Prime Minister John Key today released a final draft of legislation to clarify the functions of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), and to strengthen the oversight regime governing New Zealand’s intelligence community.
The final draft of the omnibus Bill – the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill – encompasses amendments to the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996 and the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996.
The draft Bill follows a compliance review, which focused on the GCSB, as well as a wider review of other related intelligence legislation.
“The compliance review of the GCSB, conducted by Rebecca Kitteridge, showed there were difficulties in the legal interpretation of the GCSB Act,” says Mr Key.
“Ms Kitteridge’s review found the GCSB Act 2003 is not, and probably never was, fit for purpose.
“It is essential that an agency which is exercising intrusive powers has a clear legal framework to operate within.
“It’s also essential the oversight regime governing such an agency is strong enough to mean the public can have confidence the agency is acting within the law.
“The responsible thing to do is to clarify legislation so it is clear what the GCSB can and cannot do; then it can get on with the important job of protecting the security of New Zealanders,” says Mr Key.
“The draft Bill I am releasing today will, if enacted, help the GCSB to get on with the job of helping New Zealand public and private sector entities deal with the growing threat of cyber-attack.
“The GCSB will require an authorisation from the Responsible Minister and the Commissioner of Security Warrants when its cyber security and information assurance functions are being performed in relation to the communications of New Zealanders.
“The operating environment for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies has changed enormously over the past decade. In large part, this is due to the rapid evolution of technology in areas like cyber security and the threat of cyber-attacks.
“It’s vital that legislation in this area is fit for purpose and keeps pace with changes in the operating environment, while also safeguarding the rights of law-abiding New Zealanders,” says Mr Key.
The draft Bill also makes it clear the GCSB can provide support to certain named agencies – the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Defence Force and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).
The GCSB will only be able to provide that support when those agencies are acting within their own lawful duties.
“This means the GCSB will be able to provide support under the right conditions and oversight, including in relation to New Zealanders,” says Mr Key.
In addition to the GCSB Act amendments, Mr Key says the draft Bill also significantly strengthens the oversight regime for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies to ensure it is strong enough to inspire public confidence.
“The Bill modernises legislation governing the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to make the office more proactive, and at the same time the Government intends to increase the resourcing of the Inspector- General’s office.
“Changes to the Intelligence and Security Committee Act would also give that committee greater oversight and accountability of the intelligence community,” Mr Key says.
Under the draft legislation, the GCSB Act will retain its three main functions of information assurance and cyber security; foreign intelligence; and cooperation and assistance to other agencies.
However, these functions will be clarified and updated so that:
“These changes will ensure the GCSB is on a sound footing to keep doing the job the Government expects it to do in the interests of New Zealanders,” says Mr Key.
It is the Government’s intention to introduce and debate the final Bill later this week, subject to the House schedule. After passing its First Reading the Bill will go to the Intelligence and Security Committee for submissions.