Thursday, February 12, 2015

How much does the government care about overseeing our spies?

The New Zealand Intelligence Community (what our spies call themselves when they want to pretend they're respectable) is supposedly very big on oversight:

Effective and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies is crucial for assuring the New Zealand public that those agencies’ powers are being used in accordance with the law and with respect for New Zealanders’ rights to privacy.

As they note on that page, one of their chief oversight mechanisms - and the only democratic one - is the statutory Intelligence and Security Committee:
the Parliamentary oversight committee for the intelligence agencies, [which] examines issues of efficacy and efficiency, budgetary matters and policy settings. It is established under the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996 as a statutory committee of Parliament.

The problem? We don't actually have such a committee at the moment. It expired when parliament was dissolved, and the government simply hasn't bothered to appoint a new one. There has been no motion of appointment submitted to Parliament, despite the legal requirement that a committee be nominated "as soon as practicable after the commencement of each Parliament".

I think this tells us exactly how much National and its spy-Minister care about oversight of our spy agencies: not at all.