The Press on GCSB


In what is turning out to be the drawn-out saga of the extradition of Kim Dotcom, the role of the Government Communications Security Bureau may be a minor irrelevance, but it appears it is about to claim its first scalp.

A senior official is reported to have been placed on leave while an internal review is conducted at the bureau. Whether the official is in any way responsible for the acknowledged errors made by the , and if so what sanction, if any, there should be, will no doubt be determined by the review and, if they are found to be necessary, any subsequent employment hearings.

In the meantime, however, it is clear that there are indications that all is not well within the organisation.

There are four or five ways in which the GCSB hasn’t performed up to the standard expected. They are:

  • The original flawed legal analysis that they Dotcom was not a permanent resident
  • The lack of a clear process for acting on requests from Police
  • The resistance to change its view on the legality of the Dotcom interception for many months
  • Not taking immediate action to inform the Minister and Inspector-General when they first became aware of uncertainty over the legality
  • Taking two weeks to inform the Minister of the brief mention of Dotcom in a powerpoint presentation to him (It should have taken two hours not two weeks)

To his credit, Prime Minister John Key, the minister in charge of the GCSB, has not attempted to conceal its shortcomings. Unlike the normal practice when intelligence organisations make errors – blanket refusal to comment – Key has shown a level of candour unprecedented either in New Zealand or elsewhere. He has also ordered reviews to get to the bottom of the GCSB’s difficulties and install fresh oversight within the organisation.

If there are systemic problems in the GCSB they will not have happened overnight but, given the importance of its work, they must be fixed quickly.

My understanding is that the roasting has been of the superchargrilled variety.

The editorial is right that under Key, the level of candour has been unprecedented. Not just with the issue, but I recall that with the SAS in Afghanistan the previous Govt would often refuse to even state if they were out of the country at a particular point in time.

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