Back in 2013 when the controversial new laws were passed:
“Despite ill-informed claims to the contrary, nothing in this legislation allows for wholesale spying on New Zealanders. It actually tightens, not widens, the existing regime,” Mr Key said.
“This essential legislation makes it clear what the GCSB may and may not do, and fixes an Act passed under the Labour Government a decade ago, which was not, and probably never was, fit for purpose.
“It clarifies the GCSB’s legal framework and substantially increases oversight of the country’s intelligence agencies, which will go some way to rebuilding public confidence in the GCSB,” Mr Key said.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson attacked several critics of the bill including Rodney Harrison, QC, who presented the Law Society’s submission on the bill, former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former director of the GCSB Sir Bruce Ferguson, and historian and academic Dame Anne Salmond.
He told Parliament the bill hadn’t been rushed through, but perhaps it had not been long enough for Mr Harrison to come to grips with it.
New Zealand’s intelligence agencies should have greater abilities to spy on its citizens, but with stricter requirements on when they can do so and stronger oversight of their work, a report says.
The report into the country’s intelligence and security laws has recommended that a single piece of legislation be established to cover both the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) – and its authors would have recommended a merger of the two agencies if they had been allowed.
Cullen said the establishment of a single act covering both agencies was the “central recommendation” of the report.
Existing laws were outdated and confusing, making it difficult to understand what the GCSB and SIS could and couldn’t do.
“It’s actually quite hard to go to one place and figure out all these different things interrelate. Most importantly, it leads…to a lot of contradiction, inconsistent definitions, unclear interaction between the two at a time when the functional division between SIS and GCSB is inevitably becoming more and more blurred.”
Cullen said spying laws passed in 2014 to allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders had not solved the problem, with a lack of legal clarity and “some pretty condemnatory reviews” in recent years making the agency “extremely risk-averse”.