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'Whole system is corrupt' - Norman

Wednesday 10 Apr 2013 8:46 a.m.

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Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says New Zealand's spy agencies are "corrupt", and is questioning if we really need them.

A report leaked yesterday revealed as many as 88 New Zealanders may have been illegally spied upon by the Government Security Communications Bureau (GCSB).

But instead of prosecuting those who acted illegally, Prime Minister John Key – who has ministerial oversight of the GCSB – will instead seek to introduce laws allowing the agency to spy on New Zealanders.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for leaking the paper, which wasn't supposed to be released until next week after Mr Key returns from his visit to China.

Speaking on Firstline this morning, Dr Norman linked the unconventional process by which GCSB head Ian Fletcher was hired to the organisation's "unbelievable" breaking of the law.

"John Key said we have to overturn all the due process for appointing these people in order to get this guy [Mr Fletcher] in place, right, because he's the best guy in the world to do the job. Happens to be John Key's friend, but that's not related we're told, it's just that he's the best guy.

"Now, the best guy in the world gets given a piece of law that says, 'You must not spy on New Zealanders – fullstop,' and says, 'Well, that's a bit ambiguous, isn't it? Can we or can't we? I think probably we can,' and then he goes and spies on New Zealanders."

The GCSB wrongly believed the law allowed them to spy on New Zealanders if they were acting on behalf of the police or the Security Intelligence Service, which unlike the GCSB, is authorised to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents.

Dr Norman says the law is "black and white" and those responsible for breaking it should be prosecuted.

"John Key says, 'So we've got this agency, this rogue agency which does what it likes, right? Doesn't follow the law, just says, oh well, laws are laws, whatever, we'll just do whatever we like.' … We're not going to prosecute those people, no. We're going to reward them and change the law so that they can do more of it to more of us.

"That is exactly why the whole system is corrupt. There is no proper oversight. You've got a Prime Minister who doesn't really want to know what's going on. You've got a head of the GCSB who clearly just says, 'Yeah, let's do it, it's illegal, who cares?'"

The law preventing the GCSB from spying on New Zealanders was introduced by Labour in 2003. Dr Norman says the Green Party warned them at the time that without proper oversight, the agency would go "rogue".

"We need to implement proper oversight of these agencies and we need to be really clear – what do we really need them for? Are they really essential? Because if you're going to restrict people's freedoms – if you're going to breach everyone's civil rights to privacy – you're going to have to have a very good reason to do that.

"At this stage, I can't see why you'd let any of these people breach your fundamental privacy rights."

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