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Bigger than Wikileaks


News sources today have revealed a major spy scandal involving New Zealand’s own Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).  

“Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 41, a Canadian naval officer is facing accusations of selling top secret intelligence information from New Zealand and several other allied countries to Russia,” says the NZ Herald.

The information which Delisle is alleged to have passed to the Russian government is signals intelligence. This is the type of information collected at the Waihopai and Tangimoana spy stations by the GCSB. Further news reports have indicated the amount of information to have equaled or surpassed that given to Wikileaks, and would have included information from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK: all members of the UKUSA Agreement.  Undoubtedly, the information (or so-called ‘intelligence’) would be from many parts of the world and about all matter of things of concern to those 5 countries.

The two radomes at the Waihopai Spybase are aimed in different directions in order to capture the greatest ‘intelligence’ for the UKUSA partners. One of the dishes is pointed at Intelsat 701 – carrying South Pacific nations’ communications. Following the Ploughshares action in 2008 that removed the white covering hiding the precise trajectory of the second dome, it was discovered to be pointed at an Asian satellite carrying Japanese commercial information. “The satellite dish was not fixed on one satellite, but shifted between satellites for periods of weeks or months. Measurements by local people, which were only approximate, pointed to areas of sky occupied only by Japanese, Chinese and Russian satellites.”*

There are two things about this latest spy case that really require more exposure. First, it is assumed that Delisle has sold the information to the Russian Government as several Russian diplomats were ordered out of Canada not long after the breach was discovered. It might be thought that the cold war machinations of the Russians were somewhat in decline, and that the Chinese Government might well have paid a better price. It is inconceivable that Delisle was acting out of some ideological commitment to the Russian state, so we have to assume his motives were purely financial.

The second, and certainly far more important, thing about this case is that it was all discussed at a ‘secret international conference in New Zealand earlier this year,’ a conference which was presumably attended by members of the CIA (US), National Security Council (US), MI6 (UK) GCHQ (UK), Defence Signals Directorate (Australia), ASIO (Australia), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and sundry other ‘intelligence’ organisations.

On one hand, with the recent signing of the ‘Washington Declaration’ and New Zealand’s long-term commitment to the US ‘war on terror’ we should hardly be surprised that international spy conventions are being held here.

Yet at the same time, the government’s complete unwillingness to discuss ‘security and intelligence issues’ means that the level of public knowledge of such activities is absolutely nil.  Given the nefarious activities of the CIA and its use of so-called ‘intelligence’ including the deployment of drone bombers, it is essential that the people of New Zealand have an understanding of what these spy agencies are doing, and how their ‘work’ is being used by other UKUSA members.

Fairfax newspapers in Australia obtained documents under the Australian Freedom of Information Act that allowed them to obtain high-level Cabinet papers addressing the Australian response.** Will the New Zealand government come clean here and release similar information? It seems not, but interesting coming as it does on the very day that the Law Commission has recommended that all New Zealand government departments become more pro-active about the release of information so that citizens don't have to resort to the Official Information Act.

Many commentators have noted that New Zealand’s long term defence plan commits the government to a US-centric foreign and defence policy and had no understanding of the implications of such a position for relations with China and other nations around the Pacific.  NZ is still mired in a post-WWII worldview where America reigns supreme. The contribution of the NZ spybases to an outmoded alliance is dangerous.

The New Zealand government should not be involved in spying, and should not be passing on that ‘intelligence’ to other nations. There was once a vibrant movement for a ‘non-aligned’ foreign policy. We should take the opportunity provided by this latest spy scandal to examine just exactly why and for whom we are spying.



*WHAT DOES WAIHOPAI SPY ON? Asian Civilian Telecommunications Satellites, For Starters. Nicky Hager, Peace Researcher #40, July 2010

**New Zealand caught up in Spy scandal. Phil Dorling, Stuff, 25 July