24 Feb 2014

Spy agencies silent over funding

10:03 pm on 24 February 2014

The New Zealand Government's spy agencies have refused to tell MPs whether they receive funding from other members of the Five Eyes intelligence network.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and the Security Intelligence Service have been replying to questions from Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee on Monday.

The GCSB and the SIS were asked whether they get funding directly or indirectly from the governments of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States.

Both withheld the information. They also refused to say whether any foreign government paid for any positions within the agencies.

However, they did confirm that they do not collect wholesale metadata on New Zealanders and, to the best of their knowledge, American counterpart the National Security Agency does not either.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says if it does not compromise the agencies' operations, then New Zealanders are entitled to know about any such funding.

"But I can't give a categorical view on that because I do not know the background. And that is the catch-22 with spy agencies. At the end of the day, it comes down to the integrity of the Prime Minister and the good judgement of the Prime Minister as the guardian of the public interest."