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Opinion: Mega cock-up – Rein in the spooks and cops

Thursday 27 Sep 2012 4:53 p.m.

The GCSB illegally spied on Kim Dotcom - Patrick says they need to pull their heads in (photo: Lloyd Burr / 3 News)

The GCSB illegally spied on Kim Dotcom - Patrick says they need to pull their heads in (photo: Lloyd Burr / 3 News)

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Opinion by Political Reporter Patrick Gower

The report on the Mega-cock-up over the Mega-conspiracy is out - and it tells us one thing: our spies and police need to pull their heads in.

The official version says something like "human error”.

The real version is ‘get real - these guys are out of control’.

Everyone is running around trying to blame people - and point the finger.

But few have looked at the simple facts: the GCSB has been causing problems for years.

Look at the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security's annual report from 2011.

It shows us that the GCSB, just last year, caused Justice Neazor concerns three times:

  1. An "authorization" needed to be "limited".
  2. An "authorization" had issues with its "execution".
  3. An "interception authority had not been reviewed in time when it wished to continue it".

All very mysterious language.

But we can now add a fourth - the ‘Mega cock-up’ - and we know what a disgrace that has been.

Given what we know about the Mega cock-up, one can only wonder what the other three incidents involve - and that's only what Justice Neazor was able to find out.

Because another key issue in all this is that the GCSB clearly isn't very good at telling people what's going on.

What are they? Cunning, stupid or masters of the cover-up after the cock up?

Let’s take a look at another simple fact in this.

The GCSB had 15 meetings with the Prime Minister in the first nine months of this year - and it wasn't until the last one that they told the Prime Minister about Dotcom.

This is crucial.

As Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson put it so succinctly, "what were they talking about - the rugby?"

It shows an organisation hell-bent on its own agenda - or hell-bent on protecting their boss, the PM, by giving him plausible deniability.

Then there are the police.

Let's break this down.

Basically the police's "elite crime-fighting unit", OFCANZ, thought the German computer guy Kim Dotcom was "a danger”.

OFCANZ, which comprises some of New Zealand's most senior detectives, thought because Dotcom was "a danger" they needed the help of spy agency GCSB to track him.

This is despite the police having to track dangerous people all the time - truly violent and dangerous people like gang members.

They have their own tracking equipment for that, but guess what - it requires a warrant.

I'll say that again because it's important: when the police want to track people, it requires a warrant.

Police have to go to a judge and explain themselves so they get a warrant to protect society against intrusion. It's old school - but it's the law. It ain't Russia or China.

Pretty simple process - works well most of the time

But guess what - when the police call in the GCSB, they don't need a warrant - when it's a foreigner. Problem is the big German guy had kiwi residency.

The GSCB can track someone, as far as they want and they can do whatever they want. That's too much for a police officer to resist.

Is it too cynical of me to say that the police decided this would be a better idea? Well, in the current context of events - sadly, maybe not.

It is certainly deeply concerning that Detective Inspector Grant Wormald, of OFCANZ, told a court that no other agency was involved in the surveillance of Dotcom.

The reality of all this is really quite simple.

OFCANZ is a new branch of the police trying to prove itself - it wanted a scalp - and the tasty Dotcom investigation came along. It lost perspective. It lost all context. It got excited. It lost the plot.

The GCSB is a closed-shop of an organisation dating back to the Cold War days doing largely boring work - and the Dotcom investigation came along. It lost the plot too.

Something is wrong - and it's time the spies and the police were subject to new rules, new transparency and more accountability.

In short: they need to be pulled into line.

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