Joe Hendren

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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Is the SIS Monitoring the Maori Party?

Scoop reports 'intelligence sources' say that the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) is investigating key figures within the Maori Party'.
Intelligence sources have revealed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has launched a major covert operation investigating the Maori Party, co-leader Tariana Turia, its members, networks and associates.

Intelligence information came to light on Monday November 1st amidst speculation that political fallout from an inquiry into John Tamihere’s taxation affairs could have resulted in his resignation not only from Cabinet but also from Parliament. The later event would have forced a by-election in his Tamaki Makaurau seat.

This scenario [of the Maori party holding the balance of power] has caused intelligence officials to consider what the potential consequences of a centrist Maori political force would have on the internal security of New Zealand.
In response to Scoop's claims a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister Helen Clark said: "Any rational reading of s 4AA of the NZ Security Intelligence Service Act would confirm how laughable this is."

4AA. Political neutrality of New Zealand Security Intelligence Service—

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 relevant to 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 or harming 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)

While I have no further reason to believe whether the claims are true or not, I don't think Tariana Turia should be so quick to believe such assurances given the history of such operations. Even if the claims are not true, I am afraid I do not find the reassurances very reassuring.

It is well known that the NZ SIS have targeted legitimate NZ political activists, notably those involved in the peace movement, anti-globalisation actions and especially Maori nationalists.
While the SIS cannot offically target political parties, they have shown an uncanny interest in the advocacy of certain policies that most would regard as acceptable in a democracy, even if such ideas are a threat to conservative notions of economic and social orthodoxy. The botched break in of anti-APEC activist Aziz Choudry's Christchurch home in 1996 by SIS agents show that our security services do act against New Zealanders.

Aziz won his first legal battle for damages in the Christchurch High Court, only to have the Crown appeal. He eventually won an out of court settlement and a Government apology, after the Court of Appeal by a four to one majority decision to accept a certificate issued by Jenny Shipley that prevented judges from viewing documents essential to the trial, and said I-did-not-have-dinner-with-Kevin-Roberts Shipley should be trusted. The dissenting judge, Justice Roberts, was scathing of the decision, quite rightly alarmed that this ruling effectively denied Choudry access to the courts.

Rather than being reassuring, the above snippit of law highlights how little democratic or judical scrutiny there is of our SIS.
“It should not be overlooked that the Service is a covert intelligence agency. It is by definition not an open organisation accustomed to outside scrutiny. It will not welcome that scrutiny. Its officers are by virtue of their occupation practised in the art of deception. The Service, as with any covert intelligence agency, will strive under the cloak of secrecy to protect this country from perceived subversive interests and hostile forces. There is no reason to suspect that its officers will not believe, perhaps passionately, in the importance of their task or that they will be anything other than assiduous in carrying it out. Once it is accepted that the trust necessary to accept the certificate on its face is in reality a trust reposed in or embracing the covert intelligence agency itself, the manifestation of such abiding judicial trust seems strangely out of place. (Justice Thomas's minority opinion in Aziz Choudry case, July 1999).
Murray Horton speculates why the SIS may have wanted to break into Aziz house.
Of course, the case ends with none of us (including Aziz) any the wiser about why the SIS was breaking into his house. That is why the Government settled the case and paid up - to keep the SIS operation shrouded in secrecy. There has been public speculation that the break-in was aimed not at him but at his 1996 Mexican guest, Dr Alejandro Villamar, a speaker at the counter-APEC conference. Other speculation is that it was aimed at Maori activists Mike Smith* and Annette Sykes*, who were also at the conference. But we’ll never know, not officially anyway.
*Both I believe have been linked to the Maori party.

Additionally, there is an another obvious way for a Government to get around the legal restrictions governing the SIS, and that is, to use the security services of another country to report on your own citizens. There is the famous case where Margaret Thatcher roped in the Canadian security services to spy on two of her dissenting ministers she did not trust, thereby achieving her political aims by manovering around British laws that are similar to those govening the NZ SIS.

Edit: NZ Herald story where prominant Maori activists say they would not be surprised if the claims were true as they had been targets of the SIS in the past.

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At 12:26 AM, Blogger Joe Hendren said...



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