Sat 22 January 2011.
This protest is about democracy.
Democratic government means that the people should be told what the government is doing in its name. We have an Official Information Act which promotes this principle of open government.
Yet when it concerns the Waihopai spy base this principle of open government goes completely out the window. A totally unjustifiable level of secrecy reigns.
For example, the Government Communications Security Bureau budget this year is $70 million dollars. Yet when I ask how much of that is being spent on Waihopai the response is: can’t tell you – it’s a secret.
Why? Not because there is any
reason for the budget for Waihopai to be secret. The government figures that if it can get away with saying almost nothing about Waihopai then there won’t be much public debate around the purpose of the spy base. Debates require two sides to contribute.
And the government doesn’t want a debate because they know they can’t justify they way our SIS and GCSB is gathering intelligence for the United States.
This is in effect admitted in one of the Wikileaks documents, dated 2 March 2007, where US Deputy Chief of Mission David Keegan
says that Prime Minister Helen Clark has “been willing to address targets of marginal benefit to New Zealand that could do her political harm if made public.”
Which means the US is given a pretty free reign about what it gets out of Waihopai, including – nowdays – perhaps intelligence on UN figures. We know from other Wikileaks documents that America has long spied on top UN officials – which now, ironically, includes Helen Clark, as head of the UN Development Programme.
We also know that is difficult for the New Zealand government to stop the United States using Waihopai to spy on who it wants, because Waihopai is part of a global integrated system – into which the United States puts in whatever key word combinations or phone numbers it wants.
Another Wikileaks document reinforces this fact. In one dated 23 September 2005 US Charge d’Affaires David Burnett says that intelligence sharing between the US and New Zealand is done person to person, “with the exception of NSA/GCSB exchanges, which are automated.”
There are three main problems with Waihopai being so locked in to this US dominated global communications spying system.
Firstly, the information is used for purposes that most New Zealanders would disagree with – that is advancing the United States’ more aggressive agenda, which has included bombing not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Somalia, the Yemen and Pakistan – not to mention the threats against Iran.
Secondly, it means we are aligned with four other Anglo nations – the US, UK, Australia and Canada – against the rest of the world. Or at least against the rest of the world in intelligence terms. Despite all the talk about combating terrorism, the Five Eyes network (including Waihopai) mainly targets the communications of other governments. Earlier, as demonstrated in Nicky Hager’s book
the main target was Japan. It is now probably China. How does it help our relations with government in the Asia/Pacific to be spying on them at the behest of the United States? What is the point?
We would be much better off being even handed and having good relations with all governments.
Thirdly, this global spying on millions of international communications is part of a larger problem, which growing ability of governments to intrude on our privacy and put the information on databases which can be used for prejudicial purposes. I read in the UK Guardian this week that the only Green MP in the British Parliament, Caroline Lucas, has been found to be on a domestic database of people the UK Police consider dangerous – just because she happens to be an environment and peace activist.
The New Zealand Green Party will keeping trying to open up a real debate around our intelligence links with the United States, asking questions in Parliament whenever appropriate and possible.
We will also push for the replacement of the secret Intelligence and Security Committee in Parliament by a real Select Committee which is more open to public involvement.
And lastly, why not shut down Waihopai, a foreign spy base on our soil. We will save a lot of money and help preserve our integrity as a nation.