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GCSB Bill - Rod Donald First Reading Speech Notes

Government Communications Security Bureau Bill

Speech Notes for First Reading

8 May 2001

Rod Donald MP

Green Party co-Leader

Yesterday The Right Honourable Helen Clark, Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party welcomed the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Johannas Rau, to New Zealand at a State Luncheon with these words:

“New Zealand values its relationship with Germany highly. Germany is a close and reliable partner for New Zealand in Europe. Our relationship is substantial with links spanning the political, economic, and cultural spheres. It is strengthened by the fact that many new Zealanders have German forebears.”

Tonight the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Alliance will host a dinner for the President at which I am sure he will express sentiments similar to those made by the Prime Minister yesterday.

Today the Government Communications Security Bureau will be using the full force of its foreign signals and intelligence arsenal to spy on communications between the German President, the German Embassy in Wellington and the German Government in Berlin.

How can we express warm friendship with another nation when at the same time the Government is not only gathering intelligence about them by eavesdropping on their phone calls and reading their faxes and emails but now, through the introduction of this bill, is claiming that such activity is legitimate?

How do we expect to improve our trade links and our business cooperation with Germany when we treat them as though they are an enemy?

The Green Party does not believe NZ’s international relations, defence and security needs are well served by spying on communications between our Pacific neighbours, our trading partners, our international allies and our own people.

It is therefore no secret which way the Green Party will be voting on this Bill. There is no need for the GCSB to hack into our computers or intercept our faxes, emails or phone calls to discover our position on this piece of legislation.

Before you say that they wouldn’t do any of the above because we are not a foreign organisation I suggest you look carefully at Clause 4 of the Bill which not only defines a foreign organisation as an international organisation, which the Green Movement clearly is, but also that a foreign organisation is a body corporate incorporated outside New Zealand, which all of our European counterparts are.

And we are certainly communicating with them about the GCSB and its Waihopai spy base because Flintlock, as Waihopai is known in intelligence circles, is part of the American based Echelon system which is currently under investigation in the European Parliament because our European allies rightly believe that Britain and America, with New Zealand, Australian and Canadian connivance, are spying on their legitimate government, business and personal activities.

In the Green Party’s view giving the GCSB a legislative existence is not a step forward because the passing of this bill simply legitimates activities which we believe should cease.

The Bill and its accompanying glossy publication “Securing our Nations Safety” perpetuates a series of fictions. The glossy says the GCSB is a civilian organisation. It may be but many of its long serving staff are ex military. It says the current director is a professional engineer omitting that he held the rank of major when he retired after four years in the army.

The bill dismisses legitimate concerns of organisations like the Greens that the Bureau’s operations are beyond the scope of parliamentary scrutiny yet it fails to admit that Parliament is deliberately barred from scrutinising the GCSB because of the Intelligence and Security Act and the sessional order passed at the commencement of this parliament.

That sessional order blocks parliament from examining anything to do with the policy, administration and expenditure of any intelligence and security agency. It bars the clerk from a number of functions and powers that rightly belong to the clerk.

And it puts the Prime Minister, as Minister in charge of the Government Communications Security Bureau, in the role of chairperson of the statutory Intelligence and Security Committee. We would not allow the Minister of Finance to also chair the Finance and Expenditure Committee and I do not see why we should let this happen with intelligence agencies. It is highly inappropriate in a democracy and a practice we strenuously oppose.

If this Bill is an attempt to bring the spooks out of the shadows then at the very least it should go to a proper parliamentary select committee for public hearings, not the statutory committee which was set up to keep intelligence activities out of the spotlight.

The Bill claims to establish the GCSB beyond doubt as a legitimate agent of government yet there is no reference in the Bill or the glossy publication to the very agreement which led to the GCSB’s establishment - the UK USA agreement - a highly secret document which leaves many New Zealanders suspicious that the GCSB is actually an outpost for American signals intelligence rather than the claimed independent source of information.

Our concerns about the extent of American control were backed up when we were briefed by the Bureau’s director Warren Tucker. He admitted that the GCSB had not paid for the research and development of its recently installed voice interception system and that the GCSB has staff stationed in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia, as part of the UK USA alliance.

The Bill’s definition and objectives are interesting. “Foreign organisation” includes any overseas company or subsidiary of an overseas company. This includes companies operating in New Zealand. Foreign person means any individual who is neither a New Zealand citizen nor a permanent resident - which includes over 50,000 Aussies and over 60,000 overseas visitors at any time. “Foreign intelligence” means information about the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign organisation or a foreign person.

One objective of the GCSB is to contribute to national security by providing foreign intelligence that the Government requires to protect and advance New Zealand’s economic well being to the extent that it is affected by the actions or intentions of foreign organisations or persons.

- Does this mean that the GCSB has been or should be gathering information on the Singapore owned Dominion Breweries intentions for the Monteiths brewery on the West Coast?

- Is the GCSB spying on Brierleys intentions in relation to Air New Zealand?

- Does the GCSB advise the Overseas Investment Commission against approving foreign investment which is likely to lead to asset stripping, company closures and job losses?

- In the interests of our international well being, did it advise against Tommy Suharto being allowed to buy the Lily Bank station.

When we look at serious threats to our sovereignty, our international well being and our economic well being the GCSB have been an abject failure.

We’re told that the GCSB does not spy on New Zealand citizens or permanent residents but all that the Bill says is that the Bureau may not take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of the New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident. Clearly if the bureau is eavesdropping on communications between New Zealanders and foreigners and organisations in foreign countries then it must be gathering information on New Zealanders as part of that process. The wording is therefore deliberately devious.

Clause 15 states that before the GCSB can physically connect an interception device without the permission of the occupier a warrant is necessary and that a “computer access authorisation” is necessary before a computer system can be accessed by the Bureau.

These warrants and authorisations are an extraordinary extension to the activities already known to be undertaken by the GCSB, that is monitoring radio signals at the Tangimoana station and collecting and sifting all international telephone, fax and email communications at Waihopai. Clearly this clause has been added to the Bill to give the GCSB the power to hack into people’s computers, which the Green Party is bitterly opposing in the Crimes Amendment Bill, and to tap people’s phones and bug their homes in the same way the SIS already does. By giving these new powers to the GCSB the other parties in this House are allowing the tentacles of the surveillance State to extend even further into our lives.

The Bill also alludes to unspecified “future expansion of the GCSB signals intelligence operations”. This clearly refers to intercepting radar communications from a site or sites which the Director of the Bureau was not prepared to divulge during the briefing we received.

Neither was he prepared to confirm whether New Zealand frigates or our Orion aircraft are used as mobile spy stations for the GCSB in the way that Australian Orions are already used by their Defence Signals Directorate.

While this bill may include Ministerial warrant and authorisation provisions for computers and phone taps the GCSB still undertakes a massive trawling exercise on the International Telecommunications Satellites in the Pacific for snippets of information. Why does the Government allow the GCSB to eavesdrop on every phone call, fax and email which is transmitted through the Intelsat system when it knows that it is infringing the privacy of law-abiding individuals and organisations?

We wouldn’t tolerate spooks opening and checking our post on the off chance that we may write something of interest to the Government so why is the Government using modern technology to authorise the equivalent of reading all our mail.

I invite the government to reflect on its own fine words during the previous debate on the re-orientation of New Zealand’s defence forces. The Green Party strongly supports that re-orientation because we believe our best defence is to promote peace and development rather than prepare for war.

In Government speeches today we were told there is no threat to New Zealand, no country aiming to overtake us, and therefore I ask how the Government, especially our former colleagues in the Alliance, can take a progressive position on defence capability when behind the cloak of secrecy it remains in the arms of United States and Britain?

The publication “Securing our nations safety” may represent a step which the previous Government was not prepared to take but it will not satisfy our colleagues in the European Parliament who are currently conducting an extensive investigation into the Echelon interception system of which the Waihopai spy base is a part.

If New Zealand wants to build its relations with Europe then it should take heed of the general remarks at the beginning of the European Parliament’s working document on Echelon. These state: “Any interception of communication constitutes a radical infringement of the privacy of an individual. Only in a police state is unrestricted interception by the State allowed. By contrast, in the fully fledged democracies of the member states of the European Union, the need for public authorities to respect privacy goes without staying. Privacy therefore enjoys special protection, and authorisation to intercept communications is granted only after proper evaluation of the rights of all the parties involved.

We urge every New Zealander concerned about this expansion of the surveillance state to make a submission in opposition to this Bill and to appear before the committee not only opposing the bill but calling for the Committee itself to be abolished.

The Green Party voted against the bill. Labour, Alliance, National ACT and NZ First voted for it.


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