The Dim-Post

April 10, 2011

The strange tale of Charles Wardle

Filed under: intelligence — danylmc @ 8:46 am

Michael Field has an odd story in the Sunday Star Times about Charles Wardle, a kick-boxer who, allegedly, traveled to Pakistan in 2001 to try and fight against the US invasion, converted to Islam, was circumcised, went to Northern Iraq and escaped being killed in a US bombing raid then returned to New Zealand where he became a spy for the SIS monitoring Islamic community organisations and mosques, and is now going public about what he feels are incompetent operating procedures on the part of our intelligence agencies.

Wardle’s blog is here. It is . . . eclectic. His youtube video and letter he sent to the Prime Minister and the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security are here.

Highlight’s from Field’s story:

In his letter to Key, Wardle complained that at the time he was becoming involved in training for jihad. He wanted to stick it out but the SIS were cutting off his expenses.

Three months later Auckland police raided his home, taking computers, books and the handler’s business card. All the property was later returned.


“When they started doing the training for jihad I asked the SIS what they wanted me to do. They couldn’t tell me anything. I was pretty much left to my own devices.”

He said the SIS got him to supply jihadist material to Muslims, which Fauzan Ali saw as entrapment.

Well, who knows? But here’s one observation. Looking at the SIS web site I notice that one of their primary objectives is to:

Detect and prevent serious overseas-based crime which could affect this country.

But I don’t think I’ve ever read of a criminal court case in which arrests were made based on classified SIS material, or SIS agents who could not be identified gave evidence that could not be made public, or whatever.

Maybe they undertake this role with such expertise that they’re invisible: ghosts! But when we look at their other duties, like vetting personal for classified positions and monitoring terrorist groups, we mostly see them fucking up and embarrassing themselves, and generally speaking they seem to pose more of a danger to the rights and property of New Zealanders than a defence of same. Do they do anything useful with their $43.5 million dollars/year?


  1. There was a delightful incident in Wellington in the 70s when an SIS member left his briefcase on the bus or train. It contained a cold meat pie and a well-thumbed copy of Playboy.

    Your taxes at work….

    Comment by Neil — April 10, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  2. Francis Wheen once made a strong case that the main purpose of MI5/MI6 was to provide employment for otherwise unemployable upper class Oxbridge fantasists. Minus the class thing it’s probably similar here.

    Comment by James — April 10, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  3. . . . a delightful incident in Wellington in the 70s when an SIS member left his briefcase on the bus or train. It contained a cold meat pie and a well-thumbed copy of Playboy.

    It was the 80s, and it was a Penthouse, hence Penthouse & pie becoming synonymous with spookish incompetence. Perhaps the pie had been well-thumbed too:
    In his satirical novel Melincourt (1817), Thomas Love Peacock has five go-getting characters contribute to a song in which they describe how they misuse their trades to fleece the public. It begins with the recitative:

    Jack Horner’s CHRISTMAS PIE my learned nurse
    Interpreted to mean the public purse.
    From thence a plum he drew. O happy Horner!
    Who would not be ensconced in thy snug corner?

    Comment by Joe Wylie — April 10, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  4. The SIS is ‘nice to have’!

    Comment by andy (the other one) — April 10, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  5. C.Wardle….was his code name Magpie by any chance?

    Comment by Michael — April 10, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  6. I dont’t know how legit Charles Wardle is. What I do know is the cops that were interested in him are the same cops that have spent the past decade harassing animal rights activists.

    The Special (Police) Intelligence Group was responsible for animal rights police informant Rob Gilchrist who spent all his time trying to incite activists to go burn the local Mc Donald down (Unsuccessfully).

    Anyway I get the impression that if the SIS had been a bit more respectful to Charles and paid him a bit more that all this might not have reached the media.

    Comment by Squirrel — April 10, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  7. It was the 80s, and it was a Penthouse

    You are right. And wrong. It was indeed the 80s but apparently it was a Listener and some sandwiches – so much less incompetent than a pie, Playboy or Penthouse. And the briefcase was left on a journalist’s fence which sadly rates pretty high on the fuck-up scale for spies.
    There is a great list of major events the SIS missed (Fiji coup, Rainbow Warrior, Israelis stealing our passports etc) while they were busy targeting peace activists and the like at

    Comment by Neil — April 10, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  8. You remind me of this –,19906/

    Comment by LucyJH — April 10, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

  9. A few years ago, I had some dealings with the SIS over a document disposal problem they thought chemicals could help with.

    I was impressed by their common sense, dedication, diligence, and enthusiasm.

    Their recruitment processes would have catch every wanabee spook, which probably is quite difficult. Failure correctly results in adverse publicity, but at least some mid level staff are professional.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — April 10, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

  10. Then there is my good friend the rabid ‘peace’ activist who, along with a bunch of mates, walked into the SIS offices very late one night during the 70s to find them locked. However, the rubbish bags had been left outside for collection and our intrepid little band ‘collected’ them.

