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
41°16′37″S174°46′46″E / 41.276823°S 174.779439°E / -41.276823; 174.779439
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. As a civilian organization, it has no part in the enforcement of security but is responsible for providing information and advising on matters including national security (including counterterrorism and counterintelligence) and foreign intelligence. [2] 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. It was originally established on 28 November 1956 with the primary function of combating perceived increases in Soviet intelligence operations in Australia and New Zealand. 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 involved in numerous high-profile incidents such as the 1974 arrest of Bill Sutch on charges of spying for the Soviet Union, the 1981 assassination attempt by Christopher Lewis on Queen Elizabeth II, and the 1996 interception of GATT Watchdog organizer Aziz Choudry. It has also been criticised for its failures to anticipate or prevent incidents such as the 1985 bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, the 2004 purchasing of New Zealand passports by Israeli "intelligence contract assets", and the 2019 Christchurch Mosque Shootings by an Australian alt-right white supremacist terrorist.

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.

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.

National security defense and maintenance of a state through use of all powers at the states disposal

National security is the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, which is regarded as a duty of government.



The First National Government established the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service on 28 November 1956 as the New Zealand Security Service (NZSS), aiming to counter perceived 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 New Zealand Security Service was modelled on the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 and its first Director of Security was Brigadier William Gilbert, a former New Zealand Army officer. The organization's existence remained a state secret until 1960. [3] [4]

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.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, 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 centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

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.

According to the journalist and author Graeme Hunt, domestic intelligence and counter-subversion prior to the establishment of the SIS was primarily in the hands of the New Zealand Police Force (1919–1941; 1945–1949) and of the New Zealand Police Force Special Branch (1949–1956). Another predecessor to the SIS during the Second World War was the short-lived New Zealand Security Intelligence Bureau (SIB). [5] The SIB, modelled after the British MI5, was headed by Major Kenneth Folkes, a junior MI5 officer. The conman Syd Ross duped Major Folkes into believing that there was a "Nazi plot" in New Zealand. Due to this embarrassment, Prime Minister Peter Fraser dismissed Folkes in February 1943 and the SIB merged into the New Zealand Police. Following the end of World War II in 1945, the police force resumed responsibility for domestic intelligence. [6]

Graeme Hunt New Zealand journalist

Graeme John Hunt was a New Zealand journalist, author and historian.

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, maintaining order and keeping the peace throughout New Zealand. With over 11,000 staff 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.

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.

The NZ Intelligence Community (NZIC) developed further in the 1960s 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 adaption of counter-insurgency techniques increased in New Zealand. These developments culminated into the 1961 Crimes Act; enacted by Parliament, the Act allowed mindful targeting of possible terrorist suspects and scenarios. [7] In 1969 the NZSS was formally renamed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. [8] That same year the New Zealand Parliament passed an Act covering the agency's functions and responsibilities: the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act. [9]

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 Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world.

An act of parliament, also called primary legislation, are statutes passed by a parliament (legislature). Act of the Oireachtas is an equivalent term used in the Republic of Ireland where the legislature is commonly known by its Irish name, Oireachtas. It is also comparable to an Act of Congress in the United States.

Parliament subsequently made various amendments to the Security Intelligence Act – among which included [ original research? ] Robert Muldoon's highly controversial 1977 amendment, which expanded the SIS's powers of monitoring considerably. The 1977 Amendment Act went on to actively define terrorism as: "planning, threatening, using or attempting to use violence to coerce, deter, or intimidate." This was in order to address a new emerging threat of international terrorism. Following the 1977 Amendment Act, Parliament enacted the Immigration Amendment Act of 1978, which went on to further expand the definition of terrorism. [10]

Robert Muldoon 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Robert David Muldoon, also known as Rob Muldoon, was a New Zealand politician who served as the 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand, from 1975 to 1984, while Leader of the National Party.

In 1987, Gerald Hensley, the then Chair of the NZIC stated that the State Services Commission became attracted to the concept of "comprehensive security." This took into account both human-made threats such as terrorism and natural hazards. This was also in response to the severing of intelligence-sharing arrangements New Zealand had with the United States in 1985 over nuclear policy. [11] 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 contained censorship powers given to the government around matters of national security and terrorism. This was in stark contrast to New Zealand's previous conformance to international trends and laws. [12]

Gerald Hensley CNZM, is a former New Zealand diplomat and public servant.

