Security and Intelligence Services – What are they doing?

Security and Intelligence Estimates

I wish to speak on the supplementary estimates relating to intelligence services that come under the name of Vote Communications Security and Intelligence, for the Government Communications Security Bureau, and Vote Security Intelligence, for the Security Intelligence Service.

Nandor Tanczos:

That’s an oxymoron.

Keith Locke :

Yes, my colleague behind me said that security intelligence is a bit of an oxymoron. I am particularly interested in the Government Communications Security Bureau because three very well-motivated and moral people from the Ploughshares Christian group, Brother Peter Murnane and a couple of his colleagues, visited one of the Government Communications Security Bureau establishments at Waihopai near Blenheim recently. They thought they would go inside and have a look, but happened to pop one of the two big balloons that were there. Members might have seen the photographs in the newspaper. They have not been charged with any serious offences, because I think the Government does not really want a court case that brings out the true purpose of that spy base, which, I believe, relates to the problems in the estimates. I thought: “Well, let’s find out what this Waihopai spy station is all about. It comes under the auspices of the Government Communications Security Bureau, so let us have a look at the estimates and the supplementary estimates, and see what sort of money is spent on that and what it’s all about.”

When we looks at the estimates and the supplementary estimates, which are just a few lines long, we see there is just one figure. There is no breakdown whatsoever, and this is consistent with the estimates and supplementary estimates in previous years. There is no breakdown of the figure into wages, capital expenditure, and different departmental costs. There is certainly no breakdown of what the Waihopai satellite communications interception station costs. There is only one gross figure of $39,288,000 for the Government Communications Security Bureau, which was expended last year, and then the supplementary estimate of $1,057,000, making a total of $40,345,000. This all comes under the one heading of “Advising and assisting government departments and agencies on matters related to the security and integrity of classified or sensitive information processed, communicated or stored by electronic means, and information to meet the national intelligence requirements of the New Zealand Government.” That is the whole shooting box—there is no breakdown whatsoever. As I said, that is consistent with previous years.

In the Budget this year we notice that the total budget for the Government Communications Security Bureau, which was $42 million in the year ended 2007, went down a bit to $40 million last year, but in the current Budget it is going up to nearly $49 million. Surely Parliament, if it is an open society and responsible to the people, and it is the people’s watchdog, should know a bit about the nature of that $9 million increase, but there is no explanation, whatsoever. I had a look at the latest annual report of the Government Communications Security Bureau. That has only one figure in it, too, with no breakdown of figures for the past. All it says in its statement of purpose—and this may relate to Waihopai, although it does not actually say—is: “providing foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) to support and inform Government decision making;”. It says nothing about the fact that Waihopai spy base operates mainly for the purposes of a foreign power—namely, the United States—and most of the information that is collected there, which is filtered through key word systems and origin and destination phone numbers and fax numbers is sent to the National Security Agency in America. That is the dominant intelligence partner in the five-nation Anglo alliance that runs the Echelon network, of which Waihopai is a part—the Anglo nations being New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Britain, and America.

None of that is in the documents; all we are given is one bald figure. Of course, we have a watchdog body called the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is not a select committee; it comprises appointees of the Labour and National parties. Last Wednesday it tabled a couple of reports in Parliament on communications security intelligence—that is, the Government Communications Security Bureau, and security and intelligence, which is the Security Intelligence Service. Both of the reports are made up of only two-sentences, with no explanation, stating that the committee recommends the appropriations in respect of Vote Communications Security and Intelligence and Vote Security Intelligence, etc., be agreed. So we have, in the Government Communications Security Bureau, a completely opaque institution.

Lately I have been thinking about the Bill Sutch case that has been in the news recently. One good thing that the Security Intelligence Service has done recently, under its new head, Warren Tucker, is open up some of the files in relation to the Sutch case in the mid-1970s. There is an article in the latest Listener where Graeme Hunt says that he still thinks Dr Sutch was a spy. But two questions came into my mind. What secrets would Dr Sutch, who was a social and economics expert, have had to give to a foreign power in an open society like New Zealand where virtually everything is open? Dr Sutch would not have had access to defence secrets. I am on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, and virtually nothing in the Defence Force is a secret. So what secrets are there for any so-called spy to give to a foreign power?

Then I thought, well, no—secrets are not about the real secrets that cannot be disclosed internationally; the real secrets in New Zealand are the things that the people of New Zealand cannot be told about. The reason why they are not told about Waihopai is that if they really knew that Waihopai is operating for George Bush’s foreign policy, according to what I have read—if they really knew that—they would be very upset. So who is the real security danger in New Zealand? Who is hiding things from the people? Who is undermining our democracy and accountability, not only in the financial terms we are discussing tonight but in general terms? It is agencies like the Government Communications Security Bureau, and parties like National and Labour that will not tell people the truth about what is going on in these agencies.

David Lange, in his introduction to Nicky Hager’s book Secret Power, said that he was in charge of this agency—the Government Communications Security Bureau—and they never told him what Waihopai was really about. So even the then Prime Minister was not fully informed, and unfortunately did not delve seriously into finding out while he was Prime Minister. It appears that other leaders of our great nation, and the leaders of National and Labour, have likewise just accepted that it is in New Zealand’s interests and we do not need to know much more about it.

I think that is a disgrace, and I ask this rather toothless Intelligence and Security Committee—which meets for only about 3 hours a year, according to the information I have received through written questions—to do its job a little better if it is going to justify its existence. Its members should not go there just for tea and coffee and to listen to the Security Intelligence Service head, Warren Tucker, or the Government Communications Security Bureau head, Bruce Ferguson, give a little briefing, sign everything off, and go away. We deserve more.

In overseas jurisdictions, like the United States, for example, there is a much more thorough accountability system, and people would not get away with that level of lack of scrutiny that we see here in New Zealand. So in that respect I think the United States is a better model for us to follow for more accountability, even though, as I said, I object, and the Green Party certainly objects, to our having a spy station here that is basically in the interests of the Bush administration, which, as we know, is engaged in a war in Iraq that we do not agree with, and the betrayal and undermining of the human rights of people in places like Guantanamo Bay. It is not the sort of foreign policy that we should be helping through the Waihopai spy station. Thank you.