Giant Vacuum

Spy Agencies Used ‘Giant Vacuum Cleaner’ To Collect Data Across Pacific

New documents from the cache of files leaked by Edward Snowden show that New Zealand’s intelligence agency has been collecting in bulk the cell phone, email, and internet files of people across the Pacific Island nations and handing that data over to the U.S. National Security Agency in an operation one angered lawmaker now describes as a “giant vaccum cleaner of information.”

Reported jointly by investigative journalist Nick Hagey, the New Zealand Herald and The Intercept, the latest revelations show how the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was asked “to plug holes” in the NSA’s global spying network by carrying out a mass surveillance operation of numerous island nations—including the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, French Polynesia, Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga—many of which route their communications needs through New Zealand.

The journalists reporting the story have also said that additional details about mass surveillance conducting by the GCSB will be forthcoming in the days ahead.

“The Five Eyes countries led by the US are literally trying to spy on every country in the world,” Hagey said during an interview with New Zealand Radio, “and what we’re going to be hearing about in the next few days is New Zealand in all kinds of very surprising ways playing a role in that,” he said.

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