The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published the report into whether the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) had any connection to the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation”, detention and rendition programme in Afghanistan between 2001-2009.
Madeleine Laracy, the Acting Inspector-General says, “The Inquiry has examined the role of the New Zealand intelligence agencies in respect of the events in Afghanistan. The NZSIS and the GCSB had lines of connection to the CIA, but they were not complicit or otherwise involved in torture or ill-treatment of detainees.”
“The Inspector-General’s Inquiry was commenced after a report by the US Senate Committee on Intelligence which was highly critical of the CIA’s activities. The purpose in carrying out this Inquiry was to understand if the New Zealand agencies had any knowledge of, or connection to, the CIA's programme.
“The CIA’s activities in Afghanistan involved abuse that is unlawful in New Zealand and at international law and amounted to torture. It also involved the unlawful transportation, or “rendition”, of detainees to and from Afghanistan to other countries for interrogation. The programme was put in place as part of the US’s response to the 9/11 bombings.
“Our office's Inquiry considered whether the agencies’ policies and guidance were and are adequate to deal with the complex legal and ethical obligations that arise when engaging cooperatively with foreign counterparts.”
The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, it was subsequently revealed, had been subject to torture. On one occasion the NZSIS provided questions to the CIA to be put to a detainee. While the NZSIS was not aware that detainee interrogations involved torture, it was known that the individual was being held by the CIA in an undisclosed location.
In addition, the Inquiry found that agency staff, particularly those from the GCSB who were deployed to Afghanistan, lacked adequate training and support.
It was considered that the Directors of the agencies at the time were operating in a difficult political and intelligence environment but still needed to be more alive to the risks for their agencies and New Zealand in maintaining cooperative information sharing arrangements. The Inspector-General also notes in the report that the former Directors carried out their roles with professionalism and integrity.
Ms Laracy says, “The Inspector-General’s recommendations include the need for the agencies to have a clear mandate at ministerial level for activities with overseas partners that might involve legal or reputational risk to New Zealand. Also, that when supporting military deployments intelligence agency staff need to be comprehensively trained to identify where human rights issues might arise.”
The report also makes recommendations relating to the agencies’ current human rights policies which will affect all of its information sharing and cooperation with foreign agencies.
The classified report, and the version that has been published, were substantially completed under the watch of the recently departed Inspector-General, now High Court Justice, Cheryl Gwyn.
Ms Laracy says, “The Inspector-General’s report is a significant addition to public knowledge about New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies, particularly about the ways in which they share information and cooperate with foreign partners.
“It also addresses the way they fill their lawful role in providing support to military operations, in this case the NZDF’s support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
The former Inspector-General had welcomed and included statements in the report from the current Directors-General of the agencies, which emphasise their commitment to compliance with human rights obligations.
“The role of oversight is to provide assurance that that is the case, and in the case of the Inspector-General our oversight is confined to the NZSIS and GCSB. The Inquiry and report have taken a long time to conclude, but we are pleased with the degree of information we have been able to put in the public domain about the way the agencies operate in these contexts and the difficult issues that arise. The agencies have worked alongside us to produce this lengthy public report, and have been responsive to our recommendations,” Ms Laracy says.
A copy of the report is available at https://www.igis.govt.nz/publications/investigation-reports/
Media contact: Antony.Byers@justice.govt.nz or 027 5438 735