The rot at the top (2).

Thanks to a report from the Acting Inspector General of Intelligence and Security following a complaint by Nicky Hager, we have come to find out that the SIS illegally spied on Mr. Hager on behalf of the NZDF after publication of Hager’s 2011 book, Other People’s Wars. The NZDF justified its request by arguing that it was investigating potential espionage, although it turns out that it was actually looking for the NZDF source of leaks to Mr. Hager. This occurred when John Key was the Minister of Intelligence and Security, Warren Tucker was SIS Director and LTG Rhys Jones was Chief of the NZDF . Did the SIS and NZDF go rogue or were these individuals aware of the spying?

It seems hard to believe that none of these people were unaware of what their subordinates were doing. The NZDF request might have been accepted as a tasking under the partner agency agreement whereby the SIS assists other government agencies when and where needed. But for this to happen the Commissioner of Warrants or the Minister of Intelligence and Security would have to have approved the request. So the question is: did this happen? Was the request, while done through proper channels, truthful in its justification or was the warrant signed under false pretences? Or, did the NZDF and SIS agree to monitor Mr. Hager’s phone records without authorisation from above? If so, who authorised that action? Mr. Tucker and LTG Jones? Some mid level managers in the NZDF and SIS?

It should be noted that this unlawful spying occurred before the Police illegally searched Mr. Hager’s home and accessed his bank and phone records after the publication of his 2014 book, Dirty Politics. Here too we have the question of who, exactly, authorised the intrusion: the Minister of Police? The Police Commissioner? Someone below that rank? A friendly Justice of the Peace? Was the illegal Police access–again, supposedly to find the hacker called Rawshark who leaked to Hager a rightwing attack blogger’s emails and social media communications–a follow up or in any way connected to the previous NZDF/SIS investigation? After all, security agencies share information even after investigations are concluded or cases closed, so it is not inconceivable that the SIS file on Hager was forwarded to the Police once they opened their investigation into Rawshark’s identity. Ironically, the Police ended up with the same result as did the SIS when looking for Hager’s sources: nothing.

After the Acting IGIS issued her report, the Director General of Security (head of the SIS), Rebecca Kitteridge, issued an apology to Mr. Hager, seven years after the fact. But apologies are not enough. Punitive sanction must be meted, however retroactively, on those who ordered the spying in both the NZDF and SIS as well as those in cabinet who may have been aware of it. Will that ever happen? It is for the current Labor-led government to decide, which means that it needs to seriously think about yet another official Inquiry.

This may seem tedious and burdensome on the taxpayer, but it is now pretty clear that there is a systematic pattern of abuse of authority in the NZ security community. In the last ten years the Police, GCSB, NZDF and SIS have all been found to have committed unlawful acts against NZ citizens and residents. Little to nothing has been done to address, much less correct these institutional excesses, so the opportunity is ripe for a calling to account from those involved. Once the inquiries into Operation Burnham and Christchurch terrorist attacks are finalised and their reports submitted, that can be used as a starting point for a fuller inquiry into what I have previously labeled the “culture of impunity” that pervades the repressive apparatus of the NZ State.

As things stand and unless an investigation is launched into the mechanics of these unlawful and illegal acts, those who ordered the spying are likely to go unpunished. The maximum penalty for the SIS breaking the law is a $5000 fine for the agency, not any individuals employed in it. Key, Jones and Tucker are all retired and unlikely to receive any a posteriori punishment. So unless there is an investigation and subsequent law changes that hold people strongly (and retroactively) accountable for ordering or facilitating illegal acts committed by security agencies, impunity will endure and the institutional foundations of NZ democracy continue to be corroded from within.

11 thoughts on “The rot at the top (2).

  1. Would it take a full inquiry to find these things out? Any authorisations should have been recorded, it sounds like an afternoon’s work. Admittedly getting any such information out of the hands of the NZDF or the SIS would require powers of some sort.

