There has been a wall of silence around the operations of the satellite communications interception station at Waihopai, near Blenheim, since it was built in 1988.
This secrecy must end.
Our inquiries as to the real functions of the spy base have been repeatedly met with the bland statement: ‘the Government doesn’t comment on intelligence matters for security reasons’.
However, we can’t assume that our government’s use of our intelligence agencies is actually in New Zealand’s best security interests.
The Greens don’t believe it is in New Zealand’s security interests to spy on France, Japan, and the UN on behalf of the American government – as our Government Communications Security Bureau admitted was the case in 1986 in the report discovered this month in the Lange Papers.
We demand to know whether our GCSB is still the handmaiden of US and British signals intelligence, as it demonstrably was back in 1986.
Waihopai was built two years after that 1986 report, so logic would suggest we then expanded our intelligence gathering for those governments. You don’t have to be very smart to know that the US National Security Agency is the main body trawling through the millions of phone calls, faxes and emails the Waihopai dishes draw down from the two communications satellites over the Pacific equator.
Waihopai is like a cancerous cell eating away at any moves we make to towards becoming more independent and peaceful in our foreign policy.
Three years ago the Clark government opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq. Yet at the same time the Bush administration was using the NSA’s Echelon system, of which Waihopai is an integral part, to spy on UN Security Council members so it could more easily swing them in favour of an invasion. All this is documented.
Now it is disclosed that George Bush has been using the NSA to illegally spy on the international communications of American citizens – and no doubt the interceptions at Waihopai have been part of this. Echelon is, after all, an integrated system.
How do we explain successive New Zealand government’s becoming so committed to, and entangled in, America’s intelligence machinery?
It flows, essentially, from a fear of being too out-of-step with America the superpower. Like, ‘we can criticise you over the invasion of Iraq, but please don’t get too upset with us because we are still a fully participating member of your global intelligence gathering system and feeding you a lot of vital information’.
There is the related ‘rationalization’ that if New Zealand doesn’t don’t cooperate fully it may be cut off from the flow of American intelligence and be at the mercy of terrorists and other international baddies.
The reality is that it has always been in America’s self-interest to exchange information with us about international criminals. We simply don’t need to be part of Echelon for this to happen.
In fact, it undermines our security if other countries see us an intelligence puppy dog for the Bush Administration. It is not just that terrorists might be more likely to have a go at us. It is also that we will have better relations with France, Japan, Pacific Island nations, etc., if we are not seen as spying on them for the American government.
We know the big downsides of Waihopai. Then what are the upsides? And of course, there may be some. Waihopai may well have intercepted something useful in nearly 20 years of spying. What, what? Can’t tell? It’s a secret!!
Again New Zealanders are beaten by the cloak of secrecy.
We simply can’t accept this zero level of explanation and accountability from our government.
We can’t accept any government just saying “trust us” on intelligence matters.
What we do know about Waihopai makes it unacceptable on New Zealand soil.
Everything points to it being a covert spy station for the American government, whose policies on Iraq, nuclear disarmament, global warming, the International Criminal Court and many other things are so different from New Zealand’s.
We could be wrong about Waihopai. But Prime Minister, you’ll have to tell us where we are wrong.
Otherwise, we believe, you’ve no choice but to close Waihopai down.