GCSB intelligence activity in relation to the South Pacific, 2009-2015

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, today released the public report of her inquiry into allegations of intelligence gathering activity by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) in relation to the South Pacific.

Cheryl Gwyn says, “The inquiry began after I received several complaints in 2015, prompted by media reports alleging surveillance of communications in the South Pacific by the Bureau. The inquiry was combined with a review of relevant GCSB compliance procedures and systems.

“The report confirms that the GCSB did undertake signals intelligence-gathering in relation to New Zealand’s interests in the South Pacific during 2009-2015, including the collection of satellite communications. There were statutory authorisations in place enabling it to do so and the Bureau had policies and procedures in place to govern its