Top US spies flew into Queenstown yesterday for what might be history’s most unsecret ”top secret” meeting.
The Otago Daily Times snapped FBI director James Comey emerging from a Gulfstream G550 jet – which had flown directly to Queenstown from Hawaii.
Earlier, CIA director Mike Pompeo arrived in a CIA-registered Gulfstream GIV, which had previously been spotted at Wellington Airport.
Both men – and their entourage of suited men and women – were ushered into vehicles waiting on the tarmac, flanked by heavy security.
Their respective convoys were then whisked, with a police escort, to Millbrook Resort, near Arrowtown, where a Five Eyes meeting is believed to be taking place this week.
The spying network is a global alliance of intelligence agencies from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
On Wednesday, the ODT broke news of a major police operation, involving the special tactics group and more than a dozen officers from Christchurch, for what was thought to be a visit by a major political figure.
Prime Minister Bill English’s office later confirmed there would be not one but a number of VIP visitors.
Since Thursday, a ring of steel around Queenstown and Arrowtown has become evident.
Police officers, both uniformed and in plain clothes, have been seen all over the district, as well as dog-handlers and snipers.
Security has been tight around Millbrook, in particular – with some people noticing security cameras had been erected around the 27-hole golf course.
A Millbrook visitor told the ODT yesterday the resort was swarming with unfriendly looking men wearing badges. Asked what the badges were for, they apparently said: ”We’re just contractors for this thing that’s happening.”
The New Zealand Herald believes the conference will last for a week, starting today.
Minister for the Government Communications and Security Bureau and Security Intelligence Service Chris Finlayson is expected to attend. However, English’s spokeswoman would not confirm yesterday whether any Government ministers were attending.
Instead, she repeated a statement issued last week: ”The Government is hosting a conference with a number of senior officials from overseas.
”Due to specific security requirements we cannot comment further at this time.
A police spokesman said: ”As is standard for such operations, we do not discuss operational details regarding security matters.”
Comey was last in New Zealand in March last year, when he met Mr Finlayson and Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
• A man was ejected from Millbrook Resort soon after FBI director James Comey arrived yesterday. The man, wearing a blue T-shirt and black shorts, tried to walk down Millbrook’s main thoroughfare.
But police stopped him and remonstrated with him, before calling Millbrook’s management.
Otago Daily Times