Keith Locke on the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill – Committee stage – part 2 of 5

Where are the enemies, where are the terrorists, where are the really bad people that we need to give these extensive powers to the SIS?



I want to follow up from the previous speech by David Parker, who referred to two quite intrusive powers that are referred to in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill. The tracking power, the ability to track people around the place, is particularly mentioned in this bill, but when we compare this bill with the Search and Surveillance Bill, which is being discussed in the Justice and Electoral Committee, we see that there is a higher threshold for video surveillance in private homes. It can be authorised only in relation to crimes with 7 years’ jail as punishment—I think 7 years is the threshold. It is very intrusive to put a covert video camera in someone’s bedroom or living room; it intrudes very much on people’s privacy. There seems to be a lower threshold in the Search and Surveillance Bill for tracking, but tracking can be very intrusive too. It is true that the police already have that power. It is true that it is not actually outlawed for people to track other people.

In fact, I get emails saying that for US$200 I can buy a little device, which is very small and can be attached to one’s partner’s car to follow them around and see whether they are cheating on one, or whether one’s kids are going astray—they can be tracked. One just tracks on one’s computer where the global positioning system (GPS) location is at a particular time. It is very intrusive technology and we should not let agencies of the State have it too easily. That is one of the concerns the Green Party has.

There is also the problem with the warrants in that under this new amended legislation there will be less control over the warrants, and particularly with people being asked to assist the SIS in the application of those warrants. Previously the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service had to be involved in any changes to the warrants. There have not been many changes: I think there were about five in the last financial year, or a maximum of five over the last 3 calendar years, so there have not been many changes. But now not only will the Minister not be involved but the SIS director can delegate to somebody down the chain the changes in the warrants and who will be asked to assist. This means we have less and less control over the whole warrant system.

This question of who should or could be requested to help the SIS is quite a contentious one and the Council of Trade Unions had quite an extensive submission on that point. It was worried about workers in workplaces being required to assist the SIS by spying on their workmates without even telling their employers. There is not even provision in the legislation for the employer to be told, so that the employer can get upset at the workers delegated by the SIS to do this, to spy on an employer, or to spy on another worker etc. So a whole lot of industrial issues start to come into the whole thing as well. There is a worsening or loosening of the legislation in terms of who can be asked to help assist with the interception warrants, the tracking, or whatever it might happen to be. That can now include organisations as well as individuals, so it is a very difficult area. The people in the gun are for the most part those working in telecommunications and for internet service providers. Those working for internet service providers, in particular, do not want to breach the privacy of the people they sign up as clients and who are paying them good money each month to have email or some form of internet service. They do not want to get mixed up in that and under this legislation it will not even be the Minister or the director involved; it will be some minion in the SIS who will be chasing people around and saying they have to spy on this person.

That comes back to my original point: where are the enemies, where are the terrorists, where are the really bad people that we need to give these extensive powers to the SIS? We have a police force that operates effectively and can operate in secret in that it does not tell criminals, whether they are ordinary criminals or politically motivated criminals, what is going on.