New spy laws being rushed into Parliament

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 07/05/2013
Fairfax NZ

The GCSB will be able to spy on New Zealanders with the prime minister's consent under proposed law changes.

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New Government Communications and Security Bureau laws will be rushed into Parliament this week as the Government seeks to legalise its spying on New Zealanders.

The GCSB has been under scrutiny after it was revealed to have illegally spied on internet mogul Kim Dotcom because he was thought not to be a New Zealand resident.

A subsequent report by Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge found the GCSB may have spied illegally on more than 80 Kiwis.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday unveiled an overhaul of the intelligence agency's legislation.

Under the changes, the GCSB would be able to assist the SIS, police or Defence Force where they were acting within their own laws.

It would also be able to help public and private organisations but where that required spying on New Zealanders, it would need signoff from the minister responsible - usually the prime minister - and the commissioner of security warrants.

"I think it's important to understand that it would be legal for them to carry out the activities they previously carried out that they believed to be legal," Mr Key said.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill will be introduced and debated under urgency this week.

Labour and the Greens are opposed but Mr Key said he had the numbers.

He wrote to NZ First leader Winston Peters to discuss support and would not rule out adopting Mr Peters' recommendation for strengthening the inspector-general of intelligence and security role.

The current legislation was not fit for the purpose and needed changing quickly, Mr Key said.

There were already 136 reported cyber intrusions this year, compared to 138 last year, meaning New Zealanders and private sector organisations were facing increasing risks.

Attempts included hacking into government databases and intellectual theft from businesses, he said.

Labour leader David Shearer said giving the GCSB the "all clear" to spy on New Zealanders was unacceptable.

"The state should not extend its powers to spy on citizens lightly."

The GCSB largely deals with foreign intelligence and cyber security, while monitoring New Zealanders generally falls to the Security Intelligence Service (SIS).

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- The Dominion Post

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