Like many other people I am loosely following the allegations and counter allegations of alleged mishandling of classified information by United States President Donald Trump. As the investigation into whether Mr Trump and his inner circle did more than just pass on information too secret for the allies and nations friendly to the United States, progresses, so too does the development of concerns about what all this may mean for New Zealand.
Over the last several months I have become more concerned with how Mr Trump handles highly classified intelligence. My concerns stem from the revelation that Mr Trump has given Russia, a primary rival of the United States data that it considered to be too sensitive for its nearest allies to have access to. Aside from raising obvious questions about the security of classified data, if Mr Trump has been found to have done this, is there anything else that he or people in powerful could have done to potentially compromise our relations.
Prime Minister Bill English has no problems and is not apparently concerned by the issues that the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security has raised. This is despite her very legitimate concerns that New Zealand is at risk of being drawn into illegal activities promoted by the United States Government, including the use of water boarding and other tortuous practices. Mr Trump has alluded to potentially reopening the secret centres where such practices were carried out on prisoners.
New Zealand has a reputation for respecting international law. Over the years – though less so recently – New Zealand has been remembered for calling out other nations when they fallen afoul of international statutes that they signed up to. That reputation puts us in good stead with the United Nations, with other nations around the world and is frequently cited as a reason for many refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants coming out to New Zealand. All of these people see New Zealand as a stable, transparent and responsible country with an accountable Government. This is a reputation that would be undermined if we endorsed the types of changes that Mr Trump is thought to want to instigate.
For New Zealand to remain safe from terrorism and yet still free, we need to continue to uphold the rule of law like we have done in the past. We need to be seen as a positive example for the small Pacific Island nations of what they can aspire to be more like, instead of adopting the totalitarian excesses of China, who strives to project its influence further abroad, or the United States with its hypocritical politicians that say one thing and do something completely different.