New Zealand security services launch initiative to help public identify warning signs of violent extremism

Our secret service is launching an initiative to help us identify people who may have been radicalised.

The guide, titled 'Kia mataara ki ngā tohu - Know the signs, a guide for identifying signs of violent extremism', details dozens of indicators that a friend or family member could be planning a terror attack.

The move comes as our spy chiefs identify a new and worrying type of terrorism.

Time was when the intelligence services were never seen, never heard. But now they're loudly proclaiming your country needs you - to keep an eye on those you know, and if necessary dob them in.

"Recognising a potential warning sign and then alerting New Zealand SIS or police could be the vital piece in the puzzle that ultimately saves lives," NZSIS Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge said.

To that end it has published a guide to help us all identify potential terrorists in our midst.

"To pay attention and to be alert so that if they see or hear about something that seems off, that worries them and concerns them, they might have a look at this information to say does this indicate to me that this person is actually on the road to committing an attack," Kitteridge said.

The SIS has listed around 50 signs - from obvious ones like writing on a weapon as happened in Christchurch to a person developing an 'us versus them' worldview.

Authorities say they are usually closely monitoring 40 to 50 potential terrorists. These people used to be motivated by their white identity or by their faith but in the past six months a third group has emerged, those motivated by politics.

"So it could be the COVID measures that the Government took, or it could be other policies that are interpreted as infringing on rights and it's a kind of what I describe as a hot mess of ideologies and beliefs fuelled by conspiracy theories," Kitteridge said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has weighed in on this.

"It would be wrong to imply that we have this significant surge in threat in that regard - are there individuals who subscribe to a particular ideology that may border and dip into violent extremism? Yes," she said.

Our two most recent terror attacks were perpetrated by security-conscious lone violent extremists - hard to identify by their online activity alone. The launch of the initiative is an indicator that security services know that they can't do it without the help of the public.

But to some the guidelines are a first step only.

"How do we upskill those people in our community who are much closer to people who might be potentially radicalised and get them to understand what it is they're seeing, that's our challenge," Massey University sociologist Professor Paul Spoonley said.

Because New Zealand doesn't want to see attacks similar to that suffered by Nancy Pelosi's husband.