New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

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The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS or SIS) is an intelligence agency of the New Zealand government.


[edit] Purpose

The Security Intelligence Service is a civilian organisation, and takes no part in the enforcement of security (although it has limited powers to intercept communications and search residences). Its role is intended to be advisory, providing the government with information on threats to national security or national interests. It also advises other government agencies about their own internal security measures, and is responsible for performing checks on government employees who require security clearance. The SIS is responsible for most of the government's counter-intelligence work.

The SIS' stated aims are to:

  • "Protect and promote New Zealand's defence, foreign policy, and national economic interests."
  • "Protect New Zealanders and their property."
  • "Detect and prevent serious overseas-based crime which could affect this country."
  • "Protect against threats from terrorism and espionage."

[edit] Organisation

The SIS is based in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. It also has branches in Auckland and Christchurch. It has between 110 and 140 permanent staff, somewhat less than the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) — New Zealand's other significant intelligence agency. At around 43.5 million New Zealand dollars, its budget is higher than that of the GCSB.

The SIS has connections with foreign intelligence organisations, particularly in the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The SIS is headed by the Director of Security, and is watched over by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Intelligence and Security Committee. The SIS itself reports to a Cabinet minister with responsibility for intelligence (traditionally the Prime Minister).

The SIS was established in 1956. An Act of Parliament covering it, the Security Intelligence Act, was passed in 1969. Various amendments have since been made to the Security Intelligence Act — the most controversial was probably Robert Muldoon's 1977 amendment, which expanded the SIS's powers of monitoring considerably. The 1977 amendment saw sizable protests outside Parliament.

Many claim that extensive political and judicial oversight are necessary to keep agencies on task, and to ensure that limited intelligence gathering resources are not wasted. Also, unlike the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, NZSIS does not make available telephone numbers to allow frontline NZSIS staff to be contacted. Considering that anti-terrorism is part and parcel of NZSIS's charter, this is considered by some to be a significant security gap. However, it should be noted that the New Zealand Police is the lead agency responsible for terrorism in New Zealand, and they are the most appropriate government agency for the public to contact if they have information regarding terrorism in New Zealand.

[edit] Past Directors

The NZSIS has had six directors to date.

Director Served Background
Bill Gilbert1956 - 1976Military officer
Paul Molineaux1976 - 1983Judge
Lin Smith1983 - 1991Military officer
Don McIver1991 - 1999Military officer
Richard Woods1999 - 2006Diplomat
Warren Tucker1999 - 2006GCSB

[edit] Public profile

The SIS has been involved in a number of public incidents and controversies since its creation in 1956.

  • In 1974, the SIS was the source of information that led to the arrest of Bill Sutch, an economist and former civil servant, on charges of spying for the Soviet Union. Sutch was acquitted, and the SIS was criticised for having accused him in the first place, although some still maintain that the SIS was correct in its accusation.
  • In 1981, the SIS was criticised for drawing up a list of 20 "subversives" who participated in protests against the 1981 Springbok Tour, a visit by South Africa's apartheid rugby team. That singling out of individuals as "subversives" was deemed by many to be a violation of the right to protest government decisions.
  • Also in 1981, an SIS operative inadvertently left a briefcase containing sandwiches, Listener magazine and a diary on a journalist's fence in Wellington. The briefcase was commonly but mistakenly described as containing a Penthouse magazine and pie.
  • In 1985, the SIS failed to detect the French operation in which DGSE operatives bombed the Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, killing a photographer. This was the most significant case of espionage or terrorism in New Zealand.
  • In 1996, Aziz Choudry, an anti-globalization protester, discovered two SIS agents breaking into his home, prompting charges that the SIS had violated his rights. Aziz eventually won his case, being paid damages and receiving an apology.
  • In 2002, the SIS reported that Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian seeking asylum in New Zealand, was a security risk and recommended his deportation. However, this recommendation was challenged. The SIS issued a security risk certificate pursuant to section 114 of the Immigration Act 1987 and Zaoui was detained in a penal institution under a warrant of commitment. The SIS refused to release some highly classified information which it used to determine Zaoui's status as a security risk. Comments made by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, who monitors the SIS, were considered by some to be openly biased against Zaoui. As a result of the resulting controversy, the Inspector General, Laurie Grieg, resigned in March 2004. Former Solicitor General, Paul Neazor, was appointed to replace Grieg. Zaoui's case is ongoing.
  • In 2004, allegations surfaced 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 later rejected these claims in April 2005, however. As a result, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark said the allegations were a hoax and asked the Sunday Star Times newspaper that printed them to apologise to their readers. A full apology and retraction was subsequently printed on the front page of the paper.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

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