Two decades before the world heard about Edward Snowden, a New Zealand writer launched onto the world stage with his revelations about the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, and this was just the beginning of the storied career of this installment of the Weekend Name Drop. Meet Nicky Hager.
Name: Nicky Hager
Creative fields: Writer, Investigative Journalist
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Best known for: Authoring: Secret Power: New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network, Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror, and Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment; New Zealand’s sole member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
My connection: I arrived in New Zealand in 1997, only months after the release of Nicky’s first book, Secret Power. I recall his appearances on television, alongside images of the mysterious Waihopai Station, headquarters of the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau), near Blenheim. Like all of us in New Zealand, I have frequently seen Nicky on television over the years, as he is acknowledged as the country’s premier investigative journalist. I acknowledged him in my own small way by naming a minor character after him in my novel, The Chain, a book projecting the effects of global surveillance into the near future. Following the release of his sixth book, Dirty Politics, I watched with great interest as Nicky battled to protect his sources and prevail over the illegal raid on his house by police. I met Nicky in person just last week when he, along with Bianca Begovich, visited Taumarunui High School and spoke with our students about research, writing and pursuing truth and personal passions in life. Nicky and Bianca graciously accepted copies of The Chain and I was also pleased to show him a signed copy of The Crossing, gifted to our school’s library by his sister, Mandy Hager, a few years ago. In Taumarunui, we enjoy connections, great and small.
Inspiration for this writer: Truth-seekers have always appealed to me, especially in the form of investigative journalists such as John Pilger, Glenn Greenwald, or Michael Moore, people who are telling the stories mainstream media are unable or unwilling to tell. In his talk at our school, I was impressed with how Nicky distances himself from conspiracy theories and, in watching his interactions with others on the day and in interviews online, I can see why he endeavours to do so. He makes it clear he is looking for stories that best serve the public interest and which are founded on reliable sources, not just stories that titillate some people’s penchant for Illuminati-style exposé. Still, considering his investigations into the activities of global spy networks, it is easy to see how these lines blur and overlap. Nicky is also a terrific, astute communicator as can be seen in the samples of his work below.
Why you should check him out and share with others: Nicky’s work centres on New Zealand, but almost always offers revelations about global events from the war in Afghanistan to the Panama Papers. He was “one of the earliest to write about the secretive ECHELON worldwide electronic spy network,” and is New Zealand’s only member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. His work always courts controversy and, regardless of your opinion of his methods or purposes, he is a voice that must be noted in New Zealand politics and culture. In fact, in the world of investigative journalism, Nicky Hager is the voice of New Zealand, writing for such influential publications as Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, among others.
Sample of work:
The Waihopai intelligence base looks oddly alien and out of place: huge white “golf ball” radomes like a moon station and silent buildings within two fences of razor wire, all dropped in the midst of vineyards and dry hills in New Zealand’s Marlborough landscape.
Documents about the Waihopai station leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the facility is as alien as is seems.
Everything inside the top secret station except the staff is foreign.
The electronic eavesdropping systems, the computer programmes that automatically index and search the captured communications, and the databases where details of a whole region’s communications are stored: they are all standardised parts of the global surveillance system run by the NSA.
The Waihopai base functions as a cog in that spying machine, the alliance’s main eye on the South Pacific region.
The Sunday Star-Times analysed the documents in collaboration with US news website The Intercept, which obtained them from Snowden. The leaked files reveal in unprecedented detail the New Zealand-based station’s targets, inner workings and links to the international network of spy facilities run by the Five Eyes.
Here’s Nicky, himself, speaking about how he works with confidential sources in an age of mass surveillance, at the 2014 Logan Symposium:
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.