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Foreign agencies access spy bases Greens co-leader calls for inquiry

"Press", 28 December 1999

by Cathie Bell in Wellington

Foreign spy agencies have access to New Zealand spy bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana, the Government's spy services watchdog says, in what the bases' opponents have called "an extraordinary admission".

Security and Intelligence Inspector-General Laurie Grieg confirms in his annual report to the Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Prime Minister Helen Clark, that the bases are used by foreign spy services.

Researcher Nicky Hager, an internationally acknowledged expert on an electronic intelligence-sharing network, Echelon, said that Mr Grieg had gone further in confirming New Zealand's membership of Echelon than any Government official had before.

"That's a solid step on in acknowledging what's been publicly known and obvious for years."

Green Party co-leader Rod Donald said yesterday that Mr Grieg's statement was an "extraordinary admission" which confirmed spy-base opponents' worst fears.

"I think it's irresponsible of the Government not to have made this clear from the outset. First Labour and then National have tried to hide what really goes on at Waihopai since that facility opened."

Mr Donald said Mr Grieg's admission was "absolutely extraordinary".

"It's an insult to our sovereignty."

He said the Green Party would look to exert influence on the Government to review the status of a statutory committee of MPs with oversight on security issues.

Mr Donald said he hoped to speak to Ms Clark late next month after he and fellow Green MP Keith Locke took part in protests outside the Waihopai spy station in Marlborough.

Mr Grieg said in his report that earlier this year then-prime minister Jenny Shipley asked for a report to "seek reassurance" that:

The electronic eavesdropping were directed principally to meet the foreign intelligence needs of the New Zealand Government.

New Zealand retained national control over the Tangimoana and Waihopai bases.

The Government Communications Security Bureau's co-operation with international intelligence partners was reasonable and consistent with New Zealand's national interests. Mr Grieg said he reported on April 28 after talking to bureau staff, reading some documents provided by them, and witnessing their procedures.

"I was unable to check some of the technical matter but I was satisfied from the assurances I had been given from the staff and the corroboration of those by other material available to me."

He said the spy facilities here "are useful to and are accessible by the intelligence agencies of New Zealand's intelligence partners".

Access to the facilities and to the intelligence material collected was at all times under the control and supervision of the Communications Security Bureau, he said. Care was taken to ensure the private communications of New Zealand citizens were not intercepted and were not available to the intelligence partners.

"There is a substantial balance in favour of New Zealand and its intelligence requirements in the collaboration and sharing of information and intelligence between the partners."

Mr Donald said the United States Congress was doing an investigation into Echelon, something he said the New Zealand Government would never be prepared to do because it would upset American allies.

He said a New Zealand inquiry was needed, but could not done until the statutory committee with oversight on security issues was disbanded.


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