Government Communications Security Bureau
Te Tari Whakamau Irirangi
Logo of the Government Communications Security Bureau
|Jurisdiction||Intelligence gathering for the security of New Zealand|
|Headquarters||Freyberg Building, Aitken Street, Wellington
|Minister responsible||John Key, Minister responsible for GCSB|
|Agency executive||Ian Fletcher, Director General|
According to the official website the mission of the agency is to contribute to the national security of New Zealand by: providing information assurance and cyber security, foreign intelligence, and assistance to other New Zealand government agencies.
Prior to this, the functions now handled by the GCSB were split between three organisations:
- Communications security was the responsibility of the Communications Security Committee, based around the Prime Minister's office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Signals intelligence was the responsibility of the Combined Signals Organisation, run by the military.
- Anti-bugging measures were the responsibility of the Security Intelligence Service.
Upon its establishment, the GCSB assumed responsibility for these three roles. Officially, the new organisation was part of the Ministry of Defence, and its functions and activities were highly secret – even Cabinet was not informed. In the 1980s, however, information was gradually released, first about the GCSB's security role, and then about its signals intelligence operations.
Also in the 1980s, the GCSB was split away from the Ministry of Defence, becoming a separate organisation. It was not until 2000, however, that it was decided to make the GCSB a government department in its own right. This decision was implemented through the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003.
Staff and budget
The GCSB is considered to be a government department in its own right with its head office in Pipitea St, Wellington. Through its director, the GCSB reports to the minister holding the Intelligence portfolio, who, by convention, is always the Prime Minister. Its main functions are: the collection and processing of intelligence, the distribution of intelligence, IT security, technology and administration.It has about 300 staff with a range of disciplines including foreign language experts, communications and cryptography specialists,engineers, technicians and support staff.
In 2012, the budget for the GCSB was $64 million.Former Green MP Keith Locke says that despite the attention the GCSB received as a result of its illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom, there has been little public discussion about its value. Locke questions GCSB's suitability for the task of protecting government computers given its security failures. Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge's report noted the Bureau's problems included "under-resourcing and a lack of legal staff".
An Inspector General has oversight of the GCSB (and other intelligence organisations). In 2013, that role was being filled by former judge, 79-year-old Paul Neazor. He has a part-time secretary as his one and only staff member - compared with the Australian inspector general who has a staff of 12. In her review of the GCSB released in 2013, Rebecca Kitteridge recommended the inspector general's office should be "beefed up along Australian lines".
The Prime Minister appoints both the director of the GCSB and the Inspector General. Associate Professor of law at Auckland University, Bill Hodge, says the watchdog should be appointed by Parliament rather than by the Prime Minister. Former prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer agrees: "There needs to be some separation between the inspector and the agency he oversees."
The functions of the GCSB include signals intelligence, communications security, anti-bugging measures, and computer security. The GCSB does not publicly disclose the nature of the communications which it intercepts. It is frequently described by some authors, such as Nicky Hager, as part of ECHELON. In 2006, after the death of former Prime Minister David Lange, a 1985–86 report given to Lange was found among his papers, having been mistakenly released. The report listed a number of countries as targets of GCSB efforts, including Japan, the Philippines, Argentina, France, Vietnam, and many small Pacific island states. It also mentioned United Nations diplomatic traffic. In his book on the GCSB, Nicky Hager says that during the Cold War, the locations and activities of Soviet ships (including civilian craft such as fishing trawlers) were a major focus of the organisation's activities.
For the purposes of its signals intelligence activities, the GCSB maintains two "listening stations": a satellite communications interception station at GCSB Waihopai near Blenheim and a radio communications interception station at GCSB Tangimoana near Palmerston North.
The Waihopai Station has been operating since 1989. It is described as a satellite communications monitoring facility in the Waihopai Valley, near Blenheim. The facility has been identified by MP Keith Locke as part of ECHELON. Few details of the facility are known, but it is believed that it intercepts and processes all phone calls, faxes, e-mail and computer data communications. The site is a regular target for protesters and activists who are attempting to have the base closed down. The Anti-Bases Campaign have had regular yearly protests at the base.
