The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) code named ECHELON is based around signals intelligence and other communications espionage. Its main activity is the interception, decryption, and translation of the communications of foreign governments, including both satellite and radio signals. It is one of the eyes in the 5 eyes. It is responsible for defending the New Zealand government against similar attempts by other countries, and from attempts at electronic eavesdropping.
It was not until the late 1990s, the existence of ECHELON was disclosed to the public, triggering a major debate in the European Parliament and, to a lesser extent, the United States Congress. As part of efforts in the ongoing War on Terror since 2001, the FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities, with much emphasis placed on monitoring the World Wide Web. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries”. Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been intentionally spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on spying. Despite the impact of Snowden’s disclosures, the general consensus among experts in the intelligence community holds that no amount of global outrage will affect the Five Eyes relationship, which, to this day, remains the most powerful espionage alliance in world history.
The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) is responsible for advising the government on matters relating New Zealand’s national security and interests, being charged with detecting espionage, terrorism, and subversion directed against New Zealand, and with gathering information about any activities by foreign governments or individuals which might affect New Zealand. It has the highest public profile of New Zealand’s intelligence organisations, although it is smaller than the Government Communications Security Bureau.
Concerns over powers of NZSIS and GCSB
Mass surveillance of New Zealander’s
Although denied its seems that everything is in place for mass surveillance of New Zealanders…
8 May 2013 GCSB Amendment Bill
National Prime Minister John Key introduced the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, which would extend the powers of the GCSB to enable it to collect information from all New Zealanders for the use of other government departments including the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service. Under the bill, the GCSB will have three main functions. Firstly, it will continue to collect foreign intelligence but it will not be allowed to spy on New Zealanders. Secondly, it will give the GCSB a legal mandate to assist the police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service. Thirdly, it will extend the GCSB’s cyber-security functions to encompass protecting private-sector cyber systems.
21 August 2013, the House of Representatives passed the GCSB Amendment Bill
Despite protests from the opposition parties, human rights groups, legal advocates, and technology groups. John Key defended the GCSB Amendment Bill by arguing that it did not authorize “wholesale spying” on New Zealanders and that its opponents were misinformed
20 May 2014 New Zealand Herald
“The GCSB and Prime Minister John Key have repeatedly said the GCSB only spies on really bad people like terrorists and emphatically deny it does mass surveillance of New Zealanders. Ian Fletcher poo-pooed the idea [of mass surveillance] saying he would need at least 100 times the resources he has to keep an eye on all of us all this time”. A number of political opposition leaders have stated that the Southern Cross cable is the only point of telecommunications access from New Zealand. What is now crystal clear is that the NSA conducts this mass surveillance of New Zealanders with GCSB help in its role “co-operating with our foreign intelligence partners”. There is nothing in our GCSB legislation which makes this assistance in mass surveillance illegal.
Radio New Zealand – Govt called to account for spy claims
1 August 2014 Liz Banas
Prime Minister John Key’s office is denying the fibre-optic cable that links New Zealand with the world is being intercepted. A document shows a United States National Security Agency engineer was in the country in February last year to discuss how to intercept traffic on the Southern Cross fibre-optic cable with New Zealand’s electronic spies. New Zealand lawyer Denis Tegg found a reference to the engineer’s visit in unclassified NSA papers saying he was in New Zealand for technical discussions regarding a future Government Communications Security Bureau SSO site. SSO stands for Special Source Operations, which have the ability to tap countries’ fibre-optic cables so phone calls, internet and email use can be intercepted.
National Business Review 29 August 2014 Vikram Kumar
For a detailed account of the vast array of technologies that enable surveillance. The response comments to his article are an interesting read.
What is deemed a ‘threat’ to the economic well being’ of New Zealand
Concerns have been raised by many New Zealander’s, particular those advocating against the Trans-Pacific-Partnership, that their activities will be deemed as a threat.
