The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, published her report on the inquiry into the release of NZSIS information to Mr Cameron Slater at a press conference in Wellington today.
The inquiry considered whether:
the NZSIS acted properly and within the law when it considered and responded to an Official Information Act request from Cameron Slater in July and August 2011;
the documents released to Mr Slater were properly declassified;
other requests for similar information were treated in a manner consistent with Mr Slater’s request; and
The inquiry found the NZSIS released incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to Mr Slater’s request, and provided some of the same incorrect information to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office.
“These errors resulted in misplaced criticism of the then Leader of the Opposition, Hon Phil Goff MP. Mr Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service,” said Ms Gwyn.
Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that the NZSIS failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality. “Having released inaccurate information that was predictably misinterpreted, the then Director of the Service had a responsibility to take positive steps to correct the interpretation. He failed to do so,” said Ms Gwyn.
Ms Gwyn said she had also investigated allegations, made before and during the course of the inquiry, that NZSIS officers had acted in collusion with Mr Slater or under direction from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office. Ms Gwyn said that these allegations were particularly serious and that she had made full use of her statutory powers to investigate them.
“From that thorough investigation, I do not believe that any NZSIS staff member contacted Mr Slater to instigate his OIA request. Nor have I found any collusion or direction between the NZSIS and the Prime Minister or his Office.”
Ms Gwyn went to on comment that she had, however, established that a staff member of the Prime Minister’s office had provided unclassified NZSIS information to Mr Slater. However, that information was understood by the Prime Minister’s Office to have been provided for media purposes and there was no breach of confidence towards NZSIS in that disclosure.
“That disclosure did not breach any confidentiality or security obligations owed by those staff to the NZSIS. No classified information was disclosed to Mr Slater.” Said Ms Gwyn.
Ms Gwyn commented that the OIA and the obligations of political neutrality and of consultation with the Leader of the Opposition are critical safeguards for public confidence in the NZSIS.
Ms Gwyn has made a number of recommendations around OIA processes and systemic changes to manage NZSIS interactions with Ministerial Offices. The Director of the NZSIS, Rebecca Kitteridge, has accepted all of the Inspector-General’s recommendations.
“The NZSIS undertakes important work, vital for New Zealand’s security. It has talented and dedicated staff. But those staff, and the work they do, depend upon public trust and confidence. I hope that through the publication of this report and its recommendations, public trust and confidence can be better sustained.” Ms Gwyn said.
Ms Gwyn said she wanted to acknowledge the high level of cooperation and support provided to the inquiry and acknowledged, in particular, that the former Director, Dr Tucker, had accepted many of the shortcomings identified and had taken personal responsibility for the actions of the NZSIS under his leadership. She said she was pleased that she was able to release her report to the public in full without redactions.
“I hope the public can see from the detail of the report that the inquiry was comprehensive and rigorous.
The report demonstrated the significant powers granted to the Inspector-General.
“While some of the investigative steps I took were intrusive, they were necessary to ensure a rigorous and thorough investigation. It is vital the public has trust and confidence in the oversight of their intelligence agencies, ” said Ms Gwyn.
The Inspector-General is not available for interview or further comment.
A copy of the report is available - FINAL REPORT INTO THE RELEASE OF INFORMATION BY NZSIS IN JULY AND AUGUST 2011.PDF [PDF, 1.4 MB]