Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) head Warren Tucker’s entry into the public debate over his agency is welcome, but his opinion piece raises more questions than it answers, says Green MP Keith Locke.
The GCSB monitors foreign communications and collects secret intelligence from the Waihopai Valley near Marlborough. An editorial piece by Mr Tucker defending his organisation against accusations of spying on New Zealanders and pandering to foreign allies like the United States appeared in major New Zealand newspapers this morning. The Bureau has been under increased pressure over its top-secret activities following the release of its 1985-86 annual report among the papers of former Prime Minister David Lange.
Although welcome, the unprecedented public statement has more fluff than substance, according to Mr Locke, the Green party’s intelligence services spokesperson.
“We’re past the point where New Zealanders can blindly accept assurances that this Bureau is acting in our national interests, when we know that the US National Security Agency is filtering phone, fax and email data coming through Waihopai.
“The NSA has already admitted using their network, which includes Waihopai, to spy on members of the UN and garner support for the US invasion of Iraq. Now the Lange papers reveal that the network was used to spy on the UN as well as Japan and France.
“Mr Tucker needs to explain how being part of US-led spying efforts on the UN and friendly nations is in our national interests,” says Mr Locke, “because there is obviously a huge diplomatic downside to New Zealand being portrayed as a spying tool of the Bush, Blair and Howard governments.”
Mr Locke is also concerned about the security of New Zealanders’ communications. “It may be true that the GCSB is not targeting New Zealanders, but there is no guarantee that America or Britain are not using data from Waihopai to do so.
“We simply can’t accept bland assurances that everything is hunky-dory when we know that the GCSB’s partners in America, Britain and Australia have been manipulated for political purposes in the past.
“Our spy agencies need to be more accountable to the public. While entering the debate is a good start, Warren Tucker needs to say more than just ‘trust me, I know what I’m doing’ next time,” says Mr Locke.