A suggestion for increasing intelligence service transparency

The Director

Dear Una Jagose,

I have a suggestion for the GCSB that I believe could help with transparency and oversight without risking New Zealand's security.

One of the issues with public oversight of an agency such as the GCSB is that we can all read the governing law but only those within the agency know how the words of the law are interpreted and put into action. Other laws get publicly tested in the courts or as they are applied, but the secrecy that the GCSB requires means that this does not happen for the GCSB Act. This leads to a gap in knowledge of the law between those within the agency and those without, and the uncertainty in this gap leads to mistrust.

However, it is my understanding that the GCSB does prepare legal analyses of the various parts of the GCSB Act so as to ensure that GCSB staff act within the letter of the law.

My suggestion is that the GCSB should make these legal analyses (edited for security reasons as required) publicly available. As these legal analyses would only discuss the publicly available law, I believe that making them public would not risk New Zealand's security.

This would lead to a better public understanding of what the GCSB can and cannot do under the current law thereby reducing uncertainty and increasing trust. 


Thomas Beagle
NZ Council for Civil Liberties

PS. I will be sending a similar letter to the SIS and IGIS.