The Tangimoana Station was opened in 1982, replacing an earlier facility at Irirangi, near Waiouru. According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the facility is part of ECHELON; its role in this capacity was first identified publicly by peace researcher Owen Wilkes in 1984, and investigated in detail by peace activist and independent journalist Nicky Hager.
The appointment of Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher was appointed as director of the GCSB in February 2012. Mr Fletcher is a former diplomat. Fletcher was interviewed by the appointment panel after an earlier short-list of four candidates had been rejected by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the State Services Commissioner. In March 2013, Mr Key admitted he had known Mr Fletcher since they were in school, but denied they were friends.
Answering questions in parliament about Mr Fletcher's appointment, Key said he hadn't "seen the guy in a long time" and hadn't mentioned he had made a phone call to Mr Fletcher when the question first came up in parliament because he had "forgotten" about it. Former GCSB director Sir Bruce Ferguson said the way Key had intervened in the selection process was "disturbing". The Labour Party called for an inquiry into the matter.
Shortly before Fletcher was appointed, the GCSB was found to have illegally spied on Kim Dotcom, a German national but New Zealand resident. By law the agency cannot spy on New Zealand residents. The GCSB admitted that Hugh Wolfensohn, acting director at the time, knew the organisation was spying on Dotcom. It is believed Mr Wolfensohn was placed on "gardening leave" after it became clear the GCSB had made a mistake in spying on Dotcom. In December, the High Court ruled Kim Dotcom could sue the GCSB for damages. The attorney-general appealed the ruling, but was unsuccessful. In March 2013, the NZ Herald reported that Wolfensohn "no longer works for the GCSB intelligence agency as it braces for fresh exposure of its failings".
As a result of the Dotcom saga, a review into the bureau's compliance with legislation and its internal systems and processes was conducted by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge. In April 2013, Kitteridge's report was leaked to the media. It contradicted GCSB head Ian Fletcher's comments that the bureau had not unlawfully spied on anyone other than Dotcom showing that the GCSB may have unlawfully spied on up to 85 people between April 2003 and September 2012.
Fairfax reported "The review noted a series of failings had led to the illegal spying, including under-resourcing and a lack of legal staff." It found "the GCSB structure was overly complex and top heavy, while staff who performed poorly were tolerated, rather than dismissed or disciplined, so they would not pose a security risk upon leaving the bureau."  The Green Party asked police to investigate the illegal spying.
Kitteridge also said she had trouble accessing a number of "basic files". Prime Minister John Key said there was no "cover-up", and the files were probably either misfiled or never existed in the first place.
GCSB Amendment Bill
On 8 May 2013, the National Prime Minister John Key introduced the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, which would extend the powers of the GCSB to enable it to collect information from all New Zealanders for the use of other government departments including the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service. Under the bill, the GCSB will have three main functions. Firstly, it will continue to collect foreign intelligence but it will not be allowed to spy on New Zealanders. Secondly, it will give the GCSB a legal mandate to assist the police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service. Thirdly, it will extend the GCSB's cyber-security functions to encompass protecting private-sector cyber systems.
While this Bill was supported by the ruling National Party and its coalition partners ACT New Zealand and the United Future MP Peter Dunne, it was opposed by the opposition Labour and the Green parties, several left-wing groups, and the internet millionaire Kim Dotcom, the NZ Law Society, and the Human Rights Tribunal. On July 27, opponents of the GCSB Amendment Bill staged nationwide protests in eleven major towns and cities, thousands attended. A poll receiving over 52 thousand responses showed a result of 89% of New Zealanders opposing the bill. Critics of the GCSB Amendment Bill claimed that the Bill would turn New Zealand into a police state like the former German Democratic Republic and made references to George Orwell's novel 1984 and the ongoing Edward Snowden NSA Leaks scandal. In response, Prime Minister Key acknowledged that the protests were part of a "healthy democracy" with people being "allowed" to make their voices heard for the moment.
On the 14th of August 2013 the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key addressed what he identified as "misinformation" surrounding the GCSB Amendment Bill, claiming that the actions of the Government Communications Security Bureau were analogous to Norton AntiVirus. On 21 August, the House of Representatives voted to pass the GCSB Amendment Bill by 61 to 59. The bill passed its third reading despite protests from the opposition parties, human rights groups, legal advocates, and technology groups. John Key defended the GCSB Amendment Bill by arguing that it did not authorize "wholesale spying" on New Zealanders and that its opponents were misinformed.
