Speech to the Close Waihopai rally in Blenheim on 23 January 2010

Speech to the Close Waihopai rally in Blenheim on 23 January 2010

Keith Locke MP

23rd January, 2010

Yesterday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a good speech on freedom of the internet, directed at China. She complained about the censorship of the internet that takes place in China, and the way in which China is hacking into and spying on the gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents.

Mrs Clinton is right to criticise China, but there is a double standard at work. The United States is itself engaged in a massive programme of spying on people’s private communications, by intercepting them as they pass through communications satellites around the globe.

The Waihopai spy station is an essential part of this electronic spying network, along with similar stations in Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States itself.

The justification provided for New Zealand being engaged in this spying is that it helps track down the bad guys and terrorists, so that the world will be a safer place.

I would be the first to admit that such spying may occasionally help to catch bad people. However, the really bad people know their phone calls and emails can be intercepted, and are careful to communicate in a secretive manner. All the electronic intercepts in the world have not tracked down Osama bin Laden, for example.

Most of the communications accepted at Waihopai, and processed for the United States, are actually not about criminals or terrorists, but are the international communications of government institutions in the Asia/Pacific, or NGOs like Greenpeace. This has been well established by leaks from the spy agencies involved, and research by people like Nicky Hager.

Our government often goes on about the importance of having good relations with our neighbours in Asia and the Pacific. How is this advanced by spying on their communications at the behest of the United States?

What about countries like China, with repressive governments, you might ask. Shouldn’t we be keeping tabs on what is happening there.?

The Greens are very critical of the abuses of human rights in China, and we think the Tibetan and Uigher Muslim people in western China should be able to determine their own affairs.

However, I would be much happier if our government spoke out publicly on these matters, and didn’t stop its Ministers meeting the Dalai Lama, rather than simply join the United States on a massive electronic spying mission against China.

The United States has its own agenda towards China, much of it concerning America’s own economic difficulties and how China is helping or hindering their rectification. There is also contention over access to vital resources, including oil.

Operating Waihopai, as part of the global Echelon network, assumes that the New Zealand people have the same foreign policy objectives as the United States government.

This is not true. We are a proud nuclear free people; we are glad New Zealand wasn’t part of the invasion of Iraq; and there is great concern about how the so-called war on terror has undermined human rights around the world – including in New Zealand.

There is less and less justification for us being part of this US-run intelligence network.

That is why there is such secrecy around every aspect of operations at Waihopai. Our government knows that the more Kiwis know about how much it ties us to the US administration’s own objectives, the more they will object to its existence on our soil.

It is also a huge waste of money. The Waihopai station, and the processing of intercepted communications that goes on in Wellington, take up most of the $54 million budgeted this financial year for the operations of the Government Communications Security Bureau. The amount given to the GCSB has gone up hugely over the past decade, from $21 million in 1999/2000 to $54 million 2009/10.

Waihopai also assaults our privacy. We are told not to worry because the GCSB only deals with ‘foreign intelligence. I would like that to be true. But when you email or phone overseas the Waihopai operation has no way of excluding the communications of New Zealanders.

We also know from the release of SIS papers over the past year, including some on myself, that intelligence agencies spend a lot of time spying on progressive people and organizations. Do we really think the GCSB doesn’t work closely with the SIS when it intercepts material on dissenting New Zealanders – including when people such as us are trying to close a spy station so dear to them like Waihopai!

This spy station doesn’t serve New Zealand’s purposes, it is a threat to our privacy, and it should be shut down.

This foreign intelligence station undermines the independence of New Zealand’s foreign policy, by tying it to America’s global objectives. It should be removed.