US spies supplied intelligence on investigative journalist to NZ military

US spy agencies fed "metadata" about a New Zealand journalist's communications to New Zealand's military spies, who were upset that he had reported on human rights abuses against Afghani prisoners of war. Jon Stephenson was writing for McClatchy and "various New Zealand news organisations." The NZ Defense Force later attempted to discredit Stephenson, saying he had invented a visit to to an Afghan base, a claim it retracted after Stephenson brought a defamation suit against it. NZ government is presently pushing legislation to allow its military spies conduct domestic surveillance of NZ citizens, even a leaked NZDF manual discloses that the media are classed with foreign spies and extremist organisations as threats to the state.

This is where the security manual may be relevant to the monitoring of Jon Stephenson's phone calls. The Defence Force was unhappy at Stephenson's access to confidential information about prisoner handling in Afghanistan and began investigating to discover his sources.

The manual continues that "counter intelligence" means "activities which are concerned with identifying and counteracting the threat to security", including by individuals engaged in "subversion".

It notes: "The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service is the only organisation sanctioned to conduct Counter Intelligence activities in New Zealand. [Chief of Defence Force] approval is required before any NZDF participation in any CI activity is undertaken."

Under the NZSIS Act, subversion is a legal justification for surveillance of an individual.

The sources who described the monitoring of Stephenson's phone calls in Afghanistan said the NZSIS has an officer based in Kabul who was known to be involved in the Stephenson investigations.

To reinforce its concern, the defence security manual raises investigative journalists a second time under a category called "non-traditional threats". The threat of investigative journalists, it says, is that they may attempt to obtain "politically sensitive information".

US spy agencies eavesdrop on Kiwi [Nicky Hager/Fairfax NZ News]

(Thanks, Callum!)