New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said in Parliament yesterday that he would not institute measures prohibiting the killing of New Zealand citizens abroad in United States drone strikes.
Asked by the Green Party’s Dr Kennedy Graham whether he would consider instructing the New Zealand intelligence agencies to adopt a policy similar to the one adopted by their German counterparts that ruled out the possibility of shared information being directly used in US drone strikes against German citizens, Key replied with a unequivocal “no”.
The Prime Minister told reporters Monday that the Government and Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) passed on information to its International Security Assistance Force (ISCAF) partners – which includes the United States – and that he was “totally comfortable” with it being used to carry out drone strikes.
“For the most part drone strikes have been an effective way of prosecuting people that are legitimate targets,” he said earlier that morning.
However, he denied that New Zealand intelligence agencies passed on the information that lead to the death of New Zealander Daryl Jones in Yemen last November.
Key has previously stated that both he and the present head of the GCSB, Ian Fletcher, would resign if it emerged that the country’s security agencies conducted mass surveillance of New Zealanders.
The Prime Minister’s recent admissions came after visiting investigative journalist and author Jeremy Scahill, who has been working with documents provided by the Snowden leaks, stated on New Zealand television last Saturday that the Key Government was “extremely aware” about the extent of US drone strikes in the Middle East.
Scahill also said that there were real questions about the extent to which the New Zealand and Australian governments had provided the United States with specific intelligence that could have led to the tracking and killing of their own citizens.
Earlier this month, the Australian reported that New Zealander Daryl Jones, who was also an Australian citizen, was killed along with Australian Christopher Harvard in a targeted attack against three reported al-Qa’ida militants, including reported senior militant Abu Habib al-Yemeni, in Hadramout, along Yemen’s Afgani and Pakistani border.
Prime Minister John Key also announced yesterday that he would be visiting the White House once again this year, in a month’s time. He also invited the United States to send its warships.
The relationship between New Zealand and the United States has grown increasingly warm during Key’s tenure as Prime Minister. Many commentators have pointed to New Zealand’s closer collaboration with the United States as a member of the “Five-Eyes” spy network, which also includes the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, as the reason for the thaw in the relationship.
Relations between the two countries had been strained ever since New Zealand adopted its anti-nuclear stance, which ruled out US war ships from using its ports as the US refuses to acknowledge which of its warships are nuclear powered.
Intelligence analyst Dr Paul Buchanan told state broadcaster National Radio last Thursday that the GCSB was clearly involved in collecting metadata on New Zealanders and that the revelations in Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide could have diplomatic repercussions for relations with other friendly nations.
Greenwald’s recently-published book revealed that new Zealand was forwarded intercepted phone calls, texts and emails between the Brazilian president and her staff.
Mr. William Robertson, Wellington, New Zealand