New documents released by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden suggest New Zealand's embassies have been involved in spying on friendly nations on behalf of the United States, just as this country is seeking all the support it can get to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
New Zealand's seven-year campaign for a seat on the Security Council goes down to the wire this week with a final vote on Friday (NZT).
Snowden's documents raise the possibility that New Zealand may have been using its overseas diplomatic missions to spy on at least some of the countries it is looking to for support for its bid.
The documents include a 2003 list of "Exceptionally Controlled Information" which is itself classified top secret and gives a brief rundown of various US National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence-gathering operations and their security codes and status.
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Under the heading "Stateroom" the document describes the security classification that "restricts access to information about personnel involved in covert collection, processing and report of SIGINT [signals intelligence] from diplomatic missions abroad".
"This activity is conducted by USA, AUS, CAN, GBR and NZL," the document states.
Suspicions around New Zealand's involvement in signals intelligence gathering on behalf of the NSA were reinforced late last year, when documents made public by Snowden revealed the existence of the Stateroom programme.
The documents showed the programme operated from sites at US embassies and consulates and from the diplomatic missions of intelligence partners in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence gathering and sharing network, including Australia, Britain and Canada.
Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or Prime Minister John Key would comment on Stateroom or its potential impact on New Zealand's Security Council bid.