NZ complicit in Afghanistan attacks

Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014

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Kiwi spies operating in Afghanistan sifted through intelligence supplied by the United States National Security Agency, a former US intelligence officer has revealed.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed this week that New Zealand intelligence agencies provided information to international forces in Afghanistan that may have been used to target drone strikes.

Former "black ops" operator Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer detailed the work carried out by a New Zealand defence analyst stationed in Afghanistan in 2003.

He revealed that "raw" signals intelligence was passed to a team of US and Kiwi specialists "to parse it and review it to establish their own intel".

Shaffer, who worked under the alias Major Chris Stryker, struck a deal with a colleague to access the intercepts.

He was working on a mission - eventually vetoed - to strike Taliban insurgents over the border with Pakistan.

In his book Operation Dark Heart, Shaffer revealed how a New Zealand intelligence officer identified Taliban targets. He says it was her work that led to the pinpointing of "al-Qaeda Hotel", a militant base in Wana, Pakistan.

She also identified "chatter" that resulted in a raid in the Deh Chopan district.

Shaffer's 2010 memoir was censored by the US Government, which had multiple first-edition copies pulped. However, security researcher Nicky Hager obtained a copy and built on Shaffer's account for his 2011 book Other People's Wars, which blew open New Zealand's role in the war on terror.

Hager said yesterday that New Zealand was complicit in attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

He accused Key of being "flippant" about the spy agency's role in the attacks.

Key said he was comfortable with Government Communications Security Bureau intelligence being used for drone strikes.

He announced an upcoming visit to Washington where talks with President Barack Obama will centre on the increasingly close military relationship between New Zealand and the United States.

But he said that he would not raise drone strikes during the meeting.

"Yip, President Obama has used drones. That's a matter for them really but I think under the circumstances in which I can see they are being used for the most part, I'm comfortable with it."

Key would not confirm if any intelligence was used for drone strikes in neighbouring Pakistan. "I don't have any information to support that . . . Pakistan is not an environment I'd be confident of."

Debate about the GCSB's role in the programme was stoked by investigative journalist and author Jeremy Scahill, who said the government spy agency was "directly involved with what is effectively an American assassination programme".

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Kiwi Daryl Jones died in an attack in Yemen last November. The Government said he was taking part in an al Qaeda training camp, and the GCSB had a warrant to monitor him, passing some intelligence to Five Eyes security agency partners.

Labour leader David Cunliffe wants Key to raise drone strikes while visiting the White House. He wants to clarify for what purposes GCSB-supplied intelligence is used - and whether the strikes are compatible with both New Zealand and international laws.

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne says there should be "public debate" about co-operation with international intelligence agencies.

Green MP Kennedy Graham called for a halt to information-sharing for the predator strike programme as there were no protocols, checks or balances.

- Stuff

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