Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
The Security Intelligence Service is a civilian organisation, and takes no part in the enforcement of security (although it has limited powers to intercept communications and search residences). Its role is intended to be advisory, providing the government with information on threats to national security or national interests. It also advises other government agencies about their own internal security measures, and is responsible for performing checks on government employees who require security clearance. The SIS is responsible for most of the government's counter-intelligence work.
The SIS's stated aims are to:
- "Protect and promote New Zealand's defence, foreign policy, and national economic interests."
- "Protect New Zealanders and their property."
- "Detect and prevent serious overseas-based crime which could affect this country."
- "Protect against threats from terrorism and espionage."
The SIS is based in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. It also has branches in Auckland and Christchurch. It has between 110 and 140 permanent staff, somewhat less than the Government Communications Security Bureau (New Zealand's other significant intelligence agency). Its budget (around 16 million New Zealand dollars) is also below that of the GCSB.
The SIS has substantial connections with foreign intelligence organisations, particularly in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The SIS may be linked to the ECHELON network (which New Zealand acknowledges participation in), although the Government Communications Security Bureau is more likely to perform that type of work. The SIS's links to foreign intelligence agencies is often controversial in New Zealand.
The SIS is headed by the Director of Security, and is watched over by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Intelligence and Security Committee. The SIS itself reports to a Cabinet minister with responsibility for intelligence (traditionally the Prime Minister).
The SIS was established in 1956. An Act of Parliament covering it, the Secuity Intelligence Act, was passed in 1969. Various amendments have since been made to the Secutity Intelligence Act — the most controversial was probably Robert Muldoon's 1977 amendment, which expanded the SIS's powers of monitoring considerably. The 1977 amendment saw sizable protests outside Parliament.
NZSIS is probably has the least political and judicial oversight of all the UK-USA Echelon members. Many claim that extensive political and judical oversight are necessary to keep agencies on task, and to not waste limited intelligence gathering resources. Also, unlike the Canadian Secuity Intelligence Service, NZSIS does not make available telephone numbers to allow frontline NZSIS staff to be contacted. Considering that anti-terrorism is part and parcel of NZSIS's charter, this is considered by some to be a significant security gap.
The SIS has been involved in a number of public incidents and controversies since its creation in 1956.
- In 1974, the SIS was the source of information that led to the arrest of Bill Sutch, an economist, on charges of spying for the Soviet Union. Sutch was acquitted, and the SIS was criticised for having accused him in the first place.
- In 1981, the SIS was criticised for drawing up a list of 20 "subversives" who participated in protests against the 1981 Springbok Tour, a visit by South Africa's apartheid rugby team. That singling out of individuals as "subversives" was deemed by many to be a violation of the right to protest government decisions.
- Also in 1981, an SIS operative inadvertently left a briefcase containing sandwiches, Listener magazine and a diary on a journalist's fence in Wellington. The briefcase was commonly but mistakenly described as containing a Penthouse magazine and pie.
- In 1985, the SIS failed to detect the French operation in which DGSE operatives bombed the Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, killing a photographer. This was the most significant case of espionage or terrorism in New Zealand.
- In 1996, Aziz Choudry, an anti-globalization protester, discovered two SIS agents breaking into his home, prompting charges that the SIS had violated his rights. Aziz eventually won his case, being paid damages and receiving an apology.
- In 2002, the SIS reported that Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian seeking asylum in New Zealand, was a security risk and recommended his deportation. However, this recommendation was challenged. The SIS issued a security risk certificate pursuant to section 114 of the Immigration Act 1987 and Zaoui was detained in a penal institution under a warrant of commitment. The SIS refused to release some highly classified information which it used to determine Zaoui's status as a security risk. Comments made by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, who monitors the SIS, were considered by some to be openly biased against Zaoui. As a result of the resulting controversy, the Inspector General, Laurie Grieg, resigned in March 2004. Former Solicitor General, Paul Neazor, was appointed to replace Grieg. Zaoui's case is ongoing.
- In 2004, allegations surfaced that the SIS was spying on Maori individuals and organisations, including those associated with the new Maori Party, for political purposes under the codename "Operation Leaf." A government inquiry led by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security later rejected these claims in April 2005, however. As a result, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark said the allegations were a hoax and asked the Sunday Star Times newspaper that printed them to apologise to their readers, for which they later did.
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