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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 2. 11th March 1976]

CIA Files - In NZ — Operation Chaos

page 12

CIA Files - In NZ

Operation Chaos

Last week, the Socialist Action League made public fifty-one pages of files of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covering the period February to December 1970. The CIA was forced to release these files under a court order resulting from a civil liberties law suit by the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialists Alliance against the American government.

CIA patch image

The files published here (available in the form of a booklet with relevant articles from the newspaper Socialist Action) consist of thirteen CIA dispatches to America, anti-war leaflets and clippings from various radical, student and daily newspapers. In most cases the 'subject' is George Fyson, a member of the Socialist Action Legue, focussing on his visit to a convention of the Young Socialists Alliance in America; some also cover the tour of New Zealand by Andrew Pulley, a black anti-war activist and Marxist. The files were heavily censored by the CIA before they were released; the names of the senders have been deleted and replaced by "(Classified Matter)", or "(CIA Source)". No cities are identified, although in the context "(Foreign City)" could only mean Wellington, and sometimes more than half a page has been erased.

Nevertheless, these documents are highly significant for two reasons; one, they are conclusive proof that the CIA operates in New Zealand, and two, they are all headed up "Operation CHAOS".

Operation CHAOS was organised in the 1960's in response to the rise of anti-Vietnam war and other protest organisations, in the United States and elsewhere. It amassed files on 300,000 people, and it s aim was to infiltrate and disrupt protest movements, and harass those involved in them.

Operation CHAOS took a special interest in the activities of students, who were prominent in the anti-war movement in the period that the files cover. This interest is reflected even in the very few files that have been released that relate to New Zealand.

CIA at Victoria

There are five pages that refer to Victoria University, two references to Salient, including a two-page article on the American protest movement by George Fyson.

Image of a bloody CIA hand over Earth

Because of their role as leaders of many of the protest movements of the last decade, university students are a prime target for Security groups. In a series of articles on the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) in the Dominion, March 1975, Michael Parker said that it was the practice of the SIS to watch "trade unionists with pronounced leftist views and tendencies, and, unfortunately, university students."

Six years ago an SIS agent, Rex Banks, was caught on Victoria campus trying to persuade fellow-students to infiltrate anti-war groups like the Committee on Vietnam. These were tactics identical to those used in the CIA's Operation CHAOS.

Links with the SIS

Inevitably, such tangible proof that the CIA does operate in New Zealand makes one wonder about its relationship with the SIS. Phillip Agee, an officer in the CIA for twelve years, described in an interview how the CIA combines with local Security groups:

"I worked very closely with the local police intelligence services we used the foreign intelligence service as if it were our own the most important thing was that these local groups would engage in repressive actions when we requested it."

There is also evidence that the CIA and the SIS have an unusually intimate relationship. In theory the CIA engages in no New Zealand operations without the knowledge of its New Zealand equivalent.

The response of the New Zealand press to the release of the files on February 19, at a press conference called by the Socialist Action League, was, to quote TV2 "hostile". One almost suspected a CIA plot.

The Evening Post attacked the revelation in two articles; one questioned the authenticity of the "alleged" files, and the other, a review of a TV1 interview with George Fyson, said in complete contradiction that the files had been public for several months! The same article scoffed at the lack of ".....facts, quotes from the files we got next to nothing." This when the Evening Post was in possession of a complete set of the files!

Again, the TV reviewer said "... revealing CIA secrets has become a stale old party game" - well, concealing them is an even older one, and hardly provides a service to the New Zealand public! This type of reporting is, at the very least, irresponsible.


The presence of the CIA or of any secret service in New Zealand is not something we should accept as inevitable, as does the daily press. The mere existence of these organisations discourages people from becoming involved in political protest. They are a direct infringement of our democratic rights.

The fact that the CIA and the SIS pay particular attention to the campuses should make us call all the more loudly for their removal. We must demand a full public inquiry into the activities of the CIA in New Zealand, and into the SIS, and we must demand that the CIA and the SIS and any secret organisation get off the campuses!

- Patrick Mulrennan