IGIS Afghanistan Inquiry: Intelligence agencies should have been more alive to risk

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has today released its Report of Inquiry into the role of the GCSB and NZSIS in relation to certain specific events in Afghanistan

The inquiry addresses certain questions about the intelligence agencies raised in the book Hit and run; the New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson. The Inspector-General’s inquiry was commenced prior to the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham and Related Matters, which also released its report today. The IGIS’s report covers some related ground but is focused solely on the role of the intelligence agencies. 

“Our inquiry found the intelligence agencies played an important role in supporting New Zealand’s contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2013,” Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Brendan Horsley says. 

“We found that agencies accurately reported allegations of casualties from the 21 August 2010 operation but could have done more to ensure that the possibility of civilian casualities was considered at an interagency level and reported to Ministers." 

“There were also known risks that persons detained by partner agencies were subjected to human rights violations including torture and that those risks were not adequately identified or responded to by the GCSB or NZSIS.” 

The inquiry was led by current Deputy IGIS, and former Acting IGIS, Madeleine Laracy, who says the GCSB and NZSIS support to NZDF was properly authorised and the agencies’ efforts provided essential support for the safety of NZDF personnel in Afghanistan at the time. 

“While they were not the lead Crown agency, the GCSB and NZSIS should have been more alive to the human rights responsibilities that came with their operational activities,” Ms Laracy says. “Both agencies contributed to the NZDF operation to detain Qari Miraj. In light of that they needed to do more after becoming aware of the allegation of Miraj’s torture. Our report describes for the first time the risks involved in dealing with the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, over the five-year period.” 

The Inspector-General’s report makes two recommendations for the agencies: 

  1. In situations where support is provided to military operations, agencies must ensure there is inter-agency planning, in advance of the operation, which anticipates human rights risks and how they will be identified and managed
  2. Agencies should review the Joint Policy Statement on Human Rights Risk Management, with particular focus on the threshold applied to agencies to make decisions on sharing intelligence where there is a risk of human rights abuse.

Newly-appointed IGIS Brendan Horsley commenced his role at the conclusion of this inquiry and endorses the findings and recommendations, noting that they are consistent with important findings in the Government Inquiry.

"Both reports confirm that there are lessons to be learnt for government agencies supporting military operations abroad,” Mr Horsley says. “There is a need for all agencies to be proactive in identifying and managing foreseeable risks of human rights violations and for all agencies to ensure New Zealand does not contribute directly or indirectly to such abuses.” 

The full report is available on the IGIS website: www.igis.govt.nz/publications/investigation-reports 

Media contact: Jerram Watts - 027 291 3518 - jerram.watts@justice.govt.nz

Last modified: