Privacy Commission fails to stem SIS attack
Media Release: Jane Kelsey
Sunday August 9 2009
Privacy Commission fails to stem SIS attack on academic dissent
The Privacy Commission has made itself complicit in the surveillance of lawful dissent by the Security Intelligence Service, with chilling implications for academic freedom and critical debate, a university law Professor warns.
“Both agencies have clearly over-stepped any reasonable interpretation of the ‘national security’ grounds for refusing to disclose documents, opening them to legal challenge. That is under active consideration”, said Dr Jane Kelsey, a Professor of Law at the University of Auckland.
“My experience since applying for my SIS file last November reveals two things: there is still no accountability for SIS actions in gathering intelligence on lawful dissent; and the SIS is apparently targeting academic critics of failed free market policies at a time when debate is needed most.”
“The SIS initially refused to confirm or deny whether they held any information on me, claiming that answering that question was itself likely to prejudice national security. They later conceded a file existed, when they realized there were references to me in three pages of the file released on Keith Locke MP.”
“When I complained to the Privacy Commission, they upheld the SIS position. This is utter nonsense. Documents released to other people include information on me and contain innocuous documents similar to those that must appear on my file. None of these could conceivably threaten national security.”
“When the SIS got new powers in the 1990s I warned that they would be used against critics of the free market policies and free trade agreements. This has now proved true.”
“This isn’t about me”, says Professor Kelsey. “The chilling effect of this kind of ‘intelligence’ is likely to intimidate young academics, students and public intellectuals from contributing to critical debate about the discredited ‘neoliberal orthodoxy’. Who wants to be spied on for doing their job?”
“The new culture of openness under SIS director Warren Tucker may have begun with good intentions, but it has now become a sham,” Kelsey said.