Key plays down 'routine' intelligence meeting

Prime Minister John Key says senior US intelligence officials were in New Zealand last week for a "routine" meeting with officials from several countries, but maintains he still does not known exactly who was in town.

As his weekly press conference yesterday, Mr Key was asked about a US Government jet at Wellington Airport and said a senior official was visiting a New Zealand intelligence agency.

However, he did not recall the name of the visitor or the nature of the meetings, saying it was probably written "on a piece of paper" but he did not recall the details.

Mr Key is the minister in charge of the intelligence agencies, the Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau.

He said this morning he had still not checked that piece of paper and still did not know exactly who the visitor was, but a number of countries were involved in the same meeting.

"There was a routine meeting held here in New Zealand last week. I wasn't involved in those meetings, I don't know the broad agenda of what they were talking about. I know the meeting was routine. I can't tell you exactly who was on the plane and who wasn't."

He said officials from other countries visited all the time and he did not know their travel arrangements, but leaving a marked jet on the tarmac did not indicate there was a high level of secrecy about it.

Labour leader David Shearer said Mr Key's apparent reluctance to find out more about the visitor raised suspicions.

"You either make a decision that you do not talk about who comes to the country, full-stop, or, if you are going to talk about it, you make sure you know who was in the country. I'm surprised he didn't know, as the democratic guardian of our intelligence agencies."

- By Claire Trevett of the NZ Herald


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