The problem with the 2003 GCSB Act

‘Kiwi in America’ (an ex Labour insider) details some history on the 2003 GCSB Act.

The problem was that while the 2003 GCSB Act did not authorize the GCSB to spy on NZ citizens/residents, it did not specifically make it illegal for the GCSB to assist the SIS under one of it’s authorized surveillance warrants – something the GCSB had done for decades before under successive Labour and National governments.

The original draft of the 2003 Bill DID accommodate this long standing convention but the prohibition concerning NZ citizens/residents was an 11th hour amendment done to appease the Alliance Party – Labour’s then coalition partners.

Clark as Minister in charge of both the SIS and GCSB, despite the technical language of the new law, continued to sign warrants authorizing GCSB assistance for mostly SIS warrants. Labour wanted to have its cake and eat it too-be seen to be on the side of the anti surveillance populists but not rock the security conventions evolved over decades.

Key carried on the convention of all his Prime Ministerial predecessors on this matter since the 1969 SIS Act until the Dotcom illegal surveillance brought the whole shambles of how Labour’s law was actually administered to light.

The Inspector General and Crown Law were of the view that the assistance for warranted SIS spying was not illegal but that there was some degree of legal ambiguity – ambiguity that this new law seeks to tidy up.

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