While collecting intelligence, the NZSIS sometimes obtains information about criminal acts unrelated to national security. Under the Intelligence and Security Act it has discretion on whether to disclose such information to the Police.
The Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security, Brendan Horsley, has reviewed how the Service makes decisions on disclosure, examining relevant policy and some examples from a counter-terrorism investigation.
“What the public may find surprising is that the decision on whether to pass on information about criminal offending can be a difficult one.” said Mr Horsley.
The Service must balance the national security interest in pursuing intelligence operations with the public interest in seeing crimes prevented or investigated. In some cases, law enforcement action can disrupt intelligence collection and potentially prejudice national security.
It could for example lead to police action that alerts a target they are under investigation, prompting them to “go dark” or accelerate their plans to commit harm.
In the specific examples reviewed the Inspector-General found the Service generally approached these decisions in a considered manner and exercised its discretion appropriately, although some aspects of its decision-making would have benefited from further analysis and improved policy guidance.
The report is available on the IGIS website: www.igis.govt.nz
Media contact: Alison Horwood, 021 636 416