Fisher on the GCSB and SIS

David Fisher has a lengthy ‘opinion’ on New Zealand’s spy agencies at NZ Herald: David Fisher: Just how bad were our spies? It’s one of his better articles.

Despite the headline looking at a troubled past Fisher also has some optimism for a better future.

John Key has opened up the spy agencies to public scrutiny in a way which we have never seen in New Zealand.

We know more now about what they do and even how they do it.

We know how the two agencies are managed, in that the GCSB and NZSIS both have top-flight lawyers in charge.

In terms of oversight and public disclosure, we are heading into an era unparalleled in our history. Citizens now have more ability to see and have explained the tasks done in their name. Again, it might not be enough but it is considerably more than we have had before.

That’s where we have come to, three years after Mr Key had to admit Kim Dotcom and one of his co-accused had been illegally spied on by the GCSB.

It’s an interesting, reasonable and balanced analysis.

Fisher concludes:

This is the question which needs to be answered – what should the agencies be doing? If their job is “keeping New Zealand society secure, independent, and free and democratic” how can it best achieve that? Among other things, it was confusion about the GCSB’s reason for being which led it into forbidden territory.

If we’re all clear about the path on which the intelligence community is heading, surely there’s far less chance of those agencies accidentally straying into the wilderness.

There seem to have been significant changes for the better in New Zealand’s spying world.

Six biggest threats to New Zealand

David Fisher at NZ Herald on the biggest threats to New Zealand – ‘Extremism in NZ’ top of alert list:

The top-secret list was revealed in the Briefing to the Incoming Minister provided by the heads of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

It was obtained by the Herald through the Official Information Act after the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman and – with redactions – shows how Mr Key and Attorney General Chris Finlayson were briefed when returned to government in October last year.

The six biggest threats:

  1. Violent extremism in NZ and by New Zealanders – the report warns migration is creating communities with “distinct identities and links overseas”. It appears to reflect information the SIS has learned from Muslim communities.
  2. Loss of information and data – the means by which a cyber attack is done is “easier to acquire and easy to combine with insider threats”. It poses economic and reputational risks.
  3. Hostile intelligence operations in and against the country – the report warns of “industrial espionage” against companies and “targeting of New Zealanders by foreign governments”. Again, the consequence of increased migration could be linked to these concerns.
  4. Mass arrivals – the entire small section is redacted, but John Key has previously spoken of concern over boat-loads of refugees making landfall in New Zealand.
  5. Trans-national organised crime – drugs, money-laundering and illegal fishing are highlighted, brought about by an “open economy, the internet and established networks among migrant communities”.
  6. Instability in the South Pacific – the entire section is blanked out, but the SIS has had a close focus on Fiji, its leadership and anti-regime movements in New Zealand and Australia.

Source: Briefing to the Incoming Minister, NZ Intelligence Community.

(NZ Herald)

The actual degree of threat from these things in New Zealand is very low, partly due I guess to our SIS and GCSB and their links to other intelligence agencies. But mostly due to our geographic location and lack of internal conflict.

‘Waitzen’ challenges Trotter on fairy stories versus reality

Following on from Trotter’s conspiracies – is something amiss with Chris? a commenter ‘waitzen’ at Bowalley has challenged Chris Trotter’s claims, suggesting he has “gone way over the top”.

Chris, I rarely agree with you but always enjoy your posts. However I do think you have gone way over the top with these recent anti-TPP posts. First you accused Helen Clark of being in league with the enemy, a saboteur and closet neo-liberal. Then you proclaimed the end-of-times with a forthcoming second wave of colonisation-apocalypse.

Now you have gone full tinfoil hat conspiracy-theorist and claim the SIS and GCSB will be deployed to monitor those that oppose the TPP. All without a shred of evidence and way too much rhetoric. The Left, if that is what you represent, need to present much more coherent arguments against the TPP if you are win the public debate. 

Lastly, using quotation marks around certain words to indicate ambiguity or irony is tiring after a while.

Trotter replied:

People like you, Waitzen, always remind me of the White House Press Corps under Nixon. They, too, had no clear notion of what the Deep State was, or how it operated, and when the Watergate break-in was reported they were happy to go along with the official line that it was nothing more than a “third-rate burglary”.

