Spies won't jeopardise cases with 'fishing expeditions'

Last updated 09:12 06/11/2014

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The risk of evidence being thrown out of court will stop spies going on "fishing expeditions" with their new powers, the Government says.

In a groundbreaking speech yesterday, Prime Minister John Key laid out the threat risk extremist group Islamic State (IS, also known as Isil or Isis) posed locally, and new security laws to be hurried through Parliament.

Among the new laws to be pushed through the select committee process was power to the Internal Affairs Minister to cancel people's passports for up to three years or suspend them for 10 days in urgent cases.

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) would also be granted the power to carry out urgent surveillance on a subject for up to two days before getting a warrant.

Key revealed government agencies were monitoring up to 40 possible foreign fighters because of their engagement in "extremist" behaviour, while a further 30 to 40 were on a "watch list".

Five people had already departed New Zealand to fight with IS.

Talking to Morning Report this morning, Brownlee said there were safeguards to prevent the power being abused.

"I think what stops them going on a fishing expedition for two days is that without a warrant issued retrospectively, any evidence they might have gathered is inadmissible, and any charges that might ensue from the investigation [may not hold].

"The point is that if they want to be able to collect information speedily, for use and prosecution, they're going to have to be very, very certain that had normal processes been followed they would be able to get a warrant," he said.

It was something the select committee would investigate "quite deeply over the very short time that they have", Brownlee said

"I know those considerations are already going on, among other various parties who will be sitting on that select committee."

Brownlee yesterday confirmed three unarmed military personnel left for Iraq this week to assess how New Zealand could help the fight against the Islamic State group. Former foreign minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters said the country was now "at war".

Up to 10 military planners would be sent to the Middle East and New Zealand would continue talks with Australia about how it could contribute, Brownlee said.

New Zealand's involvement could be scaled up to a role similar to that taken in Afghanistan if the Iraqi security forces request it.

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