New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

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New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Te Pā Whakamarumaru
New Zealand Security Intelligence Service seal.jpg
Logo of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Agency overview
Formed1956 [1]
HeadquartersDefence House, 2–12 Aitken Street, Wellington, New Zealand
41°16′37″S174°46′46″E / 41.276823°S 174.779439°E / -41.276823; 174.779439
Annual budgetTotal budget for 2019/20 [2]
Vote Security Intelligence
Minister responsible
Agency executive

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS or SIS; Māori : Te Pā Whakamarumaru) is New Zealand's primary national intelligence agency. It is responsible for providing information and advising on matters including national security (including counterterrorism and counterintelligence) and foreign intelligence. [3] It is headquartered in Wellington and overseen by a Director-General, the Minister of New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee; independent oversight is provided by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Māori language Polynesian language spoken by New Zealand Māori

Māori, also known as te reo, is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people, the indigenous population of New Zealand. Closely related to Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan, and Tahitian, it gained recognition as one of New Zealand's official languages in 1987. The number of speakers of the language has declined sharply since 1945, but a Māori language revitalisation effort slowed the decline, and the language has experienced a revival, particularly since about 2015.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country has two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, and its most populous city is Auckland.

Intelligence agency Government agency responsible for the collection and analysis of secret security or political information

An intelligence agency is a government agency responsible for the collection, analysis, and exploitation of information in support of law enforcement, national security, military, and foreign policy objectives.


SIS was established on 28 November 1956 with the primary function of combating perceived increases in Soviet intelligence operations in Australia and New Zealand. [4] Since then, its legislated powers have expanded to increase its monitoring capabilities and include entry into private property. Its role has also expanded to include countering domestic and international terrorism, chemical, biological, and cyber threats.

The organization has been criticised for its role in numerous high-profile incidents such as the 1974 arrest of Bill Sutch on charges of spying for the Soviet Union, [5] the 1981 assassination attempt by Christopher Lewis on Queen Elizabeth II, [6] and the 1996 invasion of GATT Watchdog organizer Aziz Choudry's home. [7] It has also been criticised for its failures to anticipate or prevent incidents such as the 1985 bombing of the Rainbow Warrior , [8] the 2004 purchasing of New Zealand passports by Israeli "intelligence contract assets", [9] and the 2019 Christchurch Mosque Shootings by an Australian alt-right white supremacist terrorist. [10]

Bill Sutch New Zealand diplomat

William Ball Sutch was a New Zealand economist, historian, writer, public servant, public intellectual. He was suspected of being a Soviet spy and in 1974, he was charged with trying to pass New Zealand Government information to the Soviet Union. He was acquitted, an outcome that was the subject of much debate since then. Although there were subsequent disclosures from the KGB which indicated that he may have been a spy, no definitive proof that he was has ever been uncovered.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal sovereign state in northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, in practice its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. Its territory included much of Eastern Europe, as well as part of Northern Europe and all of Northern and Central Asia. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Elizabeth II Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms

Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.


In the first half of the 20th century, domestic intelligence and counter-subversion were primarily in the hands of the New Zealand Police Force (1919–1941; 1945–1949) and the New Zealand Police Force Special Branch (1949–1956). During the Second World War, the short-lived New Zealand Security Intelligence Bureau (SIB) took over. [11] The SIB was modeled after the British MI5 and was headed by Major Kenneth Folkes, a junior MI5 officer. However, the conman Syd Ross duped Major Folkes into believing that there was a Nazi plot in New Zealand. After this embarrassment, Prime Minister Peter Fraser dismissed Folkes in February 1943 and the SIB merged into the New Zealand Police. Following the end of the war in 1945, the police force resumed responsibility for domestic intelligence. [12]

New Zealand Police national police force

The New Zealand Police is the national police force of New Zealand, responsible for enforcing criminal law, enhancing public safety, and maintaining order. With about 12,000 personnel it is the largest law enforcement agency in New Zealand and, with few exceptions, has primary jurisdiction over the majority of New Zealand criminal law. The New Zealand Police also has responsibility for traffic and commercial vehicle enforcement as well as other key responsibilities including protection of dignitaries, firearms licensing and matters of national security.

MI5 British domestic security agency

The Security Service, also known as MI5, is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and Defence Intelligence (DI). MI5 is directed by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and the service is bound by the Security Service Act 1989. The service is directed to protect British parliamentary democracy and economic interests, and counter terrorism and espionage within the UK.

Prime Minister of New Zealand head of the New Zealand government

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017.

On 28 November 1956, the First National Government established the New Zealand Security Service (NZSS). Its goal was to counter increased Soviet intelligence operations in Australia and New Zealand in the wake of the Petrov Affair of 1954, which had damaged Soviet-Australian relations. The NZSS was again modeled on the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 and its first Director of Security, Brigadier William Gilbert, was a former New Zealand Army officer. Its existence remained a state secret until 1960. [4] [13]

The First National Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 1949 to 1957. It was a conservative government best remembered for its role in the 1951 waterfront dispute. It also began the repositioning of New Zealand in the cold war environment. Although New Zealand continued to assist Britain in situations such as the Malayan Emergency, it now became connected to Australia and the United States through the ANZUS agreement.

