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Action Alert - SIS - Submissions due!

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 29 April 1999

SIS Amendment Bill 2 - submissions due soon !

Kia ora, this alert will be sent in two parts :

a) some comments on the SIS Amendment Bill 2 (AB2) and details of where to send your submissions - note the deadline is 7 MAY 1999;

b) the emailable version of AB2.

AB2 - more security or less ?

There has been some publicity given to the AB2, which the government says incorporates changes made by those giving submissions on the SIS Amendment Bill 1 which has recently passed into law. However, AB2 appears to be comprised of cosmetic changes only, the key point made by many submissions - that the Security Intelligence Service should be open to public scrutiny - has been entirely ignored.

The major changes in AB2 relate to:

i) definition of security - security has been redefined as follows :

  • (2) Section 2 of the principal Act is amended by repealing the definitions of the terms "interception warrant" and "security", and substituting, in their appropriate alphabetical order, the following definitions: " 'Interception warrant' means a domestic interception warrant or a foreign interception warrant: " Security' means (a) The protection of New Zealand from acts of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and subversion, whether or not they are directed from or intended to be committed within New Zealand: (b)The identification of foreign, or foreign-influenced, capabilities, intentions, or activities within or relating to New Zealand that impact on New Zealand's international well-being or economic well-being:.”
This, supporters of AB2 claim, tightens up the definition of ‘security’ - however, part (a) retains ‘subversion’, surely a loose term which can be taken to mean whatever the SIS wants it to mean; as is the bit in part (b) ... ‘foreign-influenced, capabilities, intentions’. What exactly is a foreign-influenced intention ?

This section then goes on to say ...

  • (3) Section 2 of the principal Act is amended by adding, as subsection (2), the following section: "(2) Nothing in this Act limits the right of persons to engage in lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent in respect of any matter, and, accordingly, the exercise of that right does not, of itself, justify the Security Intelligence Service in instituting surveillance of any person or entity or any class of person or entity within New Zealand."”
While this is very noble in intention, the fact remains that without public scrutiny, there is no guarantee that the SIS will in fact act within this limitation. Given the illegal break-in by SIS agents in 1996 in Aziz Choudry’s home, and their persistent refusal to hand over the documents relating to the break-in, there is some doubt about their commitment to acting within the law.

Linked to this is the fact that the complaints procedure for looking into dodgy SIS practices proved worthless in the case of that break-in. Following an investigation of the complaint, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security made the statement that "the actions and procedures which affected the complainants directly or indirectly were lawful, reasonable and justified." A statement the court quite clearly disagreed with when ruling the break-in was illegal.

As the January 1999 Democratic Rights Defence Fund leaflet says ... In light of the contempt the SIS has shown for the law and the failure of the complaint procedures, the SIS should not be given extra powers but should be made more accountable.”

ii) differentiating between foreign and domestic interception warrants

As you may recall, the big problem with the SIS Amendment Bill 1 was the legalised right of home invasion by the SIS - for more information on that, see the “Do you want the SIS in your home ?’ alert (January 1999, stored on our website). AB2 still legalises home invasion but it has been superficially amended as follows. There will now be foreign interception warrants and domestic interception warrants, the former to be issued with the sole authorisation of the Prime Minister; the second to be signed jointly by the Prime Minister and a new Commissioner of Security Warrants (CSW) who will be a retired High Court judge. The functions, appointment etc of the CSW are outlined in AB2.

The problem with this of course, relates again to public scrutiny, as the CSW and Prime Minister can only act on information as provided by the SIS, there is no guarantee that the SIS will not manipulate the information provided to ensure the outcome they want - ie the issuing of a warrant.

Further, the addition of the signature of the CSW does not alter the fact that the new right of the SIS or agents acting for them to enter homes and/or offices and the homes and/or offices of friends, workmates, acquaintances etc of suspects and to remove ‘things’ (yes folks, that’s really what it says in the Bill) remains. Furthermore, having broken in once to seize ‘things’ and/or plant a ‘device’, AB2 seems to authorise further break-ins after an interception warrant has expired to remove the ‘device’.

The person/s who can carry out the break-ins, seize ‘things’ and install or remove ‘devices’ are not themselves specified in the Bill, although they do have to be specified in the warrant. However, the warrant may also request the assistance of “one or more persons or class of persons” ! Professional burglars ?

iii) free of political interference

There is a sub- section in AB2 which reads as follows :

  • 3. Political neutrality of New Zealand Security Intelligence Service- (1) The principal Act is amended by inserting, after section 4, the following section: "4AA. (1) The Director must take all reasonable steps to ensure that-

    "(a)The activities of the Security Intelligence Service are limited to those that are necessary for the discharge of its functions:

    "(b)The Security Intelligence Service is kept free from any influence or consideration that is not relevant to its functions:

    "(c)The Security Intelligence Service does not take any action for the purpose of furthering the interests of any political party.

    "(2) The Minister may not direct the Security Intelligence Service to institute the surveillance of any person or entity or any class of person or entity within New Zealand.

    "(3) The Director must consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of keeping him or her informed about matters relating to security.

    "(4) Subsection (2) prevails over section 4 (1)." (2) Section 4 of the principal Act is consequentially amended by repealing subsections (2) and (3), and substituting the following subsection: "(2) It is not a function of the Security Intelligence Service to enforce measures for security."”

This, like the sub-section mentioned earlier relating to the rights of people to protest express dissent etc, is very laudatory - but again the underlying problem of public scrutiny of the activities of the SIS remains. Who will ensure they remain politically neutral ? How will we know ?

Finally, there are various other changes in AB2. Click here for the full text of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Amendment Bill No. 2 - brace yourself as it is not light reading, then get your submission in !

Send your submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee - state on it whether or not you wish to make an oral submission to the committee (at this stage the Prime Minister's office is again saying that oral submissions will probably only be heard in Wellington, but if enough of you ask for them elsewhere then perhaps you will get your wish granted !).

Your submission should be sent to Margot Christeller, Intelligence and Security Committee, 5th Floor, Reserve Bank Building, Wellington or fax 04 473 2789 to reach her by 7 MAY 1999 at the latest. You are to send 25 copies of your submission if possible. If you have any enquiries about making your submission, you can telephone her on 04 471 9638.

Many thanks to David S and Christine G for assistance with this alert; any errors are not theirs.

Click here for the full text of New Zealand Security Intelligence Amendment Bill No. 2

Click here for further information on the SIS Bill.

Link to the main page on the SIS and spies.

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