Keith Locke on SIS apology for labelling him a threat

Keith Locke was a Green MP from 1999 to 2011, having been a long time political activist. One of his aims in Parliament was to be a civil liberties watchdog, so it is ironic that he was the target of SIS attention.

Locke has recently revealed that he received an apology from the SIS for calling him a threat.

The Spinoff: Spy chief’s apology to me reveals scandalous truth about the SIS

The revelation in 2009 that Green MP Keith Locke had been spied on since age 11 caused an uproar and prompted an inquiry into SIS surveillance. Now, he writes, the SIS has been forced to apologise for calling him ‘a threat’ in internal documents.

Last April I received a letter from Rebecca Kitteridge, the director of the Security Intelligence Service, apologising for the way I was referred to in internal SIS documents. She wrote that I had been described as a “threat” in speaking notes for a Joint Induction Programme run by the SIS and the Government Communications Security Bureau since 2013.

AN EXTRACT FROM SIS DIRECTOR REBECCA KITTERIDGE’S LETTER TO KEITH LOCKE, DATED 16 APRIL 2018

In the SIS documents I was identified as an “internal” threat because I “wish[ed] to see the NZSIS & GCSB abolished or greatly modified”. The documents labelled this a “syndrome”.

In her apology, Kitteridge said “the talking point suggests wrongly that being a vocal critic of the agencies means you are a ‘threat’ or a ‘syndrome’. In fact, people who criticise the agencies publicly are exercising their right to freedom of expression and protest, which are rights we uphold, and are enshrined in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.”

I haven’t gone public on this until now, but given the recent news about several other state agencies spying on people, I decided that what happened to me should be in the public domain.

In his December report, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes described the state spying on critics of deep-sea oil drilling, like Greenpeace, “an affront to democracy”. Like Kitteridge in her letter of apology to me, Hughes said that it was “never acceptable for an agency to undertake targeted surveillance of a person just because they are lawfully exercising their democratic rights, including their right to freedom of expression, association and right to protest.”

Most disturbingly, many civil servants in the cases Hughes identified must have known about this illegal, anti-democratic surveillance without blowing a whistle on it.

In my case, many SIS and GCSB officers must have heard me being identified as a “threat” without challenging it. How else could the disparaging reference to me have stayed in the officer training material for ten years. Kitteridge told me the “threat” label was carried over into the Joint Induction Programme speaking note from a “Protective Security Advice presentation (believed to have been developed in about 2008)” and “a historical security aide-memoire (believed to have been developed in 2012).”

To make matters worse, the ten year period when I was deemed to be a “threat” includes the last three years (2008-2011) of my 12 years as an Member of Parliament.

It seemed pretty clear that the SIS had breached to MOU requirements for political neutrality, by treating a sitting MP and his views as a “threat”, so I wrote to the current Speaker, Trevor Mallard, about it. He didn’t think the MOU had “been breached in any way.”

Mallard side-stepped my contention that the SIS had acted in a politically biased manner, but did admit that “certain materials being used by the security agencies contained inappropriate expressions of opinion regarding your conduct, including during a time that you were a member of Parliament.”

He said he met regularly with the SIS Director “and will continue to ensure that she is aware of the need for security agencies to respect the role and independence of Parliament.”

I have to disagree with the Speaker that it was just a matter of the SIS using “inappropriate” language. For a spy agency to describe someone as a “threat” is serious. It identifies them as a target for some form of monitoring or surveillance, and this is what has happened to me over many years.

My file illustrates the main function of the SIS over the years, which hasn’t been to track down criminals (which the Police do quite well) but to spy on political dissenters.

This is a serious issue in what is supposed to be an open democracy.

 

 

‘Serious misconduct’ alleged, security firm investigation widens

Concerns over the use of security firm Thompson and Clark by Government departments has escalated into an SIS investigation  after claims of serious misconduct at the at the Ministry for Primary Industries.

RNZ:  Thompson and Clark used SIS contact to seek govt contracts

The Security Intelligence Service has launched an internal investigation into concerns of biased and unprofessional dealings with controversial security firm Thompson and Clark.

The announcement of the investigation comes on the same day the State Services Commissioner widened his inquiry into the use of Thompson and Clark to cover all government agencies, with Commissioner Peter Hughes saying there is evidence of serious staff misconduct at the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Emails from an unnamed SIS staff member to either Gavin Clark or Nick Thompson “raise questions in relation to [unprofessional] conduct and possible bias in favour of Thompson and Clark,” SIS director general Rebecca Kitteridge said in response to an Official Information Act request.

