Nicky Hager

Nicky Hager
Nicky Hager
Nicky Hager, July 2008
Nicky Hager, July 2008
Born 1958
Levin, New Zealand

Nicky Hager (born 1958) is an author and investigative journalist born in Levin, New Zealand and now resides in Wellington.

Hager generally writes about issues involving intelligence networks, environmental issues and politics. He has degrees in physics and philosophy. He has been described as "New Zealand's leading investigative journalist".[1]


Publishing history

Secret Power

Secret Power - New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network, published in 1996, was Hager's first book. The book is about the type of spying known as Signals Intelligence (Sigint) that involved electronic eavesdropping between countries. It is based on interviews with staff in New Zealand's Sigint agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), who revealed the workings of the agency in minute detail: the intelligence targets, equipment, operating procedures, security systems and training, as well as the staff and layout of the intelligence agency's facilities. It revealed detail about New Zealand's participation in the so-called UKUSA Agreement facilitating intelligence gathering and sharing between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In particular, Hager documented the US-coordinated ECHELON system, through which the five agencies intercept and process huge volumes of international e-mail, fax and telephone communications. As a result the insights into the New Zealand agency provide information about the allied agencies as well. The book makes special mention of GCSB's facilities at Waihopai and Tangimoana. The book contained two forewords; one written by former New Zealand Prime Minister, David Lange and one by Jeffrey T. Richelson, a leading author on U.S. intelligence agencies and the author of the books America's Secret Eyes in the Sky and The Ties That Bind.

Hager was one of the earliest to write about the secretive ECHELON worldwide electronic spy network. As a result of his book, in 2001 he testified before the European Parliament on his research into the network.[2]

Nicky Hager speaking to the European Parliament's Echelon Committee In April 2001

Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental PR Campaign was co-authored with Bob Burton and published in 1999. It documents the public relations information put out by Timberlands West Coast Limited in order to win public support for logging of native forests on the West Coast of New Zealand.

Seeds of Distrust

Seeds of Distrust: The Story of a GE Cover-up was a study of government processes and decision making under New Zealand's Labour-led government. The setting was an incident in November 2000, during the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, when government officials were alerted to evidence of an accidental release of genetically-modified corn plants, which was illegal under New Zealand law. The book traces the stages of industry lobbying and government decision making leading up to a decision to regard the incident as insignificant and keep it secret from the public. It was released in July 2002, ahead of the general election, and helped make genetically modified organisms a major election issue. In denying Hager's claims, the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, accused him of writing "conspiracy theories".[3] At a media conference of government officials convened immediately after the book's release, the Chief Executive of the N.Z. Ministry for the Environment, Barry Carbon, conceded that the book was largely accurate but disputed the interpretation of the material.[4]

The Christchurch newspaper The Press studied the official documents and concluded: "So who's telling the truth, Hager or the Government? Officials at a special briefing for journalists last week memorably commented that they did not disagree with most of Hager's facts, just his conclusions. That is unsurprising, given that the conclusions that can be drawn are not palatable ones. The documents raise some serious questions about the level of open government New Zealand really has and the strength of our much-vaunted biosecurity regime."[5]

The Hollow Men

In November 2006 Hager's book The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception was published. The book details a wide range of National Party internal party documents including emails which Hager stated were leaked by six National Party insiders. The documents were said to be written by the party leader Don Brash and a wide range of people associated with him. The book was initially prevented from being published when Brash obtained an injunction preventing anyone from publishing material from emails that he had written. At the time Brash was unaware that Hager had completed and was about to launch his book.[6] However, on 23 November 2006, Brash announced his resignation from the leadership of the National Party. The following day he had the injunction lifted, allowing the book to be released. Political scientist Raymond Miller wrote that "Had he not resigned, he would not have survived the fallout from this book's release."[7]

The heart of the book is its descriptions of the National Party strategy discussions and the techniques the party advisors used to try to win the 2005 national elections. The thinking behind major speeches, media management, election advertising and election messages is shown in the participants' own words. Many of the party's previously anonymous major donors are identified and relations with them are documented. Hager assisted with the feature length documentary of the book that was released in July 2008.

