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The CAFCA File: SIS spying on protest group for 25 years


The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) has recently been given 400 documents (documents, not pages) spanning from the 1970s to the late 90s, by Security Intelligence Service (SIS) Director, Dr Warren Tucker

According to Murray Horton, the secretary of CAFCA, the SIS file includes:

  • Extremely detailed reports from meetings held in private homes. Mostly these are meeting of third party groups at which CAFCA itself or its members (such as me) were discussed. Obviously the SIS had a spy or spies in those other groups.
  • Reports from year after year of CAFCA Annual General Meetings and various public meetings we organised, including making “covert” calls to one of our speakers to check out who he was and to get him to inadvertently report on the meeting for the SIS. I should stress that these were meetings on subjects like West Coast coal exports and other innocuous topics.
  • Copious analyses of articles on all manner of topics in our newsletter Foreign Control Watchdog. This went on for years.
  • Intercepted private letters.
  • In the case of myself, evidence of dealings between my former employer (the Railways) and the SIS. One report included me on a “troublemakers in the union” list and included evidence of my employer asking the SIS for any evidence that I was connected to the then Socialist Unity Party (I never was, nor any other party). Also reports of my international travels in those years.
  • SIS conclusions that CAFCA was involved in historic “terrorist” acts (we weren’t) and endless speculation as to whether we (collectively and/or individually) were “Communists” (we weren’t).
  • CAFCA was the subject of reports of various SIS Directors to various Prime Ministers.
  • CAFCA was the subject of SIS correspondence with foreign intelligence agencies. CAFCA now has received the material that the SIS sent to foreign intelligence agencies, namely 10 1970s' vintage memos sent to the CIA at the US Embassy. The accompanying letter from Warren Tucker says that they date from the "anti-nuclear ship visit period of (your) history".
  • All details identifying SIS agents or informers have been removed.
Murray Horton says that group has not released this "treasure trove" because "either through sheer naivete or malice, the CAFCA File includes extremely indiscreet and personally damaging material about named third parties, people who were not the subject of the surveillance but simply caught up in its net. A lot of it is salacious gossip, with analyses of named people’s marriage problems, drinking habits, etc, etc. Some of it is laughable – e.g. there is a report dedicated to the likely impact of feminism and different gender views on abortion on the marriages of named couples. There are also gratuitously insulting references to CAFCA leaders such as myself - “he likes the sound of his own voice and keeps interrupting the other speakers”, which we would expect from somebody sent to spy on us."

However, Horton thinks the CAFCA File is only the tip of the iceberg. "Many individual members (not including me, yet) have received their own SIS Personal Files. For example, my colleague Bill Rosenberg has received not only his one but those of both his late parents (which, in the case of his father, Wolfgang Rosenberg, went back to the 1940s). We are aware of at least one sitting MP who has received his/her SIS Personal File, as has one current senior union official. Viewed collectively, these SIS files (the CAFCA one and the personal ones) reveal a fascinating and disturbing pattern of systematic covert State surveillance of many, many organisations (the Philippines Solidarity Network being one example of another group with which I’m involved) and many hundreds, if not thousands, of people over decades. And all in complete breach of the SIS Act which expressly forbids the SIS from spying on legal protest groups."

"All of those SIS Personal Files also include the same gratuitous, personally damaging references to third parties who are not the subjects of the report but have just got swept up into it. It is up to the individuals as to whether they wish to make their SIS Personal Files available to the media."

"We believe that the NZ public and media deserve to have an unprecedented look at the secret work of our spies, to be able to evaluate the calibre of their “intelligence”, and for the public to see what is it that the SIS spends our taxes on. This is not really the stuff of newsbites; for a serious investigative journo, there’s a good long article in it." says Horton.

Apparently SIS Director Tucker confirmed to Murray Horton in writing that the spying on CAFCA has stopped. But he asks: "Where is the democracy if the powers that be exhibit an obsessive compulsion to spy on, and monitor all aspects of the lives of, legal political activists, ordinary citizens exercising their democratic rights?"



Re: The CAFCA File: SIS spying on protest group for 25 years

How does one go about getting hold of one's SIS file?