Signals intelligence agencies in Australia and New Zealand spy on friendly countries in the Pacific, gathering up full communications that are forwarded to the United States National Security Agency (NSA), acccording to leaked documents.
The documents are the latest leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and were published jointly by the New Zealand Herald and The Intercept.
Australian agencies are tasked with spying on Indonesia and South-East Asian countries, where as New Zealand is listening in on southwest Pacific island nations' communications.
In the documents from 2009, a strategy to report all communications from Pacific island countries is outlined. The data is sorted into metadata, calls, emails, texts and social media activity, and is fed into the NSA XKEYSCORE system. According to a later document from 2011, the information is then made available to UK, Canada and Australia.
However, even though the leaked documents show that the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) work on NSA computer systems, they do not have full access to all databases.
An unnamed GCSB analyst complained that around a fifth of the NZ spy agency staff did not have access to key NSA databases, and therefore could not access some of the data they had collected for their American colleagues.
According to the reports, Australia and New Zealand collaborate closely with one another on communications surveillance. A 2009 report from the GCSB said the Kiwi spies had handed over all their information on Fijian communications to Australia's Defence Signals Directorate (now ASD) and its Military Support Unit.
GCSB officers were also asked to assist the ASD in spying on the Indonesian telco Telkomsel, the documents said, and the Australians helped set up the Kiwis' network analysis capability in 2009.
An earlier document leak by Snowden last year suggested that the ASD had been able to purloin 1.8 million encryptions keys for mobile phones on Telkomsel's network.