Showing posts with label 5 Eyes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5 Eyes. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

X-Post: Australia’s Regional Foreign Policy Left Standing In The Shadows Of The Anglosphere

Upon taking government, Australia’s conservative coalition parties, led by Tony Abbott, had a simple foreign policy refrain: more Jakarta, less Geneva.

The previous Labor government had a more ambitious suite of policies on positioning Australia in the Asian century, yet regionalism was still order of the day. Despite the supposed predilection for regionalism and Australia’s unique geopolitical interests, leaked NSA documents on intelligence operations in Indonesia suggest the country is struggling to reconcile historical alliances to the Five Eyes network and the rising ASEAN heavyweights. In short, Australia may still be standing in the shadows of the Anglosphere.

Material leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicates the Australian Defence Signals Directorate attempted to tap the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president’s wife and high-level Indonesian ministers in 2009. Claims have also aired that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service placed listening devices in the Timorese cabinet room in 2004 during deliberations on a proposed oil and gas treaty with the Australian government.

The theatrical diplomatic confrontation that has followed these leaks coincides with a critical juncture in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Indonesian cooperation with the Abbott government’s border protection strategy is operationally essential. Operation Sovereign Borders requires high-level Indonesian cooperation as most asylum seekers transit through Indonesia before making a seaward journey to Australia.

Many of the NSA revelations about Australian intelligence activities are not surprising, nor unexpected to the political elite of Asian Pacific countries. However, the revelations are likely to reinforce the worst stereotypes and popular regional (mis)conceptions of Australian foreign policy. More than ever Australian diplomatic activity will be seen through an unflattering prism of US patronage.

For the Pacific Islands, the Australian government is cast as a meddling neo-colonialist, pursing its economic and security agendas under the guise of aid effectiveness demands, unfair trade deals and conditional loans. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill can now become even more publicly sceptical about Australian security narratives on Melanesian state stability and efforts to counter Chinese state investment.

For the current Indonesian parliament, political class and press, historical suspicions about Australia’s position on West Papuan independence, disappointment over live cattle embargos and residual political angst at Australian intervention in East Timor have raised to the surface of Indonesian political discourse.

The parties were primed for this exact type of diplomatic conflict after the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referenced the 1962-66 Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation, known as Konfrontasi (in which Australian troops fought as part of British forces in Borneo and West Malaysia against Indonesian-supported forces ), when discussing the Liberal Party’s border protection policy and its contravention of Indonesian sovereignty. Those that see the diplomatic spat as nothing more than theatre would argue these elevated suspicions are not that far from the latent, regional perceptions of Australia security and foreign policy.

Scott Hickie

" For the Pacific Islands, the Australian government is cast as a meddling neo-colonialist, pursing its economic and security agendas under the guise of aid effectiveness demands, unfair trade deals and conditional loans. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill can now become even more publicly sceptical about Australian security narratives on Melanesian state stability and efforts to counter Chinese state investment. "
Considering the status quo perceptions, the NSA revelations could be dismissed as having little substantive consequence – the inevitable price to be paid for a ‘regional sheriff’ keeping frail states and economically weak authoritarian regimes in check and supporting the Anglosphere.

However, the relative power balance across Southeast Asia and the Pacific has changed over the last 10 to 15 years. A notable proportion of fragile and developing states have emerged from negative growth and post conflict environments to improved security situations and increased political stability and have posted almost decade-long continued GDP growth alongside institutional reform.

These unfolding regional economic developments translate to growing political confidence and diplomatic clout for the rising ASEAN powers. The dynamic also underscores greater interdependency between Australia’s future trade interests and security posture – particularly critical on- and off-shore infrastructure in North West Australia.

This point is sometimes lost on Australia’s political class and public who harbour a decade old regional security understanding preoccupied with Australian proximity to fragile states and developing countries beset with political instability. A recent Lowy Institute poll on Australian perceptions of Indonesia shows an almost collective amnesia about any economic or political transformation post-Suharto.

Notwithstanding Australia’s considerable intelligence investment in Indonesia and the large-scale Bali terrorist attack in 2002, the security threats anticipated by the United States and Australia in early post-9/11 have not materialised to the magnitude anticipated and feared. Transboundary Islamic militancy and violent jihadist groups spreading a unified arc of insecurity across southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, primarily threatening Western interests, has not unfolded.

