and function of the foreign spy spying equipment, the identity of the ‘foreign partner agency’ and the location of the ‘GCSB facility’ where foreign equipment was hosted all remained secret”. “The mystery spy equipment ap- pears strongly to be a top-secret US
surveillance system that was installed at the GCSB’s Waihopai base at the same time as the equipment in the IGIS investigation was installed at a ‘GCSB facility’. The top-secret NSA spy equipment had the ghostly codename APPARITION and fits with all the details presented in the IGIS report”.

“APPARITION was owned by and controlled by the US National Security Agency – the world’s largest intelligence gathering agency and head of the Five Eyes intelligence
alliance that includes the GCSB. An NSA internal report, written after the
launch of the APPARITION system in 2008, said that it ‘builds on the
success of the GHOSTHUNTER prototype… a tool that enabled a

significant number of capture-kill op- erations against terrorists’”.
“Capture-kill operations involve lethal attacks on targeted people using drones, bombs and special forces raids. Human rights organisations have documented numerous
deaths of civilians during capture-kill operations – many of them ‘algorithmically targeted’ by electronic surveillance systems such as APPARITION. They are also criticised as being ‘extra-judicial killings’”. “This is what the IGIS report appeared to be referring to when it
said the foreign capability ‘clearly had the potential to be used, in con-junction with other intelligence sources, to support military action against targets’. It referred to the
equipment finding ‘remote targets’ and said that GCSB staff had raised
‘legal and moral issues’”.

“The 2008 NSA report explained how APPARITION targeting is done.
‘APPARITION is a precision geolocation capability for targeting foreign very small aperture satellite terminals (VSAT)’ it said. VSAT refers to small satellite communication systems used to access the Internet in remote places away from major Internet connections. Precision geolocation means working out the exact location of a target person. VSAT is
‘an important target’, it said, ‘because VSATs are often used by Internet cafes and foreign governments in the Middle East’”.

“The report said the APPARITION system at Misawa – a major NSA base in northern Japan – was ‘currently targeting VSAT terminals believed to be servicing Internet cafés used by high-value counterterrorism (CT) targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia, as well as non-CT targets in China’. The NSA report is dated December 2008, shortly after the first operational version of APPARITION was installed at Misawa. It said: ‘Plans are well
advanced to install APPARITIONs…(at) FORNSAT (foreign satellite interception) … sites worldwide, including Second Party locations, in the next two years’”.
“‘Second Party’ refers to the Five Eyes intelligence allies: the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the First Party is the United States). The IGIS report says the GCSB was
approached in 2009, the following year, as a potential site for the foreign signals intelligence system. A March 2012 internal GCSB Update records that an MOU had been
signed between NSA and GCSB for hosting of the APPARITION equipment and that installation was planned for June 2012. The IGIS report uses almost exactly the same
words. The location for the APPARITION equipment was the Waihopai satellite interception base”.

“The system works by combining two different types in intelligence: ground stations like Waihopai intercepting the satellites that relay the VSAT satellite communications for
remote users; and ‘Overhead’ spy satellites that locate the targets from
far above the Earth. When combined, the report said, the intelligence systems could estimate the precise geolocations of VSAT Internet cafes and other target locations
with an ‘average error of probability of only 0.07 nautical miles’ (130 me-
tres) – not actually very precise in a built-up area”.

“Another NSA report, called ‘APPARITION/GHOSTHUNTER TASKING INFO’, describes the purpose of APPARITION as ‘Directed Target Development’. It ‘provides global access for VSAT geolocation requirements initially and incorporates the use of OH (overhead spy satellites), comsat (Waihopai-type station), SCS (secret eavesdropping units
within embassies) and other access hubs’. It said: ‘Requests are acknowledged by Denver and scheduled via mission planning for execution’”.

Waihopai Domes Gone But It Continues Spying

“The various NSA and GCSB reports quoted were part of the trove of top-secret reports released by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. The APPARITION documents do not say what the NSA used the Waihopai-based APPARITION equipment to target. However, GCSB used the equipment for its own targeting as well”. “Another 2012 Snowden document suggests that the Waihopai base was intercepting VSAT communications in the Pacific by targeting the NSS-9 satellite, which was located at 183 degrees east. The 2012 report discusses technology changes affecting Waihopai’s ‘South Pacific mission’ including the ‘ViaSat Skylink VSAT links’, the NSS-9 satellite.

It’s unclear whether this VSAT surveillance involved APPARITION”. “The Waihopai station also had a system in 2012 called FALLOW-HAUNT, used for collection (eaves-
dropping) and processing of VSAT communications. It was installed at Waihopai in November 2010. This may also be one of the surveillance systems mentioned (without naming the systems) in the IGIS report”.

“In 2022 the GCSB announced ‘Removal Of Waihōpai Spy Base Surveillance Domes Begins” and media reported that the ‘virtually obsolete’ Waihopai spy domes were being dismantled. Some people, including journalists, assumed that the Waihopai station was ceasing to be an intelligence base. However, Wai- hopai continues to intercept a range
of satellites with more modern antennas and processing equipment as part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance” (RNZ, 28/3/24, https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/512851/hager-spy-system-hosted-by-gcsb-likely-to-be-one-used-in-capture-
kill-operations).

NZ Has Blood On Our Hands.

Shut Waihopai & GCSB

So, there we have it. While the GCSB spy bosses have been making reassuring noises all along, the reality is that for nearly a decade (and a very recent decade at that)
the GCSB was hosting, at Waihopai, a US NSA system over which the GCSB had no control – by choice – and which was not known to the various Ministers who were nominally
“in charge” of the GCSB. This period spanned both the Key National government and the Ardern Labour government, so both major parties were equally ignorant and culpable.
Furthermore, this NSA system was not only for spying but for capturing and/or killing targets via drones, missiles, bombs or attacks by special forces in countries far removed
from NZ. Such military strikes inevitably kill family members, neighbours, bystanders and innocent civilians in general. This means that New Zealand very much has blood
on our hands. As ABC has said from the outset, Waihopai is a US spy base and a warfighting one. The GCSB is a willingly complicit junior partner of the NSA. This is the
proof. And it makes even more urgent the case for shutting down both
Waihopai and the GCSB. ■

 

Murray Horton is a New Zealand Journalist with a focus on US Military Intelligence and the Waihopai spy base.

21 COMMENTS

        • How many have you found in Gaza?
          Do you support the ICC?
          Do you support the ICC arrest warrant for Netanyahu?
          If you put war crime in the same category as terrorists,
          does that make Assange your hero?

            • Martin, if R Smith is not a low rent W Mitty, and really is associated with the IC as they purport, still hunting for them WMDs. Then their last comment might be useful to Assanges legal advisors. With posts at 7.47am 8.15 3.22pm 5.53 9.33, R Smith don’t seem to have much else on their plate.
              Perhaps you could follow up their IP deets, but not disclose anything here, for that would risk a 100k fine or 5 years in the clink, because even though snoops love snooping on the rest of us, the geeky hypocrites can’t stand any scrutiny of themselves. Not foxhole buddy material by any stretch.
              I expect your moderator will sensor me which is appropriate,
              but then they let through the last comment from R Smith, which could be construed as a physical threat against a person, “..just wait until we get Assange to a black site”.
              The R Smiths, may see themselves as the last line of defense, but actually Assange far more deserves the title, shining light onto war crimes, being a voice for the voiceless, speaking up for our collective conscience. When the rest of us would be too afraid to do so, either individually or as our govt, who will not dare say anything against his extradition. The real issue, is that there are way too many R Smiths, and not enough Assanges!

        • “We are removing terrorists, that’s good.”
          Fuck off. You built the terrorists and now you blout about how you now get rid of them. What a wanker.
          I reckon the greatest terrorists are the fucking yanks. The bastards are everywhere stirring up shit and causing highly profitable chaos and misery.
          netenyahoo is starving children then killing in cold blood and yet Blow Job Biden is there assuming the position to him.
          And it was the yanks and their military indu$trial complex that goaded putin, another God bothering psycho, into a re-action by installing missile bases along the Ukrainian border with Russia since the 1990’s I think it was. This laughable charade that’ll lead us into WW3 is really just about short men with small-cock
          issues. I wish they’d just buy strap-ons then go fuck themselves with them.

          • One more thing. And it’s quite a thing.
            I must admit, after going to see Professor Brian Boyles lecture during Matariki celebrations last year and coming to understand how mind blowingly vast the Universe is and so of how unlikely it will be that we’ll get visitors popping in for a cuppa I found this link unnerving to say the least.
            “Ross Coulthart reveals the night that convinced him to investigate UFOs ”
            https://youtu.be/VuCPbavls0U?si=je2kwlMkqJwQBRiB

  1. And Waihopai continues to be used by the yanks for hostile purposes.

    Anything that is recorded there gets handed to the Americans (assuming that we ever have hands on it ourselves)- which then gets directly handed to ‘israel’. The deliberate targeting of schools full of refugees, of doctors, of reporters in Palestine is being conducted with intelligence developed by the cancers of American bases in our country.

  2. Thanks Murray for this excellent piece.
    Nice to see you are still around! Still remember my printed CAFCA newsletters.

    The military/spies hate and go for Nicky because he gets the facts right and operates in a way that protects his informants.

    Time for this US Imperialist base to be closed.

  3. Our NZ govt has been complicit in supporting and funding terrorism our role as a 5 eyes partner. NZ govt are complicit in the oppression of the West Papua genocide committed by the Indonesian military, our govt role in the failed Afghanistan fiasco, our govt participated in the Iraq invasion even though Clark did a performative stance, our govt helped Al Qaeda and ISIS in the proxy war in Syria and we are currently helping bomb Yemen whos solidarity against the genocide of the palestinians is an international obligation. Under this current govt they are siding with the US in the Philippines who’s a staunch supporter of apartheid Israel that has a precarious relationship with China. This govt is also planning to join AUKUS which is design to contain China our largest trading partner.

    We are not the good guys folks we are an european exceptionalism state that dying in favor of multipolarism.

  4. As a settler colonial state our allegiance from day one has never been in question.
    The price that we have paid for our role in it, is our independence.
    Sovereignity is threatened or can be lost, only, when you have enjoyed it which NZ never has.
    Our foreign policy objectives have rarely detoured from the US/UK/Euro alliance and now more than ever we stand with the fascist capitalists who are committing evermore geopolitical destabilisation, via globally co-ordinated mainstrem media propaganda, NGO funded regime change, MIC led conflicts/war and shamefully for all eternity, a genocide.
    This is a time in history, if we survive it, where honest historians will correctly describe the extent to which the declining US hegemony was prepared to go, to maintain their idea of a “rules based order” and our supporting role throughout its tenure.
    Appreciate your work MH.

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