The activities of the Deep State are almost impossible to investigate without the help of a “Deep Throat”. Certainly, Woodward and Bernstein would never have gotten to the heart of the Watergate conspiracy without his help. [He was, you’ll recall, the Deputy Director of the FBI, W. Mark Felt.]

What is possible, however, is for people like myself to scrutinise the sequencing of related events. Helen Clark’s intervention in the TPP debate was one such event. (To suggest that she did not know exactly what she was doing is an insult to her undisputed political gifts!)

Another such event was Tim Groser’s publicly avowed intention to change Labour’s mind about the TPP. Yet another is the public revelation that the Government intends to spend millions of dollars on a “public information” campaign – explaining TPP.

What do you make of all these events, Waitzen? – No, don’t tell me, I can guess. “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along please.”

As for the SIS and the GCSB. What do we know about their behaviour? Well, we know that they were only too happy to make their services available to the FBI (acting for Hollywood and against Kim Dotcom) as well as to the PM’s Office (in order to embarrass Phil Goff).

But, according to you, they will take no interest in the TPP debate. Even though they are legally mandated to protect NZ’s “economic well-being”. (That two SIS agents were caught attempting to break into an anti-globalisation activist’s house is also, presumably, irrelevant to the probability that the building popular movement against the TPP is already under SIS/GCSB surveillance.)

You’ll have to forgive me, Waitzen, for becoming just a little testy with people who display zero knowledge of even their own country’s recent history. You may prefer the fairy-story version of NZ politics, in which nothing remotely like the activities predicted here ever take place, but, personally speaking, I prefer reality – no matter how grim.

There have certainly been issues with the way the SIS and GCSB have operated in the past. There have been significant changes made – but Trotter’s reality seems to be that that the worst will always happen.

And ‘waitzen’ responded back:

Chris, reflecting upon what you wrote I think what you are saying is that the organs of the state, including the intelligence agencies, will seek to spy on those who protest against the TPP, disseminate what they find to others in the so-called deep state, and thereby undermine the legitimate democratic process of opposing the TPP.

You point to recent examples of such activities and criticise those, such as me, who seem ignorant of what has actually gone on in New Zealand. There is, it seems to you, a vast web of interconnected people and agencies who are working together to advance the their cause, and that of their masters, at the expense of ordinary people. 

In reply I would say that bringing up Watergate is pure rhetorical flourish. That happened 40 years ago in another country in another time. It has, in my view, nothing to do with New Zealand in 2015. I understand you do think it does. I disagree and not from a position of ignorance either.

Secondly I profoundly disagree that there is a conspiracy of the deep state to undermine the democratic process and legitimate opposition to TPP. That the GSCB/SIS cooperated with the FBI over the Kim Dotcom affair does not make in an organ of repression. I do understand the history of my country, I just don’t see the things you see. 

You accuse me of preferring a so-called fairy-tale version of New Zealand politics. I assume this is a reference to so-called dirty politics. Well, yes, there is plenty of that around in all political parties but again, I simply do not see this as the massive conspiracy to fatally undermine democracy as you do.

Indeed you seem to delight in seeing the ‘grim reality’ as you describe it. The world is seemingly full of Machiavellian realpolitik players hell bent in advancing the interests of the ruling class at the expense of legitimate democracy. Maybe in the world inhabited by the conspiratorial Left, but I see New Zealand democracy at least as inhabited by people, from all parties, who genuinely want what is best for the country, and generally play by the rules. The organs of the state are inhabited by ordinary New Zealanders, just like you and me, who are generally decent, honest and law-abiding. A Fairy tale? I don’t think so.

I’ll add more responses if Trotter continues to engage.

Comments on Securing “Buy-In” For The TPP: The Deep State Takes Over.

UPDATE: the exchange has continued at some length from here.

It currently concludes with:

waitzen said…

Chris, you know of course that the quote by Disraeli was from his work of fiction, Coningsby published in 1844, before he was Prime Minister? That doesn’t necessarily mean he was wrong, but in mulling it over, I did take account of its fictional context.

