NZ troops face questions over Afghan biometrics programme
23 August 2017 14:56 GMT

New Zealand troops help the US conduct a biometrics gathering programme in Afghanistan without government approval, say critics.

Activists say that New Zealanders "had a right to know what our troops were actually doing in our name in Afghanistan".

A former top intelligence official in Kabul told the the Stuff Circuit documentary series that New Zealand PRT soldiers were using a device called "Seek", and that the data was uploaded to ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, which New Zealand forces in Afghanistan operated under, but then shared with the CIA.

Former Minister of Defence, Wayne Mapp, said he did not know about the programme.

Elliott said the biometrics revelations raised questions about what the public had been told.

However, former Chief of Defence, Retired Lieutenant General Rhys Jones justified the biometric data collection as being integral for identifying known or suspected insurgents.  

"This was a zone that was insecure, we needed to track people. It was almost… 'martial law', but the rules of the country at the time were that this is necessary for the Afghan police to know who's in the area".

But Elliott said the Defence Force had a very real responsibility to take into account to whom the intelligence was going to be supplied, and whether or not those agencies or governments had a track record of respect for fundamental human rights and the rules of law.

"The US intelligence agencies and military forces unfortunately don't have a great track record on either, and Afghanistan hasn't proven to be an exception to that."