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SIS focuses on spies, terrorists and weapons

9 December 2000

Matthew Brockett

The Dominion. The Security Intelligence Service has investigated links between people in New Zealand and the development of weapons of mass destruction overseas, a report tabled in Parliament yesterday says.

The report also says the SIS has investigated contacts between New Zealand residents and groups overseas that are implicated in terrorist activities. But the revelations do not stop there.

In the most explicit annual report ever presented by the SIS, director Richard Woods says that in the year to June 30, the service investigated issues including:

  • People working for foreign intelligence services undeclared to the Government.
  • Foreign governments using informants against New Zealand residents and citizens.
  • Approaches made to New Zealanders by representatives of foreign intelligence services.
  • Links in New Zealand to programmes relating to the development of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Contacts between New Zealand residents and groups overseas that were implicated in terrorist activities.
  • The provision of financial support from New Zealand for organisations that undertake terrorist acts overseas.
  • Threats to use violence in support of a political cause.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is also the minister responsible for the SIS, said the report was not exaggerated or far-fetched.

"We've got a new broom at the SIS. We've got a new director, we've got a new minister, and the intention is to be more transparent and open about what the service actually does in a post-Cold War world," she said.

"There are still some people around who think that just because the Russkies and the West are no longer at each others' throats there's no issues. Well there are quite a lot of issues.

"None of it's far-fetched."

Miss Clark agreed that it was of concern that people in New Zealand had been linked to nuclear weapon development and terrorism. New Zealanders had nothing to fear from the SIS, she said.

The report says work done in relation to meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in New Zealand last year had revealed "new threats to security". It does not elaborate.

During the year, the SIS also began work, in support of other agencies, against two new areas - illegal immigration and money laundering  where there was "a threat to New Zealand's international and economic wellbeing".

"The service worked with border agencies and immigration officials to monitor movements in and out of New Zealand by people . . . presenting a potential terrorist threat," the report says.

Intelligence had confirmed there were networks in New Zealand, with support from local communities, to help illegal immigration, which was a "significant drain on the New Zealand economy and a potential threat to national security".

Aziz Choudry, a free-trade critic whose home was illegally broken into by SIS agents four years ago, said the report provided little clarity about the role of the SIS and its activities in New Zealand.

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