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The CIA files on NZ

Written By: - Date published: 8:23 am, January 19th, 2017 - 26 comments
Categories: Spying, us politics - Tags: ,

As widely reported, the US has just released online 8000 documents (13 million pages) of declassified documents from the CIA.

The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists.

The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA.

Some of the documents relate to NZ, and The Herald’s David Fisher has given us a fine summary:

Inside the top secret CIA files on New Zealand – who they spied on and what they said

It is a trove of both treasure and trivia, including:
• The CIA’s belief former Prime Minister David Lange accidentally backed himself into a corner on the nuclear-free issue, and US concerns the policy could spread throughout the Pacific.
• That Lange told US officials he believed nuclear propulsion was safe.
• The revelation that New Zealand’s nuclear free stance – for which we were punished for decades – didn’t make any difference to the US from a military perspective.
• A detailed biography of former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon and detailed accounting of his pro-US sympathies, including that Muldoon saw himself as a world leader in financial leadership despite “limited achievements” at home.
• The suggestion former US President Ronald Reagan tell Muldoon he was his favoured candidate to win an election during a White House visit.
• A McCarthy-era report into communism in New Zealand – a concern which was present throughout the documents into the late 1980s. …

Mainly historical interest now of course, but interesting to see the world through the CIA lens.

26 comments on “The CIA files on NZ ”

  1. red-blooded 1

    Not many surprises there. Good old master-manager of finances Muldoon! Wage-price freeze, anyone?

    I think they were right about Lange. He was actually pretty soft and reluctant on the anti-nuc policy: it was the strength of feeling within the Party and the strong determination shown by the wider public that convinced him not to dilute it. He also recognised that a populist policy helped to keep people with Labour even when we were so angry about Rogernomics (& remembering that the Nat’s response to those “reforms” was, “We’ll do it harder!”).

    It’d be interesting to know what they were saying about more recent matters. Dirty politics? Key’s resignation? Internet-Mana? I guess we’ll have to wait and (eventually) see.

    • mac1 1.1

      I heard Lange speak at a regional conference of the NZLP. He did not give any indication of reluctance- the opposite in fact, with lots of acute Lange wit.

      • red-blooded 1.1.1

        He was a good speaker, at any time. However, I seem to recall that he tried to arrange a visit from a nuclear-capable (and powered?) US vessel. It didn’t get approved by the party, but he supported a visit from the Buchanan (I recall stickers from the time – “Buck off, Fuchanan!”).

        Here’s a link: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/nuclear-free-new-zealand/nuclear-free-zone

        “Lange sought to soften Labour Party policy on this issue but found little room to move; party activists were unwilling to draw distinctions between nuclear propulsion and nuclear weapons. The mood of the nation was also turning against such political manoeuvring. Lange had hinted to Shultz that a compromise could be reached, and Shultz believed that he had Lange’s assurance that Labour’s policy could be changed. He later claimed that he felt betrayed by the way things unfolded.

        Following confidential discussions over the selection of an acceptable ship, in late 1984 the United States requested that the ageing guided-missile destroyer USS Buchanan visit New Zealand. The Americans hoped that a perception that it was not nuclear-armed would be enough for it to slip under the political radar, and believed they had Lange’s agreement. But on 4 February 1985 the government said no. ‘Near-uncertainty was not now enough for us,’ Lange later explained. ‘Whatever the truth of its armaments, its arrival in New Zealand would be seen as a surrender by the government.’” (Note, Shultz was the US Ambassador to NZ at the time.)

        • mac1

          Thanks for the reply. The first sentence has no supporting evidence to support a very strong assertion.

          Secondly, the article is not attributed. This gives me no idea as to the scholarship or integrity of its author.

          The site states this-“The NZHistory website is produced by a small team within the Research and Publishing Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and draws on the experience and skills of some of New Zealand’s leading historians.”

          It’s official, government-approved history but unattributed.

          How scholarly is this?

  2. Anne 2

    I see they are blaming the Labour Party for initially “inciting the anti-nuclear sentiment”.

    The anti nuclear movement was NOT created by the Labour Party. It was an independent movement which began its NZ journey back in the 1960s. It just so happened some members of the Labour Party were also members of the movement.

    Norman Kirk took up the cudgels in the early 1970s but even then the emphasis was much more on French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll rather than the nuclear arms race in general. We had every right to be concerned about those tests because it was our back-yard they were carrying them out in.


    In those years, paranoia ran strong and was accompanied by some very nasty incidents. Quite a few people can attest to being victims and, in some cases, it ruined their personal lives and careers.

    • Carolyn_nth 2.1

      Well this from the article quoted in the post:

      A McCarthy-era report into communism in New Zealand – a concern which was present throughout the documents into the late 1980s. …

      Interesting that the CIA was monitoring the left in NZ (at least) into the 1980s. It’s perhaps therefore interesting that NZ’s own spy and police agencies tend to target left wing campaigns way more than they target right wingers – then and now.

      It’s hard for those of us who don’t have access to current information to know exactly how much influence US agencies and government authorities have on NZ politics and policing.

      But the released CIA documents do give a clue.

      • Anne 2.1.1

        A McCarthy-era report into communism in New Zealand – a concern which was present throughout the documents into the late 1980s. …

        Paranoia was rampant throughout that period but my own ‘investigations’ suggest that it was far more so on the part of off-shore agencies like the CIA who were prevalent in NZ for decades. They were by no means the only ones.

