The super-secret spy agency entrusted with expansive new
powers made a serious blunder, botching its count on the number
of wiretaps it had.
A reported released under the new oversight regime for
intelligence agencies found spies at the GCSB didn't
understand their own rules for counting up the legal orders
allowing them to intercept communications.
Instead of reporting the number of legal authorisations they
had, the GCSB reported the number of operations it was
The issue emerged after the bureau tabled the wrong
information in its annual report to Parliament -- a new
requirement imposed on the agency after a law change last
The problem was not picked up by the Prime Minister, who
signs off the legal approvals and tables the final count in
An inquiry by the Inspector General of Intelligence and
Security Andrew McGechan QC found the investigation into the
blunder was a "severe experience" for the GCSB.
He said security risks prevented explaining how the error had
But he said a "legacy record keeping problem" created the
problem along with the bureau not understanding how to
properly record its interceptions.
He said there needed to be systems in place to "provide
In relation to the legal authorisations, he said GCSB staff
"now understands the correct treatment" to be used.
"New processes are in place to ensure accurate recording."
Incoming NZSIS director Rebecca Kitteridge carried out a
review of the bureau finding systemic problems throughout.
She made 80 recommendations -- the latest GCSB update report
stated 46 had been completed.
The Prime Minister's office rejected responsibility for the
blunder, saying it was up to the bureau to maintain its own
"The PM's office does not keep a record of warrants and
authorisations, that is rightly the responsibility of the
Green Party leader Russel Norman said Mr Key wasn't doing his
job and should have noticed signing more legal orders than
were tallied up at the year's end.
"Given he is the only democratic oversight it seems to me he
had a particular responsibility to pay attention to what he's
approving. He should be paying close attention."
Mr Key said the GCSB was improving. "It's got a large number
of initiatives it needs to undertake as a result of the
Kitteridge Report. There's plenty of room for more
improvement, but they are getting better."
- By David Fisher of the NZ Herald