Monday, March 14, 2016

Spies should not be above the law

There's a disturbing report in Stuff that the SIS should be above the law in their undercover operations:

Spies and police will have new freedom to conduct elaborate undercover operations if Parliament implements the spy report's recommendations.

Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy's independent report into spy agencies the GCSB and SIS suggested new "immunities from civil and criminal liability for reasonable acts done in good faith" to protect and create spies' identity information.


The review said "identity information" should include credit cards and shell companies, as well as traditional cloak-and-dagger staples such as fake passports and driver licences.

So it means allowing the spies not just to commit burglary, but also money laundering, credit card fraud, and even perjury in court. But it goes beyond that - because they're also suggesting immunity for acts carried out not just to protect identity information, or to give effect to a warrant, but to obtain a warrant. And its easy to see that extending to burglary, wiretapping, making bomb threats, planting false evidence, or even torture.

This proposal would effectively give the spies carte blanche to commit any crime they wished with impunity. And that is utterly poisonous to a free society under the rule of law. Even if I trusted the spies, this would be too far. Giving this power to organisations with a long history of unlawful behaviour would effectively remove any checks and balances on their behaviour. If we want to remain a free society, we need to shut down the spies, not put them above the law.