Royal Commission of Inquiry into security agencies

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the country’s security agencies, in response to the Christchurch terror attacks.

RNZ:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces details of inquiry into security services

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced details of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into security agencies after the Christchurch mosque attacks.

She said, while New Zealanders and Muslim communities were still grieving, they were also quite rightly asking questions about how the terror attack was able to take place.

The inquiry will look at what could or should have been done to prevent the attack, Ms Ardern said.

It will look at the Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB), the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), police, Customs, Immigration and any other relevant agencies, Ms Ardern said.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB) and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) have been criticised over an apparent lack of monitoring of right-wing extremists.

It may be that there was little or nothing that could have been done to protect against this month’s attacks, but it is good to check out the performance of the security agencies, the GCSB, the SIS and the Police. It should ensure that the chances of a repeat are lessened.


ACT on ending ‘digital strip searches’

Yesterday 1 News:  ‘Digital strip searches’ at NZ airports force hundreds of Kiwis to surrender mobile and laptop passwords each year

New figures obtained by 1 NEWS have revealed Customs officials at New Zealand airports force up to two travellers every day to hand over their electronic devices and the passwords that access them.

New Zealand customs say they are looking for smugglers but admit they do sometimes take copies of travellers data and pass it on to Government agencies, including the police.

This is very contentious.It shouldn’t be happening without good cause and without proper authority.

Intelligence Investigations Customs general manager Jamie Bamford said depending on how much data is on a phone or laptop the search can be “quick and cursory” or a “little more extensive”.

“We can seize their device at the moment, and we have tools to break that encryption,” Bramford said.

“We do adhere to the privacy act and are guided by that.”

Since 2015, just over 1300 people have been subjected to digital strip searches at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports.

The most commonly searched nationality was New Zealanders, with 296 searched, followed by Chinese, with 269 searched, and then Taiwanese with 91 searched.

A bill is also currently before parliament to fine people who refuse digital strip searches to be fined up to $5000.

But from ACT today:  ACT ends the free-for-all on digital strip searches

ACT has secured a law change which will end customs’ free-for-all on digital strip searches, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Unrestricted power to demand people’s passwords and search their files is an affront to civil liberties, and it will inevitably lead to violations of privacy. New figures confirm over 1300 people have been digitally ‘strip searched’ since 2013.

“Customs practices are simply out of touch with modern reality. In the past, people would only pack a suitcase with a few paper documents, but younger generations often travel with all their personal files. Meanwhile, if a genuine criminal is determined to keep incriminating files, they’ll do it on cloud storage, not on their personal device.

“The good news is that ACT has worked to stop random digital searches. The current law does not require Customs to have cause to suspect offending to conduct a search. But ACT has convinced the Government to require reasonable cause for these searches, as part of a new Customs and Excise Bill currently before parliament.

“This will prevent countless New Zealanders and visitors from facing intrusive and unjustified searches.

It should never been allowed on such an unrestricted basis in the first place.


Legally bringing medical cannabis into NZ

Andrew Geddis has written a couple of posts on the legality (he thinks it is legal) of personally carrying medical cannabis into New Zealand as long as it’s on a prescription .

More on bringing medical marijuana into New Zealand …

Yesterday I wrote this post, leveraging off a RNZ story about a judge discharging a woman without conviction for mailing herself medical marijuana from the US. In it I claimed that, on a straight reading of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, it appears that personal imports of a month’s worth of medicinal marijuana is lawful (so long as you personally carry it into the country through Customs).

That’s a view that I repeated to a reporter from RNZ news, and it is included in this follow up story.

To recap and develop what I said in yesterday’s post, it generally is unlawful for an individual to possess or import marijuana into New Zealand in either medicinal  or recreational forms. In its “raw” form it is a class C “controlled drug” under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. In a refined or processed form (as is the case for pharmaceutical-grade products), it is a class B.

However, there are many substances that have therapeutic purposes (but are open to misuse/abuse) that also are listed as being controlled drugs; substances that we commonly think of as “medicines”. Codeine. Pentobarbital. Camazepam. Diazepam. Pseudoephedrine. And so on. It is important to note that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 doesn’t distinguish between “good” drugs (medicines) and “bad” drugs (not-medicines). Rather, it simply categorises “controlled drugs” into three levels (A, B and C … orreally bad, bad and quite bad) and attaches consequences to possessing/importing each.

he quotes from New Zealand law that states that possession on entering the country can be exempt.

Note that this exemption does not turn on whether or not New Zealand presently permits a particular controlled drug to be prescribed for therapeutic purposes under the Medicines Act 1981. It instead turns on three questions.

  • Is the drug “a controlled drug required for treating the medical condition of the person”?
  • Is the “quantity of drug … no greater than that required for treating the medical condition for 1 month”?
  • Was the drug “lawfully supplied to the person overseas and supplied for the purpose of treating a medical condition”?

If the answer to these three questions is “yes”, then you may possess the “controlled drug” when entering New Zealand.

He goes on to quote advice on NZ Custom’s  website  that supports this and gives some examples.

He concludes:

So given this, on what basis can Customs then confiscate the medical marijuana? It can’t simply be that marijuana is a “controlled substance” (as Minister Dunne says in his statement). So is methadone (the example Customs uses). So is diazepam. So is codeine. Both class C controlled drugs, just like raw marijuana. So are oxycodone or morphine, which are both class B controlled drugs like processed marijuana.

Yet if these drugs are “required” (i.e. suited) to treat a person’s medical condition and were lawfully obtained overseas, you can bring a month’s worth of them into the country. That’s the whole point of s.8(2)(l) – it permits controlled drugs to be brought into NZ and then used for personal treatment purposes!

And what it doesn’t say anywhere is that those controlled drugs first must be approved as “medicines” here in New Zealand.

So how could properly prescribed medical marijuana be treated any differently to other therapeutic controlled drugs under present law? Because that is a position I would love to see the Crown have to defend in, for instance, an application for a declaratory judgment … in case anyone out there was keen to test the matter?

It would get expensive going overseas every month (further than Australia) to obtain medical cannabis on prescription but it appears that it can be done legally.