Raising New Zealand's terrorism threat level: Is transparency important in national security?

Richard Shortt

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In mid-October 2014, ten years after the New Zealand Government confirmed the establishment of a Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) to advise it on a range of potential threats, the prime minister announced, for the first time, the raising of New Zealand's domestic terrorism threat level. Unfortunately, the assessment that gave rise to the threat level's change (or a version of it) was not made public. Therefore, how were New Zealanders or others expected to properly understand the environment giving rise to the threat changes, and to judge whether the assessors got the setting right. This paper argues increased public transparency is appropriate when additional security measures resulting from a change in threat perception impact citizens' lives and cost taxpayers more money. In presenting this argument, the paper briefly describes the role of threat assessments and how threat levels are set. In the absence of a public version of New Zealand's threat assessment giving a cohesive, concise and transparent outline of the threat environment, the paper presents publicly available information from well-informed high office holders to see if that provides alternative and suitable transparency. Finally, the paper compares New Zealand's terrorism threat assessment transparency processes with those of four countries with similar characteristics to New Zealand to see if alternative models of public transparency are available for consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalSalus Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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