Provincial insurgencies, though in existence, have not toppled governments, triggered systemic, wide-scale human rights abuses demanding a regional/international Responsibility to Protect response or disrupted trade. Over the last decade, and in terms of wide-scale human devastation and insecurity, no event has surpassed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that took the lives of 230,000 and left 1.69 million displaced. Yet, the call of the Anglosphere remains strong.

If the degree to which Australia plays the United States’ proxy regional security underwriter can be scaled back, diplomatic space may open for Australia to carve out a more independent regional international relations agenda. While there is significant consistency and similarity between US and Australian foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific, there remains nuanced but critical points of divergence around trade agreements, regional counter-terrorism initiatives, resolution of maritime boundary disputes, aid and human rights agendas in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, it is the emerging security interdependency at a regional scale that requires prioritisation.

One of the challenges for Australia tempering or better calibrating its regional interdependency with historical and so-called ‘civilisational’ allegiances is the optics and perception of Australia repositioning itself within some sort of Asian sphere of influence.

A US Asia-Pacific pivot and China’s increasing economic dominance and military modernisation lures existing and rising regional middle powers to the bipolar corners of the two global hegemons. Stronger Australian links with Indonesia and Malaysia could be miscalculated as Australia being one step away from falling into the Sino fold. Such a miscalculation fails to appreciate the nature of Indonesian/Malaysian and Chinese relations.

Furthermore, evolving security reconfigurations are resulting from some Southeast Asian countries establishing or augmenting security arrangements with the United States to counterbalance Chinese assertiveness around maritime claims. US efforts to build defence cooperation with Vietnam is a case in point. In one sense this may lead to a dilution of the perceived uniqueness of Australian and US defence ties within the region.

It is evident, now more than ever that Australian foreign policy needs to step out of the shadow of the Anglosphere and develop a deeper network of relations in Southeast Asia. This does not mean compromising US defence ties or being co-opted into a Sino sphere of influence. It means Australia can have greater flexibility to address critical regional trade, security and political imperatives with important neighbours.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Australia's Familarity With Spying, Breeds Contempt Of Its Neighbors. (Updated)

As if Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had enough regional enmity to deal with, subsequent to the Indonesia spying fiasco; Australia has managed to infuriate its relations with East Timor (Timor Leste) stemming from the CMATS negotiations surrounding maritime claims to the resource rich area of the Timor Sea. The Australian treatment of East Timor has much similarities to the unbridled exploitation of the past.

Diego Rivera - Mural of exploitation of Mexico by Spanish conquistadors, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City (1929-1945)
Australia's involvement in the 5 Eyes network has been not without controversy, but  the Australians appear to be stumbling from one diplomatic wrangle to another. Derived from issues much to their own making by the damning actions of Governments of the past, or the insensitive reactions of the present administration, to lame promises about the future. Australia is its own worst enemy.

Timor-Leste spy case: Brandis claims 'ridiculous', says ambassador

Timor-Leste ambassador Abel Guterres said attorney-general's explanation would be rejected by any 'fair-minded Australian'

Timor-Leste’s ambassador to Australia said his country was “deeply disappointed” Australian intelligence agencies had resorted to raids against the tiny nation’s lawyer and star witness in the international hearing of spying allegations and thought “fair-minded” Australians would reject the explanation given by the attorney-general, George Brandis, as ridiculous.

The Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery, who is representing Timor-Leste in an international arbitration hearing in the Hague, has argued the raids were a deliberate effort by the Australian government to disrupt the proceedings, in which Timor-Leste alleges that in 2004 Australia improperly spied on the Timorese during negotiations on an oil and gas treaty worth billions of dollars in order to extract a commercial benefit.

Timor Leste’s prime minister, Xanana Gusmao, issued a statement on Wednesday calling on the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, to explain himself and guarantee the safety of the witness – a former senior Australian Security Intelligence Service (Asis) officer allegedly directly involved in the bugging of the Timorese cabinet office during the sensitive negotiations of the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMAT) treaty.

