New Zealand defense chief says no evidence of unlawful spying on journalist in Afghanistan

New Zealand's acting defense force chief said Monday that there is no evidence the military unlawfully spied on a journalist in Afghanistan who was freelancing for U.S. news organization McClatchy.

The statement came in response to a report in the Sunday Star-Times newspaper that the military collected phone metadata to spy on journalist Jon Stephenson, a New Zealander. The paper claimed the military became unhappy at Stephenson's reporting on how it treated Afghan prisoners.

Also Monday, the country's Minister of Defense Jonathan Coleman acknowledged the existence of an embarrassing confidential order that lists investigative journalists alongside spies and terrorists as potential threats to New Zealand's military.

The acting defense force chief, Major General Tim Keating, said the military officers responsible for operations in Afghanistan have assured him that there had been no unlawful monitoring of Stephenson by New Zealand or foreign spy agencies.

New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes the U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada.

The White House and AP intelligence sources in Washington did not respond Sunday to requests for comment on the Sunday Star-Times story.

Stephenson wrote for several news organizations and was a freelancer for McClatchy for about 10 months last year.