NZSIS releases historical Sutch papers

Friday 6 June 2008, 3:35PM
By Rt. Hon Helen Clark

Intelligence Service, Helen Clark, announced today that the NZSIS, acting on a recommendation made by the Chief Ombudsman, has released a number of papers relating to Dr William Ball Sutch.

"Some material is being withheld for privacy reasons, and there are also security issues. In particular, a Liaison Service has declined permission for information, which they provided to the NZSIS, to be made public.

"Because of this, at the request of the Chief Ombudsman, the release is accompanied by a statement (attached) from the Director of the SIS to clarify that this is not the totality of their holdings on Dr Sutch," Helen Clark said.

"In conjunction with this release, the Chief Ombudsman has decided in consultation with the NZSIS to declassify and make public a previously ‘Top Secret’ Annex to the 1976 report which resulted in a significant law change in 1977.

"After the trial and acquittal of Dr Sutch in 1975, the Prime Minister of the day requested the then Chief Ombudsman, Sir Guy Powles, to conduct an investigation into the NZSIS. At the time there was no provision in law for the kinds of activities which NZSIS officers undertook as part of their investigation into Dr Sutch. The means they used were not sanctioned at that time by the law.

Sir Guy’s report therefore recommended: "That statutory provision be made to enable the Service, under suitable control, to conduct the surveillance operations it considers necessary."

"Following Sir Guy’s report the law was changed by Parliament in November 1977 to make legal provision via the warrant process for the NZSIS to intercept or seize communications.

"Amendments in 1999 strengthened the warrant provisions of the 1977 NZSIS Act to require warrants in relation to New Zealanders to be signed by both the Minister in Charge of the SIS and the Commissioner of Warrants who must be a retired High Court Judge.

"The Chief Ombudsman and the NZSIS have agreed that it is time to declassify and make public Sir Guy’s ‘Top Secret’ report, in addition to the selection of historical pages relating to Dr Sutch," Helen Clark said.



BACKGROUND: NZSIS release of historical Sutch papers

Until now, the NZSIS has declined many Official Information Act requests for access to the Sutch file, citing security and privacy reasons. However, following a review of the Sutch records by the Office of the Ombudsmen, the NZSIS has agreed to release documents selected by the Ombudsmen.

Additional to Sir Guy Powles’ Report presented to Parliament in July 1976, a Top Secret Annex detailed his enquiries into allegations against the NZSIS relating to the Sutch case, some of which he described as being of "a very serious character". He recorded that his enquiries had satisfied him that there was "not a shred of truth in any of these allegations".

The previously ‘Top Secret’ Annex of Sir Guy’s report is also being released at this time by the Chief Ombudsman, following consultation with the NZSIS. This is entirely consistent with an important principle of the NZSIS’s archives policy that the SIS will deal impartially with information, regardless of whether it reflects favourably or not on the historical operations of the Service.

Prior to 1977, there was no provision in law for the NZSIS to conduct some of the surveillance operations it considers necessary.
Successive legislative amendments have refined the checks and balances. These include:

All interception and seizure of communications affecting New Zealanders require formal warrants that must be signed by the Minister in Charge of the SIS (the Prime Minister), together with the Commissioner of Warrants (a retired High Court Judge, currently Sir John Jeffries);

  • The NZSIS now has strong in-house legal counsel;
  • The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security reviews in detail the manner in which interception warrants are sought and acted upon – to make sure they comply with the law;
  • The NZSIS is also subject to review by the Office of the Ombudsmen and by the Privacy Commissioner;
  • Further oversight is provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament – this Committee has a membership of 5 which includes the PM and Leader of Opposition and 3 others.

The membership of the Committee must be endorsed by Parliament.For full report and papers please go to www.nzsis.govt.nz/Archives/sutch.aspx




Statement from the Director of Security Intelligence Service
06 June 2008

"The Office of the Ombudsmen has reviewed NZSIS records concerning William Ball Sutch and material recommended for release is being made public where possible. Some classified liaison service material cannot be disclosed because of its sensitivity. At the request of the Chief Ombudsman, the Service has provided a general description of the sensitive reporting. It is as follows:

  • Early accounts of Dr Sutch’s association with USSR-aligned individuals and organisations, derived by Western intelligence services from local sources; and
  • More recent reporting of historical information of Russian origin, documenting a long standing association between the KGB and a New Zealand civil servant who very precisely (and uniquely) fitted Dr Sutch’s background and profile.

The relevant information was provided to the NZSIS in confidence, and the originator must give permission before it can be declassified and made public. Recently, for reasons of security, the originator declined to give this permission."

Dr Warren Tucker
Director of Security