Security intelligence director accepts talkback calls for first time

Morning Talk 13/09/2018

Rebecca Kitteridge has one of the most sensitive jobs in the country. She’s the Director-General of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.

For the first time, Ms Kitteridge is in a talk back studio, joining RadioLIVE’s Mark Sainsbury to answer questions we’ve all wanted answers for.

“It is a secret organisation – but there is actually a lot that you can say,” Ms Kitteridge said.

She believes it is important Kiwis understand what the Government agency is going, and why they’re doing it.

“The fact that it keeps New Zealand safe and secure, and that [the public] broadly understand how we go about that. There’s been an enormous effort over the last little while to put that information out into the public domain.

“And the reason that it’s important is that what I think we and other intelligence agencies around the world have learned is that if you don’t have that level of broad understanding about the work that you’re doing, and you don’t have that authorising environment, it can get you into a lot of trouble.”

She noted previous scandals involving the NZSIS and GCSB – the Government Communications Security Bureau.

“There have been controversies in the past - and I think those are behind us now - largely because of the fact that there’s been this effort to provide more information to the public.

What is the NZSIS protecting New Zealanders from?

“There are a range of threats that the NZSIS aims to protect New Zealand from. It’s both threats and also obtaining information and intelligence that will help our decision makers to make decisions. So we have kind of both of those functions.

“In terms of the threats – the main areas of work that NZSIS works on are foreign interference and espionage,” Ms Kitteridge said. “And also counter-terrorism is another major area of concern for us as well as other countries.”

Asked if Islam is the immediate threat, Ms Kitteridge says it is “counter-productive” to target one particular community.

“I think the Muslim community can quite fairly say that’s not Islam, as far as they’re concerned. The vast majority of Muslims in New Zealand are law-abiding, productive members of our society who really object, and rightly so, to having this described as an Islamic problem.

“Our focus is on extremist behaviours – and that could be across a range of areas".

Watch the full interview with Rebecca Kitteridge above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.