Petrov Affair

The Petrov Affair was a Cold War spy incident in Australia in April 1954, concerning Vladimir Petrov, Third Secretary of the Soviet embassy in Canberra.

Brigadier is a military rank, the seniority of which depends on the country. In some countries, it is a senior rank above colonel, equivalent to a brigadier general, typically commanding a brigade of several thousand soldiers. In other countries, it is a non-commissioned rank.

The NZ Intelligence Community (NZIC) developed further in the late 1950s due to growing concerns about political terrorism, improvements in weaponry, news media coverage, and frequent air travel. As terrorist threats grew, along with potential connections to wider groups, the adoption of counter-insurgency techniques increased in New Zealand. In response to this, the New Zealand Parliament enacted the 1961 Crimes Act to allow improved targeting of possible terrorist suspects and scenarios. [14] In 1969 the NZSS was formally renamed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. [15] That same year Parliament passed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act to cover the agency's functions and responsibilities. [16]

New Zealand Parliament legislative body of New Zealand

The New Zealand Parliament is the legislature of New Zealand, consisting of the Queen of New Zealand (Queen-in-Parliament) and the New Zealand House of Representatives. The Queen is usually represented by her governor-general. Before 1951, there was an upper chamber, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The New Zealand Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world. It has met in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, since 1865.

Various amendments were later made to the Security Intelligence Act, including the controversial 1977 amendment under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, which expanded the SIS's powers of monitoring considerably. [17] The 1977 Amendment Act defined terrorism as: "planning, threatening, using or attempting to use violence to coerce, deter, or intimidate". The Immigration Amendment Act of 1978 further expanded the definition of terrorism. [18]

In 1987, Gerald Hensley, Chair of the NZIC, stated that the State Services Commission became attracted to the concept of "comprehensive security", taking into account not only human-made threats such as terrorism but also natural hazards.[ clarification needed ] This was also a response to the severing of intelligence-sharing arrangements New Zealand had with the United States in 1985 over nuclear policy. [19] Following the attempted hijacking of an Air New Zealand flight and the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, Parliament enacted the International Terrorism (Emergency Powers) Act 1987. The Act gave censorship powers to the government around matters of national security and terrorism. This was a significant departure from New Zealand's previous conformance to international norms and laws. [20]

At the end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st, the NZIC adapted to emerging chemical, biological, and eventually cyber threats. These three areas became a key point of integration between the intelligence community agencies. Cases of terrorism overseas promoted the NZ Intelligence Community to regularly exchange information and meet the growing demands of addressing non-state actors. [21] [22]


The SIS is a civilian intelligence and security organization. Its stated roles are:

As a civilian organization, the SIS's remit does not include enforcement (although it has limited powers to intercept communications and search residences). Its role is intended to be advisory, providing the government with information on threats to national security or national interests. It also advises other government agencies about their own internal security measures, and is responsible for performing checks on government employees who require security clearance. The SIS is responsible for most of the government's counter-intelligence work.

In 2007, it was reported that the SIS wished to expand its role into fighting organized crime. [24]


The SIS is based in Wellington, with branches in Auckland and Christchurch. It has close to 300 full-time staff. [25]

The Director-General of the SIS reports to the Minister of New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, who is as of 2018 is Hon Andrew Little, and the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. [26] Independent oversight of its activities is provided by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. [27]


Rebecca Kitteridge in 2015 2015 05 18 Rebecca Kitteridge.jpg
Rebecca Kitteridge in 2015

The SIS is administered by a Director-General. As of 2014 it has had seven directors generals:

Public profile

The SIS has been involved in a number of public incidents and controversies:

Access to records

Until a few years ago[ when? ] the SIS was reluctant to release information either under the Privacy Act or the Official Information Act. However it has now adopted a much more open policy: individuals who apply for their files will be given extensive information, with only sensitive details (such as details of sources or information provided by overseas agencies) removed. A letter to the Director is all that is required in order to obtain information.[ citation needed ]

In certain respects, [ further explanation needed ] the SIS still fails to meet its obligations under the Privacy Act but in these cases there is a right of appeal to the Privacy Commissioner. The Privacy Act does not cover deceased people but their files are available under the Official Information Act. The service is also required to release other information such as files on organizations but it is reluctant to do so, claiming that it has to perform extensive research in order to provide such information.

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Special Branch is a label customarily used to identify units responsible for matters of national security and intelligence in British and Commonwealth police forces, as well as in Ireland. A Special Branch unit acquires and develops intelligence, usually of a political or sensitive nature, and conducts investigations to protect the State from perceived threats of subversion, particularly terrorism and other extremist political activity.

Government Communications Security Bureau

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is the public-service department of New Zealand charged with promoting New Zealand's national security by collecting and analysing information of an intelligence nature.

