Spy researcher still on a campaign against our natural security alliance

What drives Nicky Hager? That is not a question that comes to mind when I hear or read the work of most people who call themselves journalists. Even strongly opinionated work. It is normally written with an excitement that may be excessive at times but tells me the reporter is motivated solely by the satisfactions of discovery and disclosure.

I hear that excitement in the writing of David Fisher who has worked with Hager for the Herald to disclose what may be learned about New Zealand's intelligence-gathering in the material Edward Snowden took from the United States National Security Agency.

I hope you hear that excitement in me when I think I have hit on something. But I don't hear it in Hager. Reading or hearing him, I get the feeling something else is going on. His voice and manner are those of someone who is deeply shocked at the discovery of things that are interesting enough to report but are not really shocking.

The Snowden material reveals the GCSB has adopted a "full-take collection" policy for Asia-Pacific communications, all of which it passes on to the NSA where a whiz-bang programme can sift some possible wheat from all the chaff. To Hager's reading of the material, most of it has little to do with counter terrorism and amounts to political and economic intelligence.

Advertisement

This is worth knowing for its own sake and does not seem so sensitive that it could not have been mentioned by the agency's minister at some point. There could even be a deterrent value in making it known. But it is hard to see that it is inherently wrong.

Pacific reporters could not find much concern in the islands after the revelation. One old hand said it made a change for small states that usually felt no one was listening to them.

New Zealand governments have never hidden the fact that they supply intelligence of the Pacific to their western partners. In fact, they have boasted about it. Back when the US booted New Zealand out of Anzus the Lange Government was quick to tell us that intelligence co-operation was not affected.

Then and ever after, when reporters would ask why the US would "quarantine" intelligence sharing in this way, ministers and diplomats would explain proudly that New Zealand provided its allies with coverage of the Pacific.

Hager knows this as well as anyone because back then, before he called himself a journalist, he called himself the Peace Movement Aotearoa and played a key role in getting New Zealand ejected from Anzus. He then turned his attention to the continuing intelligence relationship.

For years thereafter he noted every snippet of information on the operations of security agencies and used his fearful prose to produce some interesting articles from time to time. But unlike academic commentators on intelligence gathering, Hager seems to be on a personal mission.

Writing about his latest discoveries he sounds less concerned about the privacy of the internet than that the information is passed to the United States. He criticises the Government for "Anzus-era language" about terrorism and using information on its nearest neighbours "to help secure its place in the US-led alliance".

It sounds like the same old mission - to cut every tie with the US that he possibly can. I don't begin to understand this level of anti-Americanism. I was at university in the Vietnam era and marched against the war. There is much in American government I dislike.

The right wing of its politics is in a realm of insanity. Its lax gun laws are mad; when coupled with white Americans' deep-seated fear of black skin, the consequences are often tragic. America's indulgence of Israel, which surely reached a nadir in Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress this week, has contributed mightily to a half century of unrest in the Middle East.

But when all is said and done, there is no question where New Zealanders find their security. There's never been a question even when we were mounting a high horse on nuclear weapons. We know it and Americans know it. The nuclear policy embarrasses me to my core.

When Hager was leading the campaign against nuclear ships he didn't say his purpose was to break the alliance, for the reason that every opinion poll at the time found that the public wanted to be nuclear-free within Anzus.

David Lange thought that would be possible and convinced the US Navy to send a ship that the Government could accept without asking the Navy to disclose its weaponry. I was in Parliament's press gallery on the Sunday night when Labour backbenchers managed to scuttle the Cabinet decision expected next morning. It was a sickening moment of truth about the purpose of Hager's campaign.

So it continues.

Debate on this article is now closed.