December 13, 2010

Let’s not tell New Zealand

"The US and New Zealand ended a 25-year break in intelligence collaboration last year but kept the news secret, according to a leaked cable.

Washington imposed restrictions on the supply of intelligence to Wellington in the mid-1980s in response to New Zealand's nuclear-free policy.

But according to a cable sent from the US embassy to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January this year, collaboration was "fully restored" in August last year. Mrs Clinton was also warned the news "should not be acknowledged in public".

Other leaked cables showed an increase in New Zealand co-operation with US intelligence agencies and military in recent years, but again "emphasised that it is committed to avoiding publicity". According to the cables, US and New Zealand officials doubted there was public support for the closer ties and preferred to keep them secret, the report said."

Bet New Zealenders are feeling chuffed to be mentioned in the cables, and to know that their government tried not to bother their collective little heads with this information.

Here …


  1. Anonymous9:07 PM

    That's democrcy for ya.


    PS. The gremlims have been kind to my posts lately - it's best we speak kindly of them.

  2. That's diplomacy for ya.

    The gremlins seem to be napping in the evenings, which is curious.

  3. OK - damn those gremlins, damn them to hell! I don't even care if they hear me!


    Jacob - Wed, Dec 15, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    A lame response from the Kiwi PM:

    The public was not told about full intelligence sharing with the United States resuming last year because the Government does not comment on national security, Prime Minister John Key says. ...

    "We just don't comment on those things, once you start where do you stop?" ...

    "Going out there and saying we've resumed that level of exchange of information would then invite a whole lot of other questions which we are not in a position to answer.

    "There are a whole lot of things we can't or don't answer just for the protection of New Zealanders there's nothing terribly secret about it in that regard, but it is something we don't talk about."

    Incredible. Such a fundamental policy position (FPP) as that is not a matter requiring the sensitive treatment reserved for "operational" matters.

    In an open democracy a FPP is normally something a govt takes to the citizens to sell to them by explaining its benefits.

    And there could well be substantial benefits, but if it's such a no-brainer then why the secrecy?

  4. "We just don't comment on those things, once you start where do you stop?" ...

    Holy fuck.

    Where do we (the governed, the people) start with a statement like that Jacob?

  5. Jacob9:12 PM

    Gob-smacking isn't it? I've been looking for signs of uproar about this on the part of your kiwi in the street, but things seem rather subdued over there.

    "Where do you stop?" Sheesh, perhaps at the point where secrecy about sensitive information really is warranted.

    I guess the extent to which the kiwis swallow this may depend on their government's successes on other measures. Perhaps the govt could try the line that there've been no terrorist attacks on NZ soil since the US relationship resumed.

  6. I'm not ragingly concerned about the general NZ public Jacob.

    Where the hell are the outraged politicians, public servants, journalists?

    Way back when, seems like forever, but the lessons were well learned, that is, not forgotten - I was trained as a new federal public servant on all matters to do with security and government records Yes, I also had a pretty high level security clearance. Reminders about security, about government records (oh, hey, I did the archiving and disposal training too!), retention of records, etc, were continual, as well as regular refresher training.

    My suggestion is this: prime ministers, politicians and their staff should be given entry level and advanced training, just as I had back then.

    See, I don't recall any of us ever having trouble understanding where lines began or ended, it was as clear as blue-sky sunny day. If a PM doesn't know where to even find the line,then he or she requires basic training.

    Sure, we did leak a bit, even back then, and my old stomping ground still leaks a bit - hello Godwin! - but we all knew exactly where the line was, and which end of it we were on at any given moment. A junior Commonwealth officer can learn there things, surely a prime minister can.

  7. Eek. That was damned sloppy, apologies.

    (*Reminder to self: must proofread before posting.*0

  8. Jacob7:10 PM

    I'm sure Mr Key knows himself full well the principles that ought to apply. Simply, he was hoping to to pull it off as a fait accompli, under the radar as it were, and perhaps has succeeded.

    Key is known to be quite enthusiastic about reversing NZ's disengagement from the US power complex, while perhaps at least half the population wants to maintain its distance.

    Many kiwis still remember the way in which the US/UK under Reagan/Thatcher vindictively looked the other way when French state terrorists sent the Rainbow Warrior to the bottom of Auckland harbour, due to NZ's anti-nuclear position. My guess is Key was hoping not to have to deal with all that historical baggage.

    I was going to do a post on some of that, but don't have time. But one of the more amusing memories from that time (in a bitter-sweet kinda way) was seeing footage on the evening news of Maggie Thatcher testily ushering David Lange, on a state visit, into Number 10. He was undoubtedly 'given the facts', in no uncertain terms, that Maggie's & Ronny's World Order was not amused with NZ's perverse direction.

  9. Jacob - I think we can all second guess why he was a bit twitchy about telling the prols, but, heck, ya know, as you said, when a PM takes a FPP, especially one that is so touchy, you'd hope he'd own up to it rather than keep it a dirty little secret.

    Hell, NZ is a little country, but it's not his; it doesn't belong to him. He can't run around doing whatever the hell he feels like and not tell anyone. (Perhaps next week he'll raise taxes and forget to mention it.)

    Really, it's so gob smacking. And why the hell aren't the Kiwis marching in the street, on principle? Any symbolic gesture would be fine. Even if they don't mind that the US is their new best buddy, it's beside the point.