“In light of this correspondence, I have asked for several matters to be looked into… These questions are the subject of an internal investigation,” Ms Kitteridge said.

“I have also asked for our internal processes, policies and guidance to be reviewed to ensure that our engagement with private sector providers is professional, appropriate and even-handed.”

The emails appear to show the SIS staff member helping Thompson and Clark book contracts with government agencies around their Protective Security Requirements – “the policy, protocols and guidelines that help agencies identify what they must do to protect their people, information and assets”.

The emails also show Thompson and Clark secured its contract to develop the Department of Conservation’s Protective Security Requirements after checking in with the SIS staffer.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins, told Checkpoint Thompson and Clark’s relationships with government agencies “certainly looks like it has been inappropriate”.

“The cosiness of the relationship between Thompson and Clark and some parts of the public service is concerning and that is one of the things that the investigation is going to get to the bottom of,” Mr Hipkins said.

It looks like a thorough investigation may be warranted here.

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.

Who cares about illegal snooping?

I saw something on this earlier in the week but have had trouble finding anything on it now. After some digging:

Stuff on Tuesday: SIS criticised by government watchdog over ‘unlawfully accessing’ information

The Security Intelligence Service unlawfully accessed information obtained by border security agencies to keep tabs on people entering the country, the country’s security watchdog says.

While the activity is historic, the domestic spy agency comes under fire from Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn, not just over the way it accessed the material but for dragging its feet in responding to her inquiry.

Gwyn reveals discussions stemming back several years relating to information collected by customs and immigration under the Customs and Excise and Immigration acts.

SIS director general Rebecca Kitteridge says the information related to people entering New Zealand  – information that is critical for the work done by the agency.

She blames the criticisms on out of date legislation that has since been updated to make clear that the information can be accessed.

But Gwyn’s criticism raises questions about what should be done with the information obtained by the SIS during the period in question – up till mid 2016. It covers information collected over a period of several years, presumably relating to people who might pose a risk to national security.

In her annual report, released Tuesday, Gwyn says that information was accessed unlawfully by the SIS.  The SIS does not agree it acted unlawfully, however, Gwyn acknowledged. Her full report will be issued as earlier as this week.

She is highly critical of the agency, blaming the “excessive time frame” to complete her final report in part on the delay getting legal advice, but also the fact it was “difficult” getting a “comprehensive and fully reasoned” response from the agency to her initial findings.

“I found the agency was reluctant to engage with my office on the substantive issues. I also observe that while the Service is entitled to have a different view from me on the lawfulness of given activities, whenever lawfulness is in question it should be proactive in obtaining independent legal advice on the specific point.

“Ultimately in this matter the Service advised me of its final view as to the lawfulness of some of its access to information under the Customs and Excise Act as late as August 2017. On that I have a different view, as set out in the review report. I have not been able to satisfactorily resolve with the Service the residual question whether NZSIS can lawfully treat immigration information collected by it previously as if it had been collected under the Direct Access Agreement with Immigration that is now in place.

“Overall, this is an unsatisfactory position. I reiterate the view I expressed in last year’s annual report – to ensure it operates lawfully, the NZSIS must be able to deal with such issues in a much more timely way. ”

Gwyn is also critical of SIS being reluctant to disclose its own internal legal advice, a  factor that “impeded” her ability to do her work.

DomPost editorial via Stuff:  Watchdog bites the SIS for acting illegally

Gwyn is right to call the spies out on this matter and to alert the public to their unlawful activities and their apparent reluctance to face the music. This suggests that certain old habits persist even after Kitteridge herself took over at SIS.

Just what all this means remains somewhat unclear, although Gwyn says she intends to publish a report on the whole business before the end of the year. That might throw more light on the matter.

None of this would have become public knowledge without the diligent and persistent work of the Inspector-General. In effect she is the public’s only real watchdog over the spies. Parliament’s Intelligence Committee lacks her power; the politicians who act as the ministerial overseers of the services habitually become captive to them and have never told the public anything of use.

Democratic society owes Gwyn a debt of gratitude.

But democratic society in New Zealand doesn’t seem to care much about this.

