A Second Look At The IG Of Intelligence & Security
New Zealand's First Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Laurie Greig
A man very much in the news this week has been New Zealand's first Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (the Inspector-General) Laurie Greig. As of 5pm last night the Inspector-General is now the former Inspector-General, having succeeded in getting himself disqualified for apparent bias whilst reviewing the case of detained refugee Ahmed Zaoui.
The Creation of the Inspector-General
The position of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was established by the 1996 Intelligence and Securities Agency Bill. The bill’s stated aim was to ‘enhance oversight of the intelligence and security agencies’.
The office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (Inspector General) was created so that New Zealanders who considered they had been adversely affected by various intelligence and security agencies could have somewhere to take their concerns.
The Inspector-General replaced the Commissioner for Security Appeals established under the New Zealand Security Intelligence Services Act 1969. The nominee for the Inspector-General must be a retired High Court Judge, and the Leader of the Opposition must be included in the selection process.
The Current Inspector-General
Retired High Court Judge Laurence Greig was appointed Inspector-General December 1 1996. At the time Justice Greig was 67. Until 5pm last night Justice Greig was in his third term as Inspector-General aged 75.
It was not until Justice Greig tabled his fourth annual report that he upheld a complaint against any of the intelligence services. The complaint related to the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) recommending a man not be given access to confidential information due to minor convictions. After upholding the complaint Justice Greig reviewed the way the SIS conducted it’s 4000-odd annual checks and was “favourably impressed”.
Former investigations by the Inspector-General where complaints were not upheld, included the 1996 SIS break-in of Aziz Choudry, and a complaint from Matt Robson MP regarding the ‘Social Welfare Department using the Security Intelligence service to sweep for bugs.’ The Court of Appeal later found the actions of the SIS in relation to the Choudry case to be illegal.
An inquiry into the Department of Social Welfare and the SIS
In an early report dealing with Christine Rankin and Dame Margaret Bazley’s (under a Jim Bolger Govt.) handling of an ‘internal security matter' the Inspector-General managed to incur the ire of the complainants, Matt Robson and the Alliance Party.
According to the Dominion 21 Jun 1997, Matt Robson MP was upset that the Alliance Party had gone from being the complainant to being the ‘target’ of the Inspector-General’s report.
Mr Robson was reported to have said the report contained unanswered questions that the Alliance was involved in illegal activity. He told the Dominion he had been angry that the Inspector-General had never approached the Alliance regarding allegations that it had encouraged leaks.
Mr Robson was also concerned that the Inspector-General’s report set a disturbing precedent that allowed the SIS and the GCSB to spy on state servants.
The 'Choudry Case'
The next couple of years were fairly quiet for the Inspector-General until the Aziz Choudry (Note: Mr Choudry is an occasional Scoop columnist) case backfired upon him, like an exhaust stuffed full of potatoes.
Mr Choudry’s house` had been ‘invaded’ by two defenders of national security and Mr Choudry had sought the Inspector-General’s assistance. Upon looking at the case, the Inspector-General had decided the security ‘analysts’ had acted lawfully.
The Court of Appeal were not of the same belief and decided that the Security Intelligence Service had no power to invade citizens lounges, even citizens opposed to free trade. Shortly thereafter the Shipley administration re-designed the legislation making it possible for one’s castle walls to be surreptitiously scaled in the interests of national security.
Enhanced Oversight of the Intelligence and Security Agencies’
One reason the Inspector-General has generally avoided the headlines is that in seven years with one minor exception, the Inspector- General has found the intelligence services he’s tasked with scrutinising to be 'beyond reproach'.
Whilst the Inspector-General’s office was supposed to provide greater oversight of the intelligence agencies, it could be argued that an Inspector-General unwilling or incapable of looking into the intelligence agencies properly is actually far worse than no such office. By having an Inspector-General normal judicial safeguards can and have been jettisoned.
The Inspector General and 'Immigration Matters'
In 1998 the draft legislation introducing 'security risk certificates' – such as that under which Ahmed Zaoui is currently being held - was at odds with New Zealand’s Bill of Right's Act. Fortunately for the officials drafting this now infamous legislation, the fact that the accused could appeal to the Inspector-General allowed the legislation to skirt tricky areas such as procedural fairness and natural justice.
At the time of the legislation's passage through Parliament, Labour politicians such as Taito Philip Field, Tim Barnett and, most notably, former Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel were extremely concerned about the legislation, but considered the accused would have 'protection' through the office of the ‘Inspector-General’. It is generally unknown what their National counterparts thought, as for the most part they showed little inclination to debate the matter in the House.
The Inspector-General Gives a Spot of 'Informal Advice'
In fact New Zealand’s one and only Inspector General till March 31 2004, Laurie Greig, had provided some input into the security risk certificate legislation. As Inspector-General, Greig perused the draft legislation and following the closure of the formal submission process received a highly unusual opportunity to ‘informally advise’ officials of the New Zealand Immigration Service on wording relating to security risk certificates.
