New spy laws being rushed into Parliament

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 11:16 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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Labour won't support GCSB legislation being rushed into Parliament this week without a full inquiry into intelligence agencies.

A new bill to overhaul the rules governing the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) will be introduced and debated in Parliament later this week.

It allows the intelligence agency to spy on New Zealanders to help out police, Defence Force, Security Intelligence Service, or private organisations.

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.

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 and said it was important to make legal the actions GCSB had previously been undertaking.

But Labour leader David Shearer said it was a quick fix.

"The bottom line for us is what we want is a full independent inquiry that leads then [to] legislation."

The proposed bill was intended to cover up cracks, he said.

Australia, the United States and Britain had all conducted reviews of their intelligence agencies of late.

However, Key said the current legislation wasn't fit for purpose and needed to be changed.

"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," Key said.

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

He wrote to NZ First leader Winston Peters to discuss support and would not rule out adopting 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, Key said.

There were already 138 reported cyber intrusions this year, compared to 136 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.

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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