 

 

 

‘Serious domestic terrorism threat’

It is being reported that ‘a serious domestic terrorism threat’ activated New Zealand’s top security systems at some time in the past two years.

NZ Herald: Terror threat to New Zealand revealed in security handbook

Concrete evidence has emerged that there has been an actual attempt to carry out a terrorist attack on New Zealand soil.

The National Security System is New Zealand’s highest-level response to the most serious threats against our country. It is led by a committee chaired by the Prime Minister and brings together key officials from intelligence services, police, the military and other departments – depending on the threat – to co-ordinate a response.

It is activated in cases where there is a risk to “the security or safety of New Zealanders or people in New Zealand”, our sovereignty, the economy and environment or “the effective functioning of the community”.

The existence of the threat came from the newly released National Security System handbook. It stated the system – which triggers a special set of protocols – had been activated for a “threat of a domestic terrorist incident”.

The Handbook details:

Examples of National Security System activations:

  • Threat of 1080 contamination of infant formula; 
  • Ebola viral disease readiness and possible Ebola case;
  • Neurological complications and birth defects possibly associated with Zika virus; 
  • Threat of a domestic terrorist incident; 
  • TS Rena grounding on Astrolabe Reef 2011; 
  • Darfield Earthquake 2010 and Christchurch Earthquake 2011.

The National Security System can be activated for more than one issue at any one time.

That is the only reference to it in the handbook.

From the Inspector General of intelligence and Security annual report:

During the reporting year, the Director notified me that she had issued an authorisation for urgent surveillance without a warrant under s 4ID(1) of the NZSIS Act. Notification was made immediately, as required by s 4IE(1)(b). The authorisation was the first since the late 2014 enactment of s 4ID, which permits surveillance without warrant for up to 24 hours in cases of urgency.

I am required to investigate such authorisations if the Minister or the Commissioner of Security Warrants directs the surveillance to stop; if the authorisation is not followed by an application for a surveillance warrant; or if an application is made but declined.

In this instance, the Minister and Commissioner did not direct surveillance to stop and, within the 24 hour period, received and granted an application for a surveillance warrant. For that reason, I was not required to carry out a specific investigation but my office did review the authorisation and supporting material as part of our regular review of warrants and authorisations. We provided some comment on how the authorisation could have been framed more clearly, but did not consider there to be any material concern.

The Herald claims:

The urgency of the request showed the need for information trumped the legal process, meaning it could be linked to an imminent domestic terrorist attack.

We are unlikely to find out any details.

No further information on the nature of the threat was forthcoming from Prime Minister John Key and NZ Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which co-ordinates responses, also would not supply details.

A spokesman for Key’s office said: “As the Prime Minister has said, New Zealand is not immune from the threat of terrorism, although the threat to New Zealand remains low.

“Our intelligence agencies play an important role in identifying, monitoring and reacting to any domestic threats in order to keep New Zealanders safe, both at home and abroad.

“The Government has increased their resources to allow them to better carry out their duties as well as increased the level of transparency and oversight to ensure they are doing so appropriately.”

What we do know is that no acts of domestic terrorism have been reported. The risk in New Zealand is relatively low. Perhaps our security systems are doing there job and keeping them at zero, for now at least.

Kitteridge explains ‘Jihadi bride’ comments

Both SIS head Rebecca Kitteridge and Prime Minister John Key have been criticised for scaremongering over ‘Jihadi bride’ claims, when it was revealed that New Zealand women had departed from Australia for the Middle East.

Kitteridge has explained her comments in an interview with NZ Herald – SIS head Rebecca Kitteridge denies scaremongering with Jihadi brides

SIS head Rebecca Kitteridge has denied she was scaremongering or misleading the public about New Zealanders going to the Middle East as so-called ‘jihadi brides’ and says she still believes it is a serious concern for New Zealand’s security.

In an interview with the Herald, Ms Kitteridge said she had spoken about jihadi brides at a select committee last December because they were a genuine security concern and the women were more likely to return to New Zealand than to Australia, even if they had previously lived in Australia.

Ms Kitteridge told the Herald she did not believe she had been misleading. “The information I gave was accurate.”

“In the case of the women who travelled to Syria, I explained they were New Zealand women who had travelled to the Middle East to marry Jihadi fighters. That was my focus, because that is the security issue. The concern for me was the fact we had these citizens in the Middle East who are quite likely, if they survive the experience, to return here.”

