INDEPENDENT NEWS

SIS Bill - Govt To Shaft Us In Time For APEC

Published: Mon 26 Jul 1999 10:48 AM
SIS Bill: Government & Pals About To Do a “No. 2” On Us In Time For APEC
The victim of an illegal Security Intelligence Service breakin, whose legal case has sparked two amendments to the Security Intelligence Service Act is throughly unimpressed by the latest version of the SIS Amendment (no 2) Bill expected to be debated and passed in Parliament this week.
“Having read the latest version of the bill, it’s clear the SIS has not been reined in by any of the recent legislative amendments. Quite the opposite - these law changes are designed to expand, not limit, the powers of the SIS. Try as she might to reassure people that critics of APEC will not be subject to SIS snooping, Jenny Shipley cannot hide the fact that both amendment bills have been rushed through explicitly in order to legitimate further SIS break-ins before September’s Leaders Summit. And it was the Prime Minister herself, and various National, Labour, and ACT MPs who first linked the perceived need to legalise SIS break-ins to APEC in parliamentary debates and in the media, not me, GATT Watchdog, the APEC Monitoring Group or our allies. When the APEC circus ends, the law will remain – with the SIS above the law,” said Aziz Choudry.
“The tweaking of the definition of “security” to distinguish between perceived “domestic” and “foreign” or “foreign-influenced” threats does nothing to tighten up the controversial “economic and international wellbeing” wording which many organisations have roundly condemned”.
“Who knows what or who will be deemed to fit this new category? And who will oversee the SIS and its Minister who will retain sole authority for issuing “foreign” warrants? Governments have often justified security crackdowns against domestic dissenters on the basis of spurious claims of foreign control or influence. Who will scrutinise the activities of the SIS in this regard?”
“The Minister and the SIS repeatedly say “trust us”. Why should we?”
“The supposed statutory checks and balances on the SIS did not work as soon as they were put to the test shortly after their 1996 revamp. Nothing in the legislative amendments makes them work now.”
“They are a fiction. They remain non-existent.”
“The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was unwilling or unable even to admit the involvement of the Service in his report on the bungled 1996 operation. It took legal action to get an admission from the Crown that it was indeed the SIS – and that the entry was illegal.”
“That someone has to take legal action against the SIS to get this far is positive proof that the Inspector-General’s office is toothless and the oversight mechanisms fundamentally flawed.”
Mr Choudry is unimpressed by a “sweetener” amendment to the reporting requirements of the SIS suggested in the bill which is expected to be debated and get its third reading in Parliament this week.
“I think that Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane overstates the significance of the suggested reporting requirements which, if accepted would require fuller annual reports to be tabled by the SIS. All things considered this is a very minor concession. Its value is more symbolic than substantive- and doesn’t apply to “foreign warrants” in any case.”
“This revised bill does not address concerns about the SIS’s role in surveilling people and organisations engaged in lawful political activities. Along with its companion amendment, it is a further affront to basic civil and political rights and another step down the road of criminalising dissent”, he said.
ENDS

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