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Government Spy Agency Watchdog "complete waste of time and taxpayers' money" : Complainants call for abolition or radical overhaul
13 June 2000
David Small and Aziz Choudry
On the third anniversary of the first report into complaints against the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) investigated by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the people who lodged the complaints have called for the office to be abolished or radically overhauled.
Aziz Choudry and David Small say that the office of Inspector-General as it is currently constituted provides no real oversight or accountability and is a complete waste of the public's time and the taxpayers' money.
"If they want a rubber stamp, there are much cheaper ways of getting them," they said. To demonstrate their point they have sent the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition a copy of page 955 of the Christchurch Yellow Pages - the rubber stamp section.
In June 1997, without confirming SIS involvement in the bungled break-in at Mr Choudry's home, the Inspector-General, retired High Court judge Laurie Greig, found it to be "lawful, reasonable and justified". He added that it was "not unreasonable" for the Police to search Dr Small's home the following week. Both actions were subsequently found by the courts to be illegal after Mr Choudry and Dr Small took private law suits against the SIS and the Police.
Another aspect of their complaint - that SIS agents may have planted the hoax "APEC bomb" outside the Christchurch City Council offices - was also not properly investigated by the Inspector-General, who simply took the word of the Director of the SIS on the matter.
"The office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has proved woefully inadequate", said Mr Choudry and Dr Small.
"Frankly many in the media have played a far more effective, independent and responsible role in the scrutiny and oversight of New Zealand intelligence agencies than any statutory body."
"At the very least there must be reliable, politically independent and effective mechanisms of oversight and accountability. An ineffective watchdog is arguably worse than no watchdog at all."
Mr Choudry and Dr Small claim that they were encouraged by Helen Clark (then Leader of the Opposition) to lay complaints with the Inspector-General and given an informal assurance at the time that, if the complaints process proved wanting, Labour would revisit the adequacy of the oversight mechanisms.
"The Inspector-General got it completely wrong", they say, "and now it is time to do something about it."
For further comment contact David Small at (03)3373353 or (025) 208 4160 or Aziz Choudry (03) 3662803.
David Small and Aziz Choudry, PO Box 1905, Christchurch.