Legal blunder left 6 month NZSIS surveillance gap

Some journalism continues under the noise of media click baiting and copy/pasting and repeating.

David Fisher at NZH: Our spies disarmed by legal blunder amid ‘high threat operations’ against terrorists

A law-making bungle deprived our spies of a key weapon against terrorism in the wake of classified briefings warning of “an increasingly complex and escalating threat environment” in New Zealand.

NZ Security Intelligence Service documents revealed the blunder left our spies unable to use video surveillance tools to watch terrorism suspects in their cars, homes or workplaces for six months last year.

The documents, declassified and released through the Official Information Act, also revealed our spies have been involved in “high threat operations”.

It did not state what those operations were and NZSIS director-general Rebecca Kitteridge, in an interview with the NZ Herald, would not elaborate other than to say they involved police assistance.

She would not give details of the operations but said the NZSIS had taken active steps with the police to stop people who wanted to carry out terrorist attacks in New Zealand.

The details about the security situation in New Zealand is an unnerving backdrop to the blunder over warrants allowing visual surveillance.

Kitteridge revealed the hole in the law to former NZSIS minister Chris Finlayson last year.
In a memo on June 30, she said “the NZSIS no longer had the power to apply for a visual surveillance warrant” or to use emergency power to act without a warrant in emergencies.

The memo said warrants to allow visual surveillance were to “detect, investigate or prevent a terrorist act”.

But she said the NZSIS was unable to do so for six months after the old law expired on April 1 2017 because the new Intelligence and Security Act did not apply until September 28 2017.

Finlayson said he had gone through the law change “clause by clause with officials” and had told them “they had one last chance to indicate any concerns they may have had”.

“There were none.”

Finlayson said Parliament was in its closing stages prior to the election and he had “no intention of trying to ram stop-gap remedial legislation through the House”.

The new NZSIS Minister supports Finlayson’s judgement.

NZSIS minister Andrew Little said he supported Finlayson’s exercise of judgment and would have made the same decision.

A follow up at Newsroom: Officials to blame for spy law blunder – Finlayson

Former spy minister Chris Finlayson has thrown government officials under the bus for a blunder which deprived Kiwi spooks of visual surveillance tools, saying they would have been to blame had a terrorist attack occurred.

Speaking to media on Tuesday morning, Finlayson said he opposed an urgent law change due to the lack of time between the discovery of the blunder and the general election, coupled with criticism of his government’s previous use of urgency for intelligence laws and the drafting process for the new law.

“I had gone through that legislation, the draft legislation…clause by clause and I distinctly recall at the end of the meeting saying to people, ‘Right, state any further concerns or forever hold your peace, end of story’.”

There were “other mechanisms” that could have been used to cover the lack of visual surveillance powers, he said.

While the NZSIS had not explicitly raised the prospect of an urgent legislative fix, he believed Kitteridge’s briefings were “a precursor” to such a request.

Asked who would have been to blame had a terrorist attack occurred during the six months the NZSIS was without the powers, Finlayson replied bluntly, “They [the officials] would have been.”

Additional support from Little:

Current NZSIS Minister Andrew Little backed Finlayson’s decision to oppose urgent legislation, and said he did not believe New Zealand had been markedly more vulnerable during the six-month period.

“The security and intelligence agencies have a number of means and mechanisms to keep tabs on people who are regarded as a risk: visual surveillance is one of them, but in the relatively short period of time that they didn’t have access to powers to do that they were able to cover their needs off through other means,” Little said.

It’s difficult to know whether any damage was done by this blunder, but the danger period has now passed.

13 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  May 9, 2018

    allo,allo….phew,just dumb…luck…I guess,what a legacy.

    • Gezza

       /  May 9, 2018

      Bungling bureaucrats. You can imagine what Little would’ve been like if they’d tried to urgently ram through a fix. I wonder who the threat is from.

      • phantom snowflake

         /  May 9, 2018

        Their real threat is from anyone who opposes their exponential increases in funding which are supported by BS claims such as “an increasingly complex and escalating threat environment

        • Gezza

           /  May 9, 2018

          What access do you have to their information & would you share it please?

          • phantom snowflake

             /  May 9, 2018

            You know I’m not permitted to do that!

            • Gezza

               /  May 9, 2018

              Can you maybe just pass it to Kim Dotcom?

            • phantom snowflake

               /  May 9, 2018

              Kim already has a sizeable amount of information due to his solid background as a hacker. See what I did there? Made it look like I was mocking Kim Dotcom when really…

            • Gezza

               /  May 9, 2018

              No I didn’t notice.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  May 9, 2018

              One of my friends from ‘Hospital’ says he’s in the Intelligence Services.

            • Gezza

               /  May 9, 2018

              Don’t tell him anything would be my recommendation.

            • Gezza

               /  May 9, 2018

              The only time I ever got admitted to their inner sanctum for a special training seminar delivered by an American they were based in the Defence HQ Building & were incredibly nice but quite stuffy & MI6ish-type chaps. One of them was even in a tweed suit & smoking a pipe! Large Portrait of HM QEII on the wall & and everything. It’ll be hugely different there now.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  May 9, 2018

              These days they often infiltrate Inpatient Psychiatric Units, posing as patients. They sometimes have these weird glass pipes which they smoke from in the bathroom.

  1. Legal blunder left 6 month NZSIS surveillance gap — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition