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SIS closes files on MPs

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Russel Norman
Russel Norman

By Maggie Tait and Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, June 18 NZPA - Green MP Keith Locke is pleased his Security Intelligence Service (SIS) file is finally closed after 55 years but is disturbed that MPs can still be spied on for activities like his co-leader Russel Norman's Tibet protest today.

Dr Norman has laid a complaint with police after being pushed during a tussle with members of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping's delegation while he was protesting about Tibet's loss of independence.

Inspector General of Security and Intelligence Justice Paul Neazor today said all files held on MPs had been closed.

Justice Neazor reviewed the practice of spying on MPs after a complaint by Mr Locke.

Today he said his recommendations had been adopted and good practices were in place.

Whatever files the SIS had on MPs -- and not all MPs had files -- had been closed, and access restricted to one officer. Nothing would be added while they remained an MP and nor could the files be accessed, Justice Neazor said.

After an MP's term ended, access would be permitted only with the authority of the SIS director.

The SIS was still working out how to deal with references to sitting MPs in the files of others.

If the SIS determined it necessary to collect information about a sitting MP, the director would brief the Speaker of the House about the proposed collection and the reasons for it.

Mr Locke said that was extremely concerning. He described the addition of informing the Speaker as "a very low bar" to protect politicians.

MPs could still be spied on if they did anything the SIS thought was detrimental to New Zealand's international reputation or wellbeing, he said.

"One could well define standing on the steps of Parliament with a Tibetan flag and upsetting the Chinese government as undermining... Of course the Greens would say upholding human rights by holding a Tibetan flag is actually in the long term interests of the New Zealand people and the Chinese people and the Tibetan people."

Mr Locke said he should never have been under SIS scrutiny.

"It does make me angry. I got used to the fact that I was probably being spied on... but I get more angry for others, particularly people coming into politics and wanting to go on a protest or challenge the Government on something if they start to fear 'oh I am going to end up on record like these 6700 other people, they might be more disinclined to do that."

The SIS, and its predecessors, had accumulated records on 6700 people over 50 years.

"For me the lifeblood of democracy is citizen participation and anything that constrains (that) is unfortunate."

The SIS also had files on former Green MP Sue Bradford and current MP Catherine Delahunty before they became MPs while involved in activism.

Mr Locke said the minimum requirement before a file was opened on a sitting MP should be criminal activity.

"Over 55 years they collected material on me when there's not the slightest bit of evidence I did anything illegitimate or illegal."

The records include clippings and details about his views against the Vietnam war, aparthied, nuclear weapons and human rights.

"For that I had a file kept on me for 55 years, including seven years when I was a member of Parliament."

Prime Minister John Key said the fact existing MPs' files had been closed meant there was "no one of interest to the service".

While the SIS may still want to look at an MP in the future, there would have to be exceptional circumstances for an MP or public figure to be investigated, he said.

"There would have to be a real, and not just a perceived threat from that individual," he said.

SIS director Warren Tucker welcomed the release of the report and said it showed SIS processes were "within the law and appropriate".

Dr Tucker said a new investigative framework and information management policy and procedures had been under way for some time.

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