Prime Minister John Key today released the report of Rebecca Kitteridge into compliance at the Government Communications Security Bureau.
Ms Kitteridge was seconded to the GCSB to undertake the review in October 2012.
The review had two main areas of focus – ensuring that all the GCSB’s activities are lawful; and reviewing the agency’s compliance framework.
“I had intended to release this report to the Intelligence and Security Committee next week, however the public disclosure of the contents of the report means I have taken the decision to release it today.
“Members of the Intelligence and Security Committee have received the report a short time in advance of my releasing it publicly.
“The report makes for sobering reading. At a high level it finds long-standing, systemic problems with the GCSB’s compliance systems and aspects of its organisation and culture.
“In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.
“It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.
“I acknowledge this review will knock public confidence in the GCSB.
“This is why the Government has a comprehensive response underway to address the organisational problems at the GCSB.
“The steps we are taking will be outlined in detail next week and are intended to begin the process of rebuilding public confidence in GCSB.”
The GCSB Act has been in place for 10 years. Over that time, GCSB has been providing assistance to other agencies, including the New Zealand Police, New Zealand Defence Force and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.
It has done so in the belief that it was acting within the law on all occasions.
“The report shows that the work the GCSB undertakes is vital to the safety and security of New Zealand.
“For many years, it has been making a significant contribution to the country’s national security. It is at the forefront of protecting New Zealand from the rapidly evolving and increasingly sophisticated threats in cyberspace.
“The nature of the GCSB’s work means it has extensive powers. These powers are intrusive, and they are subject to controls and limitations.
‘With these powers comes responsibility – a responsibility to act within the law and maintain public confidence.
“I expect the GCSB to always operate within the law.
“The advice we have recently received from the Solicitor-General is that there are difficulties interpreting the legislation and there is a risk some longstanding practices of providing assistance to other agencies would not be found to be lawful.
“The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security first raised a question regarding the GCSB’s assistance to NZSIS in May last year. I was first told of a potential issue in July by GCSB Director Ian Fletcher.
“Lawyers from GCSB and NZSIS were in correspondence with the Inspector General and Crown Law and I asked Mr Fletcher to keep me informed. The issue was unresolved when support for domestic agencies ceased in September due to the Dotcom case.
There are 88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003.
Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB.
“I have written to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and asked him to look into those cases.
“I have asked him to inquire into each of these cases to determine in each case whether or not GCSB has acted in compliance with the law. I have requested that the Inspector General determine whether any individuals have been adversely affected and, if so, what action he recommends be taken.
“It is not my intention to disclose details of those cases. However, the results of the review will be made public after its completion.
“It is absolutely critical the GCSB has a clear legal framework to operate within.
“When I return from China, I will announce details of legislative proposals the Government will be bringing to Parliament to remedy the inadequacies of the GCSB Act.
“At the same time I will announce proposals to significantly strengthen the oversight regime across the intelligence community.
“The Government will be talking to other political parties over the coming weeks about the specific proposals.
“I’d like to make it clear that Ms Kitteridge’s review found staff members at the GCSB take their jobs seriously and care deeply about operating within the bounds of the law.
“I would like to thank Ms Kitteridge for her thorough and comprehensive report,” says Mr Key.
The report will be available at www.gcsb.govt.nz. The review references appendices that are legally privileged and highly classified, and these will not be made available.