A former police officer and Defence Force staffer working in New Zealand's embassy in Washington has told a court of his concern when finding a covert recording device in one of the diplomatic building's bathrooms.

One of New Zealand's highest-ranking military officers is accused of planting a hidden camera inside the toilets of the embassy in DC.

Alfred (Fred) Keating was serving as the senior defence attache to the United States in 2017, when in July of that year he allegedly attempted to make an intimate visual recording of another person.

The then commodore was the face of diplomacy, negotiating and strategy for the Defence Force (NZDF) to the US.

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Stephen Warren also worked at the embassy and first alerted authorities to a potential security breach.

He spoke today via video link from the American capital as he testified in the trial of the former Assistant Chief of Navy in the Auckland District Court.

After noticing a "black box" on top of a radiator in the unisex bathroom he quickly placed the camera in his pocket and informed Daniel Vrink, a colleague with a higher security clearance.

"I asked him to follow me as I needed some advice, I asked him to follow me outside," Warren, who resigned last year after several years at the embassy, told the court.

The former police officer said he was concerned about examining the device near the bathroom, fearful that the operator of the camera may be watching.

Warren and Vrink inspected the device outside the front door of the embassy, deliberately in view of security cameras.

"I had a gut feeling that the black box was something more than a hard drive," Warren, who has also worked as the ambassador's driver, said.

"What do you think this is?" he asked Vrink.

"It look[s] like a recording device," Vrink replied.

The camera was then reported to senior embassy staffer Angela Woodham, who was responsible for security.

"I'm a little bit nervous, I think I've discovered some kind of recording device in the bathroom," Warren said he told Woodham.

The device, which had its brand name BrickHouse Security inscribed on it, was then Googled by Woodham and secured in a locked cabinet, the court heard.

Alfred Keating, pictured arriving at court for an earlier appearance in the case. Photo / Michael Craig
Alfred Keating, pictured arriving at court for an earlier appearance in the case. Photo / Michael Craig

Woodham later contacted Detective Inspector Neil Hallett, the senior police liaison officer in Washington who oversaw New Zealand's police matters in the US, Canada, Central and South America.

The detective quickly arranged a meeting with Woodham and then Ambassador Tim Groser at the embassy, where Hallett took possession of the device before beginning an investigation, the court heard.

Further evidence by Hallett this afternoon was given behind locked doors and also absent of any members of the press because of national security reasons.

Judge Robert Ronayne earlier told the jury it was "terribly important" that no classified material was taken home by the jurors and nothing was discussed outside of the jury room.

A witness' identity has also been suppressed for national security reasons.

Earlier today, the jury heard from Jerry Navarro, a driver for diplomats at the embassy.

Navarro was the first to notice what appeared to be a small black box on the floor near a radiator when he entered the bathroom.

Assuming somebody had simply forgotten the device he placed it on top of the heater.

He was also unaware the motion sensitive camera began filming his actions, the recording of which was played to the court.

The next person to enter the bathroom was Warren.

Alfred Keating was New Zealand's highest-ranking military officer in the US at the time of the incident. Photo / Supplied
Alfred Keating was New Zealand's highest-ranking military officer in the US at the time of the incident. Photo / Supplied

Crown prosecutor Henry Steele yesterday alleged Keating, the former commanding officer of the Devonport Naval Base, placed the camera to film his colleagues at the embassy.

"This was not an act of espionage," he said.

The Crown's case also has "extremely strong scientific support" to show male DNA found on the memory card of the camera also originated from Keating, Steele said.

Keating's lawyer Ron Mansfield, however, said the Crown's case was circumstantial and weak.

"The evidence doesn't tell you who did it and it certainly doesn't tell you it was Mr Keating," Mansfield told the jury.

Keating enjoyed diplomatic immunity while in Washington which meant New Zealand retained criminal jurisdiction over any offence committed in the US, Steele explained.

The military leader from Northland pleaded not guilty last March and two days later resigned from his post in the NZDF, ending a more than 40-year career.

He served as New Zealand's naval attache and senior technical officer for the navy to the US from July 2003 until December 2006.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.