Chris Trotter said…

Yes, I was aware of the quote’s origin, Waitzen. But, you know what they say: “if you want to tell the truth – write fiction.”

waitzen said…

Yes, I was aware of the quote’s origin, Waitzen. But, you know what they say: “if you want to tell the truth – write fiction.”

Does that mean your blog posts are fiction?

Chris Trotter said…

A little obvious, don’t you think?

It could be a case here of Trotter’s ‘facts’ being stranger than fiction.


Trotter’s conspiracies – is something amiss with Chris?

Early this week Chris Trotter posted on his Bowalley blog suggesting that due to the agreement made on the Trans Pacific Partnership a “second great wave of colonisation” would wash over New Zealand.

See Trotter on TPPA and “the storm of change that is coming”

He has followed that up yesterday with a post laden with conspiracies.

Securing “Buy-In” For The TPP: The Deep State Takes Over.

IT IS NOW CLEAR that Helen Clark’s Trans-Pacific Partnership advocacy in New York was just the beginning. The opening move in a chess game that will end with the Labour Party knocking over its King and returning to the bi-partisan fold on the issue of Free Trade. To achieve this turnaround will require the mobilisation of all of the non-elected elements of the New Zealand political system.

This is despite the mobilisation of the Trotterite conspiracists.

Applying the maximum of public pressure to Labour will be the responsibility of the news media and the numerous business lobby groups.

Poor Labour. No wonder they are having credibility problems, everyone is against them, even Helen Clark (who is now working for the United Nations to keep Labour out of power).

Behind the scenes, however, Labour MPs will find themselves on the receiving end of one-on-one briefings from old friends and colleagues (senior civil servants, leading academics) “deeply concerned” that Labour has positioned itself in the wrong place, on the wrong issue.

The Civil Service and all the Universities are against them too.

These “old friends” of the Labour Party will warn Caucus members that their failure to support the TPP will only end up driving Labour further and further to the Left. Just as they were beginning to make up much-needed ground, the party will spurn Middle New Zealand for the tin-foil-hat-wearing brigade. Not only will this render Labour unelectable, but it will also serve as an invitation for the news media to start casting about for a Caucus member who’s prepared to act in a more responsible fashion.

I’m not sure what Trotter means by that.

That such individuals exist within Labour’s caucus is indisputable. That money and resources will, very swiftly, begin flowing in the direction of these TPP supporters is equally certain.

That Trotter has not provided any evidence to support this claim is certain.

Even further behind the scenes, a mounting surveillance effort will engage the resources of both the SIS and the GCSB. Relying on the legal clauses that empower these agencies to protect the “economic well-being” of New Zealand, leading figures in the Anti-TPP movement will have their communications intercepted and their movements tracked. Opposition strategies, being known, are more easily countered. Any material likely to prove embarrassing, or, even better, discrediting, will find its way to sympathetic bloggers and/or journalists.

The SIS and the GCSB are also set up to defeat Labour. I’m waiting for them to feed me material so I can question the mental condition of Labour supporters who warn us of the web of conspiracies.

Why will the key elements of the Deep State: the upper echelons of the news media; senior civil servants and academics; judges; the Intelligence Community; act in this way? Why is the restoration of bi-partisanship on the Free Trade issue so vital? The answer is brutally simple.

The judges are all in on it too.

Were Labour’s opposition to the TPP allowed to stand, an opportunity would open up for voters to elect a government committed to its rejection.

If only all these people weren’t conspiring against Labour the people would see what a truly wondrous party it was and vote for them.

The election of such a government would not only put at risk all the secret material pertaining to the negotiation of the TPP, but it would also force into the open all of the deeply undemocratic assumptions underpinning the deal. Such exposure would seriously compromise the reputations of the politicians and civil servants involved in negotiating the TPP. Even more seriously, it would expose the true intentions of New Zealand’s “friends” and “allies”. It is the duty of the Deep State to make sure that such potentially catastrophic political revelations never happen.

One could wonder whether Trotter was in a deep state of something.

If everything and everyone wasn’t against them Trotter’s dream of a political revolution would surely happen.

