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The GCSB can’t count

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, February 21st, 2014 - 31 comments
Categories: john key, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

GCSB Contact page

The latest from the organisation that has branded itself as having mastery of cyberspace shows that it is is having trouble counting.  It presented its annual report to Parliament yesterday but had to insert an erratum into the report because someone in the organisation cannot count.

For the 2012/2013 year instead of seven interception warrants being in force there were actually 11.  Instead of four interception warrants being issued there were five.  Instead of there being 14 access authorisations in force there were 26.  And instead of nine access authorisations being issued there were 11.

The mistake arose because some operations had multiple warrants issued. But this is pretty well the only way to assess what this super duper secret organisation is up to and you would expect it to get such an important document right.

Something the media has not commented on yet but before it is published it has to be submitted to the relevant Minister who has the power to withhold information contained in the report.  Key’s office must have given active consideration to the report before it was published.  The report also has to be delivered to him “as soon as practicable after June 30″ so it has been sitting on someone’s desk for quite a while.

You have to wonder at how such a silly series of mistakes could be made.  And you have to wonder how the Minister in charge, John Key, could have allowed the report to be completed with such a series of basic mistakes.

Next time someone within the organisation should take their shoes and socks off to make sure that they are performing a proper count.

John Key’s mate Ian Fletcher has given an apology.  Perhaps the man himself should give one.

31 comments on “The GCSB can’t count”

  1. Tracey 1

    Its ok mickey. They under counted at a time their boss wanted to play down the issue. Accidentally. They realised way later when it was regarded as a non issue. No harm done.

    Youd think not being able to count or , triple check would be a detriment to the overseer of gcsb. But its ok cos john has trouble with figures too… he tends to overstate so perhaps he thinks between he and Ian it evens out?

  2. Sabine Ford 2

    These are not mistakes, and they can count.
    However they also know that the public at large will never study the report, and that the journalists tasked with reading it will hardly notice the “mistakes”, as they are not paid to find mistakes. They are paid to stenograph and regurgitate what the government tells them.

    Deception and Lies would be better words used, and they should be used.

    It is way past time to continue to believe that these are Errors.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      So you’re saying that in the midst of one of the most stressful and embarrassing situations The Masters of Cyberspace have ever found themselves in, “no pressure”, with their Loyal Legal Officer on gardening leave, they suddenly turned into an outfit that couldn’t screw up some more?

      Yeah nah. SNAFU.

  3. floyd 3

    Can just see key with his little red pen deleting and altering to fit his reality.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    The Masters of Cyberspace?

    Is it just me or are there acres of comedy potential just lying around? Military Intelligence isn’t just an oxymoron, it’s a farce.

    • David H 4.1

      I thought it was. Pig’s in Space. Not the dogs Breakfast that it has become. Or maybe Key has a special power, where as all numbers on a page change themselves to fit his mood? Something has to define the Clusterfuck that this Govt has morphed into.

  5. Naturesong 5

    Who caught the errors?

    I’m assuming it was either Labour, Greens or Winston Peters, but I’ve not been following question time lately (apart from Tony Ryall’s black eye this week – having known for some time that there are underreported issues in the health service, I’ve been waiting for one or more of the boils to burst).

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      Yes. I read Annette King’s press release – dodgy much?

    • veutoviper 5.2

      A little clarification of the timelines and process might be helpful.

      The uncorrected GCSB Annual Report 2013 was presented to the House on 3 December 2013, and gazetted on 24 January 2014. (Won’t provide links, but presentation can be viewed in the Start of the Day video for 3 Dec 2013 via the Parliamentary TV archives, and the Gazette Notice also via the NZ Parliament website.)

      The Erratum itself was only presented to the House yesterday, 20 February 2014.

      (The presentation of Annual Reports is a formality in the House only; there is no discussion although questions can be raised in subsequently Question Times. – and may well be when Parliament sits again in March.)

      Presumably, therefore, the mistakes have only been identified in the last few weeks – eg after the full report was presented in Dec and gazetted in Jan.

