New Delhi: New Zealand’s spy agency broke into the Indian high commission for UK’s MI6 during the waning years of the cold war to photograph secret documents that were used to encrypt communications, New Zealand media reported on Wednesday.
Named Operation Dunnage, “the operations included at least two raids on the Indian High Commission in Wellington in 1989 and 1991 to photograph thousands of pages from the commission’s code books, which were used to encrypt communications”.
A joint mission between the SIS and British external intelligence agency MI6, the agency photographed thousands of codes which were sent back to the UK so that Britain could decipher the communications of Indian government officials and diplomats, reported RNZ.
The same article also reported that the SIS had targeted the Iranian embassy in Wellington in a mission named Operation Horoscope, on behalf of US spy agency CIA.
Last month, RNZ’s podcast, The Service, had reported that SIS had carried out multiple clandestine raids to break into foreign embassies in the late 1980s, with one of them being on the Czechoslovakian embassy to steal the Warsaw pact codes for UK’s MI6.
A covert raid on a foreign embassy would be a breach of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic relations, which states the “premises of the mission should be inviolable”.
The media organisation reported that the article was published after gathering information “after months of engaging with multiple sources in New Zealand, Britain and the US”.
The report said that one New Zealand source had come forward since “he was concerned about the nature of the work the SIS carried out for its Five Eyes partners”. The Five Eyes refers to the alliance between the intelligence agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“The source, who has had close dealings with the intelligence agencies, said New Zealand came under pressure from its Five Eyes partners, especially the US and Australia, to do their dirty work,” reported RNZ.
The source felt that New Zealand had risked its international reputation by doing things that benefitted its Five Eyes partners and the disclosure could help keep SIS “on the leash”.
The SIS issued a statement that it was “unable to respond to questions about what may or not be specific operational matters”.
“The mission of the NZSIS has always been to keep New Zealanders safe, protect our key national institutions and promote New Zealand’s national advantage,” the statement said.
New Zealand’s prime minister from August 1989 to September 1990, Geoffrey Palmer said that he had not heard of the raids on either the Indian or Iranian embassies. “If it was at the time I was prime minister, I most certainly should have been [aware of the operations],” he told RNZ
Jim Bolger, who took over as prime minister from November 1990 to December 1999, also could not recall signing any warrants to authorise the raids on the foreign embassies.
“I have no recollection of that ever hitting my desk and if it did, I have to say, my memory is not gone yet, I’d be very surprised if I was ever advised of any such event. I have no recollection – and that’s not just a brush-off.”
According to RNZ, he also expressed surprise that there had been a raid on the Indian high commission and asked why New Zealand would want to carry out a covert attack on India.