Friday, August 1, 2008

Appendix to previous post: Intelligence

Since the question of intelligence co-operation is not conventionally mentioned in press discussions of our new "alliance" I will just note two data points on issue number 3 in my previous post, the state of US-NZ intelligence co-operation.

a/ when the Bali bombing took place the Howard government in Australia was questioned in Parliament about why it had not passed on warnings from the US about the risks of terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In New Zealand the then Foreign Minister Phil Goff took press questions because New Zealand had not even received this warning.

b/ The other data point comes from James Bamford's book "Body of Secrets" which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in US intelligence activites. Given that intelligence reporting is so much smoke and mirrors I note that Bamford wrote the book "Puzzle Palace" about the NSA prior to its being officially acknowledged by the US government and wrote this book with some co-operation from the NSA including an interview with the then director. He writes on intelligence issues for the Washington Post. Pretty much the only mention of New Zealand in Bamford's book is a comment that in contrast to the other members of the Anglo-Saxon intelligence co-operation we did not receive a particular briefing (regarding Iranian nuclear activities) and that this could be a result of our nuclear free policy. One wonders how widespread this practice of withholding information is.

(On the other side of the coin, you should also note the account there of the team building activities that the NSA engages in with members of the English-speaking intelligence services. Bamford suggests that there is more than a small element of attempted co-option in this.)

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