SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge talks about the increase in ‘Jihadi Brides’ on the NZ spy agency’s watchlist.
No presumed Jihadi bride has left from New Zealand, spooks have confirmed, instead all of the women who made headlines last year, departed Australia.
The Security Intelligence Service has confirmed those women were New Zealand citizens but living across the ditch.
Prime Minister John Key revealed in December, that some New Zealand women were known to have taken part in “weddings” before heading to Islamic State (Isis) stronghold Syria.
He reinforced information heard while chairing an open session of Parliament’s powerful Intelligence and Security Committee.
In that committee, SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge revealed a rise in the number of young New Zealand women heading to Iraq and Syria.
“It’s something we haven’t seen before,” she said.
Key confirmed afterwards there was “no question one or two people have left” for Syria and they and were known to have engaged in weddings “effectively at the very last minute”.
Hundreds of young women world wide have been recruited to the Isis cause as so-called Jihadi brides, few of them returning home.
The terrorist organisation has actively targeted young Western women for the cause.
Kitteridge said then that the numbers leaving New Zealand were small but significant.
The SIS has refused to confirm numbers, but Kitteridge confirmed last year it was fewer than a dozen.
There were concerns for their safety in a warzone, but the likelihood of foreign fighters returning to New Zealand radicalised, has also been a concern of spy agencies.
Widesweeping law-changes in 2014 granted the Internal Affairs Minister the power to cancel passports for up to three years or suspend them for 10 days in urgent cases.
Australia took an even harder line last year, changing rules to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship. Separate law changes in Australia have also opened the way for the deportation of Kiwis who have committed crimes across the ditch.
Former SIS boss Warren Tucker confirmed in December 2014, that the domestic spy agency was keeping tabs on New Zealand “freedom fighters” who posed a risk to New Zealand’s security on their return from war-torn countries, including Syria.
The revelation that they departed from Australia however, has been met with claims of “scaremongering” from some quarters.
Labour leader Andrew Little, who sits on the committee, told Radio New Zealand he was left with the impression the women had left from this country.
The Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, rejected claims the government deliberately mislead.
“If you go back to the statements that were made there were no implications or ‘winks and nods’ that they were not resident in New Zealand.”
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Key and Kitteridge had “misled the nation”.
She called on the pair to apologise to Muslim women.
“This is John Key using spy agencies, yet again, for his own political purposes. He misled New Zealanders into thinking that there were large numbers of Muslim women leaving New Zealand to go to Islamic State.
“That is not true.”
She said the claims were “denigrating” for an already vulnerable community.
Turei said she though Key made the statement, to make it easier for a review into spy agency laws to recommend boosting SIS and GCSB powers.
Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy released their independent report into the laws governing the agencies last week.
They recommended a single piece of legislation to be established to cover both the GCSB and the SIS, to allow them to work together more effectively.
It was one of 107 recommendations, which also included the removal of restrictions preventing the GCSB from spying on Kiwis’ private communication.
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