"The actions taken by the Australian government are counterproductive and uncooperative," Mr Gusmao said. "Raiding the premises of a legal representative of Timor-Leste and taking such aggressive action against a key witness is unconscionable and unacceptable conduct. It is behaviour that is not worthy of a close friend and neighbour or of a great nation like Australia."
Brandis confirmed he issued the warrants for the Asis raids, but denied they were intended to interfere in the case and said the matter was an issue of national security.
Timor-Leste’s ambassador to Australia, Abel Guterres, rejected that assertion and said most Australians would also consider it ridiculous.
“Our country, Timor-Leste, which came out of 24 years of struggle and trauma, and the subsequent mayhem in 1999, do you think Timor-Leste could possibly pose a security threat to Australia,” he told Guardian Australia.
George Brandis
The explanation given by the attorney-general, George Brandis, was rejected by Timor-Leste's ambassador.( Photograph: Daniel Munoz/AAP)

“Thousands of people in Australia asked the government to help us [during the violence around the autonomy ballot in 1999] and Australia helped us … are we a security threat to Australia, I don’t think so, I think any fair-minded Australian would see this as ridiculous.”
Brandis rejected the suggestions of interference in the case, telling the Senate on Wednesday these were “wild and injudicious claims”. He said he issued the warrants on national security grounds but declined in his statement to disclose “the specific nature of the security matter concerned”.

“The search warrants were issued, on the advice and at the request of ASIO, to protect Australia’s national security,” Brandis said. He said he had instructed ASIO not to share any material gathered in Tuesday’s raids with Australia’s legal team in the Hague “under any circumstances”. Brandis said Australia respected the arbitral proceedings.

Guterres said Timor-Leste had acted “in good faith” throughout the long dispute over the negotiation, and both parties had agreed to try to resolve the issue through arbitration, “but now the whole thing has turned sour”.

He said Australia’s actions appeared designed to prevent the witness – who was due to fly to the Hague but has now had his passport cancelled – giving verbal evidence, and it was unclear what impact this would have on Timor-Leste’s case.

“It depends how the arbitration sees it if the witness cannot appear in person … but it doesn’t help our case,” he said. “Australia of all places, our ally, our neighbour, our trusted friend, is doing something that is not worthy of being an example.”

Guardian Australia understands Timor-Leste had intended to seek a form of witness protection for the former ASIS officer. The negotiation centred on boundaries to determine how the two countries would share oil and gas deposits under the Timor Sea, called the Greater Sunrise fields, worth tens of billions of dollars. Woodside Petroleum, which wanted to exploit the field, was working closely with the Howard government during the talks.
Timor-Leste alleges Australia inserted bugs in the cabinet room to listen to Timorese negotiators during the talks, under the guise of a refurbishment paid for by an Australian aid program.

Asked about the raids, Abbott said on Wednesday; "We don't interfere in cases, but we always act to ensure that our national security is being properly upheld. That's what we're doing.”
The Greens have called for a parliamentary inquiry into intelligence overreach after revelations that Australian intelligence attempted in 2009 to listen in to the mobile phone of the Indonesian president, his wife and their inner circle; and revelations this week that Australian intelligence offered to share metadata about ordinary citizens with foreign intelligence partners in 2008.
ABC news article, reported that the passport of the retired Intelligence officer cum whistle blower has been cancelled,  in an attempt to bully and throw a spanner in the works of East Timor's legal case against Australia in the Hague.
Podcast of ABC audio segment posted below.

WSWS web article provides additional coverage of the fiasco:

Australian government orders ASIO raids to suppress East Timor spying evidence

By Mike Head
4 December 2013
In a blatant attack on fundamental legal and democratic rights, the Abbott government yesterday ordered Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the homes and offices of a lawyer and former intelligence agency whistleblower involved in an international legal challenge to Australia’s spying on the East Timor government during maritime border talks in 2004.

Bernard Collaery, the Canberra lawyer representing East Timor in its case against Australia in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, said his office was raided just 24 hours after he left Australia to prepare the proceedings. ASIO officers spent hours searching his office, alarming two young female staff members. They seized a personal computer, USB stick, and sensitive files relating to the legal proceedings, including the affidavit of the crucial witness, a retired senior Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) official.

One of Collaery’s shocked assistants told journalists: “They were filming it, explained to me that they were from ASIO and there were AFP officers there too.” The women were shown a substantially blacked-out search warrant, and told they could not even keep a copy, supposedly for “security reasons.”

Collaery said the key witness was also detained and questioned, along with his wife, at their home. Apparently, the ex-ASIS officer was later released, but his passport was confiscated to prevent him from appearing in The Hague.

What, if any, legal grounds exist for these raids and other measures remain entirely unclear, and unspecified. Collaery commented: “I have no way of knowing the legal basis upon which these unprecedented actions [took place].”

Collaery said he had the evidence with him, and the raid would do “very little” to hinder East Timor’s case. “I can’t see what the government hopes to achieve by this aggressive action,” he said. “It can attempt to nullify the whistleblower’s evidence, but that evidence has flown—the evidence is here.”

