Thursday, August 01, 2013

SIS spies on journalists

This week, while we're debating an over-reaching spy bill which would allow the GCSB to spy on all our phone calls and internet traffic, we've learned that both the NZDF and the Prime Minister's office have been spying on journalists for political ends. And now, thanks to some good OIA work by the Herald's David Fisher, we learn that the SIS does it too:

The country's internal intelligence agency has a special protocol for spying on journalists, the Prime Minister's office has confirmed.

The revelation of the protocol came in a letter which effectively confirmed journalists as valid targets for NZSIS surveillance.


The Herald learned details through the Official Information Act which an intelligence community source said needed to be seen in the context of those who classed themselves as journalists. He said it was an extensive grouping of people which could include dangerous or radical elements.

The response from the Prime Minister's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson provided scant details saying the intelligence agencies needed to work in secret.

But the few details provided ruled the Government Communications Security Bureat out of spying on journalists - and appear to confirm journalists had been targeted by the NZ Security Intelligence Service.

I guess they didn't want to be left out of John Key's snoop-a-thon.

As for "dangerous and radical elements", we can see exactly what the government means by that by looking at who they've spied on already: war correspondents publishing details which embarrass the military and political journalists who embarrass the government. Given that track record, I think we can take the SIS's assurances that they respect the democratic role of journalists with a pinch of salt.