Three weeks ago we learned that the GCSB was conducting "full-take" surveillance of our Pacific friends and allies - including the private communications of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who go there for business or on holiday. The surveillance, and particularly the passing on of raw intercept data to the US before it had been screened for New Zealand communications, appeared to be contrary to the purposes of the GCSB Act and contrary to the law. it immediately resulted in multiple complaints to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security from New Zealanders who believed that their communications may have been intercepted, as well as from the Green party on policy grounds. Now, the Inspector-General has decided to take up the case, and launched a full investigation of the Pacific spying programme:
“I will be addressing the specific complaints that I have received, in accordance with the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996. But there is also a clear need to provide as much factual information to the complainants, and to the wider public, as is possible.”
“For that reason, I have decided not only to investigate the complaints but also to bring forward and expand the relevant parts of my ongoing programme of review and audit of GCSB procedures and compliance systems. That review programme operates at a systemic level and doesn’t, of course, scrutinise or second-guess every day-to-day aspect of the GCSB’s operations: what it does allow for, as in this instance, is a focussed review of a particular area of GCSB or New Zealand Security Intelligence Service practice.”
“I have today notified the Acting Director of the GCSB of my inquiry and of my intention in this inquiry to provide as much information to the public on my findings as I can, withholding only that information that cannot be disclosed without endangering national security. The Director has assured me of the Bureau’s full co-operation.”
And now, we will get to see whether the GCSB Act is worth the paper its written on. Because if it permits this, it permits anything, and we will need to burn down our entire intelligence organisation and start again from scratch.