With Labour and National – the two parties indispensable to the formation of stable government in New Zealand – both singing from the same TPP song-sheet, that fraction of the New Zealand electorate opposed to the TPP will find itself reduced to voting for a party (or parties) too small to successfully negotiate their country’s exit from the TPP.

That seems strangely out of synch with the rest of Trotter’s desperate dialogue. Is it sarcasm or confusion?

To paraphrase Henry Kissinger: The Deep State doesn’t see why it should stand by and watch New Zealand’s membership of the TPP put at risk because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

The people of New Zealand are so irresponsible not taking the true Labour and Trotter seriously and rising in revolt.

Is Trotter writing some very clever satire? Or is he seriously nuts?

GCSB and SIS review – public views sought

Public submissions are now being sought as part of the independent review of New Zealand’s intelligence and security legislation.

Michael Cullen and Patsy Reddy, who are carrying out the review, have put out a press release advising of the submission  process, asking the public for their views on “what the GCSB and NZSIS should be doing to protect New Zealand”.

I presume that allows for public views on what the GCSB and SIS shouldn’t be doing.

Intelligence and security reviewers seek public’s views

The independent reviewers examining New Zealands intelligence and security legislation are calling for public submissions.Intelligence and security reviewers seek public’s views

“We are seeking public submissions to help us determine what issues to focus on during the review,” says Sir Michael. “We want to hear your views on what the GCSB and NZSIS should be doing to protect New Zealand and how they should do it.”

“We also want to hear what would give you confidence that the agencies are acting in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders while having due regard to their rights and freedoms,” says Dame Patsy.

The review will consider the legislation relating to the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), and the oversight of the agencies. It will also assess whether the new legislative provisions introduced late last year by the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill should be extended beyond their current expiry date of 1 April 2017.

Submissions will be open until 5pm on Friday 14 August 2015. You can make a submission online by visiting, or you can make a submission by email or post using the call for submissions document available on the website. The website also includes some resources to assist you in making a submission.

More details were given via a Q & A.

Questions about the review

Why is this review being carried out?

Legislation passed in 2013 made several changes to clarify the law governing the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and improve oversight of New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies – the GCSB and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).

One of these changes was to introduce regular independent reviews of the intelligence and security agencies and their governing legislation.

Regular reviews will help to ensure the law keeps up with changing risks to national security, while protecting individual rights and maintaining public confidence in the agencies.

Who is conducting the review?

Hon Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy are the independent reviewers, appointed by the Acting Attorney-General Hon Amy Adams in consultation with the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

Biographies of the independent reviewers are available at

What will the review cover?

The review will determine:

1. Whether the legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies (GCSB and NZSIS) are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights;

2. Whether the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards at an operational, judicial and political level to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

The full terms of reference for the 2015 review can be viewed at:

How long will the review take?

The review will be completed by the end of February 2016.

When can I read the independent reviewers’ report?

The independent reviewers must provide the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament with a report containing the results of their review by the end of February 2016.

After the Committee has considered the report, the Committee must present the report to the House of Representatives subject to any restrictions on the disclosure of information under section 18(3) of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996.

Where can I find more information about the review?

The Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996 establishes the statutory framework for the review. You can read the Act at

The announcement from Hon Amy Adams appointing the independent reviewers, including biographies of the independent reviewers and the full terms of reference for the 2015 review, can be viewed at:

The notice in the New Zealand Gazette can be read at:

Any future announcements about the review will be posted on

What other reviews of the intelligence agencies have there been?

There have been a number of reviews in recent years relating to specific aspects of the intelligence and security agencies, for example the Murdoch review in 2009 and the Kitteridge review in 2012. The agencies in the core New Zealand Intelligence Community were also subject to a Performance Improvement Framework Review in late 2013. However, this will be the first review to look at the broader legislative framework and oversight of the agencies.

How does the review relate to the Law Commission’s work on classified information in court proceedings?

The Law Commission’s work has a specific focus on the rules and processes governing use and protection of security sensitive information in court proceedings. However, it is anticipated that the Law Commission’s work will complement the wider review.

