Nicky Hager complaint upheld – SIS acted unlawfully

The Acting Inspector General of Intelligence and Security has upheld a complaint by Nicky Hager that the SIS unlawfully attempted to uncover his journalistic sources. This was in relation to Hager’s 2011 book Other People’s Wars.

The Police had been found to have unlawfully attempted to uncover Hager’s journalistic sources when investigating the hack of Cameron Slater after Hager published Dirty Politics.

In both cases the sources were not identified.

Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees, or supports or opposes, with what Hager has written about, illegally trying to out his sources (by both the SIS and the Police) should be a real concern.

At least by making successful complaints Hager has exposed the unlawful actions, which will put pressure on both the SIS and the Police to do things properly in the future.

Hager’s lawyer Felix Geiringer (@BarristerNZ) tweeted:

The full Report into a complaint by Nicky Hager against the NZSIS

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

For the reasons given I have found that NZSIS unlawfully provided investigative assistance to
NZDF in efforts to determine whether a specific NZDF officer had been a source for information
published in Mr Hager’s book Other People’s Wars. Specifically, NZSIS provided that assistance
despite a lack of grounds for reasonable suspicion that any activity had occurred that was a
matter of national “security” as that was defined in the governing legislation of NZSIS at the
time. I have been unable to find that the Service showed the kind of caution I consider proper,
for an intelligence agency in a free and democratic society, about launching any investigation
into a journalist’s sources.

Mr Hager’s complaint against NZSIS is therefore upheld.

To the extent that Mr Hager was the subject of NZSIS inquiries that I have found were not within
the lawful scope of NZSIS activity at the relevant time, I consider he was adversely affected by
the agency’s activities. The Service acquired two months of call metadata for Mr Hager’s home
telephone line. In the circumstances I think an apology from NZSIS to Mr Hager is an appropriate
remedy. I recommend accordingly.

There should be greater repercussions than a recommendation of an apology.