Last weekend’s protest at Waihopai was the usual colourful affair. It began with a march through Blenheim, and speeches from Murray Horton, John Minto and myself.
We then adjourned to the spy base itself, up the beautiful Waihopai Valley. More speeches and chants followed by the ceremonial popping of 13 white ballons, each displaying a letter from the slogan “Close Waihopai”. You can see some photos of the event on my Facebook page.
The protest coincided with a revelation by Nicky Hager in this weeks Sunday Star-Times that one of the Waihopai satellite dishes had (over 2008 and 2009) been pointed at Japanese, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese communications satellites.
This was the satellite dish that was uncovered in 2008 after Catholic peace activists deflated its plastic covering. People living near the base measured the angle of the disc during the 15 months it was uncovered, and their findings were checked by a registered surveyor.
This tends to reinforce the point Nicky made several years ago in the book Secret Power that Waihopai is mainly used by the US National Security Agency to spy on the state communications of Asian and Pacific countries.
Many New Zealanders wrongly think the system Waihopai is part of is largely about tracking down bad people and terrorists, but such people generally know how to avoid electronic detection.
The secrecy around the base is essentially to stop New Zealanders twigging to its two real purposes. Those are 1) to help the US spy on Asia/Pacific governments most New Zealanders want us to be friendly with; and 2) to advance America’s global political objectives, which are a bit different from our own.