Investigation found 'no evidence' of Israeli spyingSOURCE
Prime Minister John Key (Jew) says an investigation found no link between a group of Israelis caught up in the February earthquake and Israeli intelligence.
Key's statement follows an investigation by Southland Times editor Fred Tulett, whose allegations were published this morning.
Tulett says in the aftermath of the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand intelligence services reportedly became concerned about the activities of several groups of Israelis.
Three Israelis died in the quake, and Tulett claimed one of them, Ofer Mizrahi, was found carrying at least five passports.
Mizrahi was crushed by falling masonry in a parked van in Gloucester Street. His three compatriots, who were also in the vehicle, managed to escape. Within 12 hours of the quake, the Israelis, Michal Fraidman, Liron Sade and Guy Jordan, had met with Israeli officials and left the country.
Key said an investigation was carried out to investigate the "unusual circumstances" of their departure.
"The Government takes the security of New Zealand and New Zealanders very seriously. That's why the relevant agencies conducted a thorough investigation," Key said.
"Security agencies conducted the investigation and found no evidence that the people were anything other than backpackers."
Key said his advice was that Mizrahi was found with only one passport, of European origin.
Claims were made earlier today that the NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) was forced to carry out a full audit of the police national computer system following concerns it may have been hacked by Israeli spies.
Key said he has been assured by police that there has been no unauthorised access to the police computer system.
"The investigations that have been undertaken have been thorough and have found no evidence of a link between the group and Israeli intelligence," Key said.
"The Government takes the security of our country very seriously."
'Jumping to conclusions'
Earlier, Key said people were jumping to conclusions assuming Christchurch has had Israeli spies in its midst.
Tulett told TV ONE's Breakfast today: "It's really interesting that the Israeli ambassador [Shemi Tzur] arrived in Christchurch within hours and personally escorted the three survivors from that van to the airport so they could fly back to Israel. They were gone within 12 hours."
Today a group of journalists, including ONE News Political Editor Guyon Espiner, who are with the Prime Minister in the US, asked him why the Israelis were able to leave the country so quickly at a time when travel was difficult and communication challenging.
"I am not in a position to comment about those matters because I don't comment on matters of national security," Key (Jew) said.
New Zealand Israeli group Friends of Israel (Sayanim) said there is nothing suspicious about the speed at which the Israelis managed to leave the country.
The group's president Tony Kan says the Israeli Embassy told all its citizens to leave Christchurch immediately if they were not injured.
The incident attracted high level interest from Israel, and Tulett said its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made four calls to the (Jewish) New Zealand Prime Minister that
But Key said this afternoon he only received one call.
He said it took several attempts by Israeli representatives to set up the phone call and the Israeli PM was just inquiring into the wellbeing of Israeli nationals. He said he called but "he didn't get through to me four times. He rang to offer advice, support, encouragement.
"As part of those phone calls he raised a couple of issues, one was to pass on his condolences, one to offer support for New Zealand and to offer support to locate or find the individuals in question because they weren't immediately located straight away."
Two other Israelis who were missing and were killed in the quake were backpackers Ofer Levy, 22, and Gabi Ingel, 23.
Asked whether the type of advice given might have related to any Mossad agents, Key said earlier today: "Again that's an assumption that you're making that ... well ... I'm not in a position to confirm that." OR DENY!
Labour leader Phil Goff called on the Government to "come clean" about what it knows about the Israelis, while Green MP Keith Locke said the many "loose ends" warrant further investigation.
Police computer hacked?
A forensic analysis team (Mossad) was also sent by the Israeli government to help with the identification of quake victims, and their help was readily received.
However, the SIS grew suspicious once it was realised the group would have access to the national police computer system, and a full audit was ordered.
"We were concerned that could have happened," an SIS officer told the Southland Times.
The officer said it would only take a few minutes for a programme to be uploaded onto the system which could give spies remote access to the database that contains criminal records.
"If it had been done it would eventually have given the Israelis access to all of our intelligence.
"It all looks suspicious, but a lot of what the Israelis do raises suspicion. So lots of smoke but we haven't found any fires. The file remains open though."
Key (Jew) said he has been assured by police that there has been no unauthorised access to the police computer system.
Police also said they were confident their network was "not compromised" during the Christchurch quake or at any point afterwards. Verint anyone?
Acting Chief Information Officer Murray Mitchell said police systems were subject to regular security audits and intrusion checks.
"We also have a number of anti-intrusion measures (with backdoors to Israel) designed to stop unauthorised or malicious programmes from entering or being active on our systems," Mitchell
Tulett told Breakfast he had put a series of questions of police a few months ago about any possible breaches of security and was given an early indication that he would get a full response "but then that dried up".
"After nine days I got a written statement that said nothing at all," he said.
Tulett said the issue was concerning because the Americans, for example, have discovered malware that has the ability to glean all of a country's security data. (VERINT)
Squad sent in, but rejected
Other questions asked in the Southland Times article surround the Israeli search and rescue squad that arrived in the country shortly after the quake but who did not have the correct UN accreditation.
Their offer of help was rejected by New Zealand authorities, but members of the squad were later discovered in the cordoned-off area in the city centre, and were removed by armed officers.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones has denied reports New Zealand SAS personnel were issued ammunition and deployed into the 'red zone' to deal with the squad as "categorically" untrue.
"Approximately 1800 Defence Force personnel were deployed to Canterbury in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake on a wide variety of civil and humanitarian aid tasks," Jones said.
"I can confirm that a small number of SAS personnel were included in that number, as they possessed relevant specialist medical skills and trauma experience to support the 'first response' needs."
Tulett says newspapers in Israel had reported the private squad was funded by two Israeli backpackers' parents, but he has not been able to make contact with them to confirm this.
Kan said it is not unusual for private USAR teams to be sent from Israel. He said in 2008, the family of an Israeli tourist who fell down a slope on the Routeburn track paid for a USAR team to come to New Zealand.