While both pieces of work will proceed independently, there will be opportunities for the Commission and independent reviewers to share research and thinking if common issues arise.

Questions about the submissions process

When can I make a submission?

Submissions are open until 5.00pm on Friday 14 August 2015.

How can I make a submission?

You can make a submission online or download the consultation document to make a written submission at Written submissions can be emailed to or posted to IRIS Support Team, Ministry of Justice, Level 3 – Justice Centre, 19 Aitken Street, Wellington, DX SX10088.

I don’t know the answer to some of the consultation questions. Do I have to answer them all?

No, you do not need to answer all of the questions. None of them are mandatory.

Why is my submission being sent to the Ministry of Justice?

As stated in section 26 of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for providing administrative, secretarial, and other support to the independent reviewers. This includes assisting with public consultation.

What happens with my submission?

Your submission will help the independent reviewers to decide what issues the review should focus on within the broad terms of reference. Your submission is sought for the purposes of this independent review only. It will not be shared with government agencies other than the Ministry of Justice (which is providing administrative support for the review) or released publicly.

After the independent reviewers have considered your submission, the independent reviewers or a member of the Ministry of Justice support team may wish to contact you to discuss your submission. At the beginning of the submission form you will be asked to indicate whether you are willing to be contacted for this purpose.

Reactions to spy reviews

There is a general review starting this year of the GCSB and SIS as stipulated for in legislation passed in 2013, and the Inspector General of Security and Intelligence has initiated a review of the way the GCSB undertakes foreign intelligence activities.

Radio NZ political editor Brent Edwards in Spy agencies come under scrutiny:

What is most needed from the review is a clear summary of how the intelligence agencies can best work to protect New Zealanders’ safety and interests while not compromising their privacy and freedoms.

Most people accept there is a need for spy agencies.

The challenge is to ensure they are able to do their job without trampling on the rights of the citizens they are meant to protect.

If Sir Michael and Dame Patsy can achieve that they will do much to improve public confidence in the country’s intelligence agencies and ensure those agencies have the appropriate powers to keep the country safe.

In the meantime, too, the investigations by Ms Gwyn might also reassure the public.

Mr Key will argue, with some justification, that this is all evidence that under his government the country’s spy agencies face greater, not less, accountability.

But the critics will wait for the review and inquiries to report back before deciding whether he is right.

Green MP Kennedy Graham in Warning Govt must not influence GCSB review:

Green Party security and intelligence spokesperson Kennedy Graham is happy former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy are leading the review.

“You’ve got two good people undertaking the task, but the precise terms of reference will determine a lot of what the two reviewers can do and can say.”

Graham asserts the most important thing is for the Government to be totally hands-off.

“Subliminal or even explicit messages from the Government as to what the reviewers can or can’t do or should or shouldn’t do…whether the Government signals an advance.

“[It’s to be seen] whether it will take certain aspects of a review seriously.”

David Farrar at Kiwiblog in Cullen to head up security law review:

Having Michael Cullen as one of the reviewers is an inspired move, as he will take a sensible approach to such a vital issue, and it will be very difficult for certain political parties to attack the recommendations if he is part of them.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei in Spy agencies investigated for political gain, again:

John Key’s lack of oversight of our spy agencies has once again made them the subject of an inquiry by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) into their political spying.

The IGIS review is oversight in action.

The IGIS has announced she is looking into allegations that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was spying on Tim Groser’s rivals for the position of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This investigation comes in the wake of IGIS investigations into allegations contained in the Dirty Politics book and allegations of spying in the Pacific.

“It is unprecedented for a government agency to be investigated by a watchdog three times in the space of nine months,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“Once again, the investigation relates to John Key using our spy agencies for his political purposes and gain.

“Every major allegation made against John Key and his spy agencies has been, or is being investigated, by the IGIS; yet John Key continues to deny our spy agencies are out of control.

“It is further evidence that John Key’s hands are off the wheel in his own department.

“We need a comprehensive and independent review of our spy agencies; the two person beltway panel the Government has set up appears to be a stitch up.

“We need independent experts who can fix our spy agencies and make sure they operate within the law,” said Mrs Turei.

