SIS misled public - Phil Goff

Last updated 14:59 04/08/2011
Phil Goff

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A fresh political row has broken out over Israeli spy allegations after Labour leader Phil Goff accused SIS head Warren Tucker of misleading the public over what he knew about an investigation into the death of an Israeli citizen in the February 22 Christchurch earthquake.

Fairfax last month revealed a group of four Israelis were at the centre of an investigation.

Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi was killed instantly when the van the group were in was hit by debris, while his three companions escaped and left the country within 12 hours of the quake.

Prime Minister John Key later confirmed several agencies, including the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), investigated the actions of the group. However, no evidence of spying or wrongdoing was found.

Goff today disputed a notation by Tucker on a briefing note - released under the Official Information Act - which suggested the opposition leader had seen the briefing of the Israeli "spy" investigation.

Goff disputed the notation and accused Tucker of calling his credibility into question.

"In future, I will only meet with Warren Tucker or representatives of the SIS if there is someone independent in the room to keep a true and accurate record of what is discussed."

The SIS has refused to comment on Goff's comments.
The document was given to right wing blogger Whaleoil today by the SIS, which refused a Fairfax request several days ago for the briefing note to be released immediately.

The Labour leader is adamant he never read and was never shown a document by the SIS about the so-called Israeli spy investigation.
A notation on the document by Tucker said it was shown to Goff during one of his regular meetings with the opposition leader.
"I was not shown that document. I never read that document. Warren Tucker is wrong," Goff said.

"He may have brought the document to the meeting but he never showed it to me. Mr Tucker acknowledges that I was never briefed on or shown two other documents the SIS compiled on the issue of the Israeli backpackers.
"He has since shown me the first document and I know I have never seen it before.  He has also told me in writing that the NZ SIS does not hold any acknowledgement from me as having read or received the document.
"I was never 'briefed' by the SIS. When asked to explain, Warren Tucker says he 'flicked' over the issue during a regular meeting with me but 'didn't dwell on it'. He says he probably suggested to me that it was not significant. That is not a briefing or a discussion.
"As Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Mossad incident in 2004, I would have had a keen interest in any new allegations and remembered any briefing clearly.

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"I will not stand by and have my credibility questioned over this issue."

Goff called on Prime Minister John Key and the SIS to release all the documentation they had about the investigation into the Israelis "and give a full and frank account of what happened to New Zealanders".

However, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said he believed Tucker over Goff.

"If you were given the choice, I think a senior civil servant who has advised the previous prime minister and a current prime minister on issues of national security, man of integrity, I'd believe him."

Goff had gone "too far" in questioning Tucker's integrity, English said.

"I think that tells us a lot more about Mr Goff and what he's preoccupied with, than it does about Mr Tucker."

Matters of national security had always been treated as bi-partisan and Goff was showing desperation in his behaviour and seemed to be "pretty wound up" about it.

- Stuff


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