SST: SIS ‘We could see it was for dirt collection’
‘We could see it was for dirt collection’
A spy gives an account, by email, of how he infiltrated and bugged the computers of Maori iwi representatives who he now believes were “decent law-abiding New Zealanders”.
Scoop Editors’ Note: In co-operation with the Sunday Star Times, Scoop publishes this major series by Anthony Hubbard and Nicky Hager on Operation Leaf – how the SIS has bugged Maori MPs, groups and networks. This issue was first reported by Scoop’s Selwyn Manning on Thursday November 11 2004. See… Intelligence Sources Say SIS Investigating Maori Party
Courtesy of the Sunday Star Times: Agents claim they were hired to dig dirt on Maori leaders and iwi organisations
This article can also been viewed on the Stuff.co.nz
qWhen did you join the service?
aThe recruiter first started on me in 1997 but I really wasn’t fulltime, trained and operational until 1999.
qWhy did you join?
aI honestly do love my country and frankly in the beginning I thought that it would be a chance to do something exciting, challenging. I think that we do need the service but not in the way it currently operates. I think that we need to have a new approach, more open like the Swedish and we shouldn’t need to participate in things that please the cousins anymore.
qDid they approach you?
AYes but carefully, with sometimes 2 months between contact and face to face before anything was really discussed.
qIf so, how?
AThrough a friend who is an academic type, loves to conversate about all manner of things, a real talker. He is a recruiter, that’s what he does for them, he picks away at your brain for extended periods.
qWere you a full-time employee or a contractor?
AIt was a gradual process, I was asked to do some basic work which was sensitive but couldn’t be embarrassing if I turned out to be a wrong choice if I talked about it to friends and family. Actually they had ways of cross-checking that Ð of finding out if you were indiscreet. I wasn’t, so I moved up. I was brought in gradually, eventually became quite busy and had developed a sense of what needed to be achieved. After a while you start to realise what you need to do when you meet people, this is a people skills profession but it was/is a bonus that I also have technical skills, usually they don’t mix.
qWhen was the first sign that they were wanting work done of Maori organisations?
AEven before Leaf there had been other Maori related surveillence, I think the files and profiles of people from years ago, the progress they made, the overseas contacts etc all morphed into Op Leaf, I once heard a colleague mention a liaison with csis in Canada Ð about some Maori academic there involved in stirring up shit with the natives of Canada, that was years before Leaf, so you can see that this is something the govt has always had a handle on.
qWas this the stage when you were first recruited or was it not the first work you did for the service?
ANo my first work was related to gangs, Black Power etc.
qDid you already have links with the Maori organisations Ð or did you specifically initiate them for the service?
AComing from a small town it was easy to draw on school friends, people I grew up with. I think that is luck rather than design, I was already quite easily able to plug in to the Maori scene.
qHow did you build your links and their confidence?
AWell, you can’t sit there in a pin striped suit and take notes. I did what they did. Walk the walk, talk the talk, smoke the smoke.
qHow did your SIS handler keep in contact with you?
AI was sent a series of numbers by encrypted email and I knew how to extract a mobile number from the series. It was different every time. We had a prearranged system for that, agreed to and explained to me by the handler named Margaret but that is a false name.
qWhat other Operation Leaf staff/contractors were you aware of?
AI knew there were 3 in ak [Auckland], 2 wngt [Wellington], 1 cch [Christchurch] that’s it. I never met analysts, which is procedure. They only get codenames for us, I don’t even know my own codename, also standard procedure.
qDid you ever visit a service building eg for training? Where was it?
ATraining was conducted near Wellington. I don’t think it is helpful to expose things like that. A lot of taxpayers’ money will be wasted if they have to relocate it because of journalists taking photos of the exterior and there would be no way to get inside, or even past the fence without being arrested.
qDid you have any contact with the other contractors?
AWe had some meetings about bi-monthly.
qWhere did you meet them?
ANear Wellington Ð the secure facility.
qWhat was the purpose of the meetings?
AProblem solving and training/ technical backup.
qWhat was your understanding of the chain of command?
AThe management was deliberately vague about where orders come from so you can only assume from the director and/or the pm if it was top secret or above.
qDid you think these groups were a national security risk? Do you think they are legit targets for the service?
AI think that there is potential for these groups to be manipulated, I don’t think that we will have bombings by Maori radicals but it is possible that cyber attacks could occur in future which could knock out financial, military or civilian targets which could result in deaths. There is also a lot more chance of political subversion, deliberate destabilising of govt. Any govt in power would try to prevent that of course. Wouldn’t you?
qWas there ever a suggestion that there were legit terrorism/violence concerns behind the ops? Or was it openly for non-security info?
AWell it wasn’t said that it was for dirt collection but we could see that is what it was. Terrorism is just a method. We all know you can’t really have a war on a method. But you play the game.
qDid you ever get follow-up questions after sending through some info (eg you sent through some accounts or correspondence and then were asked to go back for more)?
AUsually a one way street on the info capture ops but I did get debriefed regularly when doing humit [human intelligence] ops.
qCan you describe specific info that you found that sticks in your mind? eg an internal iwi conflict? Or negotiations with the government? Or the Waitangi claim that was occurring exactly at this time? Were you asked to find any information about the claim? Or negotiations between the iwi? What do you recall of it?
AAll of the above, the govt was keen to get any useful nuggets from internal communications between Maoris working on those and other issues, peace groups, academics, activists, politicians, gang leaders. I don’t know what they did with the information but sometimes when reading the news I noticed issues and thought about how the info was being used but I would just be guessing here.
qWere the academics and peace groups separate operations?
ASeparate mostly but Maori/ peace crossover.
qDid you ever get any obviously personal info about the people in the iwi that was passed to the service? What was it about?
AYes, personal information, relationships, money issues, family secrets. Dirt really.
qHow were you paid?
AATM cards for cash and a govt dept paid me, I won’t say which one, it was not listed as the service.
qWhat prompted your feelings of unease with the operation? Did something happen?
AYes I met some nice people, not activists or criminals and I just started questioning myself what it was all about.
qCan you describe how the discussion about your concerns occurred with the handler/service.
AFace to face.
qWhat did the handler say you should do?
AIt was implied that I should take time out immediately to rethink what I had said, it was not a pleasant exchange.
qSeptember Ô03 sounds like a very significant time to have concerns, because October 1, 2003, was when the new law came in prohibiting unauthorised access to or tampering with a computer system. Were you aware of that law coming into force? Did that influence your decision to stop?
AI read the news reports about that but I think that my change of heart was more about disgust at a system that was spying on decent law abiding New Zealanders. I was pleased to see that the law was coming in but deep down, I knew that the service could find a way around it, so I don’t think it was seen as a threat, just a pacifier for Joe Public.
qWhat was the legal situation? Was there a warrant for these interceptions?
AThe legal dept should have done that and the director would take it to the pm but that is no concern of ours and you would look like a gherkin if you asked the handler that. I had my doubts that we always acted with a warrant, especially if there are no plans to take legal action against the target.
qHave you signed a security form that required you to keep their secrets?