Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NZ spied on Fiji military, WikiLeaks cables show

New Zealand has been using the Waihopai communications base to spy on Fiji's military, passing the intelligence to the United States Government, WikiLeaks cables reveal.

The base was used in the 2006 coup and probably the 2000 coup, although New Zealand officials have always denied that they were spying.

The WikiLeak cables, taken with other information made public on Fiji, point to the Government Communications Security Bureau being capable of listening in to Fijian mobile phones.

The revelation is likely to anger Fiji prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a December 2006 coup.

At the time Commodore Bainimarama and his colonels publicly expressed fears that Australia and New Zealand were engaging in covert activity.

A leaked cable reports on meetings that then United States assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, Randall Fort, had in October 2008 with the then External Assessments Bureau, the GCSB, the Prime Minister's Department and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

US deputy secretary Margaret McKean wrote a cable summing up the meeting. "New Zealand views the situation in Fiji as `acute', and appreciates USG [US Government] support for the Pacific Island Forum position on Fiji. Fort commented that GNZ sigint [ New Zealand government signals intelligence] had been critical to USG understanding of the 2006 coup."

The cable does not disclose what New Zealand intercepted from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, which was founded by New Zealand in World War II.

An earlier cable, on March 2, 2007, from the US embassy in Wellington and written by deputy chief of mission David Keegan, reported that then prime minister Helen Clark understood the implications of a post-September 11 world for New Zealand security.

"She also realised after the Fiji coup that New Zealand had become too reliant on Australian intelligence," the cable says. "Clark grasps that NZ must `give to get' and that some of our co-operative operations strengthen her country's security.

"But she also has been willing to address targets of marginal benefit to New Zealand that could do her political harm if made public. Over the past year, she has supported increased counterterrorism co-operation with us."

Mr Fort was briefed on Chinese activities in the Pacific by Maarten Wevers, chief executive of the Prime Minister's Department, and on Venezuela and Cuba, whose interest in the Pacific he likened to "that of the Russians in the past".

Mr Fort replied that "the backtracking of democracy" in the broader Pacific region was a concern to the United States.


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