The Greens may never be happy as long as there’s a GCSB and an SIS.

Greg Presland at The Standard in Spy watchdog to investigate GCSB’s help for Groser’s campaign:

All strength to Spy watchdog Cheryl Gwynn.  She is probably going to drop off John Key’s christmas card list for doing so but she has announced an investigation into the GCSB’s spying on friendly nations to help Tim Groser’s tilt at the top trade job.

Cullen and Reddy to lead GCSB/SIS review

A requirement of the intelligence and security legislation passed in 2013 was that reviews must be done every 5-7 years, and the first of these reviews is due to start this year. It has just been announced that Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen will lead the review.

Cullen is ex Deputy Prime Minister and has served as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Reddy is a barrister and solicitor with over 20 years of corporate governance experience.

Intelligence and security agencies review – Terms of reference

The purpose of the review, taking into account that subsequent reviews must occur every 5 – 7 years, is to determine:

  1. whether the legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies (GCSB and NZSIS) are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights;
  2. whether the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards at an operational, judicial and political level to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

The review will have particular regard to the following matters:

  1. whether the legislative provisions arising from the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters legislation, which expire on 31 March 2017, should be extended or modified;
  2. whether the definition of “private communication” in the legislation governing the GCSB is satisfactory;
  3. any additional matters that arise during the review as agreed by the Acting Attorney General and notified in writing in the NZ Gazette.

When determining how to conduct the review, the reviewers will take into account:

  1. the need to ensure that a wide range of members of the public have the opportunity to express their views on issues relating to the review;
  2. the need for the law to provide clear and easily understandable parameters of operation;
  3. the Law Commission’s work on whether current court processes are sufficient for dealing with classified and security sensitive information;
  4. previous relevant reviews and progress towards implementing their recommendations;
  5. relevant overseas reviews to identify best practice in areas relevant to this review, including oversight arrangements;
  6. that traditionally, signals and human intelligence have been carried out separately and the Government does not intend to consider merging those functions within a single agency.

Media release on the appointment of Reddy and Cullen:

A respected Wellington lawyer and a former Deputy Prime Minister are to lead the first regular review of New Zealand’s security and intelligence agencies.

Acting Attorney-General Amy Adams announced today that she intends to appoint Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen to carry out the review.

“This will be an important and challenging review, and I’m pleased Sir Michael and Dame Patsy have agreed to lend their expertise to the task. They bring complementary skills and experience to the role. Sir Michael is a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and has knowledge of national security issues. Dame Patsy has extensive governance experience and legal expertise,” Ms Adams says.

“The GCSB and SIS have a crucial role in protecting New Zealand’s interests and it is vital that New Zealanders have assurances that they have a clear and appropriate legal framework to operate within.

“Regular reviews help ensure the law keeps up with changing risks to national security, while protecting individual rights and maintaining public confidence in the agencies.”

Ms Adams says she has asked the reviewers to ensure members of the public have the opportunity to express their views.

“It’s important that members of the public have a clear understanding of the functions of our intelligence and security agencies, and the oversight and safeguards that apply to their work.”

The review will look at the legislative framework governing the agencies and consider whether they are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights. It will also determine if the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

While other reviews have examined aspects of New Zealand’s national security system, such as the 2013 PIF Review, the 2012 Kitteridge review and the 2009 Murdoch review, this will be the first review to look at the broader legislative framework and oversight of the agencies.

The first review will begin in June 2015 and be completed by the end of February 2016. The reviewers will carry out the review independently and report directly to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Future reviews will occur every 5 to 7 years.

The terms of reference for the review can be found at:

Biographies of the reviewers

Hon Sir Michael John Cullen KNZM (MA, PhD)
Sir Michael is a former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister. While in government he held several ministerial portfolios including Minister of Finance, Attorney-General, Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Deputy Prime Minister. He is also a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Since retiring from Parliament in 2009, Sir Michael has served as Deputy Chair and Chair of theNew Zealand Post Board. He was appointed to the Constitutional Advisory Panel in 2011, overseen by Hon Bill English and Hon Dr Pita Sharples. He is also currently the co-chief negotiator for Ngati Tuwharetoa and advisor for a number of other Iwi.

