The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has released a report investigating complaints about the work done by the GCSB in the Pacific.
It is a fascinating report because we learn quite a lot more about how the GCSB operates.
The key findings are:
- GCSB did undertake signals intelligence-gathering in relation to New Zealand’s interests in the South Pacific, including the collection of satellite communications. There were statutory authorisations in place enabling it to do so and the Bureau had policies and procedures in place to govern its foreign intelligence activities.
- No evidence that GCSB acted outside the relevant authorisations and statutory prohibitions to any significant extent
- No evidence that any complainants’ private communications were deliberately targeted
- If NZers private communications were collected by the GCSB, using collection methods that inherently involved collecting some non-targeted communications, there is no evidence that GCSB retained any such data relating to any complainant
- It is unlikely any communications from the complainants were shared with Five Eyes partners, given the targeted nature of intelligence sharing and access arrangements, and the safeguards against unauthorised access to the communications of New Zealanders.
So let’s take these in turn, because each is significant.
- GCSB does monitor communications in the Pacific. This is no surprise and they would be negligent if they didn’t. The Pacific is an area of significant geopolitical interest and to ignore it would be bad. the only areas that GCSB does not have a potential interest is the US, UK, Australia and Canada due to our Five Eyes agreement.
- The work in the Pacific was authorised and found to be legal.
- There was no targeting of New Zealanders. The GCSB doesn’t do this.
- The nature of some collection methods means the GCSB may sometimes intercept communications of New Zealanders. It is basically impossible not to. You can’t tell a cellphone tower to perform citizenship checks on the phones connected to it! But if information from New Zealanders is intercepted, it is deleted, not retained
- Any information shared with Five Eyes partners is subject to authorisation agreements. They can’t just grab whatever they want
This advances our understanding greatly of what GCSB does, and is a useful counter to allegations that have been made by various people.
The Inspector-General has full access to all GCSB staff, systems and documents. She has shown herself to be extremely thorough and vigorous in her accountability role. If she says everything thing was kosher, we can be reassured.
If you have time, read the full report.