Bad spies

February 21st, 2014 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Spy boss Ian Fletcher has apologised to Prime Minister John Key for his agency bungling its report to Parliament on the level of its surveillance.

The Government Communications Security Bureau () was forced to release an amendment to its annual report, which saw an increase in the number of interception warrants and access authorisations for the 2012-13 financial year.

A total of 11 interception warrants were in force for that year, up on the original amount which was reported at seven. Five interception warrants were issued, corrected from four.

A total of 26 access authorisations were also in force, compared to the originally-thought 14, and 11 were issued rather than nine.

A spokeswoman for Key said the prime minister was “unhappy” about the error and had received an apology from Fletcher, the GCSB director.

“The prime minister has been advised that the error stems from GCSB mistakenly counting the number of operations rather than the number of warrants on issue.,” the spokeswoman said.

“There was no attempt to deliberately mislead,. Further, he has been advised by the director that steps have been taken to ensure the error cannot happen again.”

It isn’t a huge error in itself. 11 issued instead of nine doesn’t change what we fundamentally know that the level is very low.

However the concern is that the GCSB doesn’t have a rigorous enough focus on checking and verification. Their annual report to Parliament is an important document and what goes into it should be vetted by multiple people. One person misinterpreting what should be reported, should be caught by someone else.

It isn’t good enough. These agencies especially need a very high level of confidence in their ability to understand the law.

What I’m not clear about is whether this error is long-standing or just occurred last year.

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10 Responses to “Bad spies”

  1. Colville (1,780 comments) says:

    Its a bit unlikely that GCSB has an “onging operations” whiteboard with all the jobs that are on the go written up :-)

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  2. flash2846 (132 comments) says:

    More than one warrant issued for an operation would be normal; counting operations instead of warrants is a minor error. The problem is greens/labour will pounce on any tiny mistake and blow it out of all proportion. Their pathetic followers will of course lap it up.
    Lucky I’m not the PM as I would be pissed off enough to sack people.

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  3. kowtow (6,723 comments) says:

    Rather than the number of warrants being an issue ,it’s who are they investigating and why?

    Do parliamentarians give any thought to who is the threat to New Zealand and whether parliamnet is going to stand on the side of New Zealnd and ensure we don’t keep importing more of the savages in order to prevent this from becoming the huge problem that it is in Australia for example.

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  4. flash2846 (132 comments) says:

    @kowtow – February 21st, 2014 at 1:27 pm
    Do parliamentarians give any thought to who is the threat to New Zealand….

    Parliamentarians will only when something bad happens to one of their own.

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  5. wikiriwhis business (3,302 comments) says:

    Institutional laziness ??

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  6. wikiriwhis business (3,302 comments) says:

    “Lucky I’m not the PM as I would be pissed off enough to sack people.”

    That would take a backbone. If push came to shove Key would order someone to his office for drinkies under the guise of

    official reprimand. The offender would be pictured leaving the office and all faces are saved.

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  7. flipper (3,274 comments) says:

    I think too much can be made of this.

    BUT …. were I an MP, given that I would not get names nor reasons, I would want to know:

    * How many warrants have been issued this year?

    * How many warrants are there still current?

    * Are any or all of the current warrants active?

    * How many of those warrants relate to persons/organisations that have previously been the subject of warrants?

    * How many warrants represent active cases, and how many older cases.

    * As a consequence of those warrants, which agencies have been supplied with information arising from them?

    * Are any of those warrants still active?

    Now that would be fun :-)

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  8. thedavincimode (6,131 comments) says:

    Colville

    Tragically, you seem to have identified their primary management tool. I guess someone mistakenly added the operations column instead of the warrants column. Or perhaps the real answer is that some of the numbers got smudged when the ball hit the whiteboard while they were playing office cricket at lunchtime.

    Our so-called “security” and “intelligence” :roll: – let me repeat that – “intelligence” :roll: – functions have been subjected to plenty of ridicule over the years – commencing with the meat pie and the Playboy. And rightly so.

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  9. unaha-closp (1,033 comments) says:

    We belong to an organisation so secret, even we do not know what we do.

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  10. Scott1 (357 comments) says:

    I think there is a danger that any spy agency will start running around spying on people partly because it just has spare spies with time on their hands.

    Some guy they think might have child porn or some business man they think might be breaching commerce law. Not entirely bad – but not exactly what people think of when they hand their privacy over to a spy agency.

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