GCSB focus of Waihopai base protest
The Waihopai spy base near Blenheim (file)
The accountability of the Government's intelligence agency will be the focus of activists campaigning for the closure of Waihopai spy base later this month.
The Government Communications Security Bureau-run base near Blenheim is a “satellite communications interception station” which has been a target for protesters since opening in 1989.
Three activists attacked a balloon covering one of the two satellites at the base in 2008, and were charged with intentional damage and unlawful entry - only to later be acquitted of all charges.
One of the activists, Adrian Leason, will speak at the January 19 protest, accompanied by veteran activist John Minto and Green MP Steffan Browning.
Organiser Murray Horton says the protest aims to shut down the base and highlight what he believes is the illegal spying on New Zealand resident Kim Dotcom, who is accused of copyright infringement in the US.
Mr Horton says since discovering Dotcom was spied on, he believes other New Zealand residents and citizens may have also been targeted.
“I think you can take it that there’s more than one.”
At the protest the Anti-Bases Campaign will attempt to deliver a letter to the officer in charge of Waihopai, asking “How many New Zealanders were spied on by the GCSB?”.
Mr Horton doesn’t expect the question will be answered.
“I would be pleasantly surprised if we get any response whatsoever.”
He says the protest is not about Dotcom, but the millionaire's case highlights the need to close down the base.
“[The case] proves conclusively they’re not only spying on New Zealanders, they’re spying on internal communication in New Zealand and that is illegal."
Dotcom tweeted about the protest on Monday, but didn’t mention if he would be attending.
“PROTEST: Peaceful protest planned for the takedown of the GCSB / US spybase in New Zealand,” the tweet said.
Mr Browning, the Green Party's security and intelligence spokesman will attend the protest.
“I think it’s very, very important that New Zealanders are aware this facility is here, that it is immoral.”
He says the base should be closed down and all security arrangements in New Zealand need to be reassessed. He is also concerned how much the intelligence from the base has been used in US warfare.
“We’ve got to be really concerned we are part of that system," he says. "It is effectively a US base in New Zealand and it needs to be shut down.”
There is also a worry the base could become a strategic target if there was some kind of international conflict, Mr Browning says.
Following the revelation that the GCSB had illegally spied on Dotcom, Mr Browning and the Green Party are concerned the GCSB acts as if it is above the law, and want more openness and transparency.
But GCSB director Ian Fletcher says on the bureau’s website that secrecy is necessary.
“As an intelligence and security agency, the level of information available about the GCSB’s role is, by its very nature, restricted. In order to maintain our level of effectiveness we must also retain a certain level of secrecy, especially about our intelligence targets and the details of our capabilities, sources and methods.”
Mr Horton hopes around 50 people will come to the protest.