Personally ordered by Attorney-General George Brandis, the raids are designed not only to block evidence being presented in The Hague of the illegal bugging of East Timor’s government. They send a wider threatening message to the media, the legal profession and potential whistleblowers not to release any further material exposing the intensive surveillance operations conducted by the Australian intelligence apparatus throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
These operations, which include listening posts in the Australian embassies in Dili and other Asia-Pacific capitals, are integral to the global US spying network—now exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden—and the Obama administration’s increasingly aggressive “pivot” to Asia to combat China.

Significantly, as the ASIO-AFP raids took place, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was preparing to fly to Indonesia in a bid to mend relations after Snowden’s revelations of US-backed Australian tapping of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone in 2009.
The raids followed further damning revelations, via leaked Snowden documents, of massive surveillance by the Australian intelligence agencies, directed against ordinary people in Australia, as well as people and governments across the region. (See: “Snowden document confirms US-backed mass surveillance in Australia”). They also came amid an intensifying campaign by the Abbott government and the media establishment to denounce the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Guardian Australia web site for publishing the incriminating documents.

Many unanswered questions exist about the raids. Last night, Brandis issued a terse statement declaring that he issued the search warrants to seize documents that “contained intelligence related to security matters.” Without offering any explanation, he simply branded as “wrong” allegations that his actions sought to impede East Timor’s litigation.
Collaery, however, said the raids sought to intimidate anyone else who wanted to come forward against the Australian government. He said the star witness was a former director of all technical operations at ASIS, who decided to blow the whistle because the “immoral and wrong” bugging of the East Timorese government served the interests of major oil and gas companies.

The illegal eavesdropping is now being raised by East Timor to challenge the outcome of the resulting pact, the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) treaty.
In 2004, during negotiations for the treaty, the Australian government, then led by Prime Minister John Howard, economically and politically bullied the East Timorese government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri in order to secure the lion’s share of the vast oil and gas reserves beneath the seabed. It also ordered ASIS operatives to plant listening devices in government and prime ministerial offices in Dili, enabling Canberra to snoop on the East Timorese delegates throughout the talks.

Ultimately, the Howard government forced East Timor to shelve any resolution of a maritime border in the area for 50 years, while dividing oil and gas revenues on a 50-50 basis. The largest project, Greater Sunrise, which lies entirely in East Timor’s waters according to international maritime law, will be exhausted within 50 years, starving the tiny impoverished country of critical revenues.
A major Australian company, Woodside Petroleum, which wanted to exploit the field, worked hand in glove with the Howard government and its foreign minister, Alexander Downer, who was in charge of ASIS. Collaery said the former ASIS official decided to expose the bugging upon learning that Downer, after quitting politics, became an adviser to Woodside.

Collaery said the details in the whistleblower’s affidavit had never been made public, until now. The director-general of ASIS and his deputy “instructed a team of ASIS technicians to travel to East Timor in an elaborate plan, using Australian aid programs relating to the renovation and construction of the cabinet offices in Dili, East Timor, to insert listening devices into the wall,” he said.
The Canberra lawyer accused the government and ASIO of “muzzling the oral evidence of the prime witness.” The spying, he commented, amounted to “insider trading,” for which “people would go to jail,” if it happened in the financial markets.
Members of the former Howard government, including Downer, may have direct personal interests in suppressing this information. However, the geo-political context, bound up with the services provided by Canberra and its spy agencies to Washington, indicates that much more is at stake.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott today vehemently defended the ASIO raids, claiming that the government does not interfere in court cases, “but we always act to ensure that our national security is being properly upheld—that’s what we’re doing.” Labor’s opposition leader Bill Shorten quickly closed ranks, lining up with the government to defeat a Senate motion asking Brandis to explain the raids.

By invading a lawyer’s office, and persecuting a former ASIS official, the authorities in Canberra are demonstrating that they will stop at nothing to protect the operations of the Australian intelligence services and their US patrons.
East Timor based NGO, La'o Hamutuk has been covering the controversial negotiations between the Australian and East-Timorese Governments and their website has a wealth of background history and information, surrounding the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) Treaty.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

X-Post: Islands Business - Monitoring and Mapping the Pacific

Raising debates on legality and privacy

When you make a phone call, send an email or use your Facebook page, information that you send across the airwaves or through the Internet can be scooped up by Western intelligence agencies.

In the United States, there has been widespread public debate over government monitoring of telecommunications and the Internet, after a contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) revealed programmes that targeted domestic communications as well as foreign enemies.
Whistle blower Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then Russia, leaking documents to the media which revealed surveillance programmes known as PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora.

