New Zealand used the National Security Agency's XKEYSCORE to spy on World Trade Organisation elections targeting candidates from Indonesia, Brazil, and South Korea as its Trade Minister vied for the top job, according to reports.
Secret documents obtained by the New Zealand Herald and Snowden spout The Intercept reveal Wellington intercepted emails during the May 2013 election in what is said to be a bid to get New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser elected.
New Zealand's spookhaus The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is said to have been behind the spying through its membership of the Five Eyes group of nations which includes Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the United Kingdom.
That membership grants it access to the XKEYSCORE email and chat prober which it has fed with data acquired in spying operations against 20 Asia Pacific nations, according to documents leaked by former NSA system administrator Edward Snowden.
The document (pdf) labelled Top Secret shows searches are made against email databases using fingerprints relating to the names of candidates under the 'WTO Project'.
Candidates include members from Ghana; Kenya; Costa Rica; Mexico, and Jordan. The spy net was widened around Indonesia's Mari Elka Pangestu to include all internet communications, The Intercept reported.
Of the named governments only Seoul's Taeho commented on the spy allegations saying he did not think it affected his bid. Bark says Indonesia's Pangestu would be "very upset”. The WTO has been contacted for comment but did not respond to The Intercept or the New Zealand Herald.
NZ Labour Party boss Andrew Little said the spying efforts were "outrageous” calling it a "misuse" of security and intelligence agencies.
"It seems to me right outside the mandate of the GCSB. It’s nothing to do with security threats,” Little told The Intercept.
New Zealand's government refused to comment on the allegations offering a boilerplate response on the value of national security. ®