    They took the bags home to their flat in Mallard country and had a high old time laughing at the inanity revealed in the unshredded memos tossed into bin.

    I’m not sure whether this episode made it into the media. I think it may have. One of the subversives died about four years ago.

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — April 10, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  11. The current SIS is a hopelessly incompetent bunch of clowns, Trevor Loudenesque paranoid fantasists with a world view stuck somewhere between the two Johns – John le Carré and John Birch. As the Zaoui case showed us, the reality is that much of the supposedly secret squirrel advice they give our political leaders is little more than badly sourced prejudice and ill-infomed gossip dressed up with the gravitas of a SIS letterhead. This is then regurgitated to stroke the egoes of politicians who love nothing more than to believe that being catapulted from (say) being a master of the universe in the global banking scam to the gilded halls of power is part of their natural manifest destiny to influence great events on the world stage.

    It seems to me that being a spy should require an extremely diverse skill set. A well informed, rational skeptic who is still able to accept that plots may exist and yet has the balls to submit a blank piece of paper to the PM when asked to report on internal security threats would be extraordinarily hard to find. Certainly, however the SIS curently recruit, they’ve got no one like that in their ranks. Their systems and culture is completely broken beyond help of mere reform – abolition of the IS seems to me to be the only solution. That then though begs the question as to what we replace the SIS with. The police? The police investigate and prosecute breaches of the civil and criminal law. Call me a bleeding heart liberal pinko, but I am uncomfortable with the police extending their area of responsiblity to include routine internal surveillance of people suspected of potential political crimes. Given the lack of oversight for the sort of powers the SIS wish for, that would make at least some of our police force a secret police force, a development I don’t particularly care for.

    Thinking about it, perhaps we should perhaps abolish the SIS and replace it with:

    1/ An external intelligence gathering unit within MFAT, which draws together classified and declassified information from a common sense, civilian viewpoint for the government. Since this agency would be run by civilians who live and breath in the actual world rather than the assorted collected of dysfunctional and institutionalised wierdos that routinely inhabit the senior ranks of our peace time military and security forces I recckon it would give internal and external threat assessments that would be a lot better than the SIS currently gives.

    2/ Looking at what produces excellence in our military, I would also create a small internal security agency recruited from the police but operationally and adminstratively semi-autonomous. A sort of police SAS, it would be capable of drawing investigative expertise and intellectual support from the wider organisation whilst operating with some different legislative rules and with different (and more rigorous) oversight. That would stop the obviously out-of-their-depth incompetence on display in this latest story.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 10, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  12. PS I am writing an asssignment and I’m bored.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 10, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

  13. Sanctuary regarding your second point there are a range of units within the police run along those lines for instance: The Special Tactics Group – an armed unit which trains with the SAS. The Special Investigation Group – A unit set up to deal with national level security threats. The Threat Assesment Unit – A unit set up to deal with risk assesment and domestic extremism. The Combined Threat Assesment Group – A body made up of police, SIS, GCSB and the NZDF to monitor national level security threats.

    In my opinion these groups spend most of their time chasing their own tails and following Tame Iti and co around.

    As for oversight you must be joking, the more important the unit the less oversight there is.

    Comment by Squirrel — April 10, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  14. Careful what you say about the SIS Danyl. They probably ‘monitor’ your blog (in between flicking rubber bands at each other and putting squirrels down their pants for the purposes of gambling).

    Comment by Questioneer — April 10, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

  15. this is a story of dumb and bumber.

    Comment by Dave — April 10, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

  16. Adolf, The SIS staff were probably hysterical that somebody had collected their dummy garbage bait. That garbage was obviously intended for domestic wanabee skip-diving activists.

    Given the GG’s $100,000 bill for waste collection, please encourage others to continue to collect the waste.

    Professionals would know that important documents are shredded into 1 mm x 1 mm squares using high security shredders. That waste is reprocessed abd disposed of separately, as even those small fragments have been recompiled by some state agencies using powerful computers with image software combined with highly modified pick-n-place assemblers from the elctronics industry.

    However, I doubt the SIS, NZ embassies, etc. would ever produce anything worth the reassembly effort.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — April 10, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  17. Sanctuary @11: 1/ An external intelligence gathering unit within MFAT, which draws together classified and declassified information from a common sense, civilian viewpoint for the government.

    See – the National Assessments Bureau.

    ‘Its function is to provide assessments to the Prime Minister, other ministers, senior officials and New Zealand’s diplomatic missions abroad, on events and developments that bear on New Zealand’s interests, especially in regard to national security matters’.

    Comment by Ethan Tucker — April 10, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

  18. Charles Wardle here.

    Had some stuff to add to the article for anyone interested:

    Comment by Charles Wardle — April 11, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

  19. Late 1970’s, a pie and definitely a Playboy. Purchased for the sole purpose of reading the articles, but some of the pages seemed to be stuck together.

    Comment by YouKnowitstheTruth — June 13, 2011 @ 12:21 am

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