New Zealand spy agency warns of persistent foreign espionage threats

NZSIS New ZealandThe intelligence agency of New Zealand has issued a report warning that the country is being targeted by foreign spies who operate using fake covers. Many of them aim to infiltrate some of the highest levels of the government, according to the agency. The warning appeared in the annual report of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), the country’s main national intelligence organization, which is responsible for intelligence, counterintelligence and counter- terrorism. The NZSIS’ latest report covers the 12 months leading up to June 30, 2016. The unclassified version of the report was presented last week to the New Zealand House of Representatives, which must by law be kept informed about the activities of the NZSIS.

The report warns that “[f]oreign powers continue to conduct espionage activity and other hostile state-sponsored activities, including foreign interference, against New Zealand”. To illustrate this point, the report mentions the case of an alleged “foreign intelligence officer” who entered New Zealand under a “cover identity”, presumably in 2016. The officer approached and met senior New Zealand government officials, including some “with high level security clearances”, claims the report. The undercover officer also came in contact with individuals who worked in “key New Zealand business facilities” and sensitive industries, according to the document. However, NZSIS was able to identify the officer and subsequently contacted all New Zealand government officials that came in contact with the officer. The officials were debriefed and advised to be “cautious in their conversations” with foreign nationals, said the report.

The case study may point to efforts by foreign intelligence agencies to gain insights or manipulate the operations of New Zealand’s government and business community, said NZSIS. However, when asked by reporters, the agency refused to provide further details of the case of the foreign undercover officer. An agency spokesman said simply that the case highlights “some of the security threats that New Zealand currently faces”. The NZSIS is currently in the middle of a hiring spree, after its budget was raised last year. It is estimated that the agency’s staff has increased by nearly a fifth since late 2015.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 16 January 2017 | Permalink

Soviet documents ‘identify New Zealand diplomat as KGB spy’

Bill SutchBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A batch of documents from the so-called ‘Mitrokhin archive’, which were made public late last week, have reportedly identified a former New Zealand senior diplomat as a Soviet spy. William Ball Sutch was born in 1907 and received a PhD in economics from Columbia University in the United States in 1932. Shortly afterwards, he returned to his native New Zealand in the midst of the Great Depression. At around that time he traveled to the Soviet Union, but showed no outward interest in communism. He entered government service, working for several departments, including the Ministry of Supply and the Department of Industries and Commerce, where he rose to the post of secretary in 1958. Prior to that, he had represented Wellington at the United Nations headquarters in New York in the early 1950s. He retired in 1965 as head of New Zealand’s Department of Industries and Commerce, and died in 1975. A year before his death, however, Sutch was the main subject in the most sensational spy scandal in New Zealand during the Cold War. He was arrested in a counterintelligence operation in Wellington while secretly meeting Dimitri Razgovorov, an officer of the Soviet KGB. Sutch, who had been monitored by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) for quite some time prior to his arrest, was charged under the country’s Official Secrets Act. But eventually he was found not guilty after an eventful five-day trial, which took place amidst a media blitz in the Kiwi capital. Now, however, the Wellington-based Dominion Post newspaper says it has acquired copies of internal KGB documents that identify Sutch as a KGB recruit. The Australian-owned newspaper says the documents are part of the massive archive transported to the United Kingdom in 1992 by the late Vasili Mitrokhin. Mitrokhin was a Soviet archivist for the KGB, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR. The latest batch of papers, which were made public at Cambridge University’s Churchill College, indicate that the New Zealand diplomat worked for the KGB for 24 years prior to his 1974 arrest. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #572

David Wise

David Wise

►►New Zealand spy service now welcomes online tip-offs. Ten years ago, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) introduced a free telephone number that people could ring if they suspected any suspicious intelligence activity. Now the spy service has entered the 21st century by changing its website so the public can provide details online.
►►Book claims Coco Chanel spied for Nazis. Frankly, who gives a damn? Is anyone surprised to hear that yet another member of French high society was pro-Nazi in the lead-up to World War II? It is disappointing to see how many news outlets are going over-the-top with this story, while mostly ignoring the truly important historical revelation of the last few days, namely the declassification of the CIA’s Official History of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
►►David Wise on Sino-American spy wars. Longtime investigative journalist David Wise, who focuses on the intelligence community, talks to Democracy Now! and Amy Goodman about his new book Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China.

New Zealand investigates ‘suspicious’ Israeli spy activity [updated]

Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi

Ofer Mizrahi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in New Zealand have confirmed that they investigated a series of suspicious actions by alleged Israeli intelligence operatives, in the days following last February’s earthquake in Christchurch. According to publicly available data, at least three of the 181 people who died in the February 22 earthquake were Israelis. Admittedly, the number of Israeli victims was relatively small, which is why New Zealand authorities were baffled by the Israeli government’s intense concern about the earthquake. On the day of the disaster, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the telephone no fewer than four times with his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, which some New Zealand officials found odd at the time. Even stranger was a subsequent encounter between an armed New Zealand security force and an unauthorized Israeli rescue squad, in the days following the earthquake. The Israeli squad was found roaming in Christchurch’s cordoned ‘red zone’, without an official rescue accreditation by either the United Nations or the New Zealand government. After a brief but tense exchange, the Israelis were escorted out of the ‘red zone’, and the episode led to “intense diplomatic exchanges” between Wellington and Tel Aviv, according to New Zealand media. A possible solution to the riddle came with the discovery in Christchurch of the dead body of an Israeli named Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi. Mizrahi, who died when part of a building fell on the van he was riding in, was found to be carrying at least five different passports bearing his photograph. Read more of this post

Comment: Major changes in Australian, NZ spy agencies

Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
This website has been keeping tabs on the ongoing transformation of New Zealand and Australian intelligence agencies. Recent media reports from both countries indicate that the changes, many of which are still underway, will mark the broadest reorganization in New Zealand and Australian intelligence agencies’ operational focus and mission in over half a century. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #312

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News you may have missed #0244

  • Former S. African spy chief dies. Mike Louw former head of South Africa’s apartheid-era National Intelligence Service (NIS) and later the South African Secret Service (SASS), has died. As deputy director general at NIS, Louw helped facilitate some of the very first meetings between the government of F.W. De Klerk and Nelson Mandela, the then imprisoned leader of the African National Congress.
  • Kiwi spies get augmented cyber-surveillance powers. Reports from New Zealand indicate that new “cyber-monitoring measures have been quietly introduced”, giving the country’s law enforcement and intelligence services increased online surveillance powers. Veteran intelligence observer Nicky Hager describes the changes as “the largest expansion of police and [intelligence] surveillance capabilities [in New Zealand] for decades”.

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