Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Amending the spy bill

After hearing public submissions last week, John Key is now talking about amendments to his spy bill:

Prime Minister John Key has put a review of the Security Intelligence Service in 2015 on the table as he seeks to win Labour over to legislation beefing up the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Key yesterday outlined changes allowing for greater oversight of the GCSB to get UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne onside, but has made it clear he would like other parties including NZ First, and potentially even Labour, on board.

The "oversight" amendments are for a three-person committee to approve warrants, rather than the current single person. But unless the rules change, and they exercise greater independence, that just means a bigger, more expensive rubberstamp. As for the review, a post facto review of whether the law is working is not the same as a before-the-fact review of whether it is necessary in the first place - but as Gordon Campbell points out, it will probably be enough to provide rhetorical cover for Labour to betray us. And meanwhile, the actual amendments demanded by submitters - a total ban on domestic spying, treating metadata the same as communications and requiring a warrant for it, a prohibition on transferring information obtained under the "cybersecurity" function overseas - have been completely ignored.

Fortunately peter Dunne is playing hard to get, and relations between Winston and National are at rock bottom. So if Labour doesn't betray us, National won't have a majority for this bill.