She said it was more likely those women would return to New Zealand than Australia because Australia was likely to turn them away. Its anti-terrorism laws allowed it to deny entry and revoke citizenship from foreign fighters and those involved in terrorist groups.

“So if those women survive their experience they will return, probably at some point. It is more likely they will come here than go to Australia even if they were entitled to live in Australia because the Australians are not too keen on having returnees.”

It is not a big threat, but it doesn’t take many involved with Islamic State or Al Qaeda to be a potential threat.

“So I don’t want to overstate it either.” She said it was the job of the SIS to detect and monitor any potential threats and pass it on to Police when needed. “So it remains a real issue for us. Not one I think the public should be worried about on a day to day basis but certainly one that it is our responsibility to continue addressing.”

She said the number of people on the SIS’ active watchlist had not changed since 2014 and remained at 30-40 people. The SIS was usually also pursuing between 60-70 leads passed on by other agencies or the public to assess whether somebody was enough of a threat to be put on the watchlist.

It is a new phenomenon for the head of the SIS to open talk about security matters like this publicly.

I don’t see any problem with what Kitteridge has said.

Perhaps there is more of a problem with the amplification of what she has said by media and politicians trying to make issues out of reasonable comments, to the level of distortion.

It would be interesting to find out why the women left from Australia. Is that because they were already living there? Or is that where women go to find contacts to the Middle East because there are no terrorist links in New Zealand?

Metiria Turei on ‘jihadi brides’

The Nation interviewed Metiria Turei yesterday: Turei: Key misled public over jihadi brides.  She accused John Key of ‘lying by omission’.

The Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the Prime Minister John Key the so-called Kiwi “jihadi brides” left from Australia, not New Zealand, six months before the first claims were made – and failed to correct the record after the story became public.

On 8 December John Key said “in my view no question that have been one or two people that have left and it would appear on all of the factors that we know that they are going as Jihadist brides”.

At the time the news was presented as “Kiwi women are joining the Islamic State to become Jihadi brides”.

Last Month (17 March) it was revealed that while they were New Zealanders travelling on New Zealand passports they had left from Australia.

Key said “whether someone leaves from Australia, from New Zealand, could leave from New Zealand, might leave from New Zealand , in my mind they are all New Zealanders.

I don’t think it has been revealed how long they had been in Australia before leaving for the Middle East.

Key has said he doesn’t think he owes New Zealand Muslim women an apology.

Turei claims that Key ‘lied by omission’ – that could be seen as a lame political accusation, all politicians could be accused of lying by not revealing everything they know. She also said she had new information.

Metiria Turei: So we have found out, the green party has found out that John Key knew in May of last year that no New Zealand women had left New Zealand to go to Iraq or Syria. He had been told that one New Zealand woman from elsewhere, from Australia, had gone, but there was no information about why she had gone, and certainly it was very clear that this New Zealand woman had not left from New Zealand.

He and Chris Finlayson both knew that as a fact, and yet at the Select Committee in later on in the year in November he made it seem to the whole country that there were New Zealand women leaving New Zealand, radicalised to become the wives of Islamic fighters.

It was completely untrue and he knew it in November when he was at that select committee meeting.

Lisa Owen: So just to be clear, you’re saying he spoke at the select committee, and when he gave interviews after the select committee, he’d known for six months that none of the so called Jihadi brides  had actually left from this country.

Metiria Turei: Well that’s right, he allowed New Zealand to think that there were increasing numbers of women in New Zealand being radicalised in New Zealand and leaving to marry Islamic fighters.

He had no information on which to make that assumption, and that is lying by omission.

That is a Prime Minister who is scaremongering, and driving up fear and suspicion, about what is actually a very vulnerable group of  New Zealanders in the current circumstances

Key may be guilty of overstating the situation, and allowing media to overstate the situation uncorrected.

Turei could be overstating her case a tad as well.

Lisa Owen: So you’re saying our Prime Minister lied.

Metiria Turei: Yes. Our Prime Minister lied to the country. He could have clarified at the Select Committee that these were, they may have been New Zealand women but they were leaving from Australia, he could have clarified immediately after the Select Committee when he was asked about it by the media, and he could have clarified it in all the time between November and March this year when he was finally found out that these women weren’t leaving from New Zealand. There is not that radicalisation happening here.

But that’s not certain either.

Lisa Owen: But the thing is, nothing the Prime Minister said was untrue, so tell me why he’s wrong.

