Data surveillance would be a breach of trust, says PM Pohiva Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 20:29. Updated on
Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 21:39.
Nuku'alofa, TongaTonga’s Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva. 5 March 2015. Photo Caroline Manu. A claim that the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has been collecting email, phone and social media communications from Pacific Islands since 2009 and sharing mass data with the “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance of electronic eavesdropping agencies from New Zealand, USA, UK, Canada and Australia.
Tonga’s Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva said this afternoon that he was not aware of the surveillance that was reported by the New Zealand Herald. The report was sourced from documents on the spying released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that revealed New Zealand’s role.
“If it happened it simply means that New Zealand has breached the trust that has been established between the two countries. It is as simple as that,” ‘Akilisi said.
“I’m not happy, if it happened it’s very unfortunate.”
‘Akilisi said, while he was concerned, that it was also a matter for New Zealand and the technical superpowers, because Tonga is so small and could not do much to avoid surveillance. “They have the technical equipment and facility to do it anytime… whether we like it or not,” he said.
“If the New Zealand government has good reasons to believe that such information is important for New Zealand to be disseminated or to share with other countries, it’s for New Zealand, but - we have nothing to hide.”
‘Akilisi said he would raise it in “a polite way” with the New Zealand High Commissioner in Tonga today or on Friday.
“Our office will try to stop it. But I must say that under this very sophisticated and complicated technological it would be very difficult for any small country like Tonga to avoid or to stop it, but at the same time we have to make sure that we keep our information and documents, but it’s not easy to control.”
‘Akilisi said he will visit New Zealand in April. “If I have a chance to talk to the New Zealand Prime Minister or Minister of Foreign Affairs, I’ll raise it,” he said.
However, ‘Akilisi said he valued the bilateral relationship and the revelations would not harm the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“I still look at New Zealand as a good partner and I still want to maintain that good bilateral relationship and partnership with New Zealand,” he said.
Meanwhile, Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele, says that he is not concerned about the allegations of New Zealand spying on his country.
“I do not know what country would waste its resources listening to Tom, Dick, and Harry,” he told Radio New Zealand International.
“It would be far fetched to think that a spy agency in any country would waste their resources doing that kind of thing to Samoa.”
Intercepted data collected at New Zealand’s Waihopai site, according to media reports, is shared with the US National Security Agency surveillance system called XKEYSCORE, which is used to analyse vast amounts of emails, internet browsing sessions and online chats that are intercepted from some 150 different locations worldwide.
The whistleblower Edward Snowden who worked for the US surveillance wrote that the system easily targets individuals on demand.
“It means they have the ability to see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online. From “I’m headed to church” to “I hate my boss” to “She’s in the hospital,” the GCSB is there. Your words are intercepted, stored, and analyzed by algorithms long before they’re ever read by your intended recipient,” he stated.
“Faced with reasonable doubts, ask yourself just what it is that stands between these most deeply personal communications and the governments of not just in New Zealand, but also the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia?
“The answer is that solitary checkbox, the Five Eyes Defeat. One checkbox is what separates our most sacred rights from the graveyard of lost liberty. When an officer of the government wants to know everything about everyone in their society, they don’t even have to make a technical change. They simply uncheck the box. The question before us is no longer “why was this done without the consent and debate of the people of this country,” but “what are we going to do about it?” Snowden said.
Last May, Ian Fletcher the Director of the New Zealand Government Security Bureau (GCSB) raised questions of his own, stating that in order to be effective a cryptologic organisation needs to operate in a supportive environment.
“It needs government customers able and prepared to use intelligence as an element of statecraft. It needs a legislative and compliance regime that achieves the right balance between the needs of the state for foreign intelligence and Internet defence capability on one hand, and the constraints on the power of the state against its own people on the other,” he stated.
“And government and the broader community need to be realistic enough to accept the need for these capabilities, and sophisticated enough to manage the resulting moral ambiguities,” Fletcher stated.