Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Prime Minister's staff set up Labour's spy briefing

Little meets visiting US intelligence chief.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Labour Party leader Andrew Little. Photos / AP / Mark Mitchell
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Labour Party leader Andrew Little. Photos / AP / Mark Mitchell

Labour leader Andrew Little met United States' intelligence chief James Clapper yesterday - on the initiative of the Prime Minister's office.

Mr Little told the Herald he probed Mr Clapper about Congress oversight of US intelligence agencies.

"We talked about the Senate and the House committees on intelligence and security and how they operate, the amount of information they get," Mr Little said after the 30-minute discussion in a secure Beehive meeting room. "He was very friendly - in fact, the Americans always are."

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Mr Clapper was cited by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden as one of the reasons he released intelligence gathering data.

Mr Clapper had given evidence to a senate committee denying that the NSA wilfully collected data on Americans, for which he later apologised.

Mr Clapper's trip to New Zealand, possibly his last before retiring, was meant to have been under wraps.

But Mr Key was asked at his post cabinet press conference if he knew why a Boeing Globemaster C-17 was parked at Wellington Airport.

Mr Key: "Yes, because Jim Clapper's in town."

On the other side of the tarmac was the Airbus of Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the first visit of an Iranian foreign minister in 10 years.

The Iranian flag was flying on the forecourt of Parliament to mark his visit.

Mr Key said Mr Clapper, who oversees 16 agencies, was on his way to a Five Eyes intelligence meeting in Australia.

He was having his own talks and would be discussing the Cullen-Reddy report with Mr Clapper as well as getting insights "and what is happening around the world".

Mr Little said one of the issues arising from the Cullen-Reddy review was the intelligence and security committee in New Zealand, its membership and its access to information.

- NZ Herald

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