Greig considered that upholding a certificate as ‘accurate and reliable’ was too difficult a test for a Director of Security and wished the bar dropped to ‘credible and relevant’. His suggestion as to wording was adopted by the Select Committee in its report.
The informal advice was proffered a short time after the first Court of Appeal decision in the Choudry case. In their decision of December 1998 the Court of Appeal had left open the possibility that certain classified documents kept by the Security Intelligence service could end up in a court of law.
Thus it may have seemed possible to the then Director of Security, Brigadier Don McIvor that any risk certificate could eventually be scrutinised by not only the eagle eyes of the Inspector-General but also the judiciary.
Fortunately for the guardians of national security, a subsequent Court of Appeal decided they could not possibly know any more than the Minister responsible for the SIS (then the Hon. Jenny Shipley), and the troublesome issue of turning embarrassing documents over disappeared. .
Complaints By 'Would Be Residents and Citizens'
Given his recently publicised views on immigration, it is worth delving into one of the Inspector-General’s lesser known functions. Recently, for reasons known only to himself and presumably without consulting his responsible Minister (PM Helen Clark), the Director of the Security Intelligence Service publicly stated there were a number of individuals within New Zealand who whilst not dangerous enough to be deported, were not deemed fit to hold citizenship.
If any of these ‘high risk individuals’ were to object to this classification, they would presumably be able to appeal to the Inspector-General, and according to his most recent report he is currently dealing with three complaints that arose out of adverse recommendations by the SIS.
Whilst the background of the three current non-citizens is not known, the Inspector-General has dealt with immigration concerns previously. In his usual inimitable style, Greig found in his 1999 report that the Director of Security at the time (Brigadier Don Mcivor) had been correct in proffering an adverse report regarding the complainant, an individual of Sikh extraction.
According to the Inspector-General’s report the complainant had been a member and the president of an organisation which had been associated with the All Indian Sikh Student Federation (AISFF).
Whilst living in India the complainant had at one time also been a member of the AISSF. According to the Inspector-General this organisation had been associated with extremist activities resulting in terrorist acts in India. Whilst this may be true, if the Inspector-General had chosen to Google search this organisation he would also have found the AISFF has branches at many American Universities and rather than organising ‘dirty bomb campaigns’ is more likely to be organising a charity cricket match.
Thus, the Inspector-General without seemingly attempting any overseas verification of the complainants activities, was willing to accept the Director’s assertions of guilt by association.
Interestingly the Director of Security (at the time Don McIvor) and Inspector-General’s concerns were overridden in the pre 9-11 atmosphere of the Clark’s first term and the person of Sikh extraction was given his residency.
The person overriding Greig and the SIS in that case was the current minister in charge of the SIS, Helen Clark.
Given the timing it seems quite possible (and maybe even likely) that this same individual is one of the four people singled out by current SIS Director Richard Woods in his unusual Beehive Basement briefing in early March as being the sort of person they would like to deny citizenship to.
Over his seven year tenure, Greig has not felt the need to employ any little helpers, feeling himself more than up to the job on his own account. His reports invariably end with the statement that his job is ‘a part time one’, and that he, ‘has no need to appoint staff or to contract for any’. Even when faced with a burgeoning national security industry rapidly expanding thanks to increasingly frequent terrorist outrages and their ensuing legal and legislative responses, Greig has carried on confident in his abilities to 'go it alone'.
And thus after seven years of bland reports, the term of the first Inspector-General ends not with a whimper but rather with a loud and messy bang.
The Hon. Greig has gone out swinging at refugees for throwing their passports down the loo, and trying to assist the Prime Minister’s office with media stratagems to minimise embarrassing situations.
In his first report Greig sounded more like the head of a government department than an independent observer. He enthused, ‘I have been greatly impressed with the dedication of the staff at all levels, their enthusiasm and their obvious professional responsibility in what is a difficult and onerous execution of public and Government policy.’
Shortly after attaining the post, Greig had confided to a reporter that he hoped when it came time to hang up whatever an Inspector-General hangs up, that he hoped he wouldn’t be seen as just a rubber stamper. But considering his ‘reports’ and ‘investigations’ over the last seven years Greig would be well advised to get his wrists checked for any signs of RSI.
The Next Inspector-General
With the first Inspector-General’s demise it will be interesting to see who Clark and Brash deem fit to appoint now. In true first past the post bravado, Labour and National ensured minor parties would have no role in this decision by passing the legislation creating Inspector-General, and the 'Intelligence and Security Committee' a few months before New Zealand's first MMP election.
Whilst the idea of a an ex High Court judge with a background strong in fisheries may have seemed a good idea the first time round, some knowledge of International law and immigration matters may be handy this time.
Perhaps the best advice for Clark and Brash on this question comes from the man himself Laurie Greig, who, when asked by Listener journalist Gordon Campbell about retiring , suggested the next Inspector-General should perhaps be a little younger and able to help 'put the SIS back on its' toes'.'
- Kevin List is a Scoop staff writer. A Second Look is an occasional column which endeavours to look a little deeper into the background of current events.