PM: Five Eyes alliance not Trumped by information sharing

The intelligence relationship between the US and New Zealand has been developed on the basis of trust and confidence, Prime Minister Bill English says. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

New Zealand’s intelligence alliance with the United States has not been affected by President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to share highly classified information with Russia, Prime Minister Bill English says.

According to The Washington Post, Trump revealed highly classified information, relating to an Islamic State terror plot using laptops on passenger airplanes, to Russian representatives during a visit to the White House.

While Trump has defended his actions, saying he had “an absolute right” to share the information, current and former US officials reportedly fear critical intelligence sources could be jeopardised as a result, given the source had not given permission for the information to be shared with Russia.

Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies,” The Washington Post reported one US official as saying.

However, English declared himself unperturbed by the news, citing conflicting reports of what had taken place and telling reporters in Tokyo it would not impact on the two countries’ involvement in the Five Eyes spying alliance.

“Look, we have no reason to be concerned about our security relationship with the US, we’ve worked with them through Five Eyes on the basis of trust and confidence.

“Until and unless it’s established there’s some real, systemic problem that would affect New Zealand, frankly we don’t really have anything to comment on.”

On the substantive issue of the threat posed by laptops on planes, particularly flights from the Middle East, English said there had been no significant progress made by the Civil Aviation Authority in reviewing the idea.

Earlier this year, the US banned the use of electronic devices larger than a phone on some flights, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this week his government was considering a similar ban.

However, English said that did not mean we had to follow our neighbour, referring to conversations with travellers who found the bans “extremely inconvenient”.

“Let’s just see what they do - I mean in the end we can't isolate ourselves, but we’d want to make sure the issues are weighed up between quite a big impact on passenger convenience and the real security risks.”