SIS Spy Operation Broader Than Just Politics
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor
A senior figure in the New Zealand intelligence network has confirmed the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has indeed investigated Maori groups, politicians, and networks – that Operation leaf acquired not just political intelligence but included financial and personal information on “targets”.
This source is a respected member of the intelligence and foreign affairs network – an individual who has lines of communication connecting to the New Zealand Government.
His experience goes back decades, and his advice on foreign intelligence has been sought from the highest levels of office.
Scoop will not reveal this man’s name (hereafter referred to as Contact ‘A’) – but we can testify that information provided by this individual has at all times proven to be factual and that he is a patriotic New Zealander who believes strongly in the requirement of security intelligence when that information is acquired through legitimate means and for the benefit of the nation.
Information provided to Scoop asserts that the SIS was the lead agency/department/service in Operation Leaf.
Scoop first announced that the SIS was investigating the Maori Party, networks and individuals on November 11. The Scoop expose was ridiculed by the Prime Minister’s spokesperson as ‘laughable’. Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia was later personally assured by SIS director Richard Woods that there was no cause for concern over Scoop’s claims. Turia accepted the director’s assurances.
Sunday November 21 Fairfax’s Sunday Star Times newspaper
published a six-week investigation claiming:
• The SIS contracted "computer geeks" to engineer contact with Maori organisations and plant bugging equipment on their computers or change the settings to allow remote access. • They were told to gather intelligence on internal iwi business negotiations, finances and Treaty claims and inter-tribal communications. • They were instructed to watch for "dirt", including "personal information, relationships, money issues, family secrets" on Maori leaders. • Serious divisions exist within the intelligence community, with some spies believing the SIS is too deferential to Western agencies.
Much of the Sunday Star Times’ investigation centred around an operative referred to by the name of Peter who was recruited to provide ICT expertise and to spy on targets of Operation Leaf.
Scoop’s senior contact insisted the Sunday Star Times’ claims are factual and correct.
Following the Star Times articles Tariana Turia claimed her telephone had indeed been bugged immediately prior to her leaving the Labour Party.
And on Monday November 22, Turia wrote to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Justice Paul Neazor, asking him to initiate an immediate inquiry into the allegations about the SIS.
Turia said in a statement: "There are too many serious questions left unanswered. New Zealanders take for granted that our freedom to live in an open democracy is a basic standard of living for our nation."
SIS Director Richard
Woods And Prime Minister Helen Clark
Who Is Watching
Throughout Sunday and Monday the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, insisted the allegations were a "work of fiction". This view was insufficient to allay the concerns of the public, Turia said.
Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton said the whistleblowers ought to relay their criticisms to the inspector General of Intelligence and Security and not to the media.
Helen Clark said the law clearly prohibited the SIS from monitoring anyone engaged in lawful advocacy, protest or dissent. As well, it precluded the Government from using the SIS for political purposes.
"I can say categorically that at no time in the five years I have been the Minister in Charge of the SIS and Prime Minister have I ever been advised about anything happening in another political party," she told NZPA.
National Party Leader Don Brash said the allegations made against the SIS are too serious to ignore: “I am offering to work with the Prime Minister to get a process underway quickly to further examine the claims,” said Dr Brash, who is also a member of the Parliamentary committee responsible for the SIS.
“It is important that both the public and the Government have confidence in our intelligence service. These unanswered claims have the potential to put that confidence at risk,” Don Brash said.
Certainly electronic surveillance had become a core aspect of SIS operations. Readers will remember nationwide newspaper advertisements going back several years where the SIS sought bright and patriotic individuals to consider a career with the SIS. It especially wanted those with a knowledge of electronics, information computer technology, and communications.
The recruitment drive was not an act of fiction. Nor was the subsequent operation that followed.
Contact ‘A’ said: “There were some serious banking and corporate fraud ops in Auckland relating to international interests that were done in 1999/2000 which employed techies recruited for that purpose. They were not as politically charged as Leaf, but certainly some of those techies were re-tasked on other Ops including Leaf.”
Scoop contacts confirm Operation Leaf collated foundation intelligence from other agencies, including background information on individuals and groups sourced from Police intel and the Police counter-terrorism unit. This information included intelligence gathered by Police undercover agents and informants during an investigation into organised crime in New Zealand in 1999 – 2001 mapping gang networks, the drug trade, even organised criminal families.
But Operation Leaf sought information far beyond Police intelligence: “The tasking was not just for political intel but included financial and personal info on the targets,” Contact ‘A’ said.
He said: “It (Leaf) profiled people identifying elements that could be manipulated by foreign terrorists in the future – especially persons with overseas contacts, academics, activists, etc.”
