What unpopular US intelligence targets did Clark authorise?

David Keegan, the deputy US Ambassador in 2007, wrote in a cable that Helen Clark “has been willing to address [intelligence] targets of marginal benefit to New Zealand that could do her political harm if made public.” This is diclosed in a Michael Field article in this morning’s DomPost further analysing Wikileaks documents relating to New Zealand.

It reinforces what we have always suspected, that the Waihopai spy station is used to serve the US government’s purposes, in a way the New Zealand public would object to.

The irony is that Waihopai could now be used to spy on Helen Clark in her new role as head of the UN Development Programme, because other Wikileaks documents disclose an extensive US spying operation on UN officials, including Helen Clark. I don’t think John Key would specifically authorise such spying on his predecessor, but the Waihopai could be intercepting such communications without any New Zealander knowing. New Zealand wouldn’t know the significance of all the phone number or email filters the US puts into the integrated Five Eyes system – which also includes the UK, Canada and Australia.

The Wikileaks documents also show the GCSB has spied on Fiji – either through Waihopai or some other means. I can’t see they would have got anything critical on Commodore Bainimarama. His intentions have not been particularly secret. The greater danger is that Pacific governments get upset at ‘big brother’ New Zealand spying on them. I found this when on a parliamentary delegation to New Caledonia a few years back. We were dressed down by a government leader for using Waihopai to spy on their government’s communications.

25 thoughts on “What unpopular US intelligence targets did Clark authorise?

  1. Hey, if you’ve done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide, right?? Unless you’re a government getting it’s cables leaked, then privacy is valuable… ;)

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  2. You claim that the Wikileaks discloses an extensive spying operation on UN officials, INCLUDING HELEN CLARK (emphasis added).
    I have seen this claim a number of times in a number of places but I have been unable to find any evidence that they have targeted Helen Clark.
    Can you tell me where a leaked document does document the claim?

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  3. Until we see evidence of what was spied upon – it’s supposition, it’s more a case of – if they were spying on UN officials, then this would include her and her relations with others in the UN being spied upon (to not spy on her would have required not spying on others in the UN and their communications to each other).

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  4. NZ is hardly anyone’s big brother’ Keith.
    Our Government is not complicit because I sincerely doubt they are consulted.

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  5. “It reinforces what we have always suspected, that the Waihopai spy station is used to serve the US government’s purposes, in a way the New Zealand public would object to”

    Good grief Keith, I would say that the majority of NZ’ers don’t care one iota as the majority are law abiding citizens who just want to lead a normal life.

    It is the activists and the anti USA brigade who fear Waihopia, and demand everybody else share their paranoia.
    Fortunately we refuse to.

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  6. Pentwig beat me to it: “…in a way the New Zealand public would object to”. I’d go further and say even non-law-abiding citizens generally don’t give a stuff either. Theres only a few of us that don’t like routine electronic survellance as a point of principle.

    As I understand the workings of the global thing of which Waihopai is a part, no-one in New Zealand gets to decide what is intercepted. My limited understanding is that any of the involved countries can submit what could be thought of as filter requests into the global system, and anything matching the filter specification pops out.

    This is very different to the technology discussed in the UKUSA documents now released, which employed mountains of listeners in each country depot. Time has moved on.

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  7. Interesting comments Keith on Fiji’s intentions being well known, so we don’t need to spy on them. I doubt that we know everything that any other government is doing or intending to do from public sources (and if we do it’s after the fact). If SIGINT can provide information on the Commodore’s intentions before they are publicly known, or where we may never know them through other sources, then I think there is value in that.

    So far opponents of Waihopai have said that Waihopai doesn’t benefit New Zealand in any way and when information comes out that some of the intel does it apparently isn’t important

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  8. “NZ is hardly anyone’s big brother’ Keith.”

    Many in the Pacific do see New Zealand (and Australia) this way. And increasingly so since the government started throwing its weight around over PACER Plus and other trade issues.

    “It is the activists and the anti USA brigade who fear Waihopia, and demand everybody else share their paranoia.”

    Don’t recall ever meeting anyone who feared Waihopai, the objections to it are more based on political, ethical, and occasionally legal, arguments.

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  9. “I would say that the majority of NZ’ers don’t care one iota as the majority are law abiding citizens who just want to lead a normal life.”

    You mean “and are therefore uninterested in politics”?

