(NZ) Privacy Commission fails to stem SIS attack

Media Release: Jane Kelsey
Privacy Commission fails to stem SIS attack on academic dissent

The Privacy Commission has made itself complicit in the surveillance of lawful dissent by the Security Intelligence Service, with chilling implications for academic freedom and critical debate, a university law Professor warns.

“Both agencies have clearly over-stepped any reasonable interpretation of the ‘national security’ grounds for refusing to disclose documents, opening them to legal challenge. That is under active consideration”, said Dr Jane Kelsey, a Professor of Law at the University of Auckland.

“My experience since applying for my SIS file last November reveals two things: there is still no accountability for SIS actions in gathering intelligence on lawful dissent; and the SIS is apparently targeting academic critics of failed free market policies at a time when debate is needed most.”

“The SIS initially refused to confirm or deny whether they held any information on me, claiming that answering that question was itself likely to prejudice national security. They later conceded a file existed, when they realized there were references to me in three pages of the file released on Keith Locke MP.”

“When I complained to the Privacy Commission, they upheld the SIS position. This is utter nonsense. Documents released to other people include information on me and contain innocuous documents similar to those that must appear on my file. None of these could conceivably threaten national security.”

“When the SIS got new powers in the 1990s I warned that they would be used against critics of the free market policies and free trade agreements. This has now proved true.”

“This isn’t about me”, says Professor Kelsey. “The chilling effect of this kind of ‘intelligence’ is likely to intimidate young academics, students and public intellectuals from contributing to critical debate about the discredited ‘neoliberal orthodoxy’. Who wants to be spied on for doing their job?”

“The new culture of openness under SIS director Warren Tucker may have begun with good intentions, but it has now become a sham,” Kelsey said.

Monday, 10 August 2009, 9:00 am
Press Release: Gatt Watchdog

MEDIA RELEASE August 9th, 2009 - Gatt Watchdog

SIS – New decade same old crap!!

Gatt Watchdog is supporting Professor Jane Kelsey’s demand for the release of her Security Intelligence Service (SIS) file.

When the current Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director, Warren Tucker announced that the SIS would be releasing previously confidential files they held on individuals and organizations it seemed as if we might have been in for a new era of openness and accountability from our costly and secretive intelligence community said Gatt Watchdog co-convenor, Leigh Cookson. But it seems Warren was just humouring his critics. Jane Kelsey, a Professor of Law at Auckland University, leading author and very public critic of neo-liberal and free market policies has been refused her file – it seems academics might be a threat to national security.

This all seems a bit familiar to Gatt Watchdog. In 1996 Gatt Watchdog co-convenor Aziz Choudry had his house broken into by the SIS. His colleague Dr David Small caught the agents in the act and a high profile and prolonged court case ensued. Aziz successfully sued over the break-in and received a settlement from the government.

As with Professor Kelsey, the SIS seemed to think that Gatt Watchdog and Aziz’s questioning of the government’s economic policies was a direct threat to national security. So much so, that even when caught red-handed, in the kitchen with the crowbar, they refused to allow any information about their operation to be released. After an exhausting and long legal battle the SIS finally released some of the information that had to be withheld or the nation would falter. “My favourite was the very dangerous and secret map of Christchurch. It was a standard Wises map, and I had one just like it at home, but it seems that to the SIS the location of streets in Christchurch was a national secret, one that must be protected at all costs” said Ms Cookson

Ms Cookson said she suspects much of what is held in SIS files is also in the public arena, and information in Professor Kelsey’s file would certainly fall into that category. “She is a very public critic, she writes books and gives interviews and lectures, her views and activities are hardly secret to anyone who knows how to google”.

Gatt Watchdog challenges the director, Warren Tucker to release the file. “We will even let Warren keep the map of Auckland in her file, we already know where she lives” said Ms Cookson.

"Maybe all the millions of dollars spent spying on the very public critics of neo-liberalism and free trade like Gatt Watchdog and Professor Kelsey should have been spent paying attention to the finance companies, banks and transnational corporations whose unethical practices and greed have left us all dealing with a recession, rising unemployment and a bleak future", she added.

Gatt Watchdog was set up in 1989 to oppose free trade,corporate globalisation and other harmful economic policies.