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Don’t Give Spies Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Cards

“Don’t Give Spies Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Cards”

Media Release 12 October 2016

The New Zealand Security and Intelligence Bill will ensure that spies never get caught by the public again, according to a man who caught two SIS agents unlawfully breaking into an activist’s house 20 years ago at an APEC Trade Ministers’ meeting in Christchurch.

University of Canterbury academic and lawyer, David Small, says that the Bill gives spies full immunity to do literally anything during an operation or to conceal an operation.

He told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee that if legislation like this had been in place in 1996, the illegal activities of the SIS would have never been exposed.

“Worse, the agents I caught that night could have beaten me up and left me lying in the gutter”, said Dr Small.

“When we filed legal documents alleging violations of the Bill of Rights Act, the SIS could have filed false documents denying responsibility. They could have destroyed my evidence against them or planted evidence against me. They could have interfered with witnesses.”

He described the Bill as “an appalling subversion of the rule of law” and said it removes one of the most effective means New Zealanders have of holding the country’s spies to account – catching them red handed.

Dr Small said that it is the ultimate in irony and an insult to New Zelanders to give get-outof- jail-free cards to spy agencies that have repeatedly exceeded their lawful authority.

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He also raised objections to the Bill extending these extraordinary powers beyond SIS and GCSB employees to any other person or organisation the agency chooses. It’s like the wild west where can you give a deputy’s badge and a revolver to anyone and get them to join the posse.

Dr Small will be livestreaming his oral submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee of Parliament from 11.30am on Thursday 13 October here

His written submission can be found here intelligence-bill-assault.html

David Small is a lawyer and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury. One of his areas of research is the balance between national security and civil liberties. In 2011, he was Fulbright Senior Scholar at Georgetown University Law Center studying alternative approaches to anti-terrorism for low-risk countries. He has made submissions on virtually every piece of New Zealand legislation impacting intelligence, security and surveillance since the 1996 NZSIS Amendment Act.

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