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Pacific action needed against spy net outlined in Snowden documents

The Waihopai Station is a secure communication facility run by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau
The Waihopai Station is a secure communication facility run by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau

"Waihopai 1" by Schutz - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This statement was originally published on pacificfreedomforum.org on 7 March 2015.

Pacific leaders need to take action against wholesale spying by foreign powers, warns the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"Freedom of speech includes secure, private communications," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

"This is true for not just journalists and their sources, but also for political leaders, community leaders, activists and advocates."

This week's news about the "full take" spying delivers details promised last year by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

Ten Pacific countries are listed in media reports as being targets of spying by New Zealand's GCSB [Government Communications Security Bureau], which gives the NSA [the U.S.'s National Security Agency] full access - and control - over the data.

The countries are given as Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati and Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and French Polynesia.

However another investigative journalist, Nick Hager, was quoted as saying the spying basically involves "all" Pacific Island countries.

PFF co-Chair Monica Miller said that concerns about mass surveillance must now extend to the highest levels of power in the Pacific.

"We are all familiar with concerns about the chilling effects on freedoms of speech of laws and threats from various governments.

"But now its the turn of the public to be concerned about those effects on their own governments."

PFF notes questions of outright illegality under New Zealand law given the fact that Niue and the Cook Islands people are New Zealand citizens by birthright.

New Zealand got support from the entire Pacific in its campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, campaigning with the slogan "New Zealand stands up for small states".

PFF says the spying highlights the need for more regional awareness and action on cyber security.

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