New Zealand is conducting mass surveillance on its neighbors in the Pacific Islands region and Indonesia, and sharing the vast amounts of data it collects with its international allies, including the National Security Agency (NSA), according to documents released Thursday.
The documents, which were obtained by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and published in the New Zealand Herald in collaboration with The Intercept, show that New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) used its Waihopai base in the South Island to spy on allies including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Tonga and French Polynesia.
Since 2009, the GCSB reportedly moved to “full-take collection,” which enabled it to sweep up millions of emails, mobile and fixed-line phone calls, as well as social media messages from the Asia Pacific region, and share it through the NSA’s XKEYSCORE program. Last year, Prime Minister John Key had refused to comment on whether New Zealand was using XKEYSCORE, 3News reported.
"They've gone from some selected targeting of the South Pacific states and other targets to a new stage of where they just hoover up everything," Nicky Hager, who contributed to the article, told Radio New Zealand. "They take every single phone call, every email and they go straight off into the National Security Agency databases."
The data was reportedly shared with other members of the “Five Eyes” network -- the U.S., Australia, Britain and Canada. Key, who has previously denied the allegations, reportedly refused to comment on the latest disclosure.
"My very strong advice to New Zealanders is [to] discount massively everything you hear from Nicky Hager. He was wrong last time, he's wrong this time, his interests are his own self-serving interests, not the rest of the country," Key said, ahead of the leaks, Stuff, a local news website, reported.
Snowden had previously alleged in The Intercept that communications of New Zealand nationals were also being intercepted by GCSB and shared with Five Eyes.
"At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called ‘XKEYSCORE,’” Snowden wrote. Domestic spying by the GCSB is illegal.
In a statement to the Herald and The Intercept, the GCSB reportedly said: “The GCSB exists to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders. We have a foreign intelligence mandate. We don’t comment on speculation about matters that may or may not be operational. Everything we do is explicitly authorized and subject to independent oversight.”
The NSA reportedly did not comment on the disclosure.