No NZ spy role in drone strike - Key

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 18:02 19/05/2014

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Government spies did not supply information that led to the death of a New Zealander in a drone strike, Prime Minister John Key says.

But the Government Communications Security Bureau did provide intelligence that was used on other targets, specifically in Afghanistan, he confirmed.

American investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, said on Saturday there were "real questions" about whether the GCSB provided the US with information that could have led to the tracking and killing of Daryl Jones.

The GCSB is part of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance.

Jones, a married father with dual New Zealand-Australian citizenship, died last November in a US Predator drone strike on a convoy of al Qaeda militants in Yemen. He was not the target of the strike.

Key said the GCSB had no prior knowledge of the attack.

Responding to Scahill's comments, he said: "Certainly, in the way that I interpreted them, they are completely wrong."

Scahill also said he had seen "dozens of top secret documents" the United States provided to the GCSB which indicated New Zealand was fully briefed on the drone-strike programme.

Key did not directly answer whether this was the case.

"What would be useful would be if he provided the evidence he's talking about," he said.

Key also confirmed that the foreign agency supplied intelligence to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan. He wouldn't detail other countries where this had occurred.

"They supply that information. They, from time to time, build up information about particular people of interest.

"And they have supplied that information fully with the knowledge that those people would be pursued ... but there is nothing unusual about that."

Key has again refused to rule out if more Kiwis were killed in a wave of drone strikes in Yemen.

"What information I might or might not know, what information I'm prepared to divulge are completely different issues," he said.

Asked why it was in the interest of national security to keep any deaths secret, Key replied: "Because I deem it to be that."

Key would not say whether he believed Jones' death was justified.

"I don't think it is useful because of the family in New Zealand, out of respect for the family, for me to go through all of the different bits of that case.

"I think that what is already in the public domain is that the main target there, were three al Qaeda operatives ... what I said at the time, what I stand by, is that that New Zealander put himself in harm's way.

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"The average run-of-the-mill New Zealander wouldn't do that."


- Stuff

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