You can’t fail if you never tried: the review of the Intelligence Agencies

In the wake of the horrific March 15th racist terrorist attack, Auckland Peace Action is calling for any inquiry into the intelligence services to be independent and to be open to the public.

We are very concerned that terms of reference for a proposed review of the intelligence services will allow them to conduct a closed inquiry and continue to hide behind the veil of ‘national security’. If this happens, the people of New Zealand will not get any real answers about why the SIS and GCSB seemingly knew nothing about white supremacists in New Zealand.

These agencies have vast powers, and it is simply not credible that there is any reason why they could not know this attack was on the cards. To put it simply, gathering intelligence on the far right isn’t that hard if you are actually interested, and you actually see white supremacist violence as a threat.

We are concerned that any inquiry that frames these intelligence agencies as having ‘failed’ misses the point that they didn’t even try to monitor this activity because they never viewed this as a threat.

This was not a failure. These agencies were not concerned about vulnerable communities – in this case the Muslim community that literally begged them for help. They are concerned instead with protecting those who already have money and power in New Zealand society which is why they see peaceful activists who want positive change for environmental and social justice as a threat to be spied on. Moreover, their fixation on Muslim extremism reveals institutional racism and deeply held biases.

We can be sure that at some stage the intelligence agencies will seize upon their supposed “failure” to claim they lacked resources to do the job. They will use this tragedy as opportunity to get more money and more spying powers. New Zealanders should resist any calls for more spy powers – instead we need to roll back their budgets and instead give the money directly to communities to build tolerance, resilience and understanding across cultures, religions and ethnicities. This is how we build national security.

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