Key: GCSB should be able to spy on Kiwis

01:55, Apr 10 2013
Waihopai spy base
WATCHING: The Waihopai Spy Base.

Prime Minister John Key has suggested a law change would allow the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) to spy on New Zealanders.

His comments came after the Government was forced to release a report into GCSB after it was revealed it showed 85 New Zealanders could have been illegally spied on.

The GCSB provides the Government with foreign intelligence but is not supposed to monitor local citizens or residents.

That job falls to the Security Intelligence Service (SIS).

But in China last night, Key told media the GCSB was the logical agency to monitor New Zealanders "for a variety of reasons", but the law would need to be clarified to allow that.

"GCSB should be able to provide agency support for NZSIS under the right conditions and with the right oversight," Key said.

He confirmed that would mean spying on New Zealanders.

Key said the law change he would propose was only seeking to clarify that what has been occurring for years was legal.

"I'm not proposing a change in the mandate of GCSB. What I am saying is that it's my view that GCSB should be able to continue to provide agency support to other agents under appropriate authorisation as they have in the past.

"NZ SIS... already collects intelligence about New Zealanders. The issue isn't about whether the intelligence is collected, it's a question of by who."

Currently GCSB had ceased to provide the support while the doubts about legality were addressed.

"All that means is that NZSIS would have to therefore collect  it, and that would be collected in my view in a more costly way and probably with less efficiency, so we are looking to legislate for what has been the practice of these agencies for a long period of time."

Key said the a central part of new legislation would be changing the way the GCSB itself was monitored.

While Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Justice Paul Neazor believed he was carrying out his legal duties, this was not good enough.

"He believes that he has fulfilled his requirements, as established by the law. And that is probably right, but what I would say is that the oversight that I believe is necessary, now that we've had an opportunity to go much more deeply into the operational workings if you like of GCSB, indicate to me that a higher level of oversight is required."

Legislative changes Key would take to Parliament would have greater oversight powers put upon GCSB.


''Because I don't believe the level of oversight is high enough, he's the big control check that looks into that organisation...and we need to make sure it's a higher level."

Neazor had never raised concerns about the level of resourcing he had, as far as he was advised.

"With all the knowledge that we now have and also the importance of that role, it's quite clear to me as the minister, that I think that Parliament needs to ensure that the Inspector General, has a broader mandate and better oversight."

Key said he would be able to announce more about the changes in legislation next week.

He said GCSB had been involved in the 85 cases because they believed they were allowed to under the present law.

"They believed ... and this is the subject of debate between lawyers, that that particular provision of the act allows them to provide support," he said.

The situation with Kim Dotcom was different because GCSB thought he wasn't a New Zealand resident and because it was acting on behalf of police, not the SIS.

Writer Nicky Hager said GCSB staff at its Waihopai spy base in Marlborough would be shocked to learn about the alleged illegal spying on New Zealanders.

"The staff, like the public, have been told over and over again that we do not spy on New Zealanders," he said.

"This is going to be a shock to the staff as well as the public.

"There is a section of the GCSB Act that says we will not spy on New Zealanders, and it turns out that they do. Somehow, the management felt if they were doing it on behalf of other agencies, they weren't doing it."

Intelligence analyst Paul Buchanan told Radio New Zealand it was not advisable to expand GCSB's domestic spying activities.

"The domestic espionage business should be left to the cops and the SIS," he said.