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NRT: So much for Parliamentary oversight

Written By: - Date published: 1:23 pm, February 24th, 2014 - 13 comments
Categories: john key, Spying - Tags: , , ,

no-right-turn-256It 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..

“An operational matter”

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.


13 comments on “NRT: So much for Parliamentary oversight”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    The Snowden Files, chapter 4,773, Miscellany.

    cable from NSA HOS Australasia

    to HQ.

    re. 50M pesos NZ$ payment.

    Advise codename Masters of Cyberspace for sale in exchange for a lifetime subscription to Hustler and open account at “the pie cart”. Query action re pesos NZ$

  2. Tracey 2

    ” Round, blank boyish face. Dead eyes. You see him and you just don’t trust the guy.
    …. Something detached and distant, cold and submerged, like an iceberg. ” SST 23 Feb 2014

    John key’s government and the IRD… who’s telling the truth?

    ” Kiwis could be forced to surrender their private details to United States authorities as part of a deal to combat tax-dodging.

    Those affected could include high-profile New Zealanders in entertainment, sports and business who have previously lived in the US.

    The Government has stressed the law changes to override New Zealanders’ privacy protections will affect only expat Americans..

    However, Inland Revenue has confirmed it could include collecting and passing on the private details of New Zealand citizens to US tax authorities.

    The move is part of the US’ controversial global push to catch tax dodgers, known as Fatca, by requiring all banks and financial institutions to supply US tax authorities with account details of “US persons”. Many countries, including Britain, have reached deals similar to the one between the US and New Zealand. “

    • veutoviper 2.1

      Tracey, I assume this is the SST article that you are referring to


      While it relates to the passing of information to the US tax authorities, it does not relate directly to the subject of this post which is the accountability of the GCSB (and other intelligence agencies) to Parliament and the NZ public.

      The legislative changes currently before Parliament which the above SST article refers to are contained in the Taxation (Annual Rates, Emplyee Allowances, and Remedial Matters) Bill which was introduced on 22 November 2013 and had its first reading on 10 December 2013. The Select Committee considering the Bill is currently considering submissions which closed on 5 February – ie there was a very short period only for submissions, although the Select Committee is not due to report back to the House until 10 June 2014.

      The relevant changes in this Bill would override NZ privacy laws to force banks and other financial institutions in NZ to comply with US government requirements to provide the US with private financial and other details of people in NZ subject to US taxation requirements.

      It does not relate directly to the role and activities of the GCSB (or SIS etc) although IMO the proposed changes in this Bill relate to the inciduous undermining of NZ domestic law, and the privacy of NZ citizens and residents.

      I commented on this Bill back on Open Mike on 4 Feb when an earlier article appeared on Stuff, but Alwyn was the only one who responded to my comment.


  3. Macro 3

    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.

    Hear! Hear!

    That shower need to be taken in hand – they are out of control and the Minister responsible (yes we’re looking at you Key) held to account

  4. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 4

    There are so many untruths spewing forth from this government it really is hard to keep them all in mind.

    This is a tactic – one of overwhelming the public – it is all turning into a blur – hard to mobilise against -but let’s not forget that it is time for this government to gothey are not to be trusted

    Take a look at it: those currently in power are even so cynical that they are using the public perception of ‘politicians are untrustworthy’ to attack Labour, the Greens and Mana – so that the public ‘run toward the chains that bind them’ i.e National – the unholy liars that they are – get in again.

    Time to stop swallowing the misinformation spewing forth from this incompetent mickey mouse set up of a government

    Time to vote more trustworthy people to represent our interests.

    • adam 4.1

      But Blue, a vote will not do much to change the real structural problems we have in our society. Why do you think so many people have given up voting? If voting changed anything when a system is sick and squeezed as this one – you know they’d make it illegal.

      Yes vote (if you must) , but we need to do so much more at this point. It is not enough when our fundamentals which drive our society are now so out of whack. Our economy is about feeding the rich as quickly as possible and damn anyone who gets in the way. Why do they need the spies – they know its wrong and people are not as stupid as they want.

      And the lies that national tell are the lies people want to hear. They want good news, no matter what. And Key, lying bugger that he is – is good at telling positive lies. Along side this – have you forgot our economy is smaller than Krafts and they hold the key to many jobs and the keys to Keys office – along with a few other lobbyists.

      • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 4.1.1

        I’m not talking about structural problems though am I? I’m talking about a reasonable expectation from our politicians that they show a principled respect for the existing system and for the peoples’ interests they are elected to represent.

        Those not voting out of a principled belief the system is faulty are just allowing the worst of the worst to stay in power.

        I would prefer the best of the bunch on offer to be in power while waiting for the revolution – and good luck with that – I’m not holding my breath on that one – we appear to live in a country where most are content with smoke and mirrors and sweet sweet lies rather than addressing real issues.

  5. Philj 5

    Failure to answer to potential USA funding of our Government security Agencies? Unbelievable. I cannot comprehend this being the situation, and what it represents.

  6. Murray Olsen 6

    Get rid of them. The GCSB do about as much for Aotearoa as a parliament full of Tories and Rogernomes does.

  7. shorts 7

    I am all for disbanding the GCSB and if necessary replacing them with a smaller and more accountable agency

    I’d be very interested to see a political party raise this as a action they’d pursue if put into power – ie a potential vote catcher, if handled correctly (ie can over come the without the gcsb terrorism call that would come from the minister in charge)

  8. Tracey 8

    Key is taking us down the usa path. paranoia driven policies to spy on ordinary people. by kow towing to the usa, key is allowing their paranoia to drive his oversight of gcsb. tge usa has managed to convince itself that some ordinary folks require surveillance. key appears to need little persuasion.

    anyone who thinks that our security services have not been consistently used for political means and to single out imagined as well as real threats have closed their eyes to history.

    keith locke spied on from the age of 11!

  9. captain hook 9

    anyone who listened to Jack Hitt this a.m. on 9-noon will have heard him assert that Washingotn is now run by banal poltroons. This is exactly the same thing that has happend here in New Zealand. Parliament is being suffocated by overeducated nitwits who dont know anything.
    The more these post modern fools whose wind the thing into a ball of wax and inanity the more we can expect to see idiocy prevail.
    I nearly puked when I listened to David Cunliffe go on about the team.
    fuck the team.
    where are the jobs?

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