Monday, January 17, 2011

The SIS spies on 6700 people

There was much controversy in 2009 when the NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) released several personal files of political activists who have been around for decades. It revealed that Green Party MP Keith Locke had and open SIS file until 2006. He was elected to parliament in 1999 and was spied on since he was a young boy delivering Communist Party newspapers in Christchurch.

In June 2010, Prime Minister John Key released a follow-up report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Mr Neazor, about personal files and other records held by the SIS. Key ordered a review last year on files kept on MPs and about collecting, retaining and destroying personal records. It comes as no surprise that Neazor “is satisfied with current and proposed practices.”

All files relating to MPs have now been closed. According to SIS Director Warren Tucker “about 10 files” were affected. So who else other than Locke had an open SIS file? Harawira? Delahunty? Turei? Even people like Kedgley and Minister Turia?

A new process is now in place for spying on MPs. The SIS representatives of the Speaker of the House have discussed a Memorandum of Understanding “to cover situations where security information may, in rare circumstances, need to be collected about a Member of Parliament.”

Locke was saying to Radio NZ that he assumes his file will reopen when he quits parliament (or does not get re-elected).

An interesting number was quoted in the media too: Radio NZ reported that the SIS “has more than 6000 files on people”. Another media outlet talked about 6700 files and commented on how small that number was. Locke said that most of these people “were spied on for no good reason.” And he also said that “hopefully the SIS is now concentrating more on real crime such as sabotage and not on dissent” but he is yet to be convinced of that.

These comments from Locke are disappointing. First of all, there are very few acts of sabotage in NZ at the moment and even if there was, for someone with 'left-wing credentials' like Locke to call for the country's spy agency to concentrate on sabotage is ludicrous. Sabotage has always been part of the workers' movement during NZ's big industrial disputes as well as other political movements (obvious local examples are the anti-apartheid movement and the actions taken here against the Vietnam War).

The 'real crime' is an economic system based on exploitation. 'Real crime' is committed by the NZ state in the hills of Afghanistan and the lasting effects of colonisation here. Obviously the SIS has no interest in investigating this sort of behaviour because that is exactly what they are meant to protect. So let's not give the spies any credits and call on them to investigate people who are, like you and me, fighting this system of oppression.

This article was originally published in June 2010 in Indymedia,