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Flavell: Intelligence and Security Committee

Intelligence and Security Committee

Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party, Wednesday 22 March

The Maori Party is pleased to stand today in respect of the Notices of Motion that refer to our Intelligence and Security Committee.

Support Calls for Wider Debate on Security and Intelligence

We would certainly support the call that has consistently been presented by Mr Keith Locke and the Green Party, for a broader debate on the issue of intelligence and security matters.

When I was not yet an MP, the word was that the new anti-terrorism legislation going through Parliament could see protestors or activists designated as terrorists.

Keith was arguing publically that the proposed legislation being pushed through by Government at that time was a travesty of democracy. His concern was the obscene rush in which these strict new measures were being forced through without public consultation.

It made me think at the time - and I am still considering - about why isn’t there a broader discussion about how this nation protects itself? And who is it protecting itself from?

Now that the Cold War is over, who is the enemy?

Timely to debate the Role of Security

It is a very appropriate time for such a debate to be generated as the State Services Commission embarks upon the recruitment period for a new Director of Security for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.

There has always been a fascination for the term used for that particular place as being the Kingdom of Secrets, and what consequences it has in curtailing the freedom and civil rights of citizens.

Tangata whenua have consistently put forward concerns that the SIS has bugged "decent, law-abiding New Zealanders" to find dirt on individuals.

Maori Party Call for inquiry into SIS

The Maori Party had a particular involvement with the nature of the checks and protections made upon citizens, in late 2004.

At that time, a Sunday paper, many will remember, reported that intelligence sources had revealed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) had launched a major covert operation investigating the Maori Party, our members, our leaders, our networks and our associates.

The paper provided a detailed description of a top-secret programme called Operation Leaf, a major SIS campaign targeting a variety of Maori organisations and individuals over several years.

At that time, one of the former SIS agents interviewed in the article, allegedly said he quit the operation because he was "disgust(ed) at a system that was spying on decent, law-abiding New Zealanders".

As we considered the most appropriate action to take in this matter, the Prime Minister, responded with reports that those allegations were ‘a work of fiction’ and ‘laughable’.

The Party was in a quandry - was the Prime Minister speaking in the capacity as the Prime Minister - or in her role as the Minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, the same Minister who signs all interception warrants?

Frankly, we were not in any position to judge.

We decided to take action on behalf of every-day, decent law-abiding citizens, to allay any concerns that they too, would not run the risk of coming under SIS surveillance if they made the fine decision to join the mighty Maori Party.

We therefore called on the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Retired Judge, Hon. Paul Neazor, to initiate an inquiry into the allegations made about the activities of the Security Intelligence Service.

Intelligence and Security Committee

The motions we are talking about today are focused on the special Parliamentary committee charged with the oversight of the intelligence agencies.

The Intelligence and Security Committee - was set up under 1996 legislation to increase the level of oversight and review of the Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau.

Yet no matter how effective its members may be, and we know full well that Act Leader Rodney Hide will do his utmost to apply rigour and reason to his role in that forum, it is still somewhat hampered in its coverage.

For although the committee can examine policies, administration and spending, it is barred by law from delving into "operationally sensitive" matters including any relating to intelligence collection.

Support for Inquiry into Intelligence and Security Operations

In returning to the time when our party was under the spotlight for security issues, there was unprecedented support across other parties - National, Act, NZ First, United Future, the Greens and the Maori Party - for some kind of inquiry into the allegations published in the media.

As any member of this House will know, achieving a collective voice on any issue on any day is extremely improbable. That widespread support to uncover who spies on the spies, is clearly an issue that we are all keen to explore further.

As I understand it, Dr Brash, himself a member of the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee which oversees the SIS, stated that he thought the allegations were too serious to ignore and only an independent inquiry could clear up the issue. Indeed, he believed the claims had the potential to put public confidence in the Security Intelligence Service at risk.

Our new Foreign Affairs Ministers said he thought the allegations were disquieting. A ministerial inquiry would only work if the person had the public's confidence and was independent of the Government.

Act leader Rodney Hide said the only way to deal with such serious allegations was an independent inquiry by a judicial officer with the powers to ensure the Security Intelligence Service co-operated.

I will not go on but I think it is noticeable that such wide-spread cross-party support is rare - and it reminds us all of the need to stay vigilant.

The perception of bias and dirt-gathering - accurate or otherwise -by politicians and the public - must be investigated if we are ever to develop trust in our existing systems of freedom and justice.

The security and intelligence systems operating in this land must be subjected to the scrutiny of public debate and official inquiry.

New Zealanders take for granted that our freedom to live in an open democracy is a basic standard of living for our nation.

But we also recognise the significance of every country having a right to security and a right to be secure from its neighbours. No country should ever be in the position of being threatened in the way that we have seen with nations around the globe.

We have an expression in te Ao Maori:

Me te kähu e topa ana ki te kiore -
like the hawk swooping down on a rat.

In this we consider the taua, the war party, who without warning may attack another group. Essentially, this refers to the need to be aware of the ‘unseen enemy’.

But we need to also be open to exploring this whole concept of protection, of security, of being threatened. We need to look carefully at how we agree upon those we think will be like the kahu swooping down on us, and those who are the unseen enemy.

Security and Intelligence a Double-Edged Sword

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is aware of the double-edged sword that comes with any debate on intelligence and security matters.

There is no argument that we must ensure individual liberties and also ensure that people are able to have a voice - whether it be by ministerial letter, by submission, by appeal to court, on talkback radio, by liberation movements or by mass protests.

And we also agree that there are mechanisms for responding to crimes of terrorism through the criminal law system.

We must have the right to have our rangatiratanga protected -as we affirm the right to rangatiratanga of any other people - the right to maintain our and your sense of being.


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