The SIS should only be allowed to spy on citizens without a warrant for up 24 hours, and only if suspects are thought to be engaged in terrorism, a committee has found.
Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee has reported back on anti-terrorist legislation the Government is trying to push through under urgency.
It has made a number of recommendations to water the original bill down, including paring the proposed 48-hour period to spy without a warrant back to 24 hours.
If the SIS does undertake spying without a warrant, then the Committee has also recommended the Director of the SIS give a copy of the warrant, as soon as it’s obtained, to spy watchdog the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
If the SIS doesn’t obtain a warrant for surveillance and the information it’s collected has to be destroyed, then the director should also alert the Inspector-General.
“This would allow an examination of each warrantless case that was not followed by a visual surveillance warrant or an intelligence warrant,” the committee said in its report.
A sunset clause, which was due to expire in April 2018, should be brought forward a year so the laws would expire within the life of the current Government.
The SIS would have to report publicly every six months, rather than every year, and in more detail, on the use of its new powers.
Many of the changes were brought about through consultation with Labour.
I submitted on this bill, basically against the emergency surveillance provisions.
There was good interaction with National and Labour MPs. David Shearer and Phil Goff especially were very engaged on this issue, and talking about possible changes which are included above. They seemed absolutely convinced there was a need for an emergency surveillance power, but wanted to make it as limited as possible.
A National MP helpfully pointed out to me after my submission, that I was incorrect on a detail – there is an existing provision for emergency surveillance for agencies such as the Police. So this power is not unprecedented.
Labour have handled this bill very well. Rather than mindless opposition, they negotiated (along with NZ First, United Future and ACT) significant changes to it. A key change was the emergency surveilance power can only be used in relation to terrorism, not in relation to other areas of the SIS’s activity.
The most disappointing MP on the committee was Kennedy Graham from the Greens. Not because I disagreed with the Greens, but how he engaged. In essence my submission was against the emergency surveillance provisions, which is the position of the Greens. Rather than try to utilise the rarity of having a prominent National supporter agree with the Greens on an issue, he decided to play semantic games and tried to trip me up on my description of the Commission of Security Warrants as a semi-judicial figure. He even demanded the Clerk of the Committee state whether or not I was correct (the Clerk said basically yes the Commissioner is a quasi-judicial figure). It was stupid behaviour from an MP towards a submitter who was for once basically agreeing with the Greens on an issue. Someone more sensible in the Greens might want to point out to him, that he missed a good opportunity for positive headlines.
Anyway good to see significant changes to the bill, which reflect well on the MPs involved.Tags: SIS