Scoop Full Coverage: Ombudsmen Order Release Of Sutch Files
Until now, the NZSIS has declined many Official Information Act requests for access to the Sutch file, citing security and privacy reasons. However, following a review of the Sutch records by the Office of the Ombudsmen, the NZSIS has agreed to release documents selected by the Ombudsmen. (Image: Dr William Sutch.)
Additional to Sir Guy Powles’ Report presented to Parliament in July 1976, a Top Secret Annex detailed his enquiries into allegations against the NZSIS relating to the Sutch case, some of which he described as being of “a very serious character”. He recorded that his enquiries had satisfied him that there was “not a shred of truth in any of these allegations”.
The previously ‘Top Secret’ Annex of Sir Guy’s report is also being released at this time by the Chief Ombudsman, following consultation with the NZSIS. This is entirely consistent with an important principle of the NZSIS’s archives policy that the SIS will deal impartially with information, regardless of whether it reflects favourably or not on the historical operations of the Service. (Image: Former SIS officer Kit Bennets wrote: Detective Senior Sergeant Colin Lines [left] leads Dr Sutch to a waiting car after the sting operation.)
Foreign Affairs: NZSIS Releases Historical Sutch Papers The Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Helen Clark, announced today that the NZSIS, acting on a recommendation made by the Chief Ombudsman, has released a number of papers relating to Dr William Sutch. More >>
Politics Wire: Release On Behalf Of The Family Of Dr Bill Sutch The family of Bill Sutch today welcomed the release of a New Zealand Security Intelligence Service file showing that there was no evidence of him being a spy for the Russians. More >>
"The Office of the Ombudsmen has reviewed NZSIS records concerning William Ball Sutch and material recommended for release is being made public where possible. Some classified liaison service material cannot be disclosed because of its sensitivity. At the request of the Chief Ombudsman, the Service has provided a general description of the sensitive reporting. It is as follows:
Early accounts of Dr Sutch’s association with USSR-aligned individuals and organisations, derived by Western intelligence services from local sources; and More recent reporting of historical information of Russian origin, documenting a long-standing association between the KGB and a New Zealand civil servant who very precisely (and uniquely) fitted Dr Sutch’s background and profile.
The relevant information was provided to the NZSIS in confidence, and the originator must give permission before it can be declassified and made public. Recently, for reasons of security, the originator declined to give this permission."
RELEASE OF SELECTED SUTCH PAPERS AND SIR GUY POWLES' TOP SECRET REPORT
In 1975 William Ball Sutch, a former Secretary of Industries and Commerce, was tried and acquitted of charges under the Official Secrets Act 1951. Ever since, there has been considerable interest in and speculation about the information held by the NZSIS relating to Dr Sutch.
Until now the NZSIS has declined numerous requests made under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA), refusing for security and privacy reasons to release any of the information held about Dr Sutch. One of those denied access to the Sutch file exercised the right under the OIA to complain to the Office of the Ombudsmen. That Office recently completed a lengthy investigation and review of the matter, including a thorough examination of all the Sutch records, and the NZSIS has accepted a recommendation made by the Chief Ombudsman to release selected papers.
The NZSIS recognises the public interest in the Sutch case. Of the information proposed by the Office of the Ombudsmen for release, a significant amount has been able to be declassified. Some information must be withheld, however. This is because security issues remain (in particular, the NZSIS has been declined permission to release some key liaison service reporting) and there are some privacy sensitivities.
The most significant NZSIS document to be released is a Target Assessment dated 30 May 1974. Click here to see this document. The faintness of a number of the other documents makes it difficult to present them in a readable form on-line, and the Service will provide copies of these documents on request.
The Chief Ombudsman has requested that a clarificatory statement accompany the release of the Sutch papers. This is designed to ensure that what is made public does not give a misleading impression of the totality of Service holdings on Dr Sutch and follows a precedent set by the Office of the Ombudsmen during an earlier release of information about another person. The statement describes some classified liaison service material, which cannot be disclosed because of its sensitivity, linking Dr Sutch with the Soviets.
Click here to see this statement (above).
Related Document – Sir Guy Powles’ Top Secret Report
In the aftermath of the Sutch trial, the then Chief Ombudsman, Sir Guy Powles, conducted an investigation into the NZSIS at the request of the Prime Minister of the day. Sir Guy’s unclassified report, presented to Parliament in July 1976, contained an Annex detailing his enquiries into allegations against the NZSIS relating to the Sutch case, some of which he described as being of “a very serious character”. He recorded that his enquiries had satisfied him that there was “not a shred of truth in any of these allegations”. In his covering letter to Mr Speaker, Sir Guy referred to his report to the Prime Minister as containing comments and material some of which was classified as “Top Secret”.
The Chief Ombudsman and the Director of Security are agreed that the time has now come for Sir Guy’s Top Secret report on the Sutch case to be declassified and made public. This release is consonant with an important principle of the NZSIS’s archives policy, that the Service will deal disinterestedly with information, regardless of whether it reflects unfavourably on the Service or shows the Service in a good light. In fact, the Service was sharply criticised by Sir Guy in the Top Secret Annex. It was partly as a result of this criticism, and recommendations made by Sir Guy, that Parliament passed legislation in November 1977 making legal provision for the interception or seizure of communications.
"The then Chief Ombudsman, Sir Guy Powles, wrote a report on 16 July 1976. That was a public document. However, there was an Annex to that report which was classified and has remained so until now. Briefly, it dealt with the operations of the NZSIS in relation to enquiries made at the time into Dr Sutch’s alleged activities. Both the SIS & the Chief Ombudsman concur in the view that the document may now be released."
Click here to see Sir Guy Powles’ Report.