The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) is monitoring would-be Kiwi “jihadists” who openly talk about emulating barbaric Islamic State acts on New Zealand soil.
The chilling revelation by SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge came in an interview before Thursday’s release of the IS hitlist urging its worldwide network of supporters to kill those named on the list.
The list included the name of an Auckland man.
Kitteridge was seen leaving Parliament’s multi-storey Bowen House on Thursday morning within hours of the hit-list being published.
Her office has not yet responded to requests for comment but Bowen House is where the minister in charge of the SIS, Chris Finlayson, is based.
Kitteridge has been a highly visible head of the SIS, and Islamic State (IS) has been a big focus of her public statements.
In a recent interview, Kitteridge said the rise of IS, along with other geopolitical tensions in Russia and the South China sea, had created a sense of instability that seemed unprecedented.
She said SIS had been involved in “specific attack planning” in relation to the domestic threat.
“So there is a sense of needing to ensure we are positioned well for whatever may be delivered to us as things unfold; the domestic situation has been very challenging and that has [involved] specific attack planning.”
She added: “There are various kinds of levels of threat from a range of different individuals, plus people wanting to travel to the Middle East, to Syria, or Iraq, to join the so-called Islamic State.
“So the question is are we match fit for all this…are we focused on the right things, do we have our systems in place for all of this?”
Kitteridge also revealed that some of the material viewed by SIS officers in relation to IS was so barbaric they required follow up “pastoral care”.
Yet there were people living in New Zealand who thrived on the same material and were excited by it.
“There are people who are drawn to that because it is brutal and sickening…there are people watching it, getting excited saying what they would do.
“I can’t pretend to understand it but I do think it’s something about a misplaced sense of looking for some deeper meaning.”
The Government says there are up to 40 people being monitored because they actively support IS or are planning to join the ranks of foreign fighters who have flocked to the IS cause.
Asked if she was shocked by what some home-grown IS supporters were plotting, Kitteridge responded: “There are people who would be looking at this saying ‘this is great, and let’s see what we could do that would be similar’…”
Asked if these people were in communication with each other, Kitteridge said she could not get into that level of detail but “it’s absolutely true that there are people who discuss this”.
The SIS received a funding boost in the last budget and has used that to recruit extra surveillance officers and also boost its anti-hacking, or protective security, capabilities.
Kitteridge said the focus for the SIS was “being absolutely sure our information, and New Zealand government information is safe”.