Spy law committee 'blindfolded'

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 09:44 05/07/2013

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The Law and Order select committee is having to decide on the merits of a new spy law while sitting "blindfolded", Labour communications spokeswoman Clare Curran says.

Labour had hoped to question the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on why it needed changes proposed in the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill.

The changes would oblige telecommunications firms to provide technical assistance to the GCSB in its intelligence-gathering and to follow the spy agency's directions on network security.

But committee chairwoman Jacqui Dean said yesterday that the GCSB would not be asked to appear in front of the committee.

Curran and fellow Labour MP Phil Goff had discussed hauling in the GCSB after becoming frustrated during committee hearings last month, when they failed to get answers on the nature or extent of surveillance orders from the country's major telcos.

Dean said the committee had been provided with an initial briefing, two regulatory impact statements "plus some other advice" which gave a "pretty full picture around the context of the need to update the provisions in the Telecommunications Act".  

Curran disagreed saying none of the documents provided to Labour shed much light. So far submitters had only questioned the need for the law change, she said.

"With any other piece of legislation there would be open inquiry as to the reasoning for expanding the powers of an agency."

More information was required on the risks the GCSB faced and how the new proposed powers would mitigate those risks, even if that evidence could only be given by the GCSB in private, she said.

Hearings on the Bill will resume next week, after being postponed on Wednesday.

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