Ugly factory building hides bugging centre

Written with Anthony Hubbard

AN UGLY industrial building in inner-city Wellington is the Security Intelligence Service’s bugging and surveillance centre, the Sunday Star-Times can reveal.

The white two-storey building in Kaiwharawhara Rd _ in an industrial area which includes panelbeaters and pet food wholesalers _ houses sophisticated electronic bugging equipment.

Cars and utility vans used by SIS surveillance staff are kept in the building behind a huge roller door. Some of the vehicles are registered to SIS front companies to conceal their identity.

A reporter visited the building yesterday but found no sign of life. Spies, it seems, don’t always work on the weekend.

The surveillance centre is one of a number of long-standing SIS secrets uncovered by espionage writer Nicky Hager and the Sunday Star-Times.

This investigation has also confirmed that the break-in last year of a flat belonging to left wing activist Aziz Choudry in Christchurch was the work of the SIS. Mr Hager says that this bungled operation raises the possibility that the SIS was acting illegally.

The inquiry has uncovered details of the service’s internal structure and shows that a very large part of the SIS resources were devoted to spying on Iron Curtain embassies and local communist groups. But now that the cold war has ended, says Mr Hager, the SIS has very little to do.

One source describes the SIS as “a service without a cause”. But the spies, says Mr Hager, have managed to dupe the politicians and save their own jobs.