NZ way down the WikiLeaks queue

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:09 02/12/2010
Julian Assange
AFP
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Whistle-blower WikiLeaks has dumped another load of secret American cables on the internet this morning and for the fourth day running, there is nothing from the US Embassy in Wellington.

WikiLeaks claims that 1500 cables from Wellington are included in the 250,000 despatches they have.

Currently they are publishing around 30 a day.

That means the public might read the Wellington US Embassy's assessment of just elected Prime Minister John Key around the time he celebrates his 72nd birthday in 2033.

New Zealand's solitary references in the released cables to date come in a discussion about South Korea's interested in a Pacific free trade zone. It is not embarrassing.

There is also a London cable which says that "New Zealand is pushing hard for full suspension" of Fiji from the Commonwealth.

It is a modest surprise given that Foreign Minister Murray McCully's publicly stated policy is that he wanted to open dialogue with the military regime now running Fiji.

Another mention of New Zealand makes it into a just released cable from the US Embassy in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

It refers to the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which Pakistan based men killed at least 175 people in India’s financial capital.

The US Embassy met diplomats from the Australian, British, Canadian, and New Zealand High Commissions who briefed each other on how they were responding to the attack.

“They concluded that any offers of assistance should be made carefully to avoid being interpreted by the Indians as politically motivated or attempts to monitor their actions. Delhi-based missions are taking extra care at this stage to not get sucked into the blame game Pakistan and India are currently playing,” the cable says.

In the released cables to date, New Zealand is noticeable only because no one thinks to mention the country.

A "Secret - Not for Foreign Eyes" cable (the highest level of secrecy) cable written in 2004 sets the scene for then President George Bush's visit to Canada.

Released today, the cable deals with international intelligence sharing, which New Zealand is part of through the Echelon Network which includes the Waihopai spy base in Marlborough. It has long been defended on the grounds that New Zealand gets intelligence back.

But the cable today shows that New Zealand and Canada have been put out in the cold - although we are not mentioned.

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"A potential irritant on the Canadian side that may be raised has to do with sharing of intelligence regarding Iraq operations," the new cable says.

"The (Canadian) government is aware that we are creating a separate US-UK-Australia channel for sharing sensitive intelligence, including information that traditionally has been US eyes only."

The Canadian Government believed this might be a 'punishment' for Canada's non-participation in Iraq and they fear that the Iraq-related channel may evolve into a more permanent 'three-eyes' only structure".

France and Canada feature heavily in today's WikiLeak dump.

US diplomats are revealed as heavily disliking the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which, a US official says has "long gone to great pains to highlight the distinction between Americans and Canadians in its programming, generally at our expense.

"We need to do everything we can to make it more difficult for Canadians to fall into the trap of seeing all US policies as the result of nefarious faceless US bureaucrats anxious to squeeze their northern neighbour," concludes the cable.

"The US is overwhelmingly important to Canada in ways that are unimaginable to Americans," says another cable.

But President Barack Obama seems to have patched things up, for another cable released today hails his popularity north of the border.

"Your decision to make Ottawa your first foreign destination as President will do much to diminish - temporarily at least - Canada's habitual inferiority complex vis-a-vis the US and its chronic but accurate complaint that the US pays far less attention to Canada than Canada does to us."

Meanwhile as investigators continue to struggle to work out how WikiLeaks got the data, the US State Department last Friday severed the link between its classified cable system and the Department of Defense's SIPRNet classified system, a sophisticated alternative to the internet.

Thanks to earlier WikiLeaks documents, it is known that New Zealand's Defence Forces are linked to SIPRNet which allows even New Zealand frigates and armoured vehicles access to material seen on general's desks in Washington, London and Canberra.

A Rand Corporation study, released earlier this year by WikiLeaks, said in Iraq and Afghanistan coalition forces often did not have access to US intelligence, putting soldiers at "mortal risk".

As a result the US National Security Agency and Defense Department opened SIPRnet "to a small pool of trusted allies, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand".

New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp declined comment on the report.

- Stuff

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