John Key. Photo Getty
The Government has addressed concerns that its rejig of
legislation around the GCSB would allow it to spy on New
Zealanders without a warrant.
Draft legislation released today shows the bureau will be
required to seek authorisation from the responsible minister
and Commissioner of Security Warrants when intercepting New
Zealanders' communications during its security and
information assurance functions.
Prime Minister John Key this afternoon released the draft
legislation, which is his Government's response to the
discovery last year that the Government Communications
Security Bureau may have illegally spied on 88 New Zealanders
The legislation will make it clear the GCSB can provide
support to the police, the Defence Force and the Security
Intelligence Service (NZSIS) by spying on New Zealanders Mr
However, "The GCSB will only be able to provide that support
when those agencies are acting within their own lawful
"This means the GCSB will be able to provide support under
the right conditions and oversight, including in relation to
New Zealanders," said Mr Key.
However the proposed changes generated concerns last month
that the GCSB would be able to intercept New Zealander's
communications without a warrant when it is conducting its
cyber security and information assurance functions.
However, Mr Key said when conducting that work, "the GCSB
will require an authorisation from the Responsible Minister
and the Commissioner of Security Warrants when its cyber
security and information assurance functions are being
performed in relation to the communications of New
Mr Key said Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge's recently
completed review of the GCSB showed there were difficulties
in the legal interpretation of the GCSB Act and that the "is
not, and probably never was, fit for purpose".
"It is essential that an agency which is exercising intrusive
powers has a clear legal framework to operate within.
"It's also essential the oversight regime governing such an
agency is strong enough to mean the public can have
confidence the agency is acting within the law."
Mr Key underlined the importance of the bureau's cyber
security work by revealing the National Cyber Security Center
had dealt with 138 incidents so far this year compared with
136 for all of last year.
He said the Government had sufficient votes to get the bill
passed its first reading. While the Maori Party has said it
is likely to oppose the legislation, NZ First says it will
support to the committee stage.
Mr Key said he had written to NZ First Leader Winston Peters
today asking for a meeting to discuss the bill and also said
he had not ruled out Mr Peters' suggestion of a three person
panel to issue and monitor any warrants the bureau operates
The bill also strengthens the oversight regime for New
Zealand's intelligence agencies by modernising legislation
governing the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
to make the office more proactive. The Government also
intends to increasing the resourcing of the Inspector-
The legislation is in the form of an omnibus Bill - the
Government Communications Security Bureau and Related
Legislation Amendment Bill - which encompasses amendments to
the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, the
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996 and
the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996.
The Government intends to introduce and debate the bill later
this week, subject to the House schedule and following its
first reading the bill will go to the Intelligence and
Security Committee for submissions.
- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald