Gvt's role in US drone attacks 'pretty scandalous'

By Patrice Dougan

Jeremy Scahill's investigations took him to Yemen. Photo / Rick Rowley
Jeremy Scahill's investigations took him to Yemen. Photo / Rick Rowley

The Government is "extremely aware'' of the full extent of drone attacks by the United States, including one which killed a New Zealander in Yemen last year, it has been claimed.

Investigative journalist and author, Jeremy Scahill, who is working with fellow journalist Glen Greenwald on leaked security files from American whistleblower Edward Snowden, said there are "real questions'' over the New Zealand and Australian government's role in such drone attacks and the information they are providing to US government.

Scahill, author of Dirty Wars, was speaking on TV3's The Nation programme about Kiwi Daryl Jones who was killed in a US predator drone strike last November alongside Australian Christopher Harvard and four other suspected al-Qaeda members.

Scahill, who is in Auckland to speak at the Writers Festival, said he had studied the case.

"There are real questions to which the New Zealand Government, the Australian government .. have provided the Americans with specific intel that could have led to the tracking and killing of their own citizens,'' he said.

"I'm not alleging that New Zealand did that. I'm saying that if you look at the top secret documents that the New Zealand Government has been provided by the United States it would be very difficult to believe that the New Zealand Government, if it had information about one of its citizens that the United States was tracking, that it wouldn't share that information with the US government.''

There was no intelligence to suggest Mr Jones was engaged in criminal activity, he said.

"If the New Zealand Government had that intelligence, why wasn't he indicted, why wasn't he charged under New Zealand law with a crime of supporting terrorism? Why is it that the New Zealand Government is essentially just ceding its sovereignty to the United States in this case and saying it's alright that the president of the United States authorised an operation that effectively executed one of our citizens?

"This is pretty scandalous.''

Scahill hinted he was currently working on leaked US National Security Agency (NSA) documents that could reveal the true extent of New Zealand's spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau's (GCSB), involvement in receiving information gathered by the Americans in relation to drone attacks.

"I can't disclose specifics on this, but what I can tell you is I have seen dozens of top secret documents that the New Zealand Government has been provided by the United States, because of the Five Eyes status of New Zealand, that indicate that New Zealand is extremely aware of the extent to which the United States is engaged in drone strikes around the world and is briefed fully on the infrastructure of that programme.

"The fact is that New Zealand, through signals intercepts, is directly involved with what is effectively an American assassination programme,'' he said.

Human rights organisation Reprieve had begun an investigation into Mr Jones' death, he said, indicating the investigative agency already had "serious questions'' for the Australian Government.

Prime Minister John Key has previously said he was "comfortable'' with the intelligence gathered by the GCSB on Mr Jones, that "clearly indicated he had terrorist links''.

Earlier this week documents by Snowden revealed the GCSB was closely enmeshed with some of the most controversial parts of the United States' spying apparatus, including being privy to diplomatic espionage by other Five Eyes partners involved in spying on the communications between Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and her aides.

Labour leader David Cunliffe described the revelations week as "quite sobering reading''.

"We are already committed, and I will underline it right now, to a full review of our security establishment [if elected] to ensure that the rule of law is maintained and to ensure that every New Zealander has the right to be free from blanket surveillance from our agencies unless there is a judges warrant and probable cause,'' he told The Nation.

He would "expect'' other Five Eyes partners to "respect the New Zealand rule of law'', he said.

"The Five Eyes treaty does provide that partners do not spy on the domestics of the other Five Eyes countries.''

- APNZ

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