        I have a story to tell which started with my late father (it is a deeply ironic one too) but in this area of activity it is impossible to acquire the information necessary in order to take action against the culprits – even if you know who they were.

        • Carolyn_nth

          But they were by no means the only ones.

          Do you mean there were other offshore agencies like the CIA operating in NZ, or that there were NZ agencies operating that also had some reds-under-the-bed paranoia?

          • Anne

            I refer to other offshore agencies. Take ASIS for example. A former ASIS operative came out of the closet in 1992 and revealed some of her own exploits in NZ in the Australian Womens Weekly. It included climbing a tree outside a Wellington brothel and filming the ‘patrons’ as they went in and out of the entrance – they included several politicians too but she didn’t name them.

            Edit: apparently the police chose to raid the brothel the same night and she recalled clients fleeing in all directions in various stages of undress. 😀

            The French agency (DGSE) had a strong presence here during the Mururoa years.

            • Carolyn_nth

              Ah. OK. Thanks.

              interesting – will watch out for agents up trees – or hanging off the side of buildings…. or maybe these days doing online surveillance?

              Edit: Oh – wait! Wasn’t there a Dirty Politics practitioner looking for dirt from people associated with brothels, not so long ago?

              • Anne

                Tom Scott did an hilarious cartoon at the height of the Muldoon years. He (Muldoon) was lying in his little bed looking terrified while a dozen Russian spies (dressed like Cossacks) were squeezed under the bed … climbing through the window… hanging out of the cupboard… and one was dangling from the light bulb.

                Muldoon hated Tom Scott.

              • Anne

                Wasn’t there a Dirty Politics practitioner looking for dirt from people associated with brothels, not so long ago?

                Wasn’t that the fella (forgotten his name 👿 ) who is very, very, very good friends with Israel?

                If Mossad isn’t already here (and I bet they are), they will be now! 🙂

                • Carolyn_nth

                  Hmmm… well there’s this today from the always reliable (heh) Bomber on TDB:

                  Shalom.Kiwi, the hard right wing Israeli lobby blog in NZ, contacted The Daily Blog yesterday demanding that material they claimed had been hacked from Kiwiblog and Shalom.Kiwi be removed and that they had launched legal action against us with the privacy Commission, the NZ Police and ‘other agencies’. Christ only knows who the ‘other agencies are’

                  • Anne

                    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….

                    Somewhat prescient she says immodestly. Well, if Mossad isn’t already here , they better come soon and show the locals how NOT TO GO ABOUT IT!

                • Rosemary McDonald

                  “…people associated with brothels,…”

                  There was a cartoon in one of the Uni papers around that time featuring an employee exclaiming at the sight of her naked client…
                  “How could suck a tiny prick screw an entire country!”

                  Nexus? Craccum? I forget which.

          • Draco T Bastard

            You can guarantee that other nations, including friendly ones that have said that they don’t spy on friends, to have agents here spying on us.

    • Rosemary McDonald 2.2

      “I see they are blaming the Labour Party for initially “inciting the anti-nuclear sentiment”.”

      “Blaming”? I always thought of that episode as Labour’s Finest Hour.

      Where are those ant-nuke Labourites now?

      We still have every right to be concerned about nuclear weapons AND nuclear power.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    The revelation that New Zealand’s nuclear free stance – for which we were punished for decades – didn’t make any difference to the US from a military perspective.

    We weren’t being punished for our anti-nuclear stance – we were being punished for not towing the line. Now that we’ve started towing the US line again they’re patting on the head going ‘good doggy’ and our ‘government’ is wagging it’s tail happily.

    • NZJester 3.1

      Not to mention how the current NZ government has been such a good boy and given the US easy access to spy on all of us. While we fund the New Zealand agency that is meant to be so called protecting us from external threats it is mostly just spying for the US sending tons of digital data every second out of NZ to the CIA. Data that not only includes information about kiwi’s but also all of our Pacific neighbors and China.

  4. Whispering Kate 4

    Nothing surprising here, I wonder how much was redacted before their release. It seemed at the time that the CIA was trying to destabilize the Lange Government but we will never know. None of this stuff sounds imflammatory enough to make NZ pissed off.

    • Anne 4.1

      … the CIA was trying to destabilize the Lange Government.

      No question about it, and David Lange in particular. I guess we will never know the full story but I do remember an attempt to publicly ridicule him when he was in the USA on an official visit. He had some time off and went for a walk. At one point he rested in some long grass and lo and behold… a photo of him lying in the grass appeared in the newspapers accompanied, from memory, with ribald comments. It caused him much embarrassment both here and in the USA.

      I recall he mentioned it in his book (I think) and he inferred there was more to it than just a chance photo but can’t remember the details.

    • Brutus Iscariot 4.2

      Not to mention the fact that it’s 30+ years old.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      After their previous success with Australia:

      The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

      On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

      • mosa 4.3.1

        Then opposition leader Malcolm Fraser was well aware and was advised on how to help precipitate the crisis with American intelligence to assist the downfall of the Whitlam government.

        American interests were deeply suspicious of democratically elected left leaning governments at that time and no doubt saw all of them as a threat and took serious action to destabilise them with Allende in Chile used as an example of what can happen when you fund that countries military to stage a coup and enforce a right wing dictatorship approved by American agencies.

        It would be interesting to see what measures they undertook to undermine the 1972-75 Kirk Rowling government.

        I bet the Americans were busy.

  5. But no mention of who paid for the Cossack adverts that helped Muldoon win the election

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