“Information on criminal networks, gangs etc, had already been well researched by Police intel. This was cross-referenced between Police and Operation Leaf and was used to build profiles and chart relationships and contacts between groups…”
“Mike Smith (who cut down the Pine on Auckland’s Maungakiekie - One Tree Hill) was certainly targeted for a long while. Surveillance of Maori groups in one form or another has been going on for some years. This background intel morphed into Operation Leaf,” Contact ‘A’ said. “There is information regarding contact with the Canadians… about a Maori academic at one of the universities there.”
Also, “The Maori/Muslim connection was considered of interest and research was done into the backers of the Maori links with the people behind www.nzmuslim.net,” Contact ‘A’ said.
This aspect of Operation Leaf was chartered after another group asserted its right to manufacture, issue, and charge for Maori passports.
“While their views were extreme and considered far fetched they were also investigated to ascertain the degree of manipulation. In this respect they could not be totally ignored,” Contact ‘A’ said.
Within the Government’s intelligence agencies the use of Police intelligence was seen as a “convenient use of resources that were ostensibly directed at organised crime and peace groups, but that led on to political groups.
“I know that indigenous group surveillance operations have been going on since… … the Lange government,” Contact ‘A’ said.
The above offers background insight into Operation Leaf.
With the formation of the Maori Party many individuals that had previously been investigated were re-investigated to ascertain if and how they fitted in to the Maori Party networks.
It was theorised that as the Maori Party was formed at haste - a strong centralised leadership framework did not exist. It was realised that strong leadership did exist within several active organisations that had plugged into the Maori Party network and that this, could, lead to future cell-structured activity.
Contact ‘A’ assures that it will be difficult for an inquiry, whether via media or governmental, to expose hard evidence to prove Operation Leaf is not fiction.
“In my view, the government has already covered its bases and had dispatched some key damage control people to make Leaf go away. This could go away in one week and an enquiry is a pipe dream… … I admire the Sunday Star Times for its guts, but it will not be able to get much more evidence as the machine goes to work. THIS is not going to be another Choudry event. Those days are gone.”
Aziz Choudry’s case against the SIS became case-law history after the Secret Intelligence Service bungled its break in to his Christchurch home. There, agents rummaged through files, supposedly looking for terrorist paraphernalia. But Choudry was no terrorist. They knew that. The danger which he inspired in the minds of the SIS was due to his beliefs and opinions, particularly his activism against free trade. Later a Court Of Appeal judgement awarded Choudry what was believed to be around $100,000 in compensation.
“I assure you that since the Choudry affair, the SIS has covered their backs on deniable ops, so Leaf will be very hard to break open totally.”
Indeed, Scoop understands that an individual very close to the Prime Minister’s office made contact via telephone with a New Zealand intelligence operative in Asia – this within hours of the Sunday Star Times publishing its investigation on Sunday November 21.
Consequently, intelligence operatives are dismayed that despite the Prime Minister’s insistence that she will not comment on security issues “she continues to do so,” Contact ‘A’ said.
There appears to be disquiet that a fracture within the SIS’s own networks is imminent. Contact ‘A’: “First of all I can see that the PM may have a deniable stance on this (Operation Leaf) but the Director (Richard Woods) did know of Leaf. I am sure of that. He will try his best to keep his knowledge of Leaf deniable but I doubt he can do that credibly for long.”
Scoop has become aware of entrenched dissatisfaction among officers, operatives, and others connected to SIS networks. It appears a faction exists that has lost confidence in the director, Richard Woods. Certainly, some contacts are highly critical of Woods’ handling of foreign intelligence, and his reliance and “un-vetted acceptance” of information provided by other nations in the western alliance.
The criticisms appear consistent with a desire by some advocating reform of the SIS – which would see the service’s structure divided into a domestic wing and an external foreign agency, attracting more exposure to appraisal via departmental inspection and Parliamentary accountability.
In these times where intelligence agencies worldwide have been subjected to intensified scrutiny and governmental criticism, New Zealand’s SIS has remained cocooned from inquiry or critique.
The question remains, are times about to change?
For more, see…
SIS Bugs Maori: Sunday Star Times Confirms Scoop Investigation - Scoop Editors’ Note: In co-operation with the Sunday Star Times, Scoop publishes this investigation on Operation Leaf – how the SIS has bugged Maori MPs, networks and associates. The issue was first reported by Scoop's Selwyn Manning on Nov 11. See... SST: Spies Blow Whistle On SIS Bugging
BACKGROUND SCOOP REPORTS: Scoop’s Exclusive Report: Intelligence Sources Say SIS Investigating Maori Party
- Maori Party - Maori Party calls on IG to investigate SIS
- Progressives - Select committee oversight of SIS, GCSB required
- Russell Brown - Hard News 22/11/04: Spooky
- Don Brash - SIS allegations too serious to ignore