  2. Pablo do you, in your role as “civilian” oversight for the SIS, have any ability to compel the SIS to give answers to these questions?

  3. Görkem:

    Here’s what you can bet on – the deep-state will do it for money – the deep-state (and before anyone goes all hand wavy about deep-state conspiracies, what I mean by deep-state is the protected class of corrupt officials mentioned in the above essay) so they won’t do it to keep kiwis safe, they won’t do it to observe laws, they won’t do it to be socially responsible. That’s not the deep-states job. There job is to make money for themselves and there friends and if they don’t they lose there job.

    We have allowed a system to develop that produces crises over multiple governments that allow these illegal and immoral activities by the deep-state over, and over, and over again. The last ten years we have seen significant changes to spy laws that retroactively okay illegal and corrupt practices from Hellen Clarks false claims of Tuhoe Terrorists, sexual abuse cover ups, spying on New Zealand citizens, receiving fines and demotions. It never stops. The deep-state does with New Zealand law what is profitable for them and we all live with the costly social consequences.

    The system is the problem. Punishing this or that middle manager (which is likely what will happen) it changes nothing because the middle manger will be fired or what ever and replaced by another manager, MP who will have the same objectives and the same gaols and the same rewards or punishments as the ones we are punishing. The system is the problem, not the individual who occupies the position with in it. But don’t get me wrong max fines for every criminal offender.

  4. @Sam: Are you Pablo? If not then please don’t answer my question that was specifically directed by name to Pablo.

    @Pablo: Damn, that sucks :-(

  5. Gorkem:

    Okay. Good talk pal.

    Y’know either we take our own war crimes seriously or we don’t take war crimes seriously at all. If it turns out that former high ranking officials (one being a former prime minister) is unwilling to appear before a court to face the music then I would presume that that would be kicked up to The Hague.

  6. Succinct, informative writing Pablo. Is there any group in this accountability dodging sector that is still to apologise to Mr Hager one wonders. Nicky has done his job very well, inclusive of protecting his sources! unlike much of the media, and yet is pilloried by authority loving NZers who do not want to think about these issues.

    The wider view on the NZ old chums deep state will likely and unfortunately go unaddressed again for now. The best meaning of PMs and Ministers seem easily captured, and succumb to the ego massage from our own “Smileys People”–formerly known as “Pie and Penthouse and lost guns brigade”…albeit with their increased budgets and powers these days.

    I digress here, but NZSIS Director Tucker had a brief period of ‘openness’ during his tenure and a number of activists applied for their files held on by the SIS. It was interesting, some of those connected with the old CPNZ got quite a bit between the black marker lines, and those with the SUP zilch. Tucker quoted the 1969 NZSIS Act about protecting living personal, so there must be some interesting snitches floating around out there.

  7. TM:

    That evil troika of Tucker (who ran the GCSB during the time Dotcom was illegally spied on, even though he supposedly was on vacation when the order was given and was immediately transferred to the SIS Directorship once s**t hit the fan), Jones and Key truly was a disgrace in the early 2010s. Remember that Tucker was funnelling information to Jason Eade in Key’s DPMC office, who then supplied it to the disgraced rightwing attack blogger exposed in Dirty Politics (whose name I will not mention). Jones conspired with Gerry Mateparae to cover up the Operation Burnham collateral damage problem, which is now being exposed by the Royal Commission of Inquiry. And the smiling assassin presided over all of this with a wink and a nod. The fact that they all skated rather than be held to account–with knighthoods no less for two of them!–is proof that the rot is pervasive.

  8. I wonder where the former GCSB director, Ian Fletcher fitted into the picture. He resigned suddenly late in 2014 citing “family reasons” – a well known ploy by those at or near the top of the tree who fear something has the potential to blow up in their faces.

  9. The GCSB, like the SIS is supposed to be guided by Ministerial Policy statements, for its ‘what, when, how’ it does its work.
    Is there any records of the Policy Statements done under Keys watch and the changes made by different ministers since then?

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