by Steffan Browning
Lack of oversight of New Zealand’s external spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), makes it even more important that there’s transparency around the appointment of its head.
John Key encouraged family friend and school mate Ian Fletcher, who he had kept contact with in recent years, to apply for the chief spy position. This is a position that is directly responsible to the Prime Minister, and one that lacks appropriate external oversight.
This relationship might be fine in a different Ministerial CEO appointment, one that is open to public scrutiny, such as the Official Information Act and thorough reviews by parliamentary select committees. However with the GCSB and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), oversight is negligible, and in fact the Prime Minister and Chief Spy may meet without even their own staff or records being kept.
The spy agencies bosses hold two very powerful positions that New Zealanders must have full confidence in, and that need a fully transparent process of engagement with absolutely no risk of cronyism. This current appointment of John Key’s friend was not transparent, and the position should have been re-advertised if applications weren’t suitable.
The Green Party want better oversight of our spy agencies. We want the GCSB to be monitored by a parliamentary select committee and for a review of the SIS to see if its work would sit better with the police.
The handling of this appointment highlights why better oversight is needed for our spy agencies. The current system is not working.