Thursday, May 29, 2014

The SIS smeared an innocent man

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released a report today about the treatment of a member of the public by the SIS. While the report does not name the complainant, their identity is clear: it is former Fijian cabinet minister Rajesh Singh. How do we know this? Because details of his treatment have entered the public record through the media and questions in Parliament. Despite this, in a perfect example of the petty secrecy spies are infamous for, the IGIS redacted material which is in the public record.

Naturally, the IGIS dismisses the substance of the complaint (their attitude can be summed up in one sentence: "I accept the NZSIS Officers record"), but there is one victory: the SIS delivered a "warning" to Singh that the New Zealand Government would not tolerate the activities that they (in their paranoid delusion) believed him to be involved in, and that anyone involved would be prosecuted. They also warned him not to speak of being raided. From the report, these "warnings" appear to be a standard practice of the SIS. But the Inspector-General has ruled that they fall outside its powers, and ordered them to cease such activities pending a legal opinion from the Crown Law Office (or, I suppose, a law change rammed through under all stages urgency if Crown Law agrees with the IGIS).

There's a couple of other things. Firstly, the report refers chillingly to "work done" on Singh's seized phone, suggesting they weren't simply reading the messages off it. Naturally, it doesn't say what this work was, but it was probably modified to allow them to listen in and track him at will (so, if spies ever touch your phone, treat it as compromised and dump it). Secondly, in a footnote, the IGIS notes that

there is nothing in the issue of the Warrant in itself, or in the questions and answers which followed... which comes even near to approaching proof of criminal activity or participation in terrorism. No police activity has resulted, or charges been laid. [Singh] is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Which is as close as you're going to get to an admission that they were full of shit and have damaged an innocent man's reputation.

This simply isn't acceptable, and its a prime example of why we need to disband the SIS.