US President Barack Obama and New Zealand Prime Minister
John Key in discussion in the White House in Washington
last week. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Prime Minister John Key took a secret trip to the NSA spy
agency while he was in Washington last week.
It is not surprising that he went -- he made the same trip
the last time he was in Washington in 2011.
This time, it was left off the published schedule of meetings
that is handed out to the news media. Last time, it was
Every leader of a country in the Five Eyes alliance -- US,
Canada, Britain, Australia and NZ -- can be expected to make
such a trip.
Mr Key all but confirmed his side trip to the National
Security Agency headquarters to the Herald. Asked if he had
gone, he said: "From time to time I always try to make sure I
am fully briefed on intelligence matters."
It is likely to have been left off the distributed schedule
of his official engagements because of the heightened
political sensitivity about the NSA over mass surveillance
and the Edward Snowden leaks.
Mr Key also clarified the issue of when New Zealand became
fully integrated into the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing
network after the anti-nuclear rift with the US.
The two things that had endured "even in the worst of times"
of the diplomatic rift were the Five Eyes relationship and
But the level of intelligence given by the US had been
reduced -- and most of the information supplied in Five Eyes
came from the US, he said.
In 2009, the US decided to clear New Zealand to again receive
top-level intelligence and the country was again fully
integrated into the Five Eyes alliance.
That was announced at the time by Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in a press conference with Foreign Minister Murray
From Mr Key's comments, it appears there was no active
decision by New Zealand to rejoin Five Eyes. The decision was
taken by the US.
On several occasions during his US trip, Mr Key referred to
New Zealand's intelligence agencies in regard to the volatile
situation in the Middle East.
After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested the conflict in
Syria was attracting fighters who could return to attack
their home countries, Mr Key said New Zealand did everything
it could to track such people and their movements.
"It's the reason why we have intelligence agencies. It is the
reason we didn't back down on the GCSB legislation when lots
of people wanted me to, because my responsibility as Prime
Minister is to try to keep New Zealanders safe."
- Audrey Young of the NZ Herald