From The Australian, with thanks to Nicolei:
TERRORISTS may be using New Zealand as a “safe haven” to plot attacks or obtain passports, according to the country’s security chief, who has already denied citizenship to three people with suspected terror links.
But the three unnamed individuals were still in New Zealand, Security Intelligence Service director Richard Woods said yesterday, signalling he was frustrated they had not been expelled.
New Zealand was realising physical isolation did not make it immune from terror, he said in Wellington. “We are identifying more people in or from New Zealand who are of terrorist or other security concern,” he said. “In the year 2002-03 I objected to three people getting citizenship.”
Asked what the three were suspected of planning or doing, he said: “I referred earlier to the safe haven concerns.”
In response to a question about whether he was unhappy about their remaining in the country, Mr Woods said: “You should make your own judgment on that.”
Mr Woods’s rare public remarks brought a terse response from the Government. “New Zealand is not a safe haven for terrorists,” Prime Minister Helen Clark said.
Immigration Minister Paul Swain said the SIS had not objected when the three applied for residency several years ago.
“However, (the SIS) became aware later of security concerns, which is when it recommended they be declined citizenship and consequently a New Zealand passport. The SIS has not recommended their residency be revoked,” Mr Swain said.
The SIS is under fire over the case of Algerian detainee Ahmed Zaoui, an elected Algerian parliamentarian who fled the country after a military coup in 1992. He has been held in an Auckland prison for more than a year because the SIS suspects he has terrorist links, despite being granted refugee status.
Security scares are not new. In 2000, Auckland police announced they had discovered a group of Afghan refugees plotting to blow up Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, although they had insufficient evidence for a trial. The men still live in Auckland.
Also yesterday, New Zealand announced a review of security for visiting ships after HMAS Success was daubed with graffiti in Wellington Harbour on Monday reading “J Howard US Bootlicker”.
Miss Clark said she was “concerned” at the attack and Foreign Minister Phil Goff said it showed a terrorist could have blown up the ship.
Terrorists could launder money or obtain weapons in New Zealand, Mr Woods said.
“Individuals may simply use New Zealand as a place to lie low for a while, perhaps acquiring citizenship and then travelling overseas on that immensely valuable document, a New Zealand passport,” he said.
New Zealand passports enabled wide travel “without attracting much attention, and there are visa-free arrangements for a number of countries”, he said. New Zealand passport-holders are automatically granted visas when entering Australia.