Three Key points on GCSB bill

In Ball in Key’s court to get GCSB bill passed Audrey Young suggests there are three things in particular that John Key needs to address to make the GCSB Amendment Bill palatable to other parties and the public.

The strong concerns by bodies such as the Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commission and the Law Society… have unsettled the public too and it is in Key’s own interests to give them some reassurance.

There are three things he could do in the coming week that would make the bill more acceptable than it is now, to the public and other parties.

Key has shown a willingness to listen to and accommodate concerns put forward by Peter Dunne and John Banks, and has given a NZ First suggestion a nod of approval. He has also opened the door to discussions with Labour but so far they have not put them selves forward.

First, he could write two reviews into the bill, one to begin in 18 months, straight after the next election, and one every five years after that, as the Australians do.

There is some justification for pushing this bill through to legitimise what Key and others claim was the intent of the GCSB legislation anyway, giving the SIS and Police access to GCSB spy capabilities. Promised reviews would go a long way to assuring the public that spy powers will be carefully considered on an ongoing basis.

Secondly, he should go back to the Kitteridge report for a lead on how to beef up oversight. The report has high praise for the Australian model of oversight as a crucial means of maintaining public trust.

The oversight improvements proposed by Key are minor by comparison – the appointment of a deputy and a panel of two people to be used as a sounding board by the Inspector-General.

If it’s too late to beef up oversight even further, then it should be cited as a major part of the promised review.

Adequate oversight, independent of politicians and the GCSB is essential. The public will be far more comfortable for spying decisions to be made in secret if they know there are robust checks and balances.

Thirdly Key, as Prime Minister and the minister responsible for the GCSB, needs to make a clear statement on metadata (information about communications).

Specifically, he needs to say what the GCSB has done in the past and what constraints it will operate under in the future. He should admit that the agency has previously, on many occasions, collected metadata on New Zealanders unlawfully – believing it was doing so lawfully.

He should reassure New Zealanders, if he can do so truthfully, that there has been no mass collection of metadata passed on to intelligence partners overseas and there won’t be in the future.

He should assure the public that any collection of metadata of New Zealanders in the future, like other communications, will have to be by warrant.

It’s essential that we know what data could be collected, why end when it might be collected, what might happen to it and where it might end up being stored.

Once data is collected and delivered to other countries it is out of our control.

The GCSB was never meant to spy on New Zealanders – that point should be reinforced and made clear in the amendment bill. It is a stretch allowing the GCSB to act as a spy agent for local security and law enforcement.

But a bottom line should be that the GCSB does not spy on New Zealanders as an agent of other countries.


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1 Comment

  1. Brown

     /  21st July 2013

    I recall, somewhat dimly due to the passage of years, the photo licence introduction. I remember the privacy commiissioner or ombudsman being fed bullshit and / or ignored. This is just more of the same. Free countries deal with criminals following criminal offending – they don’t spy of the general citizenry.


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