SIS/GCSB merger

September 8th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Staff from a radio station have found notes handwritten by a senior government servant suggesting a merger of New Zealand’s two state intelligence services.

Radio New Zealand reported finding the notes on the street, with the merger one of three options to be considered in a review of the sector.

The State Services Commission confirmed former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, , was to consider ways for the security services to work more effectively.

I doubt the services will be impressed by such notes being left lying about.

Not sure what the pros and cons of merging the and would be. The SIS have greater protection under the law. It is illegal to name any staff member except the Director. The does not have the same protection.

The review might extend beyond the SIS and GCSB of course. There is also the External Assessments Bureau in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the co-ordinating role of DPMC’s Domestic and External Security Group.

20 Responses to “SIS/GCSB merger”

  1. burt (11,462 comments) says:

    So who is flying this kite ? Shite like this is never just dropped accidentally on the side of the road. If we don’t see a public sacking of the notebook owner then there was no accident.

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  2. Leg Break (89 comments) says:

    If you think these were “left lying around”, you’re mad.

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  3. Pongo (512 comments) says:

    The journalist should reveal who supplied him with the stuff as the odds of him accidently finding this are too bizare to even contemplate.
    State radio “recieving” a state owned laptop and then going to press with it ! I cant remember national radio ever having a reputation as fierce seekers of the truth. Its not exactly the news of the world so really it should have been returned unless there was something monumental in it not just a treasury official looking for cost savings.

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  4. David Farrar (1,769 comments) says:

    A Treasury staffer dropped it, it seems. Cockup not conspiracy.

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  5. petal (707 comments) says:

    I think it’s fair to say Kiwiblog readers didn’t come down in the last rain shower then? 🙂

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  6. Leg Break (89 comments) says:


    Even if a Treasury staffer did drop it, do you think the next person along the un-named* street was this budding hack from Nat Radio?

    *The un-named street bit cracked me up. How very Spooks.

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  7. sweetd (125 comments) says:

    hmmm, I see a Tui billboard here.

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  8. lyndon (329 comments) says:

    The way the GCSB basically works for a bunch of foreign intelligence services might be seen as an issue.

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  9. tvb (5,512 comments) says:

    Putting highly confidential material in a notebook and then misplacing it is really not good enough. The notebook should not contain this sort of material. I bet it is simply left lying around on his or her desk, taken home, left lying around, looked at in a public place. People need a damn good kick in the pants over the management of highly confidential material.

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  10. Pongo (512 comments) says:

    Unless it was one of those really really light notebooks (tounge in cheek) how would you not notice dropping it ? Cloud computing maybe.

    My sources tell me it was a strickingly beautiful, but shy and retiring, lady nicked it and sold it to a media outlet sympathetic to Kim Jong Il. The journo has had his expense claim approved by management who were more than slightly upset that they didnt get their funding increase as per last weeks media reports.

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  11. MikeNZ (3,233 comments) says:

    I always understood that secret and above level info (which means anything incl notes) was to be transported in a carry bag in public so that it couldn’t just be accidentally left somewhere.
    If it pertained to eyes only then said bag was attached to wrist by toggle (Wii type slip) or chain depending level of confidentiality.
    Maybe it’s different nowadays with the younger generation, I sincerely hope said treasury person hadn’t named others in any of the other meetings they attended and may have been there.
    I wouldn’t want my name to be on some journos list.

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  12. Leg Break (89 comments) says:

    I think it’s a ring-binder paper and cardboard type notebook, but I’m not believing anything else about the story so not sure why I’m saying this.

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  13. Jack5 (9,291 comments) says:

    On the surface of it, it does look like a media plant. The spooks would know leftist Radio NZ would go into a frenzy about finding stuff on NZ’s secret service.

    We are a tiny country to have a separate group, the GCSB, from the SIS. However, in America, the NSA, the vast equivalent of the GCSB, is separate from the main American security agencies.

    You have to wonder whether the SIS, subject to interference from periodic leftist flakes like H1, would be secure enough to run the GCSB, which is the tiny partner in the small group of US partners that run the world’s leading international electronic intelligence system. At present, I imagine the GCSB is too technical for the attention span of nuisances such as H1 and Locke, which alone makes it worth keeping.

    On the other hand, the GCSB seems to have been abysmally lacking in nous the way the Red friar from Auckland and his mates broke into the Waihopai site so easily. Like the notebook, you have to wonder whether the friar is a plant. Strong backer of migration crasher Zaouai, which would have built his cover picture, and then leading high-profile security breaches. With that background he could charm leftists like an Indian snakecharmer with a basket full of cobras.

