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IGIS concerned at NZSIS use of class warrants

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is concerned that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service’s (NZSIS) use of class warrants is giving the agency too much discretion to decide who it puts under intensive surveillance.

The Inspector-General, Brendan Horsley, today released an unclassified report on his review of three intelligence warrants issued to the NZSIS in 2022 and 2023 for surveillance of suspected terrorists and violent extremists.

“The issue is not who is being targeted under these warrants, but who decides,” Mr Horsley said. “My concern is that the Service is now getting warrants for highly intrusive activities against generalised classes of people it assesses as threats. This means decisions about who, specifically, is subjected to intensive surveillance are made within the agency, not by the warrant authorities.”

Class warrants are available to the NZSIS under the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 (ISA), but were not available to it under its preceding legislation.

“In the past, and until relatively recently under the ISA, the NZSIS would seek individualised warrants for close surveillance of individuals assessed as serious threats. This meant the case against a particular person was put to external authorities for endorsement.”

“The current practice is to seek these class warrants, which permit the agency to use up to its most intrusive techniques against anyone fitting the class definition. Under these warrants individuals can come under maximum surveillance without anyone outside the NZSIS having seen the case for it.”

Mr Horsley said the number of people targeted under class warrants was not so large that individualised warrants would be impractical.

“The NZSIS operated solely with individual warrants until the enactment of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017. For counter-terrorism it could continue to do so. Using class warrants to avoid individual applications might be convenient but in my view it is not a proper application of the warrant regime.”

 

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