The 5th Eye exposes US-NZ spy relations

The 5th Eye exposes US-NZ spy relations

While the recent thaw in the US-New Zealand relationship looks set to bring a US naval vessel to our shores for the first time in three decades, it's easy to forget a major US military spy base at Waihopai has operated here since 1989.

A new documentary has detailed the infamous security breach at Waihopai and suggests the so-called break-down between US and Kiwi military forces has been anything but.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour government may have fiercely opposed the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but at the same time Kiwi frigates escorted US warships into the gulf during that war.

"This is a navy that's gone rogue against the direct orders of the Prime Minister" says filmmaker Errol Wright.

It's one of the revelations in a new documentary by Wright and Abi King-Jones, which examines the US-New Zealand alliance after the ANZUS break-up.

Ms King-Jones said: "In terms of the intelligence relationship, it never thawed, it got stronger".

As part of the 'Five Eyes' network, the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim saw a massive funding increase after the September 11 attacks, and that led to increased data gathering, and controversy.

"So while New Zealanders were happy that we were going our own way and being independent, no, the intelligence agencies were tying us deeper into US wars of aggression" says Ms King-Jones.

The break in by the 'Waihopai three' to deflate one the spy domes in 2008 had a major impact, bringing the actions of Kiwi spy agency the GCSB into the public consciousness, while the protesters escaped conviction.

Mr Wright says "they got a lot of criticism in the aftermath of the action against the dome, as time has gone on everything has fallen into place, I think they've been vindicated about why they went in and what they did."

The 5th Eye, currently screening at the New Zealand international film festival, is a timely reminder of what led up to the so-called thaw in US-NZ relations.