Thursday, January 17, 2019

A threat to democracy

People have also suspected that New Zealand's spy agencies saw people who wished to limit their powers, cut their budgets, or disestablish them as a "threat" to "national security". And it turns out they were right. According to former Green MP Keither Locke, the SIS has been forced to apologise to him after documents emerged showing exactly that mindset:

Last April I received a letter from Rebecca Kitteridge, the director of the Security Intelligence Service, apologising for the way I was referred to in internal SIS documents. She wrote that I had been described as a “threat” in speaking notes for a Joint Induction Programme run by the SIS and the Government Communications Security Bureau since 2013.

In the SIS documents I was identified as an “internal” threat because I “wish[ed] to see the NZSIS & GCSB abolished or greatly modified”. The documents labelled this a “syndrome”.

In her apology, Kitteridge said “the talking point suggests wrongly that being a vocal critic of the agencies means you are a ‘threat’ or a ‘syndrome’. In fact, people who criticise the agencies publicly are exercising their right to freedom of expression and protest, which are rights we uphold, and are enshrined in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017.”

But pretty obviously, these are not rights the SIS upholds. They have a long and dirty history of political surveillance, of which this is just the latest outrage. And their closed, cold war mindset and the iron law of bureaucracy gives them clear and ongoing incentives to continue to paint critics in this light. All of which means that it is the SIS, not its critics, which is a threat: a threat to our democracy. And the best way of eliminating that threat is to disband it.