New Zealand has been eavesdropping on India and leaking information to the United States despite a warm and longstanding bilateral relationship with New Delhi, suggest documents released recently by American whistleblower Edward Snowden to an investigative website.
The country’s cyber security agency, Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), is part of a clandestine five-nation programme that snooped on 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including India, and passed on the intercepted information to the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US, the documents say.
The programme, called Five Eyes, conducts covert surveillance operations and uses the stolen information of other countries for diplomatic, security, military and economic gains.
An NSA document, marked Top Secret and dated April 2013, says the GCSB provided a collection of diplomatic communications on India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Vietnam and several other nations.
In return, the “NSA provides raw traffic, processing and reporting on targets of mutual interest, in addition to technical advice and equipment loans”, the document adds.
The operation was akin to what the NSA has been reportedly doing on a global scale until Snowden, a former contractor of the US agency, blew the lid.
The documents suggest Five Eyes were using satellite and telephone communications interceptors, hooking into target countries’ internal communications systems by installing listening posts in diplomatic buildings and interpreting information obtained by member agencies.
They bug computers and smartphones after infecting them with a highly-sophisticated malware that is part of a platform named Warriorpride.
“New Zealand is a member of an arrangement for sharing intelligence along with Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (referred to as the Five Eyes). This helps compensate for our small size and lack of global reach, and enables New Zealand to be a better-informed player on the world stage than would otherwise be the case,” says the GCSB’s 2013 annual report.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, currently travelling abroad with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, declined to comment.
But analysts said the Kiwi snoopgate hit like a sniper shot because India and New Zealand shared more than a passion for cricket, democratic traditions and a common strategy for economic ties called NZ Inc India launched in 2011. Both nations were wary of the threat from China in the Asia-Pacific region and this should ideally make New Delhi a partner of Auckland rather than a surveillance target, they added.
The GCSB did not respond to HT’s queries while New Zealand’s acting high commissioner in India Michael Appleton said: “I am not able to comment on national security and intelligence-related matters.”
Snowden is currently living in exile in Russia after he fled the US in 2012 with a cache of secret information relating to the extent and style of the US-led worldwide surveillance. He shared the latest documents with The Intercept, a website.