Air New Zealand Flight 24

Air New Zealand Flight 24 was hijacked on the tarmac at Nadi International Airport, Fiji on 19 May 1987. The flight, operated by a Boeing 747-200, was making a scheduled refuelling stop while en route from Tokyo Narita to Auckland. The hijacker boarded the aircraft and held the three flight crew members hostage, threatening to blow up the aircraft unless the deposed Fijian prime minister, Dr. Timoci Bavadra, and his 27 ministers who were being held under house arrest were released. The flight crew were eventually able to overpower the hijacker and hand him over to local police. There were no injuries or deaths reported, and the aircraft never left the tarmac.

Sinking of the <i>Rainbow Warrior</i> Covert attack by French military frogmen on a civilian ship in peacetime

The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, codenamed Opération Satanique, was a bombing operation by the "action" branch of the French foreign intelligence services, the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE), carried out on 10 July 1985. During the operation, two operatives sank the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior, at the Port of Auckland in New Zealand on its way to a protest against a planned French nuclear test in Moruroa. Fernando Pereira, a photographer, drowned on the sinking ship.

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 to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Cases of terrorism overseas promoted the NZ Intelligence Community to regularly exchange information and meet the growing demands of non-state actors. [13] [14]


As a civilian organisation, the SIS takes no part in the enforcement of security (although it has limited powers to intercept communications and search residences). It's 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.

The SIS is a civilian intelligence and security organisation. Its threefold roles are:

In 2007, it was reported that the SIS wished to expand its role into fighting organised crime. [16]


The NZSIS is based in Wellington, with branches in Auckland and Christchurch. It has close to 300 full-time equivalent staff. [17]

The Director-General of the NZSIS 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. [18] Independent oversight of its activities is provided by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. [19]


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

Public profile

The NZSIS has become involved in a number of public incidents and controversies since its creation in 1956:

Access to records

Until a few years ago[ when? ] the NZSIS 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 certain sensitive details (such as details of sources or information provided by overseas agencies) removed. In certain respects, [ further explanation needed ]the NZSIS 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 organisations but the service is reluctant to do so, citing the extensive research it allegedly has to carry out in order to provide such information. A letter to the Director is all that is required in order to obtain information.[ citation needed ]

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Counter-terrorism activity to defend against or prevent terrorist actions

Counter-terrorism, also known as antiterrorism, incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategies include attempts to counter financing of terrorism.

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.

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.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Canadian intelligence agency

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is Canada's primary national intelligence service. It is responsible for collecting, analysing, reporting and disseminating intelligence on threats to Canada's national security, and conducting operations, covert and overt, within Canada and abroad. It also reports to and advises the Government of Canada on national security issues and situations that threaten the security of the nation.

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.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security 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:

The Special Investigation Group (SIG) is a New Zealand government group that focuses on threats to national security, formed after 11 September 2001. It is part of the New Zealand Police, and there are SIG teams centered in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

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.


  1. Michael King, Penguin History of New Zealand, p.429.
  2. New Zealand Security Intelligence Service overview
  3. Michael King, Penguin History of New Zealand, pp. 429, 431.
  4. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.231–32.
  5. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp. 291–2.
  6. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp.140–44.
  7. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 510.
  8. Graeme Hunt, Spies and Revolutionaries, pp. 242, 292.
  9. "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.
  10. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 512.
  11. Andrew Brunatti, The architecture of community, p. 126.
  12. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 517.
  13. Bethan Greener-Barcham, Before September: A History of Counter-terrorism in New Zealand, p. 521.
  14. Andrew Brunatti, The architecture of community.
  15. NZSIS Official Website About Us, Index
  16. 'SIS head wants to tackle organised crime', Radio New Zealand news item.
  17. "Briefing to the Incoming Minister 2017" (PDF). Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  18. . Retrieved 7 July 2018.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. . Retrieved 7 July 2018.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. "Statement by director of the SIS concerning Mr Ahmed Zaoui". The New Zealand Herald . 13 September 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  21. 'A Word From Afar: The Curious Case of Mr. Tucker', Scoop, Paul G. Buchanan, 11 February 2009, retrieved 30 December 2009.
  22. Hallel, Amir (2 October 2004). "At home with the Mossad men". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  23. Tan, Lincoln (15 December 2008). "Chief of police called in over spies". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  24. "Uni staff asked to spy on students". 3 News . Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  26. McNeilly, Hamish (1 March 2018). "Intelligence documents confirm assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth in New Zealand". Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  27. McNeilly, Hamish (1 March 2018). "The Snowman and the Queen: Declassified intelligence service documents confirm assassination attempt on Queen". . Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  28. "SIS files confirm Dunedin teen tried to shoot Queen". Otago Daily Times. NZ Newswire. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2018.