Spy agency unlawfully provided investigative assistance over Nicky Hagar book - report

New Zealand's spy agency unlawfully provided investigative assistance after acquiring the phone records of investigative journalist Nicky Hagar and a person suspected of being a source, according to a report released this afternoon.

Nicky Hagar speaks at book launch. Source: 1 NEWS

The Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) accessed two months of phone records from Mr Hagar's home phone, and three months from a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) officer's mobile and home phone line. 

It came after Mr Hagar's 2011 book Other People's Wars, about New Zealand's involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Mr Hagar laid a complaint and in the report released today by the acting inspector-general of intelligence and security Madeleine Laracy, she wrote that the NZDF initially determined the book contained material which could have come from an officer. 

It asked for assistance from the NZSIS after inquiries into one officer was inconclusive. 

"Analysis of this data did not establish any connection" between Mr Hagar and the officer, the report stated. 

Ms Laracy concluded that the NZSIS "unlawfully provided investigative assistance to NZDF in efforts to determine whether a specific NZDF officer had been a source for information published in Mr Hager’s book".

She said that the NZSIS helped despite a "lack of grounds for reasonable suspicion" of any activity that was at risk of national security. 

"I have been unable to find that the NZSIS showed the kind of caution, I consider proper for an intelligence agency in a free and democratic society, about launching any investigation into a journalist’s sources."

Ms Laracy said the NZSIS should apologise to Mr Hagar. 

"I would rather get on with my work than fight these fights, but this issue needs to be fixed for the future," Mr Hagar said today.

"I want the SIS to introduce clear policies that will prevent them from targeting media organisations and journalists in this way again."

NZSIS director-general of security Rebecca Kitteridge released a statement this afternoon apologising to Mr Hagar "for these failings, any impact they had on him, and any distress that has been caused".

"I reiterate that apology to Mr Hager publicly."