Wikileaks dumps on slavish New Zealand leaders

More leaked Wikileaks cables show that Washington is constantly looking for compliant journalists and politicians:

Leaked United States diplomatic cables explain why officials appear to have been caught on the hop last year when American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the resumption of intelligence sharing between the two countries – the deal was supposed to be top secret.

The cables obtained by The Sunday Star Times… confirm that it had been the intention of both countries to keep the news that intelligence collaboration had been “fully restored” secret and a classified American embassy cable sent to Clinton on January 6 warned her not to acknowledge the position in public ahead of a visit to New Zealand, which was later postponed.

But… Clinton had, in fact, already lifted the lid on the news, announcing the decision to restore intelligence sharing at a press conference with Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Washington in October last year.

The announcement was reported at the time though it clearly caught New Zealand officials on the hop.

Our government refused to comment at the time despite… Clinton labelling the decision to resume intelligence sharing cooperation as “very significant”.

Behind the scenes, senior government sources and officials were clearly taken by surprise by Clinton’s announcement – for reasons which the cables now make clear.

The cables show both countries were also determined to keep secret a significant shift in the post-Anzus relationship in 2007, when the United States proposed loosening its ban on military exercises and training.

The proposal was put to the Helen Clark government but in a cable headed “US Discomfort at NZ Delay” it was made clear that the Government’s delay giving a response risked a set back in relations and “risked tarnishing what should be a real positive for the relationship”.

The deal was not confirmed till February the following year.

The high level of sensitivity surrounding the shift was demonstrated by both ctountries agreeing to keep the news “out of the public domain” but it appears that the demand for secrecy was mostly on New Zealand’s side.

“New Zealand is eager to avoid any publicity about this new approach, will only say anything under “extreme duress” and will coordinate closely with the US side before saying anything,” the cable says.

New Zealand diplomats were privately briefing US officials about their frustration over the hold-up. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Deputy Secretary John MacArthur and America’s Division Director Carl Worker…  “each”¦.said privately in the course of the day how frustrated they had been by the delays in securing consensus for this response. It was clear that every saying that much was sufficiently sensitive that neither wanted to say it in front of the other”, according to the cables.

Also evident from the cables is that New Zealand has quietly increased its military co-operation with the US and that American ambassador Charles Swindell… put pressure on New Zealand… to change its nuclear free policy ahead of the 2005 election.

WikiLeaks released around 1500 American cables that refer specifically to New Zealand.

The cables also reveal an increase in co-operation with US intelligence agencies and military, contradicting statements in New Zealand intelligence agency annual reports that their operations relate purely to national security. According to the cables, US and New Zealand officials again preferred to keep the change secret.

Another cable reveals former ambassador Charles Swindell sought to have New Zealand change its anti-nuclear stance, and identified Don Brash and now Attorney-General Chris Finlayson as key to that process.

In a 2005 cable he urged his colleagues in the United States to investigate strategies for changing the policy, including proposing a feasibility study for a free trade agreement.

Swindell, a Republican Party fundraiser for George W Bush, cabled that he continued to stress that the nuclear ban still mattered to Kiwis, and advised that more pressure was needed.

The US cables also note Prime Minister John Key’s strongly personal pro-American outlook, describe the woman he replaced as prime minister, Helen Clark, as a controlling manager, despite having the ability to be funny, warm and open.

Also detailed are free trips to the US for “open-minded” journalists.