22 May 2013

Opposition calls for release of GCSB report

5:44 pm on 22 May 2013

Opposition parties are questioning the findings of an inquiry that the Government's spy agency says clears it of any wrongdoing in the surveillance of 88 New Zealanders.

They say the report needs to be released in full, so the public can draw its own conclusion.

The Government Communications Security Bureau has not released the report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Paul Neazor, but instead issued a written statement on Tuesday.

In the statement, GCSB director Ian Fletcher says Mr Neazor has found there have arguably been no breaches of the law and all of the cases were based on serious issues, such as foreign espionage.

However, Paul Neazor has clarified that statement, saying the law around the spying is unclear. Mr Neazor said he has not found that there were no breaches - only that the GCSB's spying on New Zealanders may have been legal. He is recommending that the law be amended.

The Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties say they are not satisfied by Mr Fletcher's statement and want more answers.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says it is hard to be sure there was no illegal activity without looking at some information.

Spy agency oversight 'inadequate'

Labour leader David Shearer is calling for Mr Neazor's report to be made public and for an independent inquiry into the GCSB.

Mr Shearer told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme there is a conflict of interest when the Inspector-General both oversees and reviews the agency.

Security analyst Paul Buchanan agrees, and told the programme that that while New Zealand needs to have spy agencies, the oversight of their activities is inadequate.

"The Inspector-General is - not by any personality flaw - but is singularly unsuited to oversee these agencies because he's dependent on them, on the one hand, for all of his resourcing, and he's dependent on the Prime Minister.

"He answers to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister is of course the Minister (in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service), so he really doesn't have the independence that required for proper oversight, and he's just one person."

Mr Buchanan says the Inspector-General's findings should be released to reassure the public there has been no whitewash. He says classified parts of the report can be deleted but the rest should made public.

However, Prime Minister John Key rejects the need for an independent watchdog to monitor the activities of New Zealand's spy agencies, but agrees better oversight of them is needed.

Mr Key says the monitoring of the GCSB's activities will also be broadened and there will be greater oversight from the Intelligence and Security Committee.