      Having had experience in preparing /presenting Govt Dept/Agency Annual Reports (for my sins, and not good for the blood pressure), IMO. the most probable situation was that the errors were discovered within the GCSB itself, or possibly by the PM’s Office who presumably keep their own records of what the PM signs off.

      There is obviously the possibility that the errors were discovered as a result of questions raised by Opposition parties through processes outside the House but if this was the case, I would expect that this would be shouted from the rooftops by that Opposition Party – and I haven’t seen that.

      Section 12 of the GCSB Act 2003 (as amended last year) sets out the process for the GCSB Annual Report. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2003/0009/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM187833

      In summary, the GCSB prepares the Annual Report and provides it to their Minister (the PM) who can direct that it be amended to delete any material which mets the criteria set out in S12(4) for deletion. However, these errors relate to specific matters that S12 directs must be in the report under S12(3)

      Before the report is presented to the House, the PM must submit the report to members of the Intelligence and Security Committee. There is a (slight) possibility is that questioning by one or more of the Opposition members on the Committee could have led to the GCSB reassessing the figures and finding the errors – but obviously not before the Annual Report was presented and gazetted.

      But definitely, not a good look to say the least. The GCSB Annual Report is actually a lot less complex and detailed than other Govt Dept/Agency Annual Reports – and the numbers of the few activites to be reported not high. To get these wrong is appalling.

      At the end of the day, the Responsible Minister is exactly that – responsible or should be. The Annual Report is cleared and signed off by that Minister and presented to the House by that Minister. So Key should be more than embarrassed.

      • McFlock 5.2.1

        the numbers of the few activites to be reported not high. To get these wrong is appalling.

        That’s what really smacks to me of “fresh out of give a fucks” on all levels.

        At best, somebody read the brief for reporting and counted the operations with warrants, and nobody bothered to check that their interpretation was correct. Or maybe the checker said “J got 9, oh must be operations, all good then”. And it was rubber-stamped all the way up the line (so much for Key being an expert who picks things up quickly).

        At worst, somebody was told by their shitty manager to find the number of warrants (no reason given), and returned the numbers which were then barely looked at before they were kicked upstairs to the person collating the report.

      • mickysavage 5.2.2

        Thanks Veuto that is very helpful. It will be interesting to find out where the mistakes were picked up on and I agree that it looks like the GCSB itself discovered the mistake. Makes you wonder what attention the MP’s office gave to it and I would be surprised if they did not do something as basic as check on the number of warrants issued.

        I cannot imagine Helen ever making this sort of mistake.

        Will we see headlines claiming that Key has misled Parliament?

        • veutoviper 5.2.2.1

          I have doubts that we will find out how or by whom the errors were found for sure. I expect a lot of spin.

          I was thinking earlier that I don’t recall ever seeing an Erratum to a government dept etc Annual Report – but I was wrong! I have just searched the NZ Parliament website for Erratum – and there are lots to Annual Reports – ACC, SFO, etc. (Including ones during HC’s tenure – but haven’t immediately identified any for depts etc she was responsible for, but cannot be sure without a detailed check I don’t have time for right now.)

          So, I am not sure whether the mislead line should be pushed too hard, as it could backfire. Nats obviously have a lot of reseach resources, and use the’ throw it back in your face’ approach constantly.

          Perhaps it would be better to continue the approach Labour and the Greens have used so far in using this situation to reinforce calls for a thorough overall review of the GCSB and other intelligence agencies. IE, the bigger picture, which may get more traction with the general public.

        • Melb 5.2.2.2

          “I cannot imagine Helen ever making this sort of mistake.”

          Ha! It was under her Ministership that the whole GCSB saga began!

          Oh, but that wasn’t a mistake I suppose…

          • mickysavage 5.2.2.2.1

            What do you mean? She put through legislation which set out the GCSB’s role and duties and she is somehow responsible because the current employees cannot count? Are you being serious?

            • Melb 5.2.2.2.1.1

              The whole illegal spying shemozzole began under her watch as Minister in charge of the bureau. Was that a mistake by the GCSB to be performing such activities? Because I would count it as a far worse mistake.

