GCSB in the clear over using surveillance powers to boost MPs chance of getting new job - report
The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has been cleared of any wrongdoing after spying on foreign governments to help a former Cabinet minister land a plum job.
In a report on Tuesday, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn said the GCSB did not act unlawfully by gathering intel to help former Trade Minister Tim Groser after he put his hand up to lead the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Revelations about the GCSB spying for Groser's job bid first emerged in leaked documents.
Gwyn said the Government had made a foreign policy decision to support Groser as a candidate and the GCSB had a statutory responsibility to provide foreign intelligence assistance in support of New Zealand's foreign policy objectives.
* Opinion: Claims GCSB spied on WTO candidates 'disturbing'
* No official denial of GCSB spying on WTO candidates on Tim Groser's behalf
* Spy watchdog launches inquiry into WTO job surveillance
The Government's decision to support Groser reflected a "considered assessment that Mr Groser would, if selected, advance the effective functioning of the WTO and so have a significant impact on New Zealand's economic well-being".
"In line with the Government's decision and the foreign policy basis for that decision, the GCSB acted lawfully and appropriately in providing its assistance to the campaign."
The report details how former GCSB boss Ian Fletcher approached Groser in November 28 with an offer to expand the agency's regular intelligence gathering operations in relation to the WTO campaign.
Groser "expressed his acceptance".
Groser was ultimately unsuccessful and was now New Zealand's Ambassador to the US.
Gwyn said that she had not expressed any view on whether contributing to New Zealand's economic well-being was a proper objective for the GCSB: that was a question for Parliament, and had been considered in the recent review of governing legislation.
The inquiry did, however, closely scrutinise how the GCSB had ensured that it acted consistently with its legal and policy framework.
"The inquiry found that the GCSB had informal but robust practices for managing and evaluating new requests for foreign intelligence information at the relevant times.
Gwyn said "the GCSB had in place practices and process that provided for the assessment of the benefits and risks of foreign intelligence activity including risk to the GCSB's political neutrality.
"The particular circumstances of this case meant that those practices and process were not rigorously followed, but adequate steps were taken to ensure that there was no unlawfulness or impropriety."
The inquiry also canvassed the framework within which the GCSB operated now.
Gwyn was satisfied that "there is now in place a standardised process for receiving and assessing new requests for foreign intelligence assistance which provides greater transparency and assurance of lawfulness."
She had full cooperation from the GCSB in her inquiry, both in access to records and relevant staff and in making as much information public as possible, Gwyn said.
"I believe that the public needs to know how decisions are made and to be confident that those decisions are subject to thorough internal and external scrutiny."
But she emphasised that she could not reveal sensitive information.
"I am not commenting publicly on any allegation over particular operational details and it was not necessary for the purposes of my inquiry to confirm or disprove the authenticity of any alleged leaked documents. What I am required to determine, and am now reporting, is whether the GCSB acted lawfully and properly."