Submission on the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill

From the Anti-Bases Campaign, Christchurch


29 June 2001


The Government Communications Security Bureau has had only the flimsiest legal status since its mysterious inception in 1977. Few knew of that inception and few knew the Bureau even existed for many years thereafter. So the Anti-Bases Campaign felt somewhat positive for a brief time after learning that the GCSB might have its own Law in the near future. We even “celebrated” at our annual demonstration in January at the Waihopai station. But the reality of the Bill is nothing to celebrate: it provides no clear understanding of the real purposes and methods of operation of the GCSB, and it provides no protection for the people of New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours from the intelligence abuses of the GCSB.

As your committee may be aware, the Anti-Bases Campaign has campaigned for many years against the existence of the GCSB and its electronic signals interception stations at Waihopai and Tangimoana.

Our position is simple:

  • that the GCSB and its facilities do not operate in the interests of Aotearoa/New Zealand and should not be given legal status by the proposed Bill.
  • The GCSB and all its ties to overseas intelligence agencies should be terminated and the Waihopai and Tangimoana stations should be closed immediately by our Parliament.

We support our position with the following brief summary of key points:

  1. The GCSB is a party to the UKUSA agreement making it an intimate intelligence partner with sibling agencies in the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia. The intelligence links among these agencies are automated, giving New Zealand no control over the use of intercepts produced in this country at Waihopai and Tangimoana. There has never been a denial by any government or agency official of the truth of this allegation. This total lack of New Zealand control over communications interception makes a mockery of assurances to the contrary.
  2. Oversight of our intelligence agencies is a facade. With the best of intentions, no Government committee and no inspector-general could possibly oversee the inner workings of New Zealand’s intelligence activities. Those activities are carried out in complete secret under the rules set by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States. Nobody outside the intelligence community, including so-called oversight personnel, have total access to the operational details of the GCSB. This fact is admitted in the Government’s own recent publication “Securing our Nation’s Safety”.
  3. Ineffective oversight leads to abuses. The worst abuse is likely to be domestic spying on our own citizens. Mike Frost of the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the only NSA-trained spy ever to reveal his firsthand experiences in signals intelligence, demolishes the concept of effective oversight. (See “Spyworld”. Doubleday. 1994.) The GCSB has long denied that it engages in domestic spying. But Frost says it’s endemic to the profession. The so-called Swain Bill will only increase domestic spying by the GCSB, again without saying a word about how that spying might be done. But we know how it’s done at Waihopai, by the interception of stray satellite communications over a vast area of the Pacific.
  4. Allegations are rife around the globe that the UKUSA intelligence agencies engage in industrial espionage via electronic interceptions. Mike Frost has written from a position of personal experience (19 years with the CSE and extensive training with the NSA) that the NSA and its sibling agencies spy on everybody. The Americans even spy on the Canadians. Embassy interception, long established in the NSA and CSE, and satellite spying on neighbouring nations focuses on government and diplomatic communications. The potential damage to New Zealand’s relations with its neighbours because of Waihopai’s activities is enormous. Now that the Echelon cat is out of the bag, keeping our spying secrets is going to be increasingly difficult. (See the interim report of the Echelon investigation by an official committee of the European Parliament.)
  5. The GCSB Bill would confer an aura of legitimacy on the Bureau that it simply does not deserve. How can an agency be deemed to operate under the laws of the land when it is exempted from certain provisions of the Privacy Act, when it is exempted from some provisions of the Crimes Act, when its methods of operation are closed secrets except to the exclusive brethren within the international intelligence community? Our Parliament, our Intelligence and Security Committee, and our Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security know next to nothing about the GCSB, about Waihopai, about Tangimoana. What they can know is only what the GCSB, under the watchful eye of the NSA, chooses to reveal. Nothing can be revealed under the laws of New Zealand. The GCSB Bill must not be passed. It is worse than useless in that it pretends to be something it is not – legislation to bring the GCSB under the rule of law.

We can supply further detail on any and all of the points made above. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the GCSB Bill.


Robert L. Leonard
For the Anti-Bases Campaign