Thursday, April 26, 2018

DPMC drops the ball on intelligence oversight

Correction (June 2018): Documents released under the OIA show that this post is unfair to both the then-Prime Minister Bill English, and to DPMC, who tried very hard to make an appointment. See the post here for details.

When John Key rammed his 2013 spy bill through Parliament, he made much of new "safeguards" which would ensure the GCSB did not abuse the new powers he was giving it. Among those safeguards was a new statutory advisory panel for the Inspector-General of Intelligence and security, a provision which has been re-enacted in the replacement Intelligence and Security Act 2017. But it turns out that that advisory panel has been vacant for almost two years, because the government couldn't be fucked appointing anyone to it:

Intelligence and security agencies have been lacking a layer of oversight for almost two years.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security's advisory panel was set up in 2014, to aid the inspector-general in her role as independent watchdog of the country's intelligence and security agencies: the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

The idea was to provide another layer of oversight, and give the inspector-general "a sounding board" to help her determine whether the agencies were acting lawfully and "properly". But no-one has been appointed to the panel since October 2016.

Unlike the inspector-general's recently established reference group, the members have security clearance, meaning they are given access to classified or sensitive information.


The inaugural members' two-year terms ran out in October 2016, and there have been no appointments to the panel since.

DPMC blames the 2017 election for the vacancies. But that election happened almost a year after the initial appointments lapsed, so that seems just a tad disingenuous. If DPMC had been on the ball, they would have begun an appointment process in mid-2016 to ensure that there was not a vacancy. Instead, they didn't even start until the positions were vacant, and then never followed up. You'd almost get the impression that intelligence oversight was not a priority for them or their then-Minister. And if you draw that utterly reasonable conclusion, I think DPMC has no-one to blame but themselves.