Other People's Wars

In August 2011 Hager's book Other People's Wars was published which investigates New Zealand's role in the "War on Terror". The book was criticised on its release by politicians and military personnel. Prime Minister John Key, who had not read the book, said it was a work of fiction and said that is what could be expected from Hagar. Jerry Mateparae, former head of the Defence Force who was appointed as Governor General in the same week as the release of the book, said that the claims were abhorrent.[8]

Print media articles

  • In February 2003, Hager published the first detailed description of New Zealand military contributions to the US-led military operations in Afghanistan, in a feature called “Our secret war” in the Sunday Star-Times. This included Special Air Service (SAS) forces, operation name Concord, and their part in the major February 2002 battle called Operation Anaconda); military intelligence staff based in the US headquarters at Bagram airbase (operation name Kiwi Cracker), intelligence and planning staff in the US Army Central Command in Florida (operation name Kiwi Speak), and naval and air transport deployments.[9]
  • In 2004, Hager was caught up in a hoax devised by some New Zealanders living in China. He was hired by the Sunday Star-Times (SST) to help research their claims alleging that the SIS was spying on Māori individuals and organisations, including those associated with the new Māori Party, for political purposes under the codename "Operation Leaf." A government inquiry led by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security rejected these claims in April 2005. As a result, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark said the allegations were a hoax and asked the SST to apologise to its readers. However, the SST's editor noted, as doubts grew around the story, that "Hager's involvement in the investigation was entirely at the paper's behest and has been completely vindicated by his cool-headed approach to the enquiry. He has been the voice of caution and sound advice."[10]
  • In March 2005, The Sunday Star-Times published an article[11] by Hager about the vulnerabilities of New Zealand's internet banking services. The article resulted in interest and investigation by both consumer groups and regulators, and since that time most major New Zealand banks have adopted the recommended two-factor authentication.
  • In May 2007, Hager revealed in the Sunday Star Times that a private investigation company, Thompson & Clark Investigations, had employed agents to infiltrate environmental, peace and animal rights groups in New Zealand.[12] One of the company's clients was the government-owned coal company Solid Energy. Hager and Deidre Mussen revealed that a student was paid NZ$400 a month to infiltrate and report on the activities of the Save Happy Valley Campaign, a group opposing a new coal mine.[13] The State-Owned Enterprises minister, Trevor Mallard, told Solid Energy that the spying operation is "unacceptable."[14]
  • June 2008: In the Sunday Star Times, Hager alleged that Don Brash, and later Opposition Leader John Key, had secretly hired controversial Australian PR firm Crosby/Textor.[15] To date Key and Brash have refused to confirm or deny their involvement with the firm.


See also


  1. ^ Martin Hirst, "Exposing New Zealand's Hollow Men", The Walkley Magazine, Issue 44, April/May 2007, p.40. (Martin Hirst is Associate Professor of Journalism at AUT Auckland University, New Zealand. The Walkley Magazine is published by the union for Australian journalists, the Media, Entertainment, Arts Alliance.)
  2. ^ Speech to European Parliament. April 2001
  3. ^ Government Upfront On Corn Seed. Press Release: New Zealand Government, 2002-07-02.
  4. ^ Guy MacGibbon, Hager’s Facts Fine – Environment Ministry CEO, Scoop, 11 July 2002.
  5. ^ Colin Espiner, "Corngate: lend me your ears", The Press, 20 July 2002.
  6. ^ Hager revealed as author of Brash emails book. Sunday Star-Times. 21 November 2006
  7. ^ Raymond Miller, "Brash would not have survived Hager's revelations", Sunday Star-Times, 26 November 2006.
  8. ^ "Nicky Hager Afghanistan Claims Rubbished". (Fairfax New Zealand). 2 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Nicky Hager, "Our secret war: What the government did not want you to know", Sunday Star-Times, 16 February 2003. (With reporting assistance from Mike White in Afghanistan).
  10. ^ Cate Brett, "Fog and fen", Sunday Star-Times, 5 December 2004.
  11. ^ Hager, Nicky. '3 minutes to get your cash', The Sunday Star Times, 9 March 2005. Archived 11 July 2008 at WebCite from the original.
  12. ^ Nicky Hager, "Finding the enemy within", Sunday Star Times, May 27, 2007.
  13. ^ Nicky Hager and Deidre Mussen, "'I was paid to betray protesters'", Sunday Star Times, May 27, 2007.
  14. ^ "Mallard Tells Solid Energy To Stop Using Paid Informants",, 28 May 2007.
  15. ^ Hagar, Nicky (29 June 2008). "Nat's secret advisers accused of dirty tricks in Aussie". Sunday Star Times. Archived from the original on 2008-07-09. 

External links

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