Snowden reveals New Zealand surveillance Waihopai Base

Pierluigi Paganini March 08, 2015

A new collection of documents leaked by Edward Snowden shines light on shadowy New Zealand surveillance activities operated at the Waihopai Base.

A new collection of documents leaked by Edward Snowden provides an interesting analysis of the relationship between the Five Eyes countries and the surveillance activities they managed. The documents published Saturday by the Sunday Star-Times in collaboration with The Intercept, reveal a secretive base in New Zealand, located in the Waihopai Valley, that allowed the Five Eyes to spy communication on a global scale.

The base is part of a global network of listening stations operating to collect data and spy on communications worldwide.

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“Near the heartland of New Zealand’s renowned wine country, there is a place that visitors are not allowed to go. The peculiar large white domes that protrude from the earth in the Waihopai Valley are surrounded by razor wire and shrouded in secrecy.” reported The Intercept.

The documents reveal who and what kind of data are collected by personnel at the Waihopai station, and how the operations are linked to the surveillance run by “Five Eyes”.

The Waihopai station intercepts data from satellites, it is operated by New Zealand Intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). According to a secret GCSB report, the Waihopai base was used by Five Eyes to target large international telecommunications satellites that provide communications to and from all of New Zealand’s Pacific Island neighbors and other Asia-Pacific countries.

The Waihopai station is codenamed IRONSAND, the base relies on NSA technology to run surveillance activities and conduct electronic eavesdropping.

“The NSA tools and systems at the base include LATENTTHREAT, which breaks the intercepted satellite signals down into individual communications; LEGALREPTILE, which collects text message and call metadata, showing who is contacting whom and when; SEMITONE, which monitors fax and voice messages; FALLOWHAUNT, which targets communications sent over small “VSAT” satellites; JUGGERNAUT, which processes intercepted calls from mobile phone networks (including voice, fax, data and text messages); LOPERS and SURFBOARD, both used to snoop on phone calls; and XKEYSCORE, a system used to gather intercepted Internet data, such as emails and details about people’s online browsing habits.” continues The Intercept.

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The New Zealand’s politicians continue to deny the Snowden’s revelations, prime minister John Key sustained that the revelations are not correct, but then refused to provide further information telling a press conference he had “no intention of telling you about how we do things.”

The former GCSB chief Sir Bruce Ferguson admitted surveillance activities operated by Five Eyes in the Pacific, confirming that also New Zealanders’ communications were interested by the eavesdropping.

GCSB and NSA declined to comment the revelations.

“We do not comment on operational matters. Everything we do is authorized under legislation and subject to independent oversight.” said the agency’s director, Una Jagose, meanwhile the NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines stated:

“The National Security Agency works with foreign partners to address a wide array of serious threats, including terrorist plots, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign aggression.  NSA’s activities with foreign partners comply with U.S. laws and the applicable laws under which our partners operate.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Five Eyes, surveillance)

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