Sunday, June 30, 2013

Responses to GCSB file requests

Many people have inquired with the GCSB whether they are one of the 88 people who have been illegally spied on and have asked for their files. The usual response from the GCSB has been to “neither confirm nor deny” that such files exist, stating section 27 of the Privacy Act. This section allows a government department to refuse this information if the “security or defence of New Zealand” or “the maintenance of the law” are at risk – the latter being a rather strange reason, given that it was the GCSB who broke the law.

In some cases the GCSB’s director, Ian Fletcher, also states that he has “conducted a thorough search” for the information requested, but refuses to reveal what the outcome of the search was.

We would be interested to know what responses people have received, especially if they were different from the one outlined above. Please email us at Our PGP Key can be found here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Phone Call with Paul Neazor - Only God Knows

In an off-the-cuff telephone conversation the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Paul Neazor, explains to a caller why he will not be told if he has been surveilled or not.

In a 'friendly' conversation Neazor explains about the 88 people surveilled and the rationale behind why everyone will get a response of 'neither confirm nor deny' when wanting to know if they are one of the 88.

In the ten minute audio clip Neazor discusses the role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, talks about security issues in general and goes onto explain the mistake that led to the illegal spying of Dotcom. He asserts that Dotcom got residency in NZ through business connections and compares Dotcom to Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Towards the end of the ten minute tape, Neazor forgets the name of the Director of the GCSB.

Neazor is arguably a goldmine of information, but it is not the only time he has forgotten 'important' things. In his 2011 annual report on the activities of the GCSB Neazor highlighted three occasions in which the GCSB  operated outside of their legal authority.

Questioned about that report in September 2012 by a TV3 journalist, Neazor could not recall it and quoted a Robert Browning poem.
 "Somebody asked Browning once what he meant by one of his poems and he said, ‘Only God and Browning knew what I meant and now only God knows,"said Neazor.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Submission hearings will be public

In a very unusual move, the Security and Intelligence Committee has decided to hear submissions in public. A number of submitters have been given speaking slots of ten minutes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week (July 2 – July 5).

Usually submissions are heard with only the five committee members and a number of unidentified members of the “Intelligence Community” being present. The opening of the process to the public is a sign that the government has realised that there is more opposition to the GCSB Bill than it anticipated.

Submissions for the GCSB sister bill, the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill (TICS) were heard today. The two bills must be seen in conjunction to get an idea of the magnitude of surveillance the government wants to legalise. An overview of the bill is here. For both bills, after the submissions are heard, they are likely to be made public on the parliamentary web site.

The Security and Intelligence Committee will report back to parliament on the GCSB Bill by July 26, the Law and Order Select Committee will report back on the TICS Bill on a later date.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Extension for submissions

The Security and Intelligence Committee announced today that the deadline for submissions on the GCSB Bill has been extended to Friday, 21 June 2013.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Making a submission on the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

General Instructions
  1. Submissions are due Friday, 21 June 2013 (note this has been extended)
  2. Submissions must be emailed to You may compose your submission in Word, or equivalent, and attach it or send it as part of your email.
  3. You can download a copy of the Bill from the Parliamentary Business 'Bills' page. (The Bill is 47 pages long.)
Format of your submission
There is no specific way that your submission, your actual submissions can be as general or specific as you wish but you must include your name and contact details. If you want to make an oral submission to the select committee you must state that specifically in your email. The submission should state whether you support or reject the bill.

Some ideas about why the Bill should be stopped:

There are several reasons why the Bill should be stopped, but some key concerns that you could point out include:
  1. The Bill is being passed through parliament under urgency – but there is no need for urgency.
    A. Like all Bills, this Bill should not be rushed through parliament.
    It was introduced as a result of findings in the Kitteridge Report that the GCSB had probably illegally spied on up to 88 people. However, a subsequent Neazor report (if we are to believe it) found that there had “been no breeches … “ so why is the urgency continued.
    Further, recent and on-going media coverage about the level of spying undertaken by the NSA show more than ever that there should be no expansion of the powers of the GCSB. At the least, the Bill should definitely no longer be introduced under urgency but rather run the normal length of time.
    B. The Crown Law's report on compliance of the Bill with section 7 of the Bill of Rights. The Crown Law's advice was that "the Bill raises questions in respect of the rights to freedom of expression, non-discrimination and against unreasonable search and seizure affirmed by ss 14, 19(1) and 21 of the Bill of Rights Act," but then went onto say that despite that, "the Bill appears consistent with that Act." This is further evidence that the Bill should not be passed in urgency.
    C. The Regulatory Impact Statement. The RIS states "The GCSB Act contains intrusive state powers. Consequently any review of the GCSB Act will involve the consideration of human rights and privacy matters. Respect for human rights, and individual privacy and traditions of free speech in New Zealand were guiding principles in undertaking the review and developing recommendations." These 'guiding principles' can not be given much thought when the Bill is being rushed through in urgency.
  2. The primary purpose of the proposed changes to the GCSB Act 2003 is to change the function of the GCSB. The GCSB was never intended to be a domestic spy agency but this Bill changes the function of the GCSB from that of the collection and analysis of 'foreign intelligence' to a role of national security. The SIS already exists to 'protect the economic well-being' and its functions and powers were expanded in an amendment to the SIS Act in 2011.
  3. Removing the word “foreign” from the Act. By removing the word foreign from the Act, the Bill allows precisely what the previous version expressly ruled out: that the GCSB can be used to spy on NZ citizens and residents.
  4. Expanding the power of the GCSB by 'co-operation with other entities to facilitate their functions '. Changes to Section 8 of the Bill enable the GCSB to spy on behalf of the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the SIS, including other departments that may be specified by Order in Council. This section of the Bill also allows the GCSB to perform functions for these other agencies even if the activities were not allowed under the GCSB Act.
  5. The mass collection and retention of data to be shared with other agencies. Sections 15 and 25 allow for the GCSB to collect and store electronic communications for an unlimited time. This data can then be shared with the NZ police, the Defence Force, the SIS and 'any other person that the Director thinks fit to receive the information'.
  6. Oversight of the GCSB. The oversight regime is not adequate. At the least the GCSB should be required to produce an annual report documenting its surveillance, including how many requests were made by the various NZ agencies and the numbers of people affected.
  7. Abolish the GCSB. Above and beyond all the points raised above, the GCSB should be abolished. It primarily serves the interests of the USA and helps expand the network of surveillance maintained by Echelon and the UKUSA Agreement.