New Zealand spy agency review suggests audit of any foreign partner capabilities it hosts

By Thomson Reuters Mar 20, 2024 | 9:26 PM

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A review of a New Zealand spy agency has suggested it needs to audit any capabilities it may be operating for other countries, after an inquiry into its hosting of a foreign signals intelligence system.

The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), which oversees the country’s spy agencies, reported Thursday that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) hosted a signals intelligence system deployed by a foreign agency and its taking part in a wider intelligence programme related to that system.

Details of the country and the capability are secret, although the report says the “capability” produced intelligence that could find remote targets. New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence grouping, which includes Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The report notes that the system ran from 2013 until 2020 and that after it was installed, “GCSB staff and the Bureau’s legal team lost sight of the capability and its operation”.

The IGIS report said it was concerned that the bureau had offered to host the system without gaining governmental approval or informing it, and that senior leadership did not know anything about it.

After the inquiry it recommended that the GCSB compile a register of collection or analysis capabilities in New Zealand that are operated by foreign partners; audit its systems, including any foreign partner capabilities; review and monitor international agreements; and establish a process that allows IGIS to review any international agreements and arrangements entered into.

The GCSB has accepted the recommendations.

GCSB Director-General Andrew Clark said that since joining the bureau five months ago, he had looked carefully at how it fulfilled its requirements in terms of compliance, relevant legislation, human rights and oversight.

“It is important that we have effective processes in place that enable us to do our job in accordance with all our obligations,” Clark said. “We are continually looking to improve how we work. “

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer. Editing by Gerry Doyle)