    Actually quite a few NZers seem to get grumpy about useless government spending. But governments get away with spending on SIGINT for the benefit of others by hiding the whole exercise in a veil of secrecy and heavy-handed paternalism. All too complicated and important for the majority of law abiding citizens who just want to lead a normal life to understand I suppose.

    As for the value of intel on Bainimarama – yeah I’d agree – probably unimportant. NZ was quite happy to set up, train and support the Fiji military with an explicitly political aim of balancing inidgenous military power against Fijian indian power, then does a big “Oh golly, you where never supposed to exercise military power” when the coups took place. If the big picture is that governments are going to support setting up military power to use against their own people I doubt if listening in to bit of gossip about the military leaders 20 years on makes any real difference to anyone – outside of the circles of a few diplomats and intelligence staff who revel in little secret tit-bits to enhance their own self-importance.

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  10. JB

    I think you are completely wrong. I recall when the activists broke into and damaged the Waihopai Station and got discharged in court, the feedback on talkback, blogs and letters to the editor was that of anger that justice had not been served.

    “You mean “and are therefore uninterested in politics”? Your comment is petty and stupid.

    Most normal thinking NZ’ers realise that Waihopai is an important part of our defense strategy and obligations.

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  11. Joe Buchanan

    Actually quite a few NZers seem to get grumpy about useless government spending.

    I would be interested to know exactly how much New Zealand tax payer money was spent on private business enterprises and governments from other countries (irrelevant to New Zealand) concerns? It’s probably extensive.

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  12. So what do you mean by “normal thinking” or “just wants to lead a normal life” other than a disinterest in politics?

    I agree, lots of people I talked to after the Waihopai damage objected that the activists had got away with it. But, they had no idea what Waihopai did, and, because of sucessive government secrecy, where unable to evaluate its importance. A lot of them thought the station was important, but had no idea why. It is one thing to think Waihopai is “an important part of “our” defense strategy and obligations” but no-one is able or willing to explain why. They are unable to examine the issue and have to take it on trust. Unlike, for example, MP’s perks where people on talkback, blogs etc. could understand and evaluate the issue (and then got grumpy about it). I doubt if many NZers could even describe New Zealand’s current defense strategy.

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  13. JB

    You would have to agree that the major part of a defense strategy of any country must be kept secret. That is so patently obvious that it needs no further explanation.
    As a democracy we elect our Government and entrust,in this case, our security and defense to them.

    Waihopai has been running and funded by a succession of Governments so the importance must be very high.

    If Waihopai needs to be shrouded in secrecy then so be it. I believe that the majority of NZ’ers understand that and also believe in the need for it.

    Could you please explain to me why a normal thinking person living a normal would have a disinterest in politics.I regard myself of that ilk and I am passionate about politics.

    Regards

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  14. “You would have to agree that the major part of a defense strategy of any country must be kept secret.”
    No I wouldn’t. No its not obvious. Actually the major part of NZ’s defence strategy is not secret. Partly that’s because NZ is a relatively open society, partly because that is how deterrence works, partly because NZ tries to form defence relationships with other countries, partly because we don’t face any serious threats so we can afford to be open. Most of NZ’s defence strategy is laid out in things like MOD Annual Reports, Defence White Papers and other government policy documents. Details of NZ’s defence capability is published in things like NZ Army News and Janes reviews of defence forces.

    I don’t elect the government and I don’t entrust security and defence to them. That is because they can’t be trusted. As the news report Keith comments on points out, they lied about SIGINT, saying the NZ government wasn’t spying on Fiji when it was. I don’t trust liars and I am genuinely taken aback that someone “passionate about politics” has such faith in governments. Distrust of governments is hardly a radical position. Self-interest of governments is a fairly standard axiom among political scientists for example.

    NZers faith in the governments defence strategy in the past lead to thousands dying on the Western Front in a nasty war of attrition, to NZers fighting to put down a liberation struggle in VietNam, to building up military forces in Fiji, PNG and the Solomons that turned on their own people. I don’t trust them. They lie and are wrong. Sucessive New Zealand governments decided that a free East Timor was impossible and built up military links with Indonesia. They were obviously wrong. The Indonesian occupation wasn’t irreversible. Why do you trust them? If governments are so trustworthy why do we need Waihopai? Or is this just another version of “the wogs begin at Calais”? You can trust OUR government, but you can’t trust those deceptive foreign governments – we have to spy on them because THEY aren’t capable of frank and open dialogue. France is a democratic government but Keith suggests they are being spied on. Personally I don’t trust any of them and I don’t see what makes the NZ government so different from the governments YOU don’t trust and think need to be spied on.

