New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is under fire for saying that he was “totally comfortable” with passing on his nation’s intelligence information to agencies that may have used the data for drone strikes by the United States on foreign soil.
“For the most part drone strikes have been an effective way of prosecuting people that are legitimate targets,” Prime Minister Key said this week in response to accusations from journalist Jeremy Scahill that New Zealand had been participating in what he told New Zealand TV3’s The Nation was “effectively an American assassination programme.” The accusation came from information revealed by anti-intelligence gathering activist Edward Snowden that information gathered by Key’s agencies had been passed along to the U.S. drone program.
“What I can say is that New Zealand has internationally in the past… gathered information, Afghanistan is an example of that, and that information is given to ISAF [International Security Assistance Force]… What ISAF used that information for and how it’s actually used, I don’t know but I can’t rule out that that isn’t used for activities undertaken by the Americans,” said Key, according to the New Zealand Herald. He added that the information was being used to confront “very bad people.”
Key responded to questions about the ethical responsibility in drone strikes by noting that “we are not the individuals that are conducting those drone strikes.” He added, as far as American drone strikes go, “President Obama has used drones; that’s a matter for them really, but I think under the circumstances in which I can see they are being used for the most part I’m comfortable with it.”
Prime Minister Key will be traveling to the White House in June for a visit that, according to the White House, “will highlight our increasingly close relationship with New Zealand.” Key’s close relationship to the United States has attracted criticism from some sectors of the civil libertarian far-left, including Scahill and fellow Intercept collaborator Glenn Greenwald, who noted on Twitter that Scahill’s accusations had caused an “international incident” in New Zealand. Greenwald himself is facing accusations of being dishonest and “racist” in his journalism from none other than Wikileaks for refusing to disclose the name of a country the NSA has been monitoring for safety reasons.
In America, the national debate over the ethics of drone strikes abroad continues as Senator Rand Paul filibusters the nomination of David Barron to the United States Court of Appeals. Barron had previously written defenses of the legality of drone strikes on members of terrorist groups outside of conventional battle zones.