Wellington, March 5 New Zealand has been spying on its Pacific neighbours, sweeping up information from the region and passing it to an American spy agency, documents released on Thursday said.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key refused to comment on the specific revelations, saying through a spokesperson: “The Snowden documents were taken some time ago and many are old, out of date, and we can’t discount that some of what is being put forward may even be fabricated.”
Key later told reporters: “Some of the information is incorrect, some of it is out of date, and some of the assumptions are just plain wrong.”
According to the documents, New Zealand spies were targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country’s closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours, The New Zealand Herald reported.
The targets included Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Tonga and French Polynesia, said the documents released by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
US fugitive Edward Snowden worked at the US National Security Agency (NSA) before turning whistleblower in June 2013, releasing documents to the mainstream media showing spy agencies were conducting mass surveillance.
The Snowden documents say that information from across the Pacific is collected by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) but sent on to the US National Security Agency (NSA).
From there, the documents show information collected by New Zealand merged with data captured from across the world.
It is then able to be accessed by the NSA’s XKeyscore computer programme through an online shopping-style interface, which allows searching of the world’s communications.
The data was shared with other members of the “Five Eyes” network — the US, Australia, Britain and Canada.