The GCSB is administered by a Director. The directors have been:
- Colin Hanson (1977–1988)
- Ray Parker (1988–1999)
- Dr Warren Tucker (1999–2006)
- Air Marshal Sir Bruce Ferguson (2006–2010)
- Simon Murdoch (acting November 2010 – February 2011)
- Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae (7 February – 30 June 2011)
- Simon Murdoch (acting 1 July – 19 December 2011)
- Ian Fletcher (29 January 2012–)
Jerry Mateparae was appointed by Prime Minister John Key on 26 August 2010 taking up the role on 7 February 2011. On 8 March 2011 Mataparae was announced as the next Governor-General. He continued as Director until June 2011.
- New Zealand intelligence agencies
- New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
- Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection
- Anti-Bases Campaign
- Our work
- "Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 No 9 (as at 29 November 2010), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". legislation.govt.nz. 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2012. "There continues to be an instrument of the Executive Government of New Zealand known as the Government Communications Security Bureau."
- The what, where why of NZ's spy agencies, Dominion Post, 13 April 2013, page C2.
- Keith Locke: Dotcom case shows the cost of spying is spooky
- Who is watching the watchers?
- "Lange papers reveal US spy threats". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 15 January 2006. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
- About us. Government Communications Security Bureau.
- Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). GlobalSecurity.org.
- Speech in Parliament's General Debate, Wednesday, March 1, 3.55pm.
- Secret Power - Press and Praise
- Chapter Two: Hooked up to the spy network: The UKUSA system
- Spy boss got job after call from PM
- "Key grilled over link with GCSB head". 3 News NZ. March 27, 2013.
- Key met spy candidate for breakfast, Dominion Post
- "Key's faulty memory on GCSB an 'excuse'". 3 News NZ. April 4, 2013.
- "Former GCSB head Sir Bruce Ferguson speaks out". 3 News NZ. April 4, 2013.
- "Key brushes off Labour's spy review call". 3 News NZ. April 8, 2013.
- Shuttleworth, Kate (1 October 2012). "Dotcom case: GCSB review ordered". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- "Spy faces sack over Dotcom debacle". 3 News NZ. 17 October 2012.
- "Dotcom taking GCSB to court". 3 News NZ. December 6, 2012.
- "Dotcom wins right to sue Govt spies". 3 News NZ. March 7, 2013.
- "Dotcom wins right to sue". NZ Herald. March 7, 2013.
- Spy boss left out in cold
- Report: Up to 85 cases of illegal spying uncovered
- "Greens ask police to extend spy inquiry". 3 News NZ. April 12, 2013.
- "Key rejects GSCB cover-up". 3 News NZ. April 16, 2013.
- "Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill". New Zealand Parliament website. New Zealand Government. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- Young, Andrew (August 21, 2013). "GCSB bill passes after final reading". New Zealand Herald.
- "Thousands of GCSB Bill protestors hit the streets". TVNZ One News. July 27, 2013.
- "Protest marches against GCSB bill across NZ". The New Zealand Herald. July 27, 2013.
- "PM dismisses protests against GCSB Bill as 'misinformed'". TVNZ One News. July 28, 2013.
- "Campbell Live GCSB roadie, poll end". TV3. August 19, 2013.
- "Thousands join rally against GCSB". The Dominion Post. July 27, 2013.
- "John Key defends the GCSB bill". 3news. 14 August 2013.
- "New Zealand passes law for domestic spying". BBC News. August 21, 2013.
- "Acting spy boss named". National Business Review. 28 June 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- Fisher, David (17 October 2012). "Dotcom: Spy agency knew status earlier". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- Hager, Nicky (1996). Secret Power: New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network. Nelson, NZ: Craig Potton Publishing. ISBN 0-908802-35-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Government Communications Security Bureau.|
- Government Communications Security Bureau
- Anti Bases Campaign
- Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003
- Government Communications Security Bureau - information at the Ministry of Justice.