Whether or not Edward Snowden actually wants to return to the United States to face a raft of espionage-related charges stemming from his unprecedented theft of classified materials and subsequent defection to Moscow, as his FSB-supplied lawyer maintains, the Snowden Operation keeps rolling on with revelations of alleged misdeeds by Western — and only ever Western — intelligence.
The latest target is, believe it or not, New Zealand. Yes, that tiny, peaceful country in the South Pacific stands accused of violating the privacy of its own citizens and that of its even smaller Pacific neighbors such as Samoa, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands. The basis of this claim, per usual, is Ed Snowden’s cache of stolen documents from the National Security Agency and its closest partners, the Five Eyes of the Anglosphere, of which New Zealand forms a part.
The report published in Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept, with assistance from the Kiwi activist Nicky Hager, portrays New Zealand’s SIGINT agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), in sinister terms, alleging a wide array of misdeeds. In its customary fashion, the Snowden Operation has taken purloined Top Secret documents and PowerPoints, spinning them dishonestly — not to mention that some of the stolen information is seriously out of date — for maximum political effect. The overall presentation is dishonest to its core.
None of this smear bears much resemblance to the actual GCSB which is part of the actual Five Eyes SIGINT alliance. In truth, GCSB is a small, efficient intelligence service that delivers excellent information to New Zealand and its allies, at modest cost. It is such a pleasant place that, some years ago, NSA’s liaison officer to GCSB, who found the organization and the country most congenial, refused to return home at the end of his tour and joined New Zealand intelligence at a senior level.
Fortunately, Prime Minister John Key is pushing back, as have some other countries who wisely chose not to take the Snowden smears lying down. Much of what has been presented is “just plain wrong,” the prime minister explained, filled with outdated information and half-truths. Key cut to the real issue, which is the Snowden Operation aims not to protect the privacy of anybody — one might think Ed would say something about the serious lack of privacy in Putin’s Russia, his new home — rather to injure Western intelligence agencies and to delegitimize foreign intelligence itself, at least when undertaken by free and democratic countries. As Key stated concisely:
But we do have the GCSB and it is a foreign intelligence service and it does gather foreign intelligence that is in the best interests of New Zealand and protecting New Zealanders.
If I was a New Zealander and the New Zealand prime minister got up and told me we had a foreign intelligence service that wasn’t gathering some foreign intelligence I’d ask him ‘what the hell are we paying the money for? And what the hell are you doing?’
Nicky Hager, who is at the center of this latest Snowden-derived operational game, has a long history of lies and dissimulations about GCSB, as Prime Minister Key hinted at. Hager has been disseminating anti-GCSB and anti-NSA propaganda for more than two decades. Indeed, his 1996 book Secret Power, which presented the Five Eyes SIGINT Alliance in a slapdash yet sinister manner that Greenwald and others have subsequently adopted in their discussions of Western intelligence, kicked off the large anti-NSA propaganda operation known as “ECHELON,” which was actually a Kremlin active measure.
Hager’s involvement in the Snowden Operation does not surprise, since it has previously activated other veteran anti-NSA activists who were behind the “ECHELON” operation. Hager is opposed to the very notion of foreign intelligence, at least when conducted by Western countries. As reported in Russia Today — the Kremlin’s state network which, Glenn Greenwald assures us, is no more biased than the BBC — Hager considers that New Zealand has no legitimate reason to spy on its Pacific neighbors, notwithstanding the fact that New Zealand is the major aid donor to these little countries and at times has had to restore order in some of them, by force, to prevent bloodshed. Instead, Hager offers the usual overheated rhetoric (“The Five Eyes countries led by the US are literally trying to spy on every country in the world”) that will be familiar to anyone who has read anything about the Snowden-Greenwald show.
Most of New Zealand’s little neighbors seem unfazed by the Snowden-Hager revelations — Samoa’s foreign minister blew it off as merely normal diplomacy — but Samoa is not the audience for the Snowden Operation. Western countries are, particularly ones that are in any position to resist Russia’s aggressive designs in Europe and elsewhere. Attacking the enemy’s alliance is as old as Sun Tzu because it works. The top U.S. Army general in Europe is on record stating that the Kremlin seeks to splinter the Atlantic Alliance without full-scale war. Here propaganda is of the utmost importance. Unless you favor Putin’s hegemony over Eastern Europe, it’s time to start paying attention.