Review of an NZSIS warning

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The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) today released a report on a warning delivered by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) to a New Zealander believed to be conducting foreign interference in New Zealand.

The individual concerned was assessed by the NZSIS to be working on behalf of a foreign state, collecting intelligence on New Zealand-based people. The individual, who was the subject of a case study in the NZSIS 2020 Annual Report, was warned by the NZSIS in mid-2021 against continuing their activities.

“The Service can issue warnings but has to be careful about when and how it does so,” says the Inspector-General, Brendan Horsley. “It is not an enforcement agency and has limited scope for action beyond its normal role of collecting and reporting intelligence.”

“I reviewed this particular warning because it differed significantly from a past example examined by this office. While that case led to the Service developing internal guidelines on issuing warnings, I found that guidance was of limited value in this case.

“To its credit the Service recognised this. I have recommended it reviews this policy and have provided some guidance on what I expect it to cover.”

Despite the policy issue Mr Horsley said planning for the warning was reasonably thorough and recognised the uniqueness of the operation.

“I found, however, that there were some deficiencies in pre-operation consultation with other domestic agencies.

“The way in which the Service consulted others meant it was not as well informed as it could have been on the risks involved from the perspective of other agencies. These risks were mitigated somewhat by how the operation was carried out. However similar operations in the future would be better served by more formal and robust consultation.”

The Inspector-General has recommended the Service engage with relevant New Zealand agencies to develop arrangements for how they will cooperate in these situations.

Mr Horsley also recommended the Service provide information on its website about when and how it may issue warnings.

An unclassified version of the Inspector-General’s report has been publicly released and provided to the Minister responsible for the Service, Hon Andrew Little, with a more detailed classified version provided to the Service.

The report is available on the IGIS website:

Media contact (on behalf of the IGIS): Joe Locke, 021 636 416

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