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Spy oversight committee refuses to release details

Committee Tasked With “Oversight”Of Spies Refuses To Divulge Even The Most Trivial Details Of Its Meetings

The Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC), which has been campaigning for over 20 years for the closure of the Waihopai spybase, has a keen interest in the alleged ”oversight” of the agency which operates it, namely the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

One of the few methods of official oversight of the GCSB (and the SIS) is the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is a committee of Government, not Parliament, and is definitely not a Select Committee. It only has five members – the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and three other Party Leaders nominated by either of those two. The other three are: Rodney Hide, Tariana Turia and Russel Norman.

The actual proceedings of the Committee (which only ever meets a couple of times per year) are shrouded in permanent secrecy.

But we thought that the mere facts of its meetings – when it had met, for how long and who attended – should be public knowledge. So we wrote to the Office of the Prime Minister (as the Minister in Charge of the GCSB and SIS), under the Official Information Act, asking for those innocuous details.

The answer we got is that the Committee is not subject to the Official Information Act, as it is neither a “department” nor an “organisation” as defined in the Act. So our request was declined.

This is absurd, rendering any public knowledge of what little “oversight” there is of the spies to be non-existent. How can it possibly threaten the national security for it to be publicly stated when the Committee has met; how long the meeting lasted, and who attended it? That is the sum total of what we asked –not what the Committee actually discussed or decided. We’ve always said that the “oversight” is a farce – this proves it.

ENDS

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