Dame Patricia (Patsy) Lee Reddy DNZM (LLM)
Dame Patsy is a barrister and solicitor with over 20 years of corporate governance experience as a non-executive director of Telecom New Zealand, Air New Zealand, Sky City Entertainment Group, New Zealand Post and Southern Petroleum New Zealand.

She is currently Chair of the New Zealand Film Commission, Deputy Chair of New Zealand Transport Agency, Independent Director of Payments NZ Ltd and Active Equity Holdings Ltd, and Chief Crown Negotiator for Treaty Settlements in the Bay of Plenty region. She was lead reviewer for several Performance Improvement Framework reviews of government agencies. She also has significant experience in the arts and not-for-profit sectors.

Dame Patsy has previously been a member of the New Zealand Markets Disciplinary Tribunal and a partner in law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts. She has also lectured in the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington.

GCSB watchdog working – inquiry into foreign intelligence activities

Cheryl Gwyn, the GCSB watchdog (Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security) has initiated and announced an inquiry into the way the GCSB undertakes foreign intelligence activities.

It’s good to see Gwyn proactively doing her job. She won’t be able to report publicly on specific details but should assure us in general that her watchdog role is working as it should be.


Inquiry into the Government Communications Security Bureau’s process for determining its foreign intelligence activity – 14  May 2015, 3.00pm

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn has commenced an inquiry into the way the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) considers undertaking foreign intelligence activities.

The inquiry is in response to issues recently raised around a Minister of the Crown’s bid to become Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

“I consider the issues raised about the process followed when the GCSB considers undertaking particular intelligence activity are of sufficient public importance to warrant an own motion inquiry,” Ms Gwyn said.

“While it is unlikely that I will be able to publicly confirm or deny the specific allegations relating to this process, I can inquire more generally into how the GCSB determines, within its statutory constraints, what intelligence activity to undertake and what policies and procedures are in place to regulate its activities.”

The Inspector-General has initiated the inquiry under her own motion powers pursuant to sections 11(1)(a) and (ca) of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996 rather than in response to a specific complaint.

The following questions frame the inquiry. They relate to the amended Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 which was not in force at the time of the specific alleged events. In contrast to its predecessor, the amended Act provides explicitly for the safeguards of political neutrality and the involvement of the Commissioner of Security Warrants.

The Inspector-General will approach the inquiry in terms of the following questions:

  • how the GCSB determines whether proposed foreign intelligence activity falls within its statutory functions and within New Zealand’s particular intelligence requirements;

  • whether and how the GCSB assesses the benefits and risks of the proposed activity;

  • where there may be any issue of potential or perceived political advantage, how the GCSB identifies and manages any issue that may arise from its duty of political neutrality; and

  • how the GCSB keeps the responsible Minister(s) and the Commissioner of Security Warrants informed, and ensures effective ministerial oversight, particularly where the proposed activity involves a potentially contested assessment of the international relations and well-being and/or the economic well-being of New Zealand.

“I have notified the Acting Director of the GCSB of my inquiry and she has assured me of the Bureau’s full co-operation,” Ms Gwyn said.

The Inspector-General will provide a report of her broad findings to the public at the conclusion of her inquiry.

Notes:  The Inspector-General’s office will advise of the likely timing of release of the inquiry report once that is known, but the Inspector-General does not expect to make any other public statements on this inquiry until the inquiry is concluded.

About the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is an independent statutory officer, appointed under warrant by the Governor-General to provide oversight of the GCSB and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, to assist responsible Ministers in ensuring that those agencies act lawfully and with propriety, and to undertake independent investigation of complaints.

The powers and functions of the office were expanded by legislation in late 2013, and its resources significantly increased, with provision for the appointment of a Deputy Inspector and a standing investigative staff. The Inspector-General’s functions and powers include a requirement to conduct an ongoing programme of review of procedures and compliance systems of the intelligence and security agencies. That review work involves scrutiny of warrants and authorisations that have been granted to each agency by responsible Ministers and the Commissioner of Security Warrants and also more focussed review of particular operational activities and the agencies’ governing procedures and policies.

