Thursday, November 05, 2015


The New Zealand Herald has a scoop this morning - the New Zealand Intelligence Community's 2014 Briefing to the Incoming Minister, extracted from the government at Ombudsman-point. The BIM includes the "six security problems that [the government] should really worry about": violent extremism, loss of information and data, hostile intelligence operations in and against New Zealand, mass arrivals, trans-national organized crime, and instability in the South Pacific. These "threats" are used to justify a demand for more money and more powers. But what's apparent is just how insignificant and unlikely those threats actually are.

The biggie of course, is "violent extremism". Our spies are concerned that kiwis might become radicalised and start conducting terrorist operations here in New Zealand. And they point to "significant migration... creating communities [in New Zealand] with distinct identities and links to overseas". Like pakeha, I guess. But what's worth remembering is that this has never happened here, and that, on current tolerance settings, it seems highly unlikely. And looking at Australia and the UK, SIS or police intervention to spy on those targeted communities is likely to increase any risk rather than reduce it, by creating a sense of oppression and encouraging retaliation. On our biggest threat, the only thing our spies can do is make it worse.

What about the rest? Mass-arrivals in an Aussie beat-up, driven by Australian racism rather than New Zealand's interests. "Loss of information and data" and "hostile intelligence operations" are the same thing, and ought to be SIS and GCSB's bread and butter - but again, doesn't seem like a huge threat, and is driven by economic rather than physical security concerns. Trans-national organised crime is a police matter, not something for the spies. As for South Pacific instability, there's nothing we can do about it anyway, so there's little purpose in worrying about it.

(Our spies also see one of their chief purposes as "help[ing] protect and grow the economy". I don't think most New Zealanders would agree with this at all).

Basicly, these threats are small, unlikely, and unable to be effectively responded to anyway. And once again, it looks like our spies are engaging in cargo cult policy, hyping the threats of concern to their overseas partners in an effort to be part of the club. Meanwhile, the real threats to New Zealand - like climate change - are entirely unmentioned.

In conclusion, its difficult to see why we're throwing a hundred million dollars a year (and increased powers) at these muppets to produce bullshit like this.