New Zealand's intelligence services intercepted the electronic communications of South Pacific island states and shared them with the United States, according to a report made public Thursday.
The report, based on documents leaked by former contractor of U.S.' National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, was prepared by New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager and published simultaneously in New Zealand by the New Zealand Herald and in the United States by Intercept.
The documents reveal that the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau, GCSB, expanded its spying operations in 2009 to intercept emails, messages on social media and telephone calls throughout the islands.
"During the last few years, in the period of the current government, they've gone from some selected targeting of the South Pacific states and other targets to a new stage of where they just hoover up everything," Hager told Radio New Zealand.
Government bodies and nongovernmental organizations of Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and French Polynesia have been affected by the spying operation.
"They take every single phone call, every email and they go straight off into the National Security Agency databases," Hager said.
He added that the reason for this espionage was directly linked to the "Five Eyes", a secret deal between the United States, the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand to share intelligence.
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key confirmed Wednesday that the government accessed information of other countries for national security, but did not clarify whether New Zealand's Pacific neighbors were spied on.
New Zealand was most recently embroiled in an espionage scandal in September last year when an extensive domestic surveillance program came to light.
"At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called "XKEYSCORE."," Snowden wrote in an article published at that time.