Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand's spy agencies
have provided information to international forces in
Afghanistan that may have been used for American drone strikes.
Mr Key said this afternoon he was ‘‘totally comfortable" with
the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB)
passing on intelligence which led to drone attacks on foreign
soil because it was in the pursuit of ‘‘very bad people".
He was responding to claims by author and film-maker Jeremy
Scahill that, according to documents leaked by former
National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden, New Zealand
was fully aware of the extent of the US drone programme.
Mr Scahill, who is in New Zealand on a speaking tour, told
TV3's The Nation that ‘‘New Zealand, through signal
intercepts, is directly involved with what is effectively an
American assassination programme".
Mr Key told reporters this afternoon that Mr Scahill's claims
were ‘‘completely wrong".
The Prime Minister said he was not briefed about the drone
strike which killed New Zealander Daryl Jones in Yemen last
‘‘I wasn't aware of ... and didn't have any involvement or
prior knowledge of that particular strike.
‘‘What I can say is that New Zealand has internationally in
the past ... gathered information, Afghanistan is an example
of that, and that information is given to ISAF [International
Security Assistance Force].
‘‘What ISAF used that information for and how it's actually
used, I don't know but I can't rule out that that isn't used
for activities undertaken by the Americans."
Asked whether this information could have led to drone
strikes, he said: ‘‘It's possible. I can't rule that out."
He added: ‘‘It would be in the pursuit of trying to hold to
account very bad people."
Mr Scahill also questioned whether Jones was a terrorist,
noting that he was not charged with any crimes.
Mr Key said the killing was justified because Mr Jones was
linked with al-Qaeda and had attended a terrorist training
He said it was ‘‘not in the national interest" to divulge all
of the cases in which New Zealand intelligence-gathering had
been passed onto international forces, but Afghanistan was
the most obvious example.
‘‘They've from time to time built up information about
particular people of interest and they've supplied that
information now, I'm sure fully with the knowledge that those
people would be pursued."
Mr Key would not respond to speculation that another New
Zealander has been killed in an overseas drone strike.
‘‘I would strongly urge that you don't speculate on that...
As I've said in the past, there are a number of individuals
who have put themselves in a very dangerous position, but
outside that I won't go into great detail."
- By Isaac Davison of the NZ Herald