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'Shift GCSB role away from PM' says former adviser

'Shift GCSB role away from PM' says former adviser

A former senior adviser to the Government Communications Security Bureau says it is time to shift responsibility for the spy agency from the prime minister to the defence minister.

Dr Damien Rogers, who lectures in politics and international relations in Massey University's School of People, Environment and Planning at Albany, says change is critical to take some of the political dimension out of the GCSB's role and activities.

Dr Rogers says a shift of responsibility would “enhance the overall accountability for security intelligence matters, because future prime ministers would not find themselves in situations where he or she must sanction himself or herself for their own poor performance.

"A minister of defence, or an associate minister of security intelligence, would be held accountable by Parliament in ways that a prime minister is not.”

He is concerned by the lack of a clear concept of national security that underpins GCSB intelligence-gathering activities. In a draft paper on the issue, For Your Eyes Only: Official Secrecy, Media Spin, and the Case for Reforming New Zealand’s Intelligence Community, he examines what he sees as “deformities” of the country’s security intelligence community and the impact of these on the democratic rights of New Zealanders.

He says there is a lack of a clear definition, both in law and in terms of the public’s understanding of what “security” and “intelligence” means for the country. “In the absence of an authoritative statement on New Zealand’s national security, the process of securitisation will remain unleashed without restraint and anything could be deemed by ministers and their officials as a threat to national security."

He also wants an independent inquiry in the wake of GCSB’s breach of its own legislation.

The exposure of the GCSB’s violation of Kim Dotcom’s right to privacy is “a salient and chilling warning to all New Zealanders, especially to those who are fearful of New Zealand government departments acting as though they were extensions of the United States government and part of its global efforts to enforce the individual property rights and advance the commercial interests of Hollywood executives", he says.

He refers to Prime Minister John Key’s “mastery of media spin on issues that remain cloaked in official secrecy” as a symptom of the problems plaguing security services. “This is a very serious matter, especially as the power of New Zealand’s security intelligence agencies to intrude upon the privacy rights of all New Zealanders, and the opaque accountability links between this community and the executive, strikes at the very core of any political philosophy of government.”

Dr Rogers spent nearly a decade working within New Zealand’s wider intelligence community, including the GCSB, Ministry of Defence, New Zealand Defence Force and the Border Security Group of Immigration New Zealand. Dr Rogers is presenting his paper at a seminar at the Albany campus on August 14 and at the University of Waikato on August 9.

ENDS

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