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A Dishonest “Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill”

By   /  November 24, 2014  /  9 Comments

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Wouldn’t you think a Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill would actually mention “terrorist fighters” in its text? The Bill, as released yesterday, does not. It’s simply another generalised counter-terrorism exercise giving extra surveillance powers to the Security Intelligence Service and enabling the Minister of Internal Affairs to cancel passports for a longer period.

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Wouldn’t you think a Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill would actually mention “terrorist fighters” in its text? The Bill, as released yesterday, does not. It’s simply another generalised counter-terrorism exercise giving extra surveillance powers to the Security Intelligence Service and enabling the Minister of Internal Affairs to cancel passports for a longer period.

Rather than apply specifically to “terrorist fighters”, Part 1 on the Bill enables the Minister to take a passport from anyone who “intends to engage in, or facilitate a terrorist act within the meaning of section 5 of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.”  The terrorist act referred to could be carried out in any country, including New Zealand.

Ironically, anyone off to Syria just to fight for Isis arguably has a good legal case for keeping his or her passport. Section 5 of the Terrorism Suppression Act has a sub-clause (4) which says an act is not a terrorist act “if it occurs in a situation of armed conflict and is, at the time and in the place that it occurs, in accordance with rules of international law applicable to the conflict.” So any potential Kiwi jihadist who genuinely “intended” his or her contribution as a fighter to stay with “rules of international law” would lie outside the application of the passport cancellation provision.

If such as case went to Court, the government might argue that because Isis is a designated terrorist organization any New Zealander fighting for it is, either directly or indirectly, helping it commit terrorist acts. However, proving a fighter’s intention to “facilitate a terrorist act” would still be problematic.

Another legal problem for the government is that two of the organisations New Zealand is de facto allied with against Isis – that is, Hezbollah and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – are themselves designated as terrorist organisations under our country’s Terrorism Suppression Act. Most New Zealanders have admired the bravery of the Kurds beating off the Isis attack on Kobani, a Syrian town on the Turkish border. Yet any New Zealander sending them aid would be up for several years in jail, because the fighters are from the Kurdish PYD, a subsidiary of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is designated a terrorist organization under New Zealand law. Political biases will come into the application of the new law. Don’t expect any time soon the government to take passports off Kiwis going to fight for the Israeli army – even though it is indisputably involved in terrorist acts such as political assassinations.  We went down a dangerous path back in 2005 when Parliament gave a Minister the power, on “national security” grounds, the power to stop a New Zealander leaving the country, overriding Section 18 of our Bill of Rights.  We shouldn’t be broadening the Minister’s power in this area.

Part 2 of the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill has even less to do with “terrorist fighters”. It simply hands the Security Intelligence Service a power to conduct covert visual surveillance on private property. It’s argued that this is simply extending to the SIS a power the Police now have under the Search and Surveillance Bill, but in my opinion it is even more dangerous to give this power to the SIS because it’s a less accountable agency. When in Parliament, I argued strongly against giving Police such a new power to insert covert video cameras in a person’s living room, backyard or workplace. No good reason was provided for over-riding the fundamental right of people for privacy from covert video cameras in their own home or office.

The Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill has a dishonest title and is being dishonestly rushed through Parliament in a couple of weeks, without a proper public submission process and Select Committee consideration. The National government hasn’t demonstrated the need for such urgency on legislation that so challenges our civil liberties.

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9 Comments

  1. FreeManNZ FreeManNZ says:

    I fully agree that the bill is very problematic. The definitional issue of who is considered a ‘terrorist’ is a stumbling block from the outset. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

    The provisions to expand the NZSIS powers of surveillance to include video surveillance on private property and to allow 48 hour periods of warrantless surveillance should be of most concern to all New Zealanders. As you’ve stated there is no justification given apart from the Minister being temporarily unavailable. The lack of accountability of the NZSIS will mean that the public will almost certainly never get to see how often these new powers are used, or against who.

    John Key’s interview on Good Morning today showed the disdain he has for any dissenting views. When asked about the consultation process he dismissively said of the Green Party that they would never agree and to, “forget about them”. This is outrageous. The consultation process is obviously a sham to give the appearance of fielding concerns on the bill without the intention of actually doing so.

