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Illegal spying is not acceptable - Op-ed By Russel Norman

Illegal spying is not acceptable

By Russel Norman

Memo to GCSB: Don’t spy on New Zealanders, you’re not allowed.

It’s quite simple really; the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, states “interceptions not to target domestic communications”. What part of that do you not understand?

You illegally spied on Kim Dotcom, and because you chose such a well-heeled victim, other potential illegal spying of 88 New Zealanders has been uncovered.

Memo to John Key: Do your job.

You are responsible for overseeing the GCSB, it’s your job to keep an eye on what they are doing and it’s not something that can be delegated.

You were told about illegal spying on Kim Dotcom at a briefing, but did not pay attention so did not pick that up to act upon.

You were told about further potential illegal spying, but told the public the Kim Dotcom case was an isolated incident.

You hired a school friend to head the GCSB, but then when asked, forgot that you’d given him a call and suggested he apply for the job.

Memo to Paul Neazor: Ditto. Your job, as Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, is important, do it.

Your job is more important than usual, given that John Key is the minister in charge, but when you are alerted to New Zealanders being illegally spied on by the State, that’s important information that needs action.

Rather than just passively reacting when a problem is highlighted, why not do the occasional probe to make sure everything is going okay?

Memo to Bill English: The GCSB Act 2003 is not an annoying inconvenience, it protects the rights of New Zealanders.

It’s not okay that the GCSB were breaking the law and the way to fix it is not to change the law.

You’ve said the law is likely to be amended. If you want to make a change, can I suggest clarifying absolutely that New Zealanders should not fear the full force of the powers of the GCSB be let loose upon them?

Memo to New Zealanders: Don’t sit back and let the Government change the law to allow the GCSB to spy on you.

The SIS can already spy, but there is some accountability. For example in court, police warrants can be examined and cases tossed out if they haven’t been done right. Once the GCSB is involved, New Zealanders’ personal business is suddenly an issue of national security and a major state secret. The GCSB will not be willing to share information they got from the CIA or the British intelligence MI6.

This scenario would mean less accountability combined with greater powers – the GCSB is meant to be acting in New Zealanders’ interests, working for us to protect us on the world stage. It deals with issues of international war and peace. Why would it need to turn its gaze on its own citizens?

GCSB’s law-breaking is not a minor technical matter that needs a quick legal fix. The intent to prevent it spying on New Zealanders was clearly explained during the debate when the bill was passed by Parliament. Everyone back then got it. It’s in black in white in the law. Just because the GCSB has failed to obey that law is no reason to change it so they can continue with their callous disregard for the rights of New Zealanders.

Russel Norman is co-leader of the Green Party This Opinion Piece was originally posted on Radio Live's website.

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