In the Pacific region, countries like Australia, New Zealand and France also operate signals intelligence and communications intercept programmes, which monitor diplomatic, commercial or military communications from other nations. There is growing concern that government agencies and private corporations are also gathering data from citizens at home, raising debates over legality and privacy. In recent months, this issue has been debated in New Zealand after Prime Minister John Key introduced legislation in Parliament to expand the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)—New Zealand’s communications intelligence agency.

In July, there were rallies in 11 cities around New Zealand to protest the draft legislation, which was still before Parliament at the time of writing. Australia and New Zealand collaborate in the region under the UKUSA Agreement, which shares intelligence amongst the agencies of five Western allies. The “Five Eyes” which monitor communications are the NSA and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), supported by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), New Zealand’s GCSB and the newly renamed Australian Signals Directorate (The ASD was formerly called the Defence Signals Directorate, but was rebadged in May this year when then Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched Canberra’s latest Defence White Paper).

ASD is Australia’s primary collector of signals intelligence and other electronic data, through the interception and reporting of communications like international phone calls, emails or military radios. A key task is the interception of military communications from Indonesia and other nations in the region, primarily through facilities at Shoal Bay Receiving Station, east of Darwin. Another Australian interception facility is the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS), located at Kojarena near Geraldton in Western Australia.

Professor Richard Tanter of the University of Melbourne, a senior research associate with the Nautilus Institute, says that the 1946 UKUSA Treaty originally focused on signals intelligence such as radio communications, but this has been expanded through the use of new technology. “It’s now clearly been expanded to include email and Internet intercepts carried out in different technological ways,” Tanter said. “In Australia, this is done at the joint defence facility at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, the Australian Signals Directorate facility at Shoal Bay near Darwin and the Australian Defence Satellite Communication Station at Kojarena, which is part of a worldwide system of satellite communications monitoring known as Echelon.”

Tanter told ISLANDS BUSINESS that information gathered by Australian and New Zealand is now highly integrated with agencies like the US NSA and Britain’s GCHQ: “As well as downlinking data from satellites, Pine Gap is used to process as well as intercept satellite communications, to share this information with the United States and other UKUSA allies.” Tanter stated that intelligence monitoring programmes can be used to spy on allies as well as enemies. “We also know from Snowden’s revelations that these facilities were used by Australia for its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council,” Tanter said. “That would certainly have involved listening to the communications of any Pacific country that was relevant to that voting.

It certainly would be used in Australian trade negotiations with Japan and other countries. Assuming these programmes are solely military is underestimating what they’re used for now.” Last month, Australian media reported Snowden’s revelation that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd received information about Asian leaders at the 2009 G20 meeting in London, when British and American intelligence targeted leaders and officials attending the international conference. 

New Zealand bases

Over many years, New Zealand researcher Nicky Hager has documented New Zealand’s role in this UKUSA network, through the satellite communications interception station at Waihopai and radio communications interception station at Tangimoana. In the 1970s and 1980s, a key task for the GCSB was monitoring communications from the French nuclear testing programme at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls and Russian fishing vessels that ventured south of the Equator.

Hager’s 1996 book ‘Secret Power’ detailed the wider role of Tangimoana in the islands region: “The big aerials at the station were right then monitoring nuclear-free Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and all New Zealand’s other South Pacific neighbours—everyone in the South Pacific, in fact, except for the Western intelligence allies and their territories.

Large quantities of telexes and Morse code messages sent by long-distance radio in the Pacific region were being recorded at Tangimoana and sent to the GCSB in Wellington for distribution to select public servants and to the four allied intelligence allies.” Hager also documented how the interception of satellite communications at Waihopai provides a much wider treasure trove of intelligence: “Diplomatic communications between embassies and their home capitals, all manner of government and military communications, a wide range of business communications, communications of international organisations and political organisations and the personal communications of people living throughout the Pacific.”

In the 21st century, these surveillance programmes are much more sophisticated. Recent Australian-United States ministerial (AUSMIN) meetings have extended agreements covering the new frontiers of space and cyber warfare. In 2008, AUSMIN ministers signed a Statement of Principles for a Military Satellite Communications Partnership and officials are continuing to develop a US-Australia Combined Communications Partnership.

