Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dunne and the GCSB

Peter Dunne isn't happy with the GCSB:

In a speech in Wellington last night, the United Future leader accused the Government Communications Security Bureau's director Ian Fletcher of trying to make Government decisions.

Mr Dunne said the first pillar Mr Fletcher laid out recently - that the agency should be "effective at defending the Government's own critical information against sophisticated cyber espionage, and against disruption from any source" - was a reasonable assumption.

But he had problems with Mr Fletcher's comments that the GCSB should be "conducting sophisticated intelligence activities against any legitimate target, no matter how hard", and that it should also be "a potent and effective contributor to military capability".

"With respect, I say to the director those are not his calls to make," Mr Dunne said.


The GCSB's credibility had been damaged by last year's disclosure that it may have spied illegally on 88 New Zealanders and it was up to the Government to decide what is a "legitimate target" and how the agency may contribute to military capability, Mr Dunne said.

"And as they are Government decisions, they should be formally conveyed by the minister to at least the intelligence and security committee and arguably the whole parliament, and then the GCSB required to report upon them," he said.

Dunne is completely right about the proper separation of powers: the GCSB is supposed to work for us, and that means it should follow priorities set by statute and their Minister. However, arguably they are: sections 8A - 8C of the GCSB Act define the functions of the Bureau as Information assurance and cybersecurity, (foreign) Intelligence gathering and analysis, and Co-operation with other entities to facilitate their functions (including the Defence Force). Peter Dunne voted for that legislation - indeed, his vote was the one that allowed it to be passed. If, like me, he thinks that the GCSB shouldn't have any role beyond securng the government's computers, then perhaps he shouldn't have voted for it?

And cheap-shots aside: I look forward to Dunne supporting legislation to gut the GCSB and eliminate its intelligence and defence support functions. Those functions have no place in a democratic society, and the sooner we cut the spies down to size, the safer we'll all be.