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  14. racer1 (354 comments) says:

    Don’t worry jack, tinfoil hats will fix everything.

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  15. noskire (863 comments) says:

    Heh, a “textbook leak” (or should that be notebook?). Of more interest is what forces are behind it – a lot of American spook activity on these shores lately. Or one of the local spook agencies niggled at budget cuts and wanting to drop a “warning” to the Government…

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  16. bustedblonde (136 comments) says:

    hmm so how come the links on kiwiblog to GCSB and SIs work but they dont at Roarprawn?

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  17. Jack5 (9,291 comments) says:

    Re racer1 at 7.07… I’m not sure what you mean about tinfoil hats…

    Are you saying those who think there may have been a deliberate leak are conspiratory theory fanatics? If so you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, Racer. The tinfoil hat brigade would be the lefties and the head-up-arse liberal elite who think an American led world capitalist conspiracy rules or aims to rule the world.

    As the NZ news media generally fit into the liberal elite, I’m guessing you are from that industry, racer.

    Did you support NZ residency for the Algerian gatecrasher Zaouai, racer?

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  18. Jack5 (9,291 comments) says:

    I’ve just noticed racer1’s comment at 4.59 in the G-man on Winston thread. Appalling piece of unsubstantiated gutter muck. Also racer1’s unsupported attempted smear of John Key in the thread.

    I apologise to other Kiwiblog readers for responding seriously to racer1 in the previous post. Racer1 is obviously one of the lying, malicious, damaged-personality, Labour-supporting trolls who periodically pop up on Kiwiblog to make outrageous, unsubstantiated smears.

    Racer1 makes it obvious what Labour’s problem is: decent NZers have left it, and the deranged, damaged, and demented are taking over.

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  19. Paul G. Buchanan (350 comments) says:

    Since I have written about the issue at some length, I shall limit myself to pointing out two problems, one external and one internal to the intelligence agencies involved. Externally, the GCSB manages the Echelon stations in NZ and passes along foreign derived signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the SIS and Police where necessary, as well as monitor NZ signals traffic where required (this is a minor part of its operation). It is therefore more of a foreign-oriented intelligence collection agency rather than a NZ-oriented one. That spells potential conflicts of interest with larger intelligence liaison partners in the event that it is subsumed under or within the SIS. NZ intelligence requirements do not always run in concert with those of its larger partners, although it gains a measure of insurance and protection for providing its soil for the eavesdropping stations (another reason why NZ will never be invaded without a fight, since the stations are extremely valuable to the Echelon partners).

    Internally, the SIS already has to handle external and domestic espionage and intelligence analysis along with counter-intelligence duties. This with a total complement of less than 200 people, a quarter of whom are clerical staff. That means that all of the human intelligence that gives NZ primary source or primary-derived information, plus the analysis of intelligence derived from the GSCB, NZDF, NZ Police, contract assets and liaison partners, has to be done by 150+/- people. It is a tall task already, and adding the SIGINT duties to it can complicate the management of intelligence flows and result in turf battles between the SIGINT and HUMINT branches and their respective analytic units (to say nothing of the fact that foreign nationals are heavily involved in the operation of the Echelon stations and therefore answer first to their foreign masters. Allowing them into the SIS could therefore compromise NZ national security even if they are erstwhile allies).

    It is also generally believed that in a democracy it is best to separate domestic from foreign intelligence gathering, and SIGINT from HUMINT so as to avoid the monopolisation of intelligence flows and advice in any one agency, which could be politicised to deliver “intelligence” that is more politically-motivated spin than actual fact (as occurred with the Zaoui case under the previous SIS Director). Unified intelligence agencies can operate in democratic systems (such as in Canada), but that requires strong parliamentary oversight authority, something that does not exist in NZ.

    The EAB is an intelligence client that undertakes foreign-oriented assessments rather than a collection agency, so a move to merge simplifies the intel streams coming its way. The same goes for the Police and the NZDF (which have their own collection branches), Treasury other Ministries as well as the Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG). But one of the good points of having different sources of intelligence collection and analysis is that it avoids “group think” (and mistakes) by getting independent vetting of sources, methods and interpretation. Under the merger plan intelligence will be reduced but not completely centralised, although the question remains as to whether a merged agency can competently handle all of the responsibilities that entails.

    All of which is to say that the merger idea may be economical but it may not be efficient.

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  20. Maggie (674 comments) says:

    David, David, David, are you THAT naive?

    An official drops a notebook and a Radio NZ staffer just HAPPENS to be passing by and picks it up?

    What are the odds against that happening? A million to one?

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