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Exclude Spying On Foreign Missions From GCSB Bill

Clark Asked To Exclude Spying On Foreign Missions From GCSB Bill

Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke today asked Prime Minister Helen Clark to amend Government Communications Security Bureau Bill to specifically exclude Government spy agencies from spying on diplomatic missions in New Zealand

Mr Locke today wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Helen Clark saying that the Bill is contrary to international conventions.

"The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and Option Protocols 1963, of which New Zealand is a member, states clearly that the official correspondence of the consular post shall be inviolable," said Mr Locke. "Correspondence clearly means all form of communications."

The bill gives the Government Communications Security Bureau the power to intercept phone calls, faxes and emails of foreign missions and to remotely access, or hack into their computers. The Green Party is concerned that these powers will allow the GCSB to spy on the communications of the diplomatic missions of foreign countries in New Zealand.

Mr Locke has written to foreign missions in Wellington to explain how the Bill may detrimentally affect them.

"The response from the honorary consul for South Africa, Mr Gregory Fortuin, shows the trouble New Zealand could get into. Mr Fortuin said that they would take much more than just a very grim view of anybody violating their privacy by hacking into their computers, tapping into their telephones and bugging their homes and offices," he said.

Keith Locke's letter to the Prime Minister is attached.


July 4, 2001.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

Dear Helen,

I write to you in your capacity as Minister in charge of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

At present the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill is before the House. It authorises the GCSB to collect "foreign intelligence", which includes information on the "capabilities, intentions, or activities of a foreign organisation", such as "a government of an overseas country".

I am concerned that these powers will allow the GCSB to spy on the communications of the diplomatic missions of foreign countries in New Zealand.

The bill gives general powers to the GCSB to intercept phone calls, faxes and emails, and to remotely access, or hack, into computers.

I (along with Green co-leader Rod Donald) wrote to embassies and consulates in New Zealand expressing our concern about how this may detrimentally affect them. There is concern in the diplomatic community. The honorary consul for South Africa, Mr Gregory Fortuin, while not commenting on the bill, did reply to us that "we will take much more than just a very grim view of anybody violating our privacy by hacking into our computers, tapping into our telephones and bugging our homes and offices."

The Greens believes that such electronic spying would undermine our good relations with these countries, betray the hospitality we provide their missions in New Zealand, and be contrary to international convention.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and Option Protocols 1963, of which New Zealand is a member, states clearly under Article 35 "Freedom of Communication" that "The official correspondence of the consular post shall be inviolable." Correspondence clearly means all forms of communications.

Article 61 of the Vienna Convention also requires that "consular archives and documents... shall be inviolable at all times". The use of the power in the GCSB Bill to remotely access consular computers, would certainly contravene this treaty.

Clearly, the Bill will have to be amended to specifically exclude spying on foreign missions in New Zealand for it to be consistent with the Vienna Convention. Does your government intend to do this?

As you know, the Green Party is opposed, in general, to the powers granted to the GCSB in this Bill. However, we would urge you to change the legislation so as not to allow spying on diplomatic missions in this country.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Locke MP


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