A new batch of Snowden documents offer an unprecedented look into the close relationship of the surveillance agencies of the so-called "Five Eyes" nations and how a close look at a secretive base in New Zealand reveals new details about a global network of listening stations are operating to fulfill the NSA mantra on communications data which says, "Sniff it all, collect it all, know it all, process it all and exploit it all."
Reported on Saturday by The Intercept in the U.S. and the Sunday Star-Times in New Zealand, the documents offer a detailed look at the "alien-like" station located in Waihopai Valley and reveals who and what kind of information the station targets, its inner workings, and how its operations link to an international network of spy facilities run by the other so-called "Five Eyes"—comprised of the intelligence agencies of the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
With names like "Jackknife," "MoonPenny," "Scapel," and "LadyLove" – the Five Eyes maintain enough listening bases around the world to capture the bulk of the entire planet's digital and telephonic communications.
Regarding this global network of surveillance stations, the Sunday Star-Times reports:
Altogether, these bases can snoop on the entire world, friend as well as foe.
The leaked documents do not talk about "Waihopai". They use the station's secret Five Eyes code name Ironsand ("IS"). It's not clear why Waihopai is Ironsand.
An NSA map shows it is one of a global network of oddly-named satellite interception stations. These stations are the eyes of the Five Eyes alliance.
Australia has a base near Geraldton, a small port city on the west coast of Australia. Its codename is Stellar.
The British station in Oman has the codename Snick. Britain's Kenya base is known as Scapel. Britain also spies on satellites from Carboy, a station in Cornwall, and from a base in Cyprus called Sounder.
The American equivalents of Waihopai are Jackknife in Washington State on the Pacific coast, Timberline in West Virginia and Coraline in Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. The biggest of these is the Moonpenny base in Harrogate, Yorkshire.
According to the reporting, each of these bases is relatively identical and all of the information collected at the various sites in sent back to the NSA via a series of databases controlled and monitored by the agency.
Earlier this week, The Intercept and the New Zealand Herald revealed how the Waihopai base was being used to spy on communications across the Pacific Islands and share intercepted data in bulk with the NSA and the other Five Eyes. In turn, the other stations across the world are each responsible for collecting data over their assigned geographic area.
Saturday's reporting expands on what has previously been disclosed about the New Zealand operations at Waihopai. According to the Star-Times, "Everything inside the top secret station except the staff is foreign."
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As the report continues:
All or nearly all the major surveillance systems at the Waihopai base are US-supplied and could be found identically at the other stations. All the phone calls and Internet communications they intercept and sort at the base then go into NSA databases.
The only difference between this and an NSA base on New Zealand soil is that it is New Zealanders who arrive each day to maintain the NSA surveillance systems.
Sniff it all, collect it all, know it all, process it all and exploit it all - the jocular spyspeak slogans are a perfect summary of a truly global surveillance system.
The Five Eyes alliance is a global digital vacuum cleaner which can scoop up prodigious amounts of information - far more than the human mind can really comprehend.
Writing for The Intercept, journalist Ryan Gallagher reports that the primary target for the Ironsands station in New Zealand has been the "large international telecommunications satellites that provide communications to and from all of New Zealand’s Pacific Island neighbors and other Asia-Pacific nations."
In terms of fallout and reactions to the latest revelations, Gallagher added:
New Zealand’s prime minister John Key insisted that the revelations were wrong, but then refused to explain why, telling a press conference he had “no intention of telling you about how we do things.” Meanwhile, GCSB chief Sir Bruce Ferguson admitted that “mass collection” of data was indeed being undertaken in the Pacific, and said it was “mission impossible” to eliminate New Zealanders’ communications from the data being swept up.
Responding to the latest revelations on Saturday, GCSB declined to comment. In a statement issued to The Intercept and the Sunday-Star Times, the agency’s acting director, Una Jagose, said: “We do not comment on operational matters. Everything we do is authorized under legislation and subject to independent oversight.”
NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines said in a statement that the agency would not comment “on specific, alleged foreign intelligence activities.” Vines added: “The National Security Agency works with foreign partners to address a wide array of serious threats, including terrorist plots, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign aggression. NSA’s activities with foreign partners comply with U.S. laws and the applicable laws under which our partners operate.”