Answers to Some Common Myths

NZ Intelligence Services, Five Eyes & The Waihopai Spy Base

Keith Locke

Presented as introductory comments at a workshop hosted by the Anti-Bases Campaign, Blenheim, 28/1/17, and updated in May 2017 to reflect changes in the Intelligence and Security Bill after it passed through the Select Committee stage.

Were the SIS and GSB set up to detect terrorists?

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Police Special Branch before it, was set up to spy on and detect spying from adversary governments: Germany during World War II and the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War. Its other function was to spy on Left critics of Government policy – which is why so many activists in the progressive movement have been found to have SIS files.

Has the purpose of the SIS and GCSB now changed so that their main job is now to spy on terrorists and politically motivated criminality?

No. The Snowden papers show that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is still mainly engaged in spying on foreign governments, either by itself (as in some of its spying on Pacific government communications) or together with its Five Eyes partners on other governments further afield, particularly in Asia, and particularly China.

But surely the SIS and GCSB need to have some focus on politically motivated criminality? The Police aren’t adequate for the job.

Why not? It is the Police who caught the (French) Rainbow Warrior bombers, and (Israeli) Mossad agents stealing NZ passports.

But the Police can’t operate with the same level of secrecy?

Why not? The Police operate secretly chasing criminal gangs. And they are a more publicly accountable agency than the SIS or GCSB – even though there is room for improvement in the accountability of the Police.

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