Metiria Turei: Well but this is where you get to lying by omission. You know he’s the Prime Minister, he has a responsibility to make sure New Zealanders have accurate information about what is a incredibly serious issue.

The issues of terrorism, of Islamic State, the fear of radicalisation, we see the bombings and things on the news, people are really concerned about this stuff. And rightly so. So he has a responsibility to make sure that we have accurate and transparent information, and he deliberately kept information from New Zealanders in order, in order to drive up fear and suspicion amongst us, amongst our own communities, about each other.

Turei is doing what she has accused Key of doing. She hasn’t proven Key deliberately kept information from us. She hasn’t proven Key has deliberately tried to drive up fear and suspicion.

But Turei appears to be deliberately trying to drive up suspicion about Key’s actions (or inactions) and motives.

They play an interview response from Key two weeks ago:

John Key: There’s nothing to correct. The point is not about where they leave from. The point is are they New Zealanders. If they’re New Zealanders under the New Zealand intelligence law the only salient point is are they New Zealanders.

Back to yesterday:

Lisa Owen: Nothing to correct he says. Your response?

Metiria Turei: He’s absolutely wrong. He allowed New Zealanders to think there were Muslim women in New Zealand being radicalised and leaving here to marry Islamic fighters. He, that was wrong. That information is completely wrong. He should have been clear about that.

I think Turei is taking this too far. It’s fair to question why Key didn’t provide clarification and more details. But it’s a big step from that to say he was “completely wrong”. It was the media and Turei who seem to have got it wrong based on incomplete information.

Lisa Owen: We don’t know where they were radicalised though.

Metiria Turei: We don’t know if they were. We don’t know, even Rebecca Kitteridge, head of the SIS, said she doesn’t, they don’t know why the women from Australia  were leaving to go to Iraq and Syria.

So there’s a lack of detail known, but Turei claims that Key was “completely wrong” and “lying by omission”. He can’t say what he doesn’t know.

Metiria Turei: We do know that there are people who may be going to visit their families for example and then come home.

I think it’s safe to assume very few if any people would want to go to Syria to visit their families at present. “We know that” and “who may be” is meaningless.

Metiria Turei: There’s no evidence, he had no evidence that they were radicalised or going to marry Islamic fighters.

Lisa Owen: But we know that they are New Zealand women.

Metiria Turei: They are women who hold the New Zealand passport. They as far as we know they are domiciled in Australia.

We don’t know that. I don’t think Turei knows that.

Metiria Turei: We don’t know how long they’ve been living in Australia. It could be for years and years. John Key allowed New Zealanders to think there was…

Lisa Owen: It could have been for five minutes. or it could be in transit heading off.

If the SIS wanted to know this it would be easy for them to find out when they last left New Zealand.

Lisa Owen: Do we not have reason to be concerned though, that these are women, New Zealand passports,  heading off to areas where there is this conflict going on?

Metiria Turei: We need to know more information. This is the problem. This is what John Key’s statement does. It creates more questions, and more fear and concern, and then will not provide accurate to address those.

Turei seems to be claiming there is insufficient information known, but that Key is not providing enough information. Information that isn’t known?

Metiria Turei: This is why that select committee, that committee that John Key was on, needs a much broader  representation from Parliamentarians, like the Greens, like other political parties, so we can question and get this information out from Ministers and from the SIS, because everybody deserves to know more and to have more accurate information. John key didn’t provide it.

Information that Turei says the head of the SIS and John Key don’t have. So how would more members on the committee find out more?

It looks like the Greens would love to be on the Security Select Committee. Is that the reason for Turei’s indignation on this? Accusing Key of lying by omission is not going to help her case to be put on the committee.

A committee that is bound by security and secrecy to not reveal everything.

Lisa Owen: Wo wo wo who’s responsibility was it to correct the misinformation though, because you said that Mr Finlayson knew, and of course Rebecca Kitteridge knew, so who’s to blame, should Rebecca Kitteridge have spoken up?

Metiria Turei: She should, ah she may well have been blind sided at that Select Committee, and John Key certainly threw her under a bus when he told you actually that she was the first person to raise Jihadi brides. He lied about that as well.

It was Kitteridge who was being questioned by the Select Committee, not Key.

