Rugby World Cup the priority for NZ spy agency

Sports tournaments such as the Rugby World Cup and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi were a focus for New Zealand's spy agency last year, its annual report revealed.

The Security Intelligence Service's annual report for the year to last June states work relating to the Rugby World Cup was given priority "at the expense of business-as-usual activities".

The report was prepared before the RWC, but said the SIS had planned extensively for "an increased level of terrorism awareness" during the tournament and had held a rehearsal to test its readiness to deal with a range of situations.

As well as identifying threats to national security, its duties included security vetting of 11,000 people, including caterers, bus drivers, volunteers and hotel staff, who would be close to the teams or dignitaries.

The Combined Threat Assessment Group, which included the SIS, police and Defence personnel had also focused on the World Cup and other sporting events.

It said SIS staff were sent to India for the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games "to provide situational awareness and intelligence to the NZ Government for the duration of the Games which were held in a high-threat environment".

Staff were also sent to the Cricket World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in February last year.

The report has no detail about specific threats. The report tabled in Parliament is censored so sensitive information is not made public.

Nor does the annual report mention well-publicised issues, such as the suspicion a group of students from Israel caught in the Christchurch earthquake was suspected of involvement with the Israeli spy agency Mossad, a suspicion the students rejected.

Although the report did not mention specific incidents of spy activity by other countries in New Zealand, it said the SIS remained focused on disrupting espionage activities by other countries which prejudiced New Zealand's security.

"A number of intelligence services whose interests we assess as inimical to New Zealand's national security continue to operate in and against this country."

The report did reveal the SIS obtained intelligence of a people-smuggling venture targeting New Zealand and stepped up its work on illegal immigration threats as a result.

The report included a statement on the interception warrants in use over the year, which had to be signed by Prime Minister John Key. There were 21 domestic interception warrants for an average of 143 days each, covering cellphone taps, listening devices, interception devices and copying documents.

 

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