State Of It: NZ Intelligence Failure Demands Inquiry
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor
The entire intelligence apparatus must be examined for its failure to prepare our government, and New Zealanders at home and abroad, for what was looming in Timor Leste - if not for the serious reasons outlined here, certainly for political reasons. How can the New Zealand Parliament be confident that it is being diligently served by the agencies charged with ensuring New Zealand and its citizenry are accurately informed on civil disturbances in the Pacific (the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Timore Leste) - especially when crises develop virtually on its doorstep? For that matter, how can the New Zealand Government be satisfied it is getting value for its intelligence service buck?
To recap: surely it cannot be denied that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), NZ Defence's J2, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's (DPMC) External Assessments Bureau (EAB) and other networks were silent – evidenced by the reactive nature of New Zealand's current operation. Security expert Paul Buchanan argues that New Zealand ought to have been in a pre-emptive position of providing security for its embassy in Dili and preparing to assist Timor Leste to curb the crisis that was approaching. After all, Timor Leste is one of the world's most recent democracies, whose formation was rightly celebrated - even embraced - by New Zealand and the wider international community.
Questions remain, such as: Has Australia assumed lead-nation status in what was once New Zealand's patch in the wider south-western Pacific region? Is it that Australia's interests in oil fields within Timor Leste's territorial waters has caused it to calculate benefit from occupation and reformation? Is it this that kept Australia's intelligence agencies silent on the approaching Timor Leste crisis, not informing its Kiwi counterpart? Does this raise an issue of incompetence or corruption by our own intelligence agencies, in the know, but silent for the possible benefit of Australia?
An inquiry, with a framework that permits public oversight, must be held. It is in the national interest that New Zealanders be served professionally by the New Zealand security and intelligence network.
It is clear that accountability calls most often originate from within academia and the media rather than from politicians. Such is the shake up that is required within the New Zealand legislature of today; perhaps this demonstrates its inability to test the service of one of the nation's most important bodies in these confused times.