Scoop report and photos by Hamish Cardwell
The director of the Government Communications Security Bureau Ian Fletcher (left) and the director of the Security Intelligence Service director Warren Tucker appeared before Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee in Wellington today – the first-ever public hearing into New Zealand’s spy agencies.
The committee comprised of National MPs Chris Finlayson and Tony Ryall, Labour Leader David Cunliffe and the Green Party co-leader. Tempers flared between Chris Finlayson and Russel Norman during the hearing.
Mr Finlayson said Mr Norman was a member of the committee and not “Judge Judy,” after Mr Fletcher said he could not answer some of Mr Norman’s questions.
Mr Norman had asked Mr Fletcher if the data the GCSB had received during its interceptions of Kim Dotcom’s communications was data collected “at rest or in transit”.
Mr Fletcher said he could not answer as the issue touched on specific techniques, and was also before the Police Conduct Authority, and therefore, he could not talk about it. He also refused to define what the term “in transit” meant.
He said the fact a number of his staff had refused to talk to speak to investigators looking into the illegal spying on Kim Dotcom was a matter for those individuals.
He also refused to say how many New Zealanders were currently being spied on by the GCSB.
Mr Fletcher said he “absolutely” did not think that the NSA was engaged in wholesale collection of New Zealanders’ private data but if information such as emails were held offshore then they would fall under the jurisdiction of the nation who held the data.
There was no reason for there to be any particular targeting of New Zealanders’ data.
The GCSB had never offered to hand over New Zealanders’ information to 5 Eyes partners, he said.
In response to questioning from Mr Cunliffe, Mr Fletcher said he could give the assurance that the GCSB did not not undertake any electronic surveillance of New Zealanders’ information without a warrant. There had been some “ambiguity” but the legislation amendment earlier in the year meant he could be offer his “unequivocal assurances”
We do not use our security partners to circumvent the legislation, and our partners do not use us to circumvent the legislation, he said.
It was the first time New Zealand’s security agencies had appeared in a public hearing of this nature. New rules came about following the passing of the Government’s GCSB amendment bill.