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John Key

21 August, 2013

PM welcomes passing of GCSB legislation

Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) John Key says the passing of the third reading of the GCSB legislation in Parliament today will allow our security agencies to get on with the important job of protecting national security.

The GCSB legislation – the GCSB, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, and the Intelligence and Security Committee Amendment Bills – all passed in the House today.

“Despite ill-informed claims to the contrary, nothing in this legislation allows for wholesale spying on New Zealanders. It actually tightens, not widens, the existing regime,” Mr Key says.

“This essential legislation makes it clear what the GCSB may and may not do, and fixes an Act passed under the Labour Government a decade ago, which was not, and probably never was, fit for purpose.

“It clarifies the GCSB’s legal framework and substantially increases oversight of the country’s intelligence agencies, which will go some way to rebuilding public confidence in the GCSB,” Mr Key says.

The legislation passed today makes the GCSB’s three functions clear. These are:

  • Information assurance and cyber security;
  • Foreign intelligence, and;
  • Assisting other agencies.

Mr Key says the first of these functions allows the GCSB to help protect government organisations and important private sector entities from cyber-attack.

“This is a growing threat which targets our information and the intellectual property of our best and brightest. Already this year the number of logged cyber-attack incidents is 204 - larger than it was for all of last year.

“GCSB's specialist skills can help protect departments and companies and the legislation gives it a clear mandate to do that. Cyber security is about protecting private information. It’s not about spying,” Mr Key says.

“The second function of the GCSB is collecting foreign intelligence. That has been the largest portion of the agency’s work.

“The third function allows the GCSB to assist the Police, NZSIS and NZ Defence Force. This is something it has been doing for more than a decade, but it was stopped until this legislation was passed.

“The Kitteridge review identified just 88 cases where GCSB had provided assistance to these agencies over the past 10 years – an average of under nine people a year. So this isn’t and never will be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” Mr Key says.

“The GCSB has unique capabilities and specialist skills. It makes no sense to duplicate those when they are so rarely used.

“The legislation makes it clear GCSB can assist only those three named agencies, and only when they are able to show they have the lawful authority to undertake the surveillance themselves.

“It also puts in place a robust review of the intelligence agencies in 2015 and every five to seven years thereafter. There will now be more transparency, through open public hearings for the financial reviews of the intelligence agencies,” Mr Key says.

  • John Key
  • GCSB
  • Prime Minister