Monday, June 17, 2019


New Zealand's spy agencies are supposedly subject to the rigorous oversight of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, an independent watchdog appointed to keep an eye on them and ensure they don't break the law again. But that watchdog depends entirely on the agencies they are overseeing for the information required to oversee them - and it turns out that they are simply refusing to provide it [paywalled]:

The watchdog for New Zealand's spy agencies was thwarted for months when trying to see secret emails about a controversial NZSAS raid in Afghanistan - and says she is prepared to use a legal summons if they continue to frustrate her legal duty.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn was eventually given access to "several tens of thousands of emails" - then discovered another 115,000 were apparently overlooked.

Gwyn was given an explanation as to how the emails were missed but has now sought independent advice to establish if more might be missing.

The SIS and GCSB had been quibbling over the Inspector-General's powers. But the law is crystal clear on that: they must be given access to all security records that they consider to be relevant, and "security record" is defined in the broadest possible terms. Which makes you wonder why the spies were trying this on. What were they trying to hide from the public's watchdog? And even the most charitable interpretation - a mix of incompetence and obsessive secrecy - doesn't exactly give confidence.

The spy agencies have highly intrusive powers. It is vital that those powers are kept in check. If the spies aren't going to cooperate with that, then I think we need to reconsider what we let them do.