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New Zealand spying on Pacific islands, Snowden leaks say

John Key Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prime Minister John Key (left) says the security services act in the interests of New Zealand

New Zealand is conducting mass surveillance over its Pacific neighbours, reports citing documents leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden say.

Calls, emails and social media messages were being collected from Pacific nations, the New Zealand Herald said.

The data was shared with other members of the "Five Eyes" network - the US, Australia, Britain and Canada.

Mr Snowden leaked a large cache of classified NSA documents in 2013.

The documents published on Thursday reveal that New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) used its Waihopai base in the South Island to spy on allies in the region.

Targets included Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Tonga and French Polynesia.

Image copyright The Weinstein Company
Image caption The files were among those leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

'Full take'

According to US website The Intercept, which published the documents in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald, the base was running "full take" interceptions, meaning it was retaining content and metadata of all communications rather than just of specific targets.

The data collected was then available to be accessed by analysts from the US's National Security Agency (NSA) via the agency's controversial XKeyscore computer program, revealed during the original leak in 2013, the Herald reported.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the reports contained errors and false assumptions, but did not elaborate.

He said the GCSB gathered "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?'" New Zealand's Stuff website quoted him as saying.

Andrew Little, leader of New Zealand's opposition Labour party, said that he accepted the need for security agencies to protect the country but was "stunned at the breadth of the information that's been collected".

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Mr Little said GCSB seemed to be "hoovering" up information and "supplying it to the United States".

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