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New Zealand spooks say satellite snooping is obsolete – better intel is found elsewhere

Kiwis are done with dishes, and the Five Eyes alliance is cool with it

New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – the nation's signals intelligence and infosec agency – will retire its Waihopai satellite communications interception station because it's no longer needed.

"The nature of telecommunications has changed, and other needs and capabilities have overtaken the sort of satellite communication interception that has been done at Waihopai," said Andrew Little, the minister responsible for the GCSB.

The GCSB's own statement on the matter reads "Changes in global telecommunications and information technology mean the interception of satellite communications from Waihopai has declined over the years to the point where dish use is now virtually obsolete.

"To give a picture of their dwindling use, in the past year less than 0.5 per cent of the intelligence reports produced by the GCSB were based on dish collection from Waihopai.

"More modern methods collect more targeted communications, and these other forms of intelligence collection are now more effective and efficient at contributing to the Government's National Security and Intelligence Priorities than the type of satellite communication interception undertaken at Waihopai."

In a speech delivered last week, Little stated that New Zealand's intelligence agencies recently "contributed to the disruption of terrorist attack planning overseas". Little today pointed out that feat was achieved without satellite snooping.

The minister added that the Five Eyes security alliance – under which the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand share intelligence – is aware of the satellite snooping decision and didn't object.

The decision to retire the Waihopai facility was helped along by the fact its antennae have "reached structural end-of-life". But New Zealand clearly thinks it's best to put money into other intelligence-gathering activities rather than prop up some rusty radio dishes. ®

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