Ahmed Zaoui is an Algerian member of the Islamic Salvation Front. He arrived in New Zealand on 4 December 2002 where he sought refugee status. Objections from the Security Intelligence Service were withdrawn in September 2007, allowing him to remain in New Zealand. He was granted New Zealand citizenship in 2014.

Nicky Hager author and investigative journalist

Nicky Hager is a New Zealand investigative journalist. He has produced six books since 1996, covering topics such as intelligence networks, environmental issues and politics. He is the only New Zealand member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is the official responsible for supervising New Zealand's two main intelligence agencies: the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

The Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) and the National Intelligence Community (NIC) or National Security Community of the Australian Government are the collectives of statutory intelligence agencies, policy departments, and other government agencies concerned with protecting and advancing the national security and national interests of the Commonwealth of Australia. The intelligence and security agencies of the Australian Government have evolved since the Second World War and the Cold War and saw transformation and expansion during the Global War on Terrorism with military deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq and against ISIS in Syria. Key international and national security issues for the Australian Intelligence Community include terrorism and violent extremism, cybersecurity, transnational crime, the rise of China, and Pacific regional security.

A Security Risk Certificate is part of a New Zealand legal process whereby a person suspected of being a security risk can be incarcerated prior to expulsion from the country. The Security Risk Certificate is based on unchallengeable "classified security information". This is information that, in the opinion of the Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service "cannot be divulged to the individual in question or to other persons" for various reasons, including those listed below.

New Zealand's intelligence agencies and units have existed, with some interruption, since World War II. At present, New Zealand's intelligence community has approximately 550 employees, and has a combined budget of around NZ$145 million.

The National Assessments Bureau (NAB), previously known as the External Assessments Bureau (EAB), is a New Zealand intelligence analysis agency within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). The NAB along with the Government Communications Security Bureau and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service is one of the three core members of New Zealand's intelligence community. It provides assessments to the Prime Minister, other Ministers, senior officials and New Zealand's diplomatic missions abroad, on events and developments that bear on New Zealand's interests, especially in regard to matters of national security.

Foreign espionage in New Zealand, while likely not as extensive as in many larger countries, has nevertheless taken place. The Security Intelligence Service, which has primary responsibility for counter-intelligence work, states that there are foreign intelligence agents working in New Zealand today.

New Zealand has experienced few terrorist incidents in its short history and the threat is generally regarded as very low. However, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has warned against complacency. This article serves as a list and compilation of past acts of terrorism, attempts of terrorism, and other such items pertaining to terrorist activities within New Zealand.

The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination is a New Zealand government committee which gives the Prime Minister strategic policy advice on security and intelligence matters. Operational security matters are handled by other groups, including the Defence Force, the Ministry of Defence, the Security Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Security Bureau and Police.

The counter-terrorism page primarily deals with special police or military organizations that carry out arrest or direct combat with terrorists. This page deals with the other aspects of counter-terrorism:

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New Zealand is committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which contain a right to privacy. Despite this, currently there is no general right to privacy in New Zealand law. Privacy tends to hold the status of a value or an interest, rather than a right. Privacy interests are protected by legislation in many specific areas, and in recent years a general tort of invasion of privacy has developed. Support for the recognition of privacy as a right has been given by two Supreme Court judges, and in August 2011 the New Zealand Law Commission released the final stage of its Review of the Law of Privacy, throughout which it makes many recommendations of changes to privacy law in New Zealand.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK's national security. SIS is a member of the country's intelligence community and its Chief is accountable to the country's Foreign Secretary.

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  1. Michael King, Penguin History of New Zealand, p.429.
  2. "Total Appropriations for Each Vote". Budget 2019. The Treasury. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  3. New Zealand Security Intelligence Service overview
  4. 1 2 Michael King, Penguin History of New Zealand, pp. 429, 431.
  5. 1 2 3 Clayworth, Peter (20 June 2012). "Intelligence services - The Cold War, 1945 to 1984". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  6. 1 2 McNeilly, Hamish (1 March 2018). "The Snowman and the Queen: Declassified intelligence service documents confirm assassination attempt on Queen". . Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  7. 1 2 "Crown Pays Up, Apologises In Choudry SIS Case". Scoop News. 26 August 1999. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
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  11. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp. 291–2.
  12. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.140–44.
  13. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.231–32.
  14. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 510.
  15. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp. 242, 292.
  16. "New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act 1969 No 24 (as at 13 July 2011), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2011. The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service to which this Act applies is hereby declared to be the same Service as the Service known as the New Zealand Security Service which was established on 28 November 1956.
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  18. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 512.
  19. Andrew Brunatti, The architecture of community, p. 126.
  20. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 517.
  21. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 521.
  22. Andrew Brunatti, The architecture of community.
  23. NZSIS Official Website About Us, Index
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  27. "About | Inspector General of Intelligence and Security" . Retrieved 7 July 2018.
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