18 Jun 2010

SIS files on MPs closed - but could be opened again

9:58 pm on 18 June 2010

The head of New Zealand's spy agency says no one is off limits to scrutiny and that includes members of Parliament.

The Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) has confirmed that files on MPs were closed following a review of the practice last year.

Notwithstanding that, SIS director Warren Tucker says, if there was a particular security issue such as counter-terrorism or espionage, an investigation would be done on the activities of an MP.

Mr Tucker says the Speaker of the House is being consulted about putting in checks and balances, before such an investigation would be launched. He says there will be also wider parliamentary consultation.

Locke not entirely reassured

Mr Locke believes the SIS will reopen its file on him when he finishes his political career.

Hopefully, he says, the SIS is now concentrating more on real crime such as sabotage and not on dissent, but he is yet to be convinced of that.

The fact that they were spying on him till 2006 does make people like him worried, the MP says.

Prime Minister John Key ordered the review after Mr Locke found that he had been monitored by the SIS until 2006. He was elected to Parliament in 1999.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Paul Neazor, recommended then that the SIS stop the practice of keeping open files on MPs.

His latest report to Mr Key says that any files relating to MPs have now been closed.

It adds, however, that such files could be opened if MPs are suspected of doing things that would be detrimental to security; and that information will be collected about people who are of a security interest and have dealings with MPs.

Mr Locke says the SIS has more than 6000 files on people, most of whom he says were spied on for no good reason.