Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Doing less with more

Since coming to power, the National government's command to the public service has been to "do more with less". So we have a biosecurity crisis and longer hospital waiting lists (sorry, non-waiting lists, because now you don't even get on the list) and a failing justice system. But there's one sector which has avoided cuts: the spies. The GCSB's budget has increased from $48.9 million in 2008 to 74.7 million today. But despite this, they are apparently collecting less intelligence now than they did then:

New Zealand's foreign spies are gathering less intelligence than they did seven years ago, the country's top spook says.

Acting director of the Government Communications Security Bureau Una Jagose has been in the job just ten days, following the resignation of Ian Fletcher.

Jagose was answering a question from Prime Minister John Key, who was chairing Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee. It is just the second time the committee has been open to the public.

"As I understand it, today we collect less intelligence than we did seven years ago...there hasn't been any radical shift upwards as has been suggested in the media."

Note that this is intelligence, not raw data, so its a subtle dodge around the real question of the level of interception and collection. But it also shows the ineffectiveness of their new methods, and their inefficiency as an organisation. We're paying the the GCSB 50% more money to do less than they did seven years ago. Any other department with that sort of performance record would be being restructured into oblivion right now. But I guess the rules are different when you operate in secrecy and your "oversight" committee is legally forbidden from inquiring into your operations.