    Sucessive governments have supported all sorts of stupid and trivial things. It seems very strange to suggest this means they “must” be important. Sucessive government support is hardly a measure of importance.

    Waihopai is shrouded in secrecy so New Zealanders don’t criticise it. The dome the ploughshares activists cut was only added to the plan when Owen Wilkes pointed out that any NZer with a theodolite could measure the angle of the dish and infer which satellites were being listened to. After that the GCSB added a dome to the plans. As I pointed out NZers don’t have the information to evaluate their belief in the need for secrecy. Catch-22 I know, but that is why secrecy is inimical to democracy. Faith is alright if you are a religious person, but how can you defend faith in governments?

    My comments about your use of the term normal thinking person were sarcastic. You seemed to be suggesting that normative thinkers aren’t worried about Waihopai. That’s a circular argument, not much better than the redneck “right thinking New Zealanders agree…” I am, as I say, amazed that someone passionate about politics would simply defend Waihopai or similar with the argument “government thinks its important so it must be important” (are you rather young and I’m a cynical old bastard or something?). Important for governments self-interests maybe, not to New Zealanders.

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  15. Keith. I enquired yesterday whether there was any evidence in the leaked documents that Helen Clark had actually been spied on as you claimed in your blog posting.
    If you do read these entries do you think you could justify it or is it just supposition on your part without any evidence to back it up.

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  16. JB

    Fortunately for New Zealand your views are held by a vast minority.

    What is even worse is you do not vote.

    Sad, very sad to have no trust in a democracy. I refer you to paranoia I mentioned in my original post.

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  17. Pentwig, I’m still curious about your position, partly because it is the particular parts of government that aren’t accountable (and therefore fall outside democracy) that I don’t trust – like the intelligence services. Sad this might be, but I don’t understand where your faith comes from, given everything that governments have done over the last 100 years and more – some of which I mentioned above. And I’d hardly consider myself a paranoid. After all, I’m the one saying MOST of New Zealand’s defence strategy is NOT secret. I have little time for conspiracy theories and I think most of the reasons I have for not trusting governments are already in the public record – I don’t need to imagine things to worry about when there are enough reasons for concern that are already public.

    I suppose I’d put myself in a minority (although I like the idea of being part of a “vast minority”), but I’d say that it is indeed fortunate for New Zealand that such minorities exist, and sometimes these minorities have turned into majorities in a surprisingly short period of time.

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  18. You gotta laugh at the idea of the Americans, about a risk of a link between Maori activists and Islamic Jihadists – so the SIS should spy on Maori activists. The SIS reply, the local police are already spying on Maori activists, so its not necessary. They should have just said, there is no link between global terrorism and Maori activism (which is what they probably meant). But they didn’t and local police later came to think they were now part of the containment of global terrorism when targeting Maori activists and Green activists organising any protest resistance, that could have involved some illegality. So they used anti-terrorism like powers and approaches to the issue. So we know where the origins of the raids came. And we perhaps also know about pressures in play in the judicial system related to this – the way governments sometimes operate under international pressure. Say the Swedish, the British and our own.

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  19. JB

    I am curious that you are curious about my position. I would have thought is was abundantly clear as is yours.

    You claim that it is undemocratic that an elected Government to not account to the populace about intelligence and defense strategy. Why?
    I applaud that the Gov. does not allow for scrutiny our defense and intelligence Strategy. If it is in the public domain then our perceived foes have access to it as well.

    You also claim that “MOST of New Zealand’s defense strategy is NOT secret.” I say that you only permitted to know what they allow you to know. The majority of that is probably disinformation, as it should be.

    As for paranoia it has been my experience that those who shrug it off are usually the affected.

    Lastly you state “……..sometimes these minorities have turned into majorities in a surprisingly short period of time.” Here you are correct.
    Germany, Cuba, Nth Korea, Burma and a large part of Africa spring to mind immediately. But I am sure this was just an attempt of diversion on your part.

    Regards

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  20. “You claim that it is undemocratic that an elected Government to not account to the populace about intelligence and defense strategy. Why?”

