Snowden files: NZ's spying on the family

Where the spies are.

Where the spies are.

In the Cook Islands they hold New Zealand passports, are eligible for New Zealand social services and New Zealand is responsible for their foreign affairs. The same in Niue.

Leaked Edward Snowden documents, published for the first time today, reveal New Zealand is spying on them anyway – despite residents being New Zealanders.

Some of them don't like it.

The people of both these tiny nations are New Zealand citizens, and the GCSB is legally barred from eavesdropping on New Zealand citizens' phone calls and emails except under a warrant.


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However, a United States National Security Agency document, which explains GCSB targeting rules to US spies, says: "Note: The governments of Cook Islands and Niue may be targeted, but not their citizens since they are entitled to hold New Zealand passports." 

The exception is made to allow spying on all Cook Island and Niue politicians and public servants, even though they too are New Zealand citizens.

Asked this weekend if the GCSB had changed the rule seen in the NSA document that surveillance of the Cook Islands and Niue governments is permitted, acting GCSB director Una Jagose said: "We do not comment on operational matters.... Everything we do is authorised under legislation and subject to independent oversight."

Veteran Cook Island politician Norman George says the idea of the GCSB snooping on the Cook Islands was as absurd as "sending a spy team to Christchurch or Whangarei". The idea is "more ridiculous than serious", says George, who spent 32 years as a Cook Islands MP and still works as a lawyer in Rarotonga.

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Cook Islanders were New Zealand citizens and were not just brothers of the Kiwis "but more like twins, because in all the wars New Zealand has been involved with, we have been involved", he said.

"There are no terrorists in the Cook Islands. We are peaceloving Christians – to spy on us is....frankly, bad manners." 

Cook Island Opposition leader William Heather was shocked and disappointed to learn that the GCSB spied on the Cooks. Why, he asked, would New Zealand "spy on the family?"

 - Sunday Star Times

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