  2. politikiwi says:

    Good piece Keith, thanks.

  3. Korakys says:

    ISIS aren’t even terrorists. They are independence fighters struggling for their own nation who just happen to have committed a great deal of some of the worst war crimes.

    But hey lets nobody talk about Mexico where it is arguably just as bad.

  4. Ovicula says:

    We don’t actually have a Bill of Rights. We have a Bill of Things the Government MIght Let Us Do Now and Then, When it Feels Like It. I suppose it’s easier to write BoR than BoTtGMLUDNaTWiFLI. That’s probably why it has the short name.

  5. Save NZ says:

    Great article. Let’s face it, this bill is not about terrorism it is about surveillance and canceling someone’s passport. It is about Government control. There is so many abuses from the SIS so far it is actually concerning that the Labour party who has actually been smeared using SIS intelligence, has supported it to select committee. It is hard when just a jolly chat and ‘evidence’ from National can just make the opposition crumble. Of course they just pass the buck to the next person. At least the Greens are firmly against. If Labour supports it, when it all goes wrong, National will go to Kiwi’s but Labour supported it too… really are we still wondering why Labour keeps losing their voters?
    We are all hoping Little can turn it around – but can he actually stand up against National? The Jury is out.

    Again Labour’s luke warm stance on TPP.

    The herald ran a poll on TPPA. It’s been buried under other news but the results are interesting considering how right wing the herald readership probably is.

    Do you support NZ’s involvement in the TPP agreement?

    14 – Yes
    324 – No
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/trade/news/article.cfm?c_id=96&objectid=11363630

  6. Save NZ says:

    This is slightly off topic but in Spain the left parties have surged in popularity using completely different methods.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/16/podemos-left-crisis-ukip-anti-immigrant

    this is an extract…. just trying to get ideas out there

    iePodemos is founded on the politics of hope: its English translation is “we can”. It was founded only this year but won 1.2m votes and five seats in May’s European elections. And now it has topped opinion polls, eclipsing the governing rightwing People’s party and the ostensibly centre-left PSOE – the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party. There are few precedents for such an explosive political ascent in modern western Europe; in Spain, a discredited political elite appears to be tottering.

    ” But Podemos was the child of the indignados movement, a party that emphasises bottom-up democratic participation: where the indignados had neighbourhood assemblies, Podemos has “circles” that take similar forms. There are even circles among Britain’s Spanish diaspora in London and Manchester. The funding for its European campaign was largely crowdsourced, and its policies and priorities are decided partly through online voting.

  7. wild katipo says:

    Maybe John XkeySCORE is embarrassed by the incident when a member of the public wandered onto the private function with a visiting young royal and introduced himself to said royal….

    John XkeySCORE was too busy drinking piss at the barbie at the time to give a damn about ‘security ‘ issues then…..

    Yet how many of the royals (particularly the young men in the services who have spent time in the middle east ) whom one would of thought would be deemed as targets of terrorists…actually were threatened ?

    And if John XkeySCORES lax attitudes at the barbie regarding a visiting royal is a barometer of the low terror risk New Zealand currently enjoys ,…why the sudden change? why the curbing of civil liberties if not because he is a direct agent in increasing the risk by involving us in a foreign war through the 5 eyes spy network and the ulterior motives of the TTPA?

    This man is dangerous.

    There is nothing but guile and deceit in him.

    And he’s quite willing to aggravate a situation that never existed before in order to push his servile agenda to the USA and risk not only our civil liberties, – but also the public’s security if retaliation for that involvement is indeed carried out by ISIS on our shores.

    The only thing ‘comfortable’ about this character John XkeySCORE is that he is ‘ comfortably numb ‘.

    And that induced by too much piss drinking and camera shots at the barbie.

    And that same alcoholic ‘comfortableness ‘was probably where he dreamt up a lot of these insane security measures after a phone call from Obama after the President watched the NZ 6 o’clock news.

    Must be hard being the President of the USA and watching this clown down under pissing it up all the time and letting security slide while there’s important things like covert surveillance , the TTPA and civil liberties and populations to oppress to be put in place.

    Im sure KDC would agree.

  8. George Hendry says:

    What if it’s a fake terror?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDErs2lWfys

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