Metiria Turei:But John Key knew, Rebecca Kitteridge knew, and Chris Finlayson all knew that these women were not leaving from New Zealand, and at any time they could have told us and they did not. We had to go and, radio New Zealand had to go and find that information, the Greens have been going out to find that information, accurate information for new Zealanders.

But the main issue, still, is that there is very limited information publicly known.

Lisa Owen:But aren’t the spy agencies being more open than ever with us now?

Metiria Turei: Well no, actually no they’re not.

I think she’s wrong on that. We can argue about whether they tell us enough or not, but there’s certainly more openness now than ever before.

Metiria Turei:You know I have reports of SIS agents going to people’s homes and telling them that they are being watched, frightening people. I’m investigating that now because I think that’s very serious. Communities, all our communities in New Zealand need to feel safe. Safe because we are getting accurate information.

Making information about who the SIS are watching public won’t help people feel safe.

Does Turei not want the SIS to watch or investigate anyone? That’s what they are supposed to do, within reason and within the law, to help keep us safe.

Metiria Turei: Safe because we are getting accurate information. Safe because the agencies are doing a proper job. Safe because there’s a place to go if we have concerns. At the moment John Key is driving up fear and suspicion, and that makes it unsafe for everyone.

Except that key hasn’t kept bringing this issue up. Turei is promoting a fear and suspicion about ‘fear and suspicions’.

I think that most people in New Zealand don’t care much about what is happening in Syria and Iraq as long as it stays in Syria and Iraq.

Most New Zealanders probably don’t care whether a very small number of people leave from Australia on New Zealand passports headed for Syria or Iraq.

It looks to me like Turei is too busy promoting her own political agenda and is failing to ask important questions. One could say she is failing by omission.

If it’s known that women are leaving Australia on New Zealand passports for Syria or Iraq then I hope that our SIS is capable of finding out when those women were last in New Zealand.

It’s also worth considering whether it’s in the public interest in knowing what the SIS is doing, who they are watching and what the inter-country movements of people they are watching are.

Should we be given snippets of information, like the New Zealand women travelling to Syria and Iraq?

Should we be given no information and hope that our Security Intelligence Service is doing what it can, responsibly, to keep us safe?

Should the Greens have an MP on the Security and Intelligence Committee?

I think they are much more important questions than quibbling about whether Key omitted to reveal information when one of the complaints is that insufficient information is known.

Serious Jihadi bride concerns

Serious concerns have justifiably been raised over John Key’s ‘jihadi bride’ claims alongside SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge’s comments late last year.

From Below the beltway: The week in politics:

During an Intelligence and Security Committee session, SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge​ spoke of radicalised “Jihadi brides” lured from New Zealand. The claim was repeated by John Key. Only it was not exactly true. Reports this week revealed that no so-called “Jihadi brides” left from New Zealand. Details, who needs them? Many think the local Muslim community is owed an apology.

I think all of us are owed an apology, plus an assurance this sort of (at best) misleading won’t happen again.

Today’s Dominion Post editorial: The public were misled by the fiction about Kiwi jihadi brides:

The jihadi brides affair is extremely damaging for the Government. It raises serious questions about the accuracy of claims made by John Key, SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge and Security Intelligence Minister Chris Finlayson.

Kitteridge told MPs in December that there had been a rise in the number of New Zealand women travelling to Syria and Iraq. Key referred to them as “jihadi brides”.

This clearly left the impression that the women were leaving from this country. Now it has become clear that they left from Australia.

But Key and Kitteridge did nothing to correct the false impression they left. It is nonsense to say, as Finlayson does, that the women’s point of departure is “irrelevant”.

In this case Kitteridge is hoist by her own petard. She has championed accountability – but failed to set the record straight on a serious issue of national security.

The matter is so serious, in fact, that the new Inspector-General, Cheryl Gwyn, should  investigate.

Chris Finlayson, finally, has shown he is not fit to be an intelligence minister. He says what matters is that the jihadi brides are New Zealanders and they might return to this country. It certainly matters that they might come back here.

But misleading the public about where they come from matters just as much.

If we are going to be able to trust our security and intelligence services then we have to be assured that we can believe what they and their associated politicians say on matters of security.

Public confidence in the spy services has been badly shaken by the scandals and shambles of the last few years. Finlayson’s arrogance compounds the problem, rather than solving it.

He shows politicians will use misleading and inflammatory language about security and then refuse to do anything when caught out. This affair comes just as the Government is about to take up Sir Michael Cullen’s recommendations giving great new powers to the spies.

