Israeli spy claims: Goff dismisses PM's 'excuse'

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 15:39 25/07/2011

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The intelligence and security committee should have been briefed on an investigation into Israeli backpackers, Labour leader Phil Goff has said.

Prime Minister John Key has said not all of the five parliamentary committee members had security clearance.

But Goff said ''very sensitive and confidential matters'' go before the committee and dismissed Key's reasoning as ''not …a good excuse''.

The top-secret committee, made up of party leaders, oversees the activities of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

''That item was never raised …But I can assure you that the confidential nature and the sensitive nature of the items that are often brought up …would not make that a good excuse if the prime minister or the SIS considered it serious enough it should have been raised,'' Goff said.

Government agencies including police and the SIS investigated the actions of a group of backpackers following February's massive earthquake in Christchurch. They concluded they were not Mossad spies.

Goff was angry that Key claimed he was briefed on the investigation. After hearing Key's remark, Goff contacted SIS director Warren Tucker for a ''please explain''.

Tucker told him he had ''flicked the issue past him'' during a regular meeting with Goff in March. The pair meet every eight weeks. Goff said he couldn't recall the matter being discussed in the meeting, which occurred a week to a fortnight from the quakes.

Goff said he was shown one of three documents about the investigation this morning, but wouldn't discuss its contents.

''The head of the Security Intelligence Service said he flicked the issue past me and said there wasn't much to it,'' Goff said.

''He 'didn't dwell on it', was his comments.

''If there had been anything of substance said to me I'm sure I would recollect it.''

The Intelligence and Security Act says the fuctions of the committee are not to inquire into "any matter that is operationally sensitive".

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