IGIS finds no GCSB breaches, but law not clear

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has completed an inquiry into potential breaches of the Government Communications Security Bureau Act (2003).

The GCSB Director, Ian Fletcher says, “The Inspector-General formed a view that there have been no breaches, although the law is unclear and the Inspector-General recommends amending it.”

A recent review of compliance at the GCSB by Rebecca Kitteridge found difficulties of interpretation in the GCSB Act. Following the Prime Minister receiving that report, cases involving 88 New Zealanders were referred to the Inspector-General. All were cases where the GCSB had been asked to help another agency.

Mr Fletcher says the Inspector-General found that all of the cases were based on serious issues including potential weapons of mass destruction development, people smuggling, foreign espionage in New Zealand and drug smuggling.

Of the 88 individuals:

  • 15 cases involving 22 individuals did not have any information intercepted by GCSB.
  • another four cases involving five individuals were the subjects of a New Zealand Security Intelligence Service warrant and the GCSB assisted in the execution of the warrants. The Inspector-General is of the view that there were arguably no breaches and the law is unclear.
  • the Bureau only provided technical assistance which did not involve interception of communications, involving three of the individuals, so no breach occurred.
  • the remaining cases involved the collection of metadata, and the Inspector-General formed the view that there had arguably been no breach, noting once again that the law is unclear.

Mr Fletcher says the Inspector-General is of the view that the interpretation of “communication of a person” is one of the issues where there are uncertainties in the interpretation of the GCSB Act, when it comes to metadata.

An example of metadata is the information on a telephone bill such as the time and duration of a phone call, but not the content of the conversation or identification of the people using the phone.

As previously stated, 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 the GCSB.

“There are two recommendations from the Inspector-General, which are for more precise legislation and some improvement in the precision of the GCSB’s paperwork, the latter relating to the recommendations in the GCSB Compliance Review.

“We are continuing to work hard to implement the recommendations about GCSB in the compliance review, and I will be delivering my first report on progress by the end of June,” Mr Fletcher says.

GCSB Media contact: Antony Byers 04 463 1667 or 021 241 7449