Nic Maclellan

" In the Pacific region, countries like Australia, New Zealand and France also operate signals intelligence and communications intercept programmes, which monitor diplomatic, commercial or military communications from other nations. There is growing concern that government agencies and private corporations are also gathering data from citizens at home, raising debates over legality and privacy"
The September 2011 AUSMIN meeting in San Francisco issued a Joint Statement on Cyber Warfare, stating that the ANZUS Treaty’s provisions could also be invoked in the case of cyber-attacks. The 2011 AUSMIN communiqué declared: “Mindful of our longstanding defence relationship and the 1951 Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America (ANZUS Treaty), our governments share the view that, in the event of a cyber-attack that threatens the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of our nations, Australia and the United States would consult together and determine appropriate options to address the threat.” Governments justify Internet and satellite monitoring programmes as a crucial element of efforts to track terrorists, cyber-criminals and potential military threats.

But critics argue the PRISM programme in the United States or the new GCSB legislation before New Zealand’s Parliament give too much power to agencies to gather information on citizens as part of their cyber security role. They argue that sharing of data between the five Western powers allows intrusive control of citizens who are not engaged in criminal activities, without accountability to public institutions. In New Zealand, the opposition Labour Party has come out against the ‘Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill’.

A range of agencies, including the Privacy Commission, the New Zealand Law Society and the Human Rights Commission, have also raised concerns about the effect of the legislation on citizens’ privacy. The debate heated up after revelations that the GCSB had illegally monitored the phone and internet communications of New Zealand citizens, and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) had access to the phone records of an New Zealand journalist working in Afghanistan. In July, Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff called for a delay in the passage of the legislation to allow more time for discussion on oversight provisions, but at the time of writing, the Key government was pressing ahead to pass the bill.

France’s base in New Caledonia

As well as the ANZUS allies, France also monitors satellite, internet and telecommunications from installations in the Pacific On 4 July, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on the signals intelligence programme run by the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE)—the French intelligence service best known in the Pacific for the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. Electronic interception bases are maintained in 20 locations in mainland France and its overseas territories.

In the Pacific, communications are monitored by an installation in New Caledonia which came into operation in 2006. This facility is located at the French military’s naval airbase at Tontouta (New Caledonia’s international airport, outside the capital Noumea). According to Le Monde, “the secret services systematically collect the electromagnetic signals emitted by computers and telephones in France together with the digital flows between France and overseas countries, so the totality of our communications is monitored. Emails, SMS messages, phone calls, access to Facebook, Twitter and more are then stored for years.”

The long-term collection of information in these vast computer databases allows the analysis of “metadata”—the pattern of who called whom, the date, time, frequency, or location of the call. While the DGSE can legally monitor overseas traffic, the material is gathered in supercomputers at the DGSE headquarters in the Boulevard Mortier in Paris. Without appropriate legislation, it can then be accessed by domestic intelligence agencies, including the military intelligence agency Direction du renseignement militaire (DRM), domestic spy agencies, customs service and bodies concerned with money laundering.

Mapping the Pacific

Beyond communications monitoring, another key Australian intelligence agency operating in the Pacific region is the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO), now being renamed the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO). According to the Australian Defence Department, DIGO has a key function of “obtaining geospatial and imagery intelligence to meet the operational, targeting, training and exercise requirements of the Australian Defence Force.”

For more than a decade, DIGO has been involved in programmes of geospatial mapping in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and other Pacific countries. Working with SPC/SOPAC and government Lands Departments, DIGO has conducted mapping surveys using systems which link with Global Positioning Satellites (GPS).

 Beyond the value of creating detailed maps of rural and outer island areas that can be used by Pacific governments, these activities have military applications. DIGO notes that geospatial analysts “can derive information including maps, charts and digital topographic information to support a range of military tasks, such as battlefield analysis, employment of weapons systems and troop movements.” Richard Tanter of the University of Melbourne notes: “This terrain mapping and visual mapping is highly valued by operational military commanders, not simply in conventional warfare in Afghanistan but in counter-terrorism operations and for drone warfare.”

In August 2003, the Australian Army deployed early versions of drones known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). As well as providing valuable data to the ADF, the first Australian commander of the Combined Task Force in Solomon Islands Lieutenant Colonel John Frewen described them as “a potent psychological tool” in disrupting militia activity.

The five-week trial of UAVs in Solomon Islands was the first time the ADF used pilotless aircraft in an operational environment. The results of UAV operations in Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands were the basis of an expanded programme by the ADF in Iraq and Afghanistan. DIGO’s website states: “Support to military operations within DIGO also looks at the preparation of products and services for planning possible future military operations in areas where the Australian Defence Force and Australian Federal Police are not yet deployed.”

Source: Islands Business 

More info: The Guardian

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