I blogged on the 23rd of March about the renaming and focus of the External Assessments Bureau to the National Assessments Bureau. I was mainly rebutting hysteria that the PM was getting a private spy agency, and pointing out that the EAB/NAB do analysis only – they do not collect intelligence or “spy”.
However I did note:
I am interested in the rationale for change, and think there should be a fuller understanding of what “gaps” in analysis there were, that this change will plug. To that end I have just filed an OIA request with the DPMC for any information about the change of name and mandate for the EAB to the NAB.
I got a partial response from DPMC which I blogged on 7 April. It revealed that NAB is now tasked with establishing quality standards for intelligence analysis across the entire NZ intelligence community, and that they are moving into the same office building as the SIS and GCSB.
The request was also passed into the SSC who did the review of the intelligence community, and today I received a response from the State Services Commissioner – 2010 05 12 letter to mr david farrar re murdoch review and oia release.
I was not expecting a great deal of information, due to the nature of the agencies concerned – probably a lot of blanked out lines. But the SSC has prepared and released a summary of the review of the intelligence agencies done by Simon Murdock (former DPMC and MFAT head). The summary is here – 2010 05 12 summary of murdochreview released under the OIA.
This is a welcome level of openness, The SSC also advises the PM is going to make a public statement on the review late afternoon.
People can read the review for themselves, but here are the parts I found interesting:
- The current shape of the NZ intelligence community (NZIC) is due to historical legacies, rather than design, and mainly modelled on overseas.
- NZIC was predominately focused on foreign intelligence. Post 9/11 there is a greater “homeland security” focus
- A need to have a balance between intelligence which is about risk mitigation, and intelligence which reveals and helps understand medium-term trends and intentions. In other words strategic and tactical intelligence.
- That the EAB Director should have his role to set quality control standards across the NZIC revalidated.
- Encourage NZIC agencies to pool corporate and back office functions
- Against merging SIS and GCSB as they have different cultures and centres of excellence. “They both collect secret information, but in very different ways”. Also they have different requirements for what they do and do not share with overseas partners.
- That the SIS and GCSB Directors should be subject to performance reviews (they are currently outside the state sector CEO framework)
What I find interesting is that the Murdoch review does not explicitly recommend the change of name and focus of the EAB to the NAB. It fits in with with the Murdoch review, but is not explicit.
So how did the decision arise. Well, I look back to the TVNZ story in March:
It is now called the National Assessments Bureau and it has a new mission – to look at both domestic and foreign security risks.
Security for events like the Rugby World Cup is one of the factors driving the change.
“Of course we would engage our intelligence agencies to make sure we can provide the appropriate level of protection for New Zealanders and international visitors that come for the Rugby World Cup so in that regard it is a National Assessments Bureau as opposed to purely external,” says Prime Minister John Key.
As the change is not explicitly states in the Murdoch review, I wonder if the idea came from the PM himself. The RWC is a major focus for him, and he would want to make sure that intelligence and security for the event was not falling between different agencies – hence giving the EAB a wider focus, to cover all intelligence, not just foreign intelligence.
Personally I think the change is quite sensible, and good to see that not even the intelligence community is immune from the drive for efficiency and cost savings. The NAB’s role is purely analysis, not collection, so it doesn’t mean greater “domestic spying”, just that foreign and domestic intelligence will be analysed by the one agency.Tags: EAB, GCSB, NAB, Simon Murdoch, SIS