New Zealand was welcomed back to the Five Eyes network after a two-decade absence in 2009, it has been revealed. The spy organization has been criticized for intercepting massive amounts of data about ordinary people and keeping tabs on governments.
The office of the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirmed that New Zealand had been absent from the spy alliance for two decades, although it refrained from explaining the reason for its break from the Five Eyes. During New Zealander Prime Minister John Key’s visit to New York, DNI spokesman Brian Hale told Fairfax news agency that the “reintegration” happened in 2009 as it was believed it was "in the best interest of their nation and their group.
The Five Eyes network was formed during WWII and includes the UK,
US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. As part of the alliance,
the Five Eyes shared intelligence gathered by their spy agencies
to monitor the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc.
However, leaked documents by spy-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the alliance’s mass indiscriminate monitoring of civilian communications across the globe. Snowden described the Five Eyes as an artifact of the post-WW2 era that has turned into “a supranational intelligence organization that doesn't answer to the laws of its own countries.”
When asked by press about New Zealand’s reintegration into the Five Eyes in 2009, Key said he was unaware of any such changes.
"I don't think that's right, but I remember there were some
vague things,” he told Fairfax. "My understanding of it
is that even through the challenging times of the relationship
post the anti-nuclear legislation, New Zealand continued to be an
active member of Five Eyes."
Snowden’s spy revelations triggered widespread skepticism of the New Zealand government’s collaboration with the US. A recent poll carried out by Stuff.co.nz showed that over 70 percent of New Zealanders believes the US was gathering information on them. In addition, over 60 percent of people asked do not believe the US should have the right to do so.
Key has dismissed the survey’s findings, arguing that "if a
New Zealander was training with a terrorist group in a foreign
environment” then most New Zealanders would support
surveillance. Last year parliament expanded the powers of New Zealander spy agency the Government
Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), allowing it to support the
New Zealand police, Defense Force and the Security Intelligence
The move proved very unpopular among New Zealanders, with elements of the opposition calling it a “death knell” for privacy rights. Key attributed the public alarm to “conspiracy” and “misinformation” orchestrated by the opposition and insisted the amendment was necessary to protect the country from multiple cyber-threats.