The New Zealand Communications Security Bureau at Waihopai, near Blenheim
BY Apulu Lance Polu
APIA: THURSDAY 05 MARCH 2015: Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Fatialofa Sailele Malielagoi, is not losing any sleep over the allegations of New Zealand spying over Samoa and other Pacific Islands and reporting directly to the United States.
The allegations, made by journalist Nicky Hager made headline news in New Zealand today as questions were asked of the legality of the mass surveillance by New Zealand in the Pacific region.
Hager based his information on documents provided by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Hager said the New Zealand Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) intercepted communications from countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa, and even nations as small as Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati, and provided it en masse to the National Security Agency in the United States, and the surveillance was growing.
“They take every single phone call, every email and they go straight off into the [US] National Security Agency databases.”
Hager said the New Zealand Government had sold out its Pacific neighbours to secure its membership of the Five-Eyes intelligence network of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Pressed for a comment today, Tuilaepa issued a late press statement saying “I am not privy to the article, but from questions that have been put to me by the media, I suppose it’s a disappointment to have to tell them that I don’t have any strong feelings about the allegations of spying. The reason being is a difference in interpretation.”
But Hager said the Five Eyes countries led by the US are literally trying to spy on every country on earth, and they do to an extent which we’ve been seeing in the overseas Snowden revelations as pretty mind-blowing with the high tech equipment they have.
“And what we’re going to be hearing more about in the next few days is New Zealand in all kinds of very surprising ways playing a role in that.”
But Tuilaepa today recalls a similar story may years ago where he did not lose any sleep on what he described as ‘just briefs’. And he suggested that diplomacy is a better term to describe spying.
“Perhaps the media is trying to create a sensational newsbyte over the issue, but I don’t draw any differences between these allegations and an article that came out 18 years ago following the FEM meeting in Cairns, Australia, when I was the Finance and Economic Affairs Minister. Many days after the meeting when I was back in Samoa I received a phone call at 330am on a Sunday. I was asked what I felt about some media reports that had revealed confidential briefings on each delegate of a Pacific Forum country who was at the meeting, for the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“The reporter who called me up at 330am asked me for a comment, while I was still half asleep. I said, ‘What does the report say?’ and the reporter told me it said that Samoa’s Prime Minister Tofilau had made the observation that his Deputy has some rough edges to smooth out.
“So it was only one negative comment about me, and sadly no positives. But I seemed to be the only one on the brief with the smallest amount of information.
“Up to now, my rough edges still remain, which has become a kind of valuable asset for which I am appreciated by my enemies. I would never want to change that.
“A brief is a brief and nothing more. When I was a public servant myself for many years, I also wrote briefs for my bosses. They are just briefs – to be used or to be laughed at.
“I was asked if I had any more comments to make, and I said ‘No, I’m going back to sleep’. But my counterparts mentioned in the brief did not take kindly to the revelations, and probably lost some sleep over it.”
SPYING, DIPLOMACY AND PROFESSIONAL ANALYSIS
“With all these allegations of spying, there is a more respectable term that the diplomatic community is used to – diplomacy. When any country sets up a High Commission or Embassy, the High Commissioner or Ambassador is the eyes and ears for their home governments, and report on what’s happening locally, whether it’s important or pure garbage!
“For instance should there be reported street violence in Samoa, the citizen journalists through social media will report sensationally and immediately with no regard for firm facts or proper checks, so eighty-five percent of the time it’s wrong.
“But the intelligence services or the diplomats of Australia and New Zealand, or any other mission based here in Samoa, will report back to their governments and set the record straight. They are professional, thorough and well-trained to analyse situations in their place of posting. So governments, with their diplomatic representatives in Samoa, are well informed of daily events and what’s happening in the country.
“Samoa doesn’t have anything to hide. Our daily lives are an open book. We follow good governance principles of Transparency and Accountability.
“As the leader of this country I maintain frank and open lines of communication with all our diplomatic connections. Where there are concerns and problems – I will be sure to voice them, and when there are benefits or positive outcomes, I will be equally as vocal.
“Whatever diplomats have reported to their home countries, we welcome them to it because we have nothing to hide and their bosses will learn more about Samoa. We are not a security risk to any small island nearby and I’m sure the phone conversations by any old matai to his son in New Zealand for a taulaga (church donation) envelope will not be of interest to the FBI of the great U.S.A.
“In fact, the diplomats reporting from Samoa would no doubt be sending back information saying we treat them well and we love them, as we love our brothers and our neighbours in Fiji and Tonga, from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet.”