The world has been offered an amazing insight into how the United States' Central Intelligence Agency saw the world. Journalistic activism by US-based group Muckrock has seen 13 million declassified files released through an online database, including 4000 records referencing New Zealand.

The CIA was obliged to release the records after a 1995 order by President Bill Clinton to consider files 25 years old for historical significance and declassification. The Herald asked SIS and GCSB minister Chris Finlayson for an interview about how to preserve our spies' history when secret files on the building of the Tangimoana spy base were accidentally made public. Finlayson refused to be interviewed and did not answer questions.

Here's the top 10 of the CIA records made public, dating from from 1949 through to 1988.

1) The late 1940s saw the rise of US fears over the spread of communism. In 1949, the CIA reported back to Washington on the extent of communism in New Zealand with a report that investigated society, government and the trade union movement. This was only a few months before US senator Joe McCarthy began his amazing rise to prominence.


2) New Zealand once tried to push Anzus (Australia, New Zealand, United States) to one side in favour of a five-nation alliance. There's no reference to the Five Eyes grouping of NZ, the US, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom in this 1953 CIA note.

3) New Zealand tweaked Washington's nose on foreign policy long before the nuclear-free issue cropped up. In 1958, the CIA reported placing pressure on newly elected Prime Minister Walter Nash who wanted to honour a pre-election promise to recognise communist China as a nation. As it happened, New Zealand didn't until the 1970s. Was it due to US pressure?

4) It's not all martinis and baccarat in the world of spies - this 1976 report has the CIA tracking the development of China's cattle herd through shipments of bull semen.

5) In 1981, a cocktail party was held by the CIA for an official at the NZ embassy in Washington when he left to return home. CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner was invited.

6) It was suggested to President Ronald Reagan that he tell Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon during a White House visit that he was his favourite to win the 1981 election;

7) In 1983, Australia used all its diplomatic muscle in an attempt to swing a special (and unfair) trade deal for meat - at New Zealand's direct expense.

8) This August 1985 report shows the CIA believed Prime Minister David Lange accidentally backed himself into a corner on the nuclear-free issue, leading to New Zealand becoming nuclear-free;

9) Washington's underlying fear over the nuclear-free issue appeared to be over the possibility of contagion - the spread of such sentiment across the world and the rise of Soviet Russia's influence in the Pacific.

10) Progress by the Waitangi Tribunal led the CIA in 1988 to predict "voter backlash" over land claims amid heightened "racial tensions".