Where's the evidence for GCSB law changes?

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 16/04/2013

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OPINION: Did Prime Minister John Key just bust out his own WMD dossier?

Mr Key yesterday sought to spell out how "vital" proposed changes to Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) legislation are for national security.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair famously claimed intelligence showed Saddam Hussein's Iraq had an active nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programme. His 2002 dossier - compiled to make a case for the Iraq war - was widely discredited.

Mr Key listed a series of threats facing New Zealand. This included the remarkable claim that New Zealand technology has been targeted to create weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Chemical Ali couldn't have come up with a clumsier justification.

So far no-one has argued that New Zealand doesn't face some threats. But Mr Key himself admitted the risk was low.

What is actually at issue is that for more than a decade the GCSB may have been illegally spying on Kiwis - people who can't have been that much of a threat, because in 10 years none were arrested.

That, coupled with an astonishing lack of oversight of the intelligence community, is at the heart of the debate.

It has never been about whether we need the bureau, just the expectation that its agents act within the law.

The necessity for the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and GCSB to operate clandestinely is cited as a reason for blocking a more in-depth inquiry. Labour is refusing to support the legislation without one.

Mr Key is conveniently selective in what he does reveal of their operations. Certainly he knows WMD will make a diverting headline. He gives enough detail to scare - but refuses to go further when pressed for detail or evidence.

Crucially, Mr Key could not adequately explain what the GCSB can do that the SIS can't. Some suspect it involves the use of the resources and/or networks of the United States intelligence agencies.

Either way, Mr Key isn't saying - despite this being a key element of his proposed changes.

He also won't say what the Defence Force might want with GCSB resources.

And no further details were offered up on the more than 80 potential victims of illegal spying and whether they can expect notification. Or assurances that their details haven't been passed to overseas intelligence agencies.

Mr Key said his reforms would enhance public trust in the agency. But without answers to at least some of these questions, suspicions will remain.

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- The Dominion Post

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