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

English sought advice after uproar over Trump sharing intelligence with Russians

Prime Minister Bill English says he wont be taking a position on what President Trump should do with intelligence in his own system. Photo/Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Bill English says he wont be taking a position on what President Trump should do with intelligence in his own system. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister Bill English has taken official advice in the wake of the furore over US President Donald Trump sharing intelligence with the Russian Foreign Minister, but he says he retains confidence in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

"The advice so far has been nothing has occurred that means we should significantly alter how we should deal with our Five Eyes relationships or our intelligence," English said in Japan where he is due to meet his counterpart, Shinzo Abe.

"Of course we'd keep an open mind if anything did come up that indicated we should be acting differently to ensure the security of our citizens."

Asked if the episode had rattled his confidence in the US Administration, English said : "It hasn't changed our confidence in the Five Eyes relationship.

"There's a lot of speculation going on here," he said. "We don't want to be driven by the most recent headline on the cable TV news.

"We've got a deep, long-term relationship with the US intelligence system."

It had been useful for helping to protect New Zealand citizens abroad and at home and he saw not reason to change that.

Trump has confirmed he shared intelligence with Sergei Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when they visited the White House last week - reportedly Israeli-sourced intelligence on ISIS hopes of using laptop bombs to blow up planes.

He also revealed the city in the ISIS held part of Syria from which the intelligence emanated.

According to the Washington Post, the intelligence was so sensitive it was not shared with other Five Eyes members, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Trump's national security adviser HR McMaster said Trump had not known the source of the intelligence.

English said much of the issue was about domestic politics.

"We are not trying to track it hour by hour."

New Zealand would not be taking a position on what the US President could do with intelligence that came through his system any more than he would expect Trump to tell him what he could do with New Zealand-acquired intelligence.

"We will just rely on advice as to whether anything is fundamentally different about how information is transmitted and whether that needs to be changed."

- NZ Herald

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