Spy agencies urged to be more open

  • 19/07/2015
Sir Michael Cullen (AAP)
Sir Michael Cullen (AAP)

New Zealand's spy agencies are their own worst enemies, says the man appointed to review them.

Sir Michael Cullen, a former Labour finance minister, and Dame Patsy Reddy are conducting an independent review of the laws governing the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau and public submissions have been called for.

Sir Michael told Q+A today the agencies need to be more open.

"I mean, I've seen documents, briefings which it would be hard to justify, in my view, those briefings not being made public.

"And, indeed, I think the public would get a better idea of the need for the agencies if some of those documents were made public."

He says the "agencies are their own worst enemy" by being so secretive about almost everything that they do.

He says they can't identify sources, they have to protect agents operating in the field and offshore sources of information may demand their information is protected.

"But nevertheless there's a lot of information and briefings that could be made open to the public, even if sometimes in somewhat redacted form to protect essential security issues," Sir Michael says.

He says the GCSB is relatively small, and a lot of information comes from offshore through New Zealand's so-called Five Eyes partners.

Submissions to the review close at 5pm on August 14.

The report will be delivered to the Parliament's intelligence and security committee by the end of February next year.