Why should we trust those new powers to the likes of Key, Kitteridge and Finlayson?

With what has happened over the jihadi brides we shouldn’t trust them. They have to repair the damage and earn our trust, but instead this week they made things worse.

Key said he wanted Labour to join the Government in improving our security and intelligence services.

He must also get on the right side of us, the public. He has failed to do so. That’s a serious problem that needs to be rectified.

Stuff:  ‘It doesn’t matter where they leave from’ Jihadi brides were still New Zealanders – Government

Minister responsible for the SIS and GCSB Christopher Finlayson said the departure point of the women was irrelevant.

Asked if he thought the comments were misleading he said he would not go through it again, “otherwise I’ll just die of boredom”.

Finlayson said he would meet with “anyone, anytime” to allay fears.

“Because I’m very cognisant of the fact that they were all a bit nervy after the legislative review, in 2013.”

Apologies had to be reserved for justifiable situations, he said.

“You just don’t go around handing out apologies willy nilly.

“I regret nothing, because I think what I read is that people haven’t got their facts right, and have decided to fixate on where these people left from, rather than on the critical issue of were they New Zealand citizens.”

That sounds more like an irresponsible Minister for the SIS and GCSB to me. Very poor from Finlayson.

SIS and GCSB annual reviews

Newstalk ZB’s political editor Felix Marwick  has audios of the annual reviews of the SIS and GCSB directors.

For those interested – full audio of SIS Director Rebecca Kitteridge at today’s annual review hearing (27 minutes)

More pressure against mass data collection

The New Zealand public was assured that no mas collection of communications was done by the GCSB. This didn’t stop speculation and claims that mass collection was being done, in large part due to the revelation that Five Eyes partner the USA carried out mass collection.

It was believed by some that this data was then available to our GCSB, despite assurances only specifically targeted people were investigated under legal warrants.

This has changed now, as NZ Herald reports in NZ to face pressure over mass collection of telephone data.

A decision to stop the mass collection of Americans’ telephone data will put pressure on New Zealand intelligence agencies to stop any similar programmes operating here.

Last week the US House of Representatives voted to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records through the USA Freedom Act, which was already backed by the White House.

The bill, which only affects people within the US, would empower the agency to search data held by telephone companies on a case-by-case basis.

It was re-confirmed that mass collection didn’t happen here.

Rebecca Kitteridge, director of the Security Intelligence Service, yesterday told the same conference that mass surveillance did not take place.

“We do not live in a surveillance state where everything you do online is reported – at least not by the Government. So, please enjoy the freedom that the internet gives you – you are free to click on whatever you want on your device, and you won’t pop up on our system.

“Typically we get our leads through our interaction with the public, and information provided to us by other agencies.”

In a speech Peter Dunne says the US change will put pressure on the Security and Intelligence review that starts this year,

In a speech to a privacy and identity conference in Wellington, Mr Dunne said it was crucial that there were robust systems in place to protect the privacy of personal information from a “coercive or prying” state.

“Last week, the United States House of Representatives voted to stop the mass collection of Americans’ telephone data by the National Security Agency.

“I suspect New Zealanders would have a similar view about their telephone records, and that there will now be pressures on our intelligence agencies to stop any mass data collection programmes they have underway, especially if it is being made available on an indiscriminate basis to other countries.”

Asked after his speech if he believed mass collection programmes were operating here, Mr Dunne told the Herald that the recent US action raised questions that should be addressed in an upcoming review of our intelligence agencies.

“I think in context of the intelligence services review, that American decision becomes pretty relevant. If it is illegal in the United States to gather that data…then, you have to say, if it is being gathered in New Zealand – and that’s an open question – and provided, you can’t have it both ways,” Mr Dunne said.

“You can’t say it’s illegal here [in the US] to provide this data about our people, but it’s not illegal for you [New Zealand] to provide data about your people to us. I think that is the question I am raising, and I think that’s something the review needs to consider.”

The review:

Next month a wide-ranging review headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy will examine both the SIS and GCSB.

The first regular review of the agencies, it will examine the legislative framework governing them, and consider how they are placed to protect New Zealand’s interests and security.

It would be good – and essential – to clarify the issue of how partner countries could assist with data gathering. As far as I’m aware it would still have to comply with our laws and only be done under warrant in specific circumstances.