Tongan top government officials targeted by New Zealand spy agency says new report

Tonga’s communications system has been intercepted by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Tonga is one of several countries named in media reports this week as having had their communication networks tapped by the GCSB, which then passes information on to the United States under the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance agreement.

New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager told Fairfax Media he had received leaked documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden that showed New Zealand was spying on its Pacific neighbours.

Hagar said New Zealand wanted to serve American interests and secure its place in a US-led “club,” Fairfax Media reported.

Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint programme quoted Tonga’s Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva as saying:

“It means that New Zealand had breached the trust that had been established between the two countries, but if New Zealand has good reason to believe that it is important for Government to share such information with other countries it is entirely a matter for New Zealand.”

New Zealand’s Green Party has lodged a complaint “with the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security claiming the GCSB has broken the law by spying on Kiwis holidaying, living and working in the Pacific.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his government acted within the law.

Government ministers and officials, government agencies, international organisations and non-government organisations’ e-mails and telephone communication from Tonga along with Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, French Polynesia, Niue, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands had been covertly collected by New Zealand GCSB, according to Hagar.

They were then had been sent and fed to the Amercia’s giant NSA database according to Green Party MP Russell Norman.

Auckland University Professor of Pacific Studies Damon Salesa told the New Zealand Herald that world leaders were increasingly interested in the Pacific because of China’s current activities in the region.

In recent years China has become involved in several Pacific nations, offering soft loans, funding construction and building projects and competing for influence among Pacific leaders with Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi told Radio New Zealand he thought it would seem strange to collect information on the scale suggested by Hagar.

“I do not know what country would waste its resources listening to Tom, Dick, and Harry,” Mr Malielegaoi said.

“It would be far fetched to think that a spy agency in any country would waste their resources doing that kind of thing to Samoa.”

The main points

  • Tonga’s communications system has been intercepted by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
  • Tonga is one of several Pacific nations named investigative journalist Nicky Hager this week as having had their communication networks tapped by the GCSB, which then passes information on to the United States under the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance agreement.
  • Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint programme quoted Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva as saying New Zealand had breached the trust that had been established between the two countries.
  • Meanwhile, in neighbouring Samoa, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said he thought it was far fetched to think that any spy agency would put so much effort into spying on his country.

For more information

‘Snowden revelations / The price of the Five Eyes club: Mass spying on friendly nations’ (Nicky Hagar and Ryan Gallagher, New Zealand Herald)

‘Tonga PM: Spy allegations ‘a pity’ ‘ (Radio New Zealand International)

‘Samoa PM says surveillance ‘waste of time’ (Radio New Zealand International)

‘Complaint laid over GCSB spy claims’ (Radio New Zealand) 

‘Snowden documents: New Zealand spying on neighbors’  (China Central Television)

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