      • Ron 5.2.3

        maybe it was the Deputy PM that signed off. After all he had no problems trying to cover up activities of GCSB when it was discovered they had stuffed up previously.

      • RedBaronCV 5.2.4

        Add in the fact that probably no one in the place has read the governing statutes so have no idea what they should be counting.
        One of the more entertaining aspects of government work is the bit where you go “the legislation doesn’t allow that” and somebody goes “what legislation?” Or my personal favourite, reading the legislation and following the rules so that Stats and treasury start screaming.

  6. Concerned 6

    [Off topic and trolling. Comment deleted – MS]

  7. captain hook 7

    we are living in post modern times where only your own truths count.
    everybody can count what they are owed the rest is just whatever.
    you no.
    whaddever is aprropeeit for meeeeeeeeee.

  8. Colonial Viper 8

    Imagine a world where a company’s outside auditors were only ever allowed to look at the most favourable records, reports and numbers that the company’s directors wanted them to see.

    These auditors are not allowed access to any other details or documents for ‘operational reasons of confidentiality and sensitivity’. The auditors cannot even independently check if the reports and records that they have been handed over to them are accurate or complete.

    This my friends is the world we now live in. The oversight and influence that our elected officials have over these organisations is a joke.

    In the US its gone even further of course, where the intelligence agencies act using secret interpretations of the legislation which empowers them, and where even if public officials are briefed, the public officials have no power to share or do anything with the information that they are given.

    It’s democracy theatre.

    • veutoviper 8.1

      Agreed, CV.

      Since submitting my comment at 5.2, I have checked the audit requirements for the GCSB Annual Report.

      Under the Public Finance Act 1989 that sets out the audit requirements for government depts etc, the GCSB (and SIS etc) appear to be subject to the normal audit requirements for financial reporting – but not for non-financial reporting as are other government depts etc.

      Section 45E of the PF Act appears to exempt the GCSB etc from the provisions of sections 45D and 45D requiring the independent audit of non-financial performance (Statement of Service Performance) section of Annual Reports. (Audit NZ usually carries out both the financial and non-financial audit).
      http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0044/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM162700

      So it appears that the incorrect figures would not have been audited/checked – other than by the GCSB itself or the PM’s office.

      So transparency? No.

  9. Anne 9

    John Key’s mate Ian Fletcher has given an apology. Perhaps the man himself should give one.

    Why should John Key have to apologise? How could he know there were errors in it? He doesn’t read reports.(sarc)

    • veutoviper 9.1

      LOL, Anne.

      But in this instance, as explained in my 5.2 above, Key as the PM and the Minister responsible for the GCSB is specifically required under the GCSB Act t2003 (as amended last year) to see the Annual Report and direct any amendments to it, submit it to the Intelligence and Security Committee; and then (in accordance with the Public Finance Act 1989) sign it off and present it to the House.

      So it is a much more formal process than other types of reports.

  10. politikiwi 10

    As I read the way the miscount has happened, the GCSB provided the number of operations under way, rather than the number of warrants issued across those operations. So there’s a one-to-many relationship between operations and warrants.

    Surely both figures are important / relevant, and should be included in the report?

    The report makes me laugh, by the way: The top-right paragraph of page 10 talks about the GCSB’s efforts to protect NZ business from attackers trying to steal their trade secrets. Meanwhile, other Five-Eyes members are actively engaged in stealing trade secrets from foreign companies.

    They don’t do much to enhance their credibility with the public, do they….

  11. ruup 11

    Three cheers for Colonel Flag !!!

  12. RedBaronCV 12

    Is it only me that finds some vague comfort in the clusterf. way they go on. They have a long and proud history of this starting with the Aro street toilet lurking, through the meat pie, playboy and now this

  13. KJT 13

    “Operation mincemeat is a good amusing story, but in the light of current revelations about SIS it is a salutary reminder about the nuttiness of the spy and counter spy silliness of so called intelligence agencies”. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/05/10/100510crat_atlarge_gladwell?currentPage=all

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