Changes to proposed spying laws have tightened the rules around obtaining warrants and placed more responsibility for the actions of New Zealand’s spies directly on the responsible minister.
The details have been released in a report from MPs sitting on Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Select Committee, to Minister for National Security and Intelligence Bill English. …
The report from select committee recommends a number of key changes, following a process of hearing submissions from both experts and the general public. …
“One of the most significant changes is a two-pronged approach to national security in the warranting regime.”
MPs have recommended that both the authorising Minister and the Commissioner of Intelligence Warrants must be satisfied the spying warrant is necessary for the protection of national security.
It was a change from the original requirement, which would have seen the Attorney General provide one half of the sign-off, instead of the Minister.
“Being responsible for issuing warrants would ensure that the responsible Minister is aware of the day-to-day business of the agency, of which warrants are a significant component,” the committee said in its report.
A Type 1 intelligence warrant authorises a spy agency to carry out what would be otherwise illegal activity, to collect information again New Zealand citizens and residents.
Following that two-part sign-off, the warrant would also have to be deemed necessary to “identify, enable the assessment of, or protect against” one or more of a specific list of harms.
They included terrorism or violent extremism, espionage or other foreign intelligence activity, sabotage, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, serious crime and interference with information or information infrastructures of importance to the New Zealand Government.
I have to give full credit to Labour and Andrew Little here. They have constructively engaged submitters to come up with changes to the bill that will enhance protections, yet allow the security agencies to perform their jobs. It is nice to see there are still some areas where we get sensible bipartisan co-operation.
The full report of the select committee is here. Well worth a read to understand the complexity of the issues.
Sadly nothing could shake the Greens from their insistence that we should abolish the SIS and the GCSB. Despite them saying they recognise the changes being made will enhance protections for New Zealanders, they maintain their ideological opposition to even having dedicated security or intelligence agencies. To quote from their minority report:
The Green Party views terrorism as a criminal offence rather than a national security threat. It regards national security as a political goal, not an inherent individual right.
There you have it. The Greens do not believe in national security. Now imagine having them in Government with that view!