Written By: - Date published: 1:23 pm, February 24th, 2014 - 13 comments
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It appears that parliament doesn’t have a need to know on our security services for something so basic at their funding? As usual John Key was lying. No Right Turn describes how the lie was revealed.
Last year John Key passed a spy bill granting vast new domestic spying powers to the GCSB. But he said that we wouldn’t have to worry, because they would be coupled with greater Parliamentary oversight through the Intelligence and Security Committee.
As usual, he was lying:
The Government’s spy agencies have refused to tell Parliament’s intelligence and security committee if they receive funding from the United States.
The agencies’ responses to questions were provided to the committee late last week.
Both GCSB and the SIS refused to answer questions about funding from the United States Government, or any other nation which is part of the Five Eyes spying alliance.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed last year the National Security Agency provided $200m in secret payments to the British GCHQ to secure access and influence.
Both agencies cited legislation which forbids the ISC enquiring about matters which are ”operationally sensitive” and that relate to ”intelligence collection and production methods or sources of information.”
They also refused to say if any foreign government, or the NSA, paid for any position within the bureaux, or if there were any secondees.
Where the money comes from and what it is spent on is the cornerstone of Parliamentary accountability. But the GCSB apparently thinks that doesn’t apply to it. And this doesn’t just raise questions about their loyalty to New Zealand but also to our democratic system.
It may also breach the Public Finance Act. The cornerstone of that Act – and of our constitutional tradition since the C18th – is that public money cannot be spent without the authorisation of Parliament. Which means that Parliament controls what the government can do by holding the purse strings. But secret bribes from the NSA would permit the GCSB to circumvent that control, to do things not authorised by Parliament, to run riot in our name.
This isn’t acceptable. If GCSB isn’t accountable to Parliament, then it cannot be permitted to exist. ISC, which has financial oversight of the GCSB and is the only body which sees its appropriations, needs to conduct a line-by-line review of its income and spending, to ensure that they are obeying the Public Finance Act. And if the GCSB is not willing to submit to it and disclose totally the sources of their funding, then they need to be terminated as an organisation: their budget cut, their statute repealed, their staff sacked, and their equipment destroyed.
Of course it could be because of the significiant denial that NRT has also pointed out..
When the GCSB refused to reveal whether it was being bribed by the NSA, it hid behind a clause in the Intelligence and Security Committee Act that the ISC could not inquire into “any matter that is operationally sensitive, including any matter that relates to intelligence collection and production methods or sources of information”. So what’s “operationally sensitive” according to the GCSB? Looking at the questions and answers received, there’s an interesting pattern: Whether the GCSB spies on all our metadata is not “operationally sensitive”. Neither is whether it spies on the citizens of other Five Eyes partners – things you’d expect to go to the core of their operations. But when Parliament asks about whether it is obeying the Public Finance Act, or whether it has formal NSA moles in its organisation, then suddenly its an “operational matter” which they can’t answer. The natural conclusion: they do and there are – because if either allegation was false, they’d just deny it.