The Government’s view is that the TPP is in the economic interest of New Zealand. Thus something deemed to challenge New Zealand’s economic well being could lead to the Director of the NZSIS issuing warrants, and the GCSB spying on international TPP campaigners. This has occurred in the past.
- In 1996, two SIS agents were discovered breaking into the home of Aziz Choudry, an organiser with GATT Watchdog, which was holding a public forum and rally against an APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Trade Ministers meeting hosted in Christchurch, prompting charges that the SIS had violated his rights, and had acted illegally. After the Court of Appeal ruled that the SIS had indeed illegally entered his property, exceeding their legislated powers of interception, Parliament moved swiftly to amend the NZSIS Act once again to explicitly give the SIS powers of entry into private property, although public submissions on the proposed amendment were weighted heavily against any such expansion of their powers. In 1999, Choudry was awarded an out-of-court settlement and an apology from the Crown.
- December 2008, it was revealed that a man in Christchurch, Rob Gilchrist, had been spying on peace organisations and individuals including Greenpeace, Iraq war protestors, animal rights and climate change campaigners. Rob Gilchrist confessed to the allegations after his then partner, Rochelle Rees, found emails sent between him and Special Investigation Group (SIG) officers (SIG has a connection with the SIS). Rees found the emails while fixing Gilchrist’s computer. Gilchrist was said to have passed on information via an anonymous email address to SIG officers. Gilchrist had been paid up to $600 a week by police for spying on New Zealand citizens. His SIG contacts were Detective Peter Gilroy and Detective Senior Sergeant John Sjoberg. Gilchrist was reported to have been spying for the police for at least 10 years. Gilchrist also said he was offered money by Thomson Clark Investigations to spy on the Save Happy Valley Coalition, an environmental group. The incident implied members of New Zealand political parties were spied on as part of a ‘focus on terrorism threats to national security’. Rochelle Rees was a Labour party activist as well as an animal rights campaigner.Source Wikipedia
- Likewise in the United Kingdom the MI5 were active in monitoring leaders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Greenham Common women’s peace camp on the grounds that it was “subject to penetration by subversive groups”.The Guardian 6 October 2009 – Richard Norton-Taylor. The UK is a member of the 5-eyes alliance
Broad powers of warrants
There is a lack of trust in the ability of agencies to stay within the law ….
Operation 8 22 May 2013 – An Independent Police Conduct Authority
Report found that Police acted unlawfully in establishing road blocks and detaining and searching people during ‘Operation Eight’. IPCA stated that the planning and preparation for the execution of search warrants was largely in accordance with policy, although the Authority found that one person’s inclusion in the search warrant application was unjustified.
Kim Dotcom (Stuff.co.nz – 28 June 2012 Charles Anderson)
A High Court judge has ruled that police search warrants used to seize property from Kim Dotcom were illegal. Justice Helen Winkelmann found that the warrants used did not properly describe the offences to which they were related. The FBI agents had been accused of underhanded behaviour by Dotcom’s lawyers in the High Court after they secretly copied data from his computers and took it overseas. Justice Winkelmann has also ruled it was unlawful for copies of Dotcom’s computer data to be taken offshore.
Competency of the agencies
The review of GCSB identified a number of issues around competence
As a result of the Dotcom saga, a review into the bureau was conducted by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge. In April 2013, Kitteridge’s report was leaked to the media. It contradicted GCSB head Ian Fletcher’s comments that the bureau had not unlawfully spied on anyone other than Dotcom showing that the GCSB may have unlawfully spied on up to 85 people between April 2003 and September 2012.
Fairfax reported “The review noted a series of failings had led to the illegal spying, including under-resourcing and a lack of legal staff.” It found “the GCSB structure was overly complex and top heavy, while staff who performed poorly were tolerated, rather than dismissed or disciplined, so they would not pose a security risk upon leaving the bureau.” 
Kitteridge also said she had trouble accessing a number of “basic files”. Prime Minister John Key said there was no “cover-up”, and the files were probably either misfiled or never existed in the first place. Source Wikipedia