The Sutch files have been released, and they show that the SIS didn’t have anything on the guy.
No Right Turn weighs in.
As for the files themselves, the main one – a “target assessment” [PDF], summarising Sutch’s background and all the information the SIS had on him, is pretty much what you’d expect: a web of paranoid supposition and character assassination displaying a conspiratorial mindset. In one section they assume for the sake of argument that he is a Soviet spy; later that assumption is somehow transformed into fact. The overall conclusion? “[D]uring his 66 years we have accumulated six files on Sutch, and yet can prove nothing of which he is suspected”. And yet, they regarded him as guilty. Which rather speaks for itself about the SIS’s regard for evidence.
There’s an obvious parallel here with the Zaoui case – the same paranoia and self-reinforcing web of suspicion despite all the evidence. While the Sutch case led to major changes in New Zealand, clearly nothing has changed in our spy agency.
It’s be nice to agree that it was all just a figment of the imagination, but we seem to have forgotten all about the testimony of our own agents who discovered that this guy was meeting people in the dead of night, using KGB methods to shake any tail. Frankly, we pay people to notice (not so) subtle things like that to protect us, and for good reason. In this case, the success of our side was so total that they stopped this problem before it got too big – and before any really juicy evidence could be created.
On the other hand, perhaps there was an innocent explanation? Maybe he had an invisible dog, and was ashamed to admit he was walking it?