    Surely it is obvious that I cannot vote against (or in support of) a policy I disagree with if the goovernment refuses to tell me what its policies are, or how they will be enacted. Even worse if what they tell me about the policy are lies – disinformation in your words (but do you really think MOD annual reports, defence white papers, MOD press releases and publications are mostly disinformation? If so how come you call me paranoid?).

    I understand that you have sufficient faith in government to put aside this area of government as one that should not be under democratic scrutiny. What I don’t understand is: 1. Why you think this is democratic, as opposed to autocratic; and 2. Where your faith comes from.

    I’m confused about your examples and what you mean by a diversion. If you mean Nazi Germany, Communist Cuba and Nth Korea and the military government in Burma, aren’t these all examples of dramatic extensions of government authoritarianism and secrecy, under the excuse that this is necessary for security? Often against the will of the majority, albeit with the complacency of many who found it easiest to simply trust in government? And weren’t the critical minorities crushed in all these examples?

    The examples I was thinking about were in NZ, where being anti-apartheid switched from a minority position to a majority over 20 years, anti-US ship nuclear ship visits switched over about the same period, and tolerance for gays switched in about a decade. More recently support for an independent East Timor was limited to a tiny group of activists at the beginning of the 1990s and became a majority in a decade.

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  21. If I may…

    You claim that it is undemocratic that an elected Government to not account to the populace about intelligence and defense strategy. Why?

    Please try to formulate your sentences correctly pentwig.

    The government should be acting in the best interest of the public. In many instances it is not. It often uses money belonging to the public to work against law-abiding citizens that do not share the government’s viewpoint of austerity and enforced regime.

    In the case of America dictation on our nuclear free stance by influencing political direction, one has to ask why can an overseas superpower change another countries chosen position, isn’t this an act of political warfare? The small response from America concerning this was obviously due to them being informed the public is almost 100% anti nuclear. The people have spoken, to move against that is undemocratic. Yet we still have shipments of nuclear material through New Zealand. What else are they getting up to that we don’t know about? To undertake activity that bypasses the crowns law is treasonous. A government should not work against the people’s will or its own policy and laws.

    Likewise to have taxpayer money funding undemocratic enterprise within this country is in my view illegal and treasonous. Such funding that works against the publics will and interest is not limited to the security industry alone. It pervades this country with septic resolution and consideration only for business profits and repression of the people like a cancer. It’s time to chop out the rot! If the government wakes up and effectively employs a political surgeon to remove the cancer of funding private enterprise and repressive agencies, this will have far better results than the peoples angry thrusts which will probably kill the host and leave our country bloodied and in no better repair than all those other dictatorships we are seeing collapse around us.

    If it is in the public domain then our perceived foes have access to it as well.

    There is a difference between maintaining scrutiny and allowing the general public access to sensitive information. What perceived enemies are we talking about anyway, the enemies of other countries, Reds under the bed? The fear of fear itself? New Zealand should in all cases take a peaceful role within conflicts. There is no perceived physical threat against this country itself that I’m aware of. Biased political dissemination and infiltration from countries like France, Israel, America and China through things like false identities, restricted substance trafficking, industrial espionage and anti freedom activities should be transparent to the public, because it is in the best interest of the country and its people for such openness to be mandatory. The days of governments working against their people should be over.

    But I am sure this was just an attempt of diversion on your part.

    I don’t perceive the statement as diversionary in the least. It is in part acknowledgment that through negative Governmental policies that inflict hardship on a minority and then start to inflict hardship on a majority, will inevitably change societies dynamic quickly and sometimes irrevocably. There is no reason that such a dynamic that has occurred in various other countries, will not happen here. In fact I would predict that if the government continues down its current path without any justifiable reason to do so, such events are most likely to occur here. Unfortunately it seems that the Government is trying to create a reason by getting us further into debt. This is a very old mafia tactic.

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  22. Pentwig, I’m just curiouis – you say : “……..sometimes these minorities have turned into majorities in a surprisingly short period of time.” Here you are correct. Germany, Cuba, Nth Korea, Burma and a large part of Africa spring to mind immediately.”

    When did a minority political view in Burma suddenley become a majority one? So far as I can see, political viewpoints in that country have been virtually static for the past 80 years or more. Large pro-democracy majority and a small anti-democratic elite, the latter usually in government.

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  23. Anyplace where the trans-ocean cables go. Some of them cross this island on the way to Oz.

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