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David Small on Inspector-General Resignation

David Small on Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

Office of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security in Need of Overhaul

The resignation of Laurie Grieg from the post of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is a stroke of luck for the govenment according to the first person to lay a complaint with the office. Christchurch academic and civil liberties advocate, David Small, who together with Aziz Choudry laid a complaint about an SIS break-in to Mr Choudry’s home and subsequent Police search of Dr Small’s home, said that if the Inspector-General had not chosen to resign after a court found he revealed an unacceptable level of personal bias against Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui, it would have ben very difficult to remove him.

Under Section 7 of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996, the Inspector General can only be removed “by the Governor-General, upon an address from the House of Representatives, for disability affecting performance of duty, bankruptcy, neglect of duty, or misconduct”. This represents the same level of protection afforded High Court Judges. However High Court Judges operate within established judicial structures and procedures including a hierarchy of courts, rules of evidence and transparent systems of appeal. The position of Inspector-General enjoys a high level of personal discretion.

“It is fortunate for New Zealand, and particularly for Mr Zaoui, that the incumbent Inspector-General chose to air his personal views publicly”, said Dr Small. “Had he not done so, there would have been no impediment to his acting on his personal prejudices in considering cases before him”.

“The spectacular failures of the Inspector-General to date are more than merely mistakes of the person holding the office”, he said. “They are shortcomings of the office itself”.

“The Inspector-General is given the task of ensuring that complaints relating to the SIS are independently investigated. From the outset, however, the Inspector-General has had a cosy uncritical relationship with the SIS. Since the office of Inspector-General was created, the SIS has been given significant increases in the funding, staffing levels, scope of its investigation, and legislative powers. The need for the SIS to be publicly accountable has never been greater. However the Inspector-General has repeatedly demonstrated that his office provides no proper mechanism for investigating complaints.”

The government now has the opportunity to reorganise the office of Inspector-General and make it genuinely accountable to the public.

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