Fisher defends spying ‘revelations’

Senior journalist David Fisher tries to defend the Herald’s ongoing spying revelations – providing a forum for Nicky Hager – in David Fisher: Spying – does the nation need to know?

This suggests the Herald is sensitive to criticisms. The latest spying on China article from Hager How NZ and US agents plotted to spy on China didn’t actually reveal spying on China, just ‘a plot’ or plans to possible spy on China.

Fisher opens by stating the obvious:

It would be surprising if our intelligence agencies were not spying on China in some way.

‘Spying’ is a bit of a loaded statement. It could mean as little as keeping an eye out for information of interest.

And Fisher acknowledges that it can be done legally.

By law there is a path cleared for the GCSB and SIS to carry out intelligence gathering on foreign states. There are even legal exceptions which would allow the sort of “data link” exploit planned for two Chinese government offices in Auckland, revealed in documents obtained by Edward Snowden.

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

He then targets what may be the crux of the issue.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

And then homes in on the target of concern.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Five Eyes involves three other countries, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Helping Australia or Canada with their intelligence gathering wouldn’t cause so much concern, but in a co-operative arrangement we could just as easily be helping them as the US.

The Snowden/Hager series of ‘revelations’ appear to be targeting the USA, seeing any ‘intelligence’ involvement with them as bad.

We should certainly be interested in our relationships with the US, with China as with other countries.

I’m not sure that Hager reports are the best way to do this.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

Yes this inquiry will be a good place to examine our intelligence relationships and operations (as much as they can be discussed openly).

But Fisher suggests he has a common agenda with Hager with a loaded “Trojan Kiwi spying on China” description. The inquiry should consider much more than one arm of much wider co-operation.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

Nations always make trade-offs. It’s sometimes called called diplomacy.

I’d be interested to know if we gain as much as we give in the Five Eyes relationship. Hager and Fisher could do well to consider all the pros and cons. New Zealand may gain significant benefits as well as risk falling out with trading partners.

Otherwise they risk being seen as little more than anti-American.

Hager reveals spying on China

The latest in a series of spying revelations from Nicky Hager focuses on How NZ and US agents plotted to spy on China.

A plot to spy on China is the most damning revelation from the Snowden documents.

I guess that’s relating to New Zealand. We’ve plotted to spy on China? I’m not very shocked. I’d have been shocked if it was revealed we’d never spied on China.

The files show how, under the John Key National Government, spying has been prioritised against China, New Zealand’s largest and most important trading partner.

A 2013 NSA document placed “collection on China” first on a list of targets monitored by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on behalf of the NSA.

And not surprising that keeping an eye on China is a major priority.

Sure, revelations like this can cause some diplomatic embarrassment. But will they do any more than that?

China is known to be a major perpetrator of espionage on the global stage, and the US Government has repeatedly accused it of hacking into American computer networks.

Last year, China was linked to a hacking attack on a powerful New Zealand supercomputer operated by Niwa, used to conduct weather and climate research.

Wow, China do it too.

But the Snowden documents have shown countries in the so-called “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance – which includes New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia – are just as heavily involved in cyber spying and hacking.

Yeah. Shocking.

Thomas Beagle, Council for Civil Liberties chairman, said the leak of the documents was an important democratic step to allow a level of involvement by the people being governed. “We need to know these things because we can’t practice our diplomatic oversight without it. If we don’t know these things are happening it’s out of the realm of democracy.”

When it comes to ‘spying’ – foreign intelligence – there does need to be some transparency and scrutiny, but there also needs to be some secrecy.

He said other countries used a panel of trusted citizens as the oversight mechanism for intelligence agencies.

Which other countries? How effective is it? Without any details this is meaningless, it says nothing more than ‘New Zealand bad, other countries good’.

What needs to be asked is whether all these drip fed revelations are for the greater good or whether they are potentially damaging to New Zealand.

Hager and Beagle are unlikely to answer that.

The spy wolf is being cried quite a bit. Would we know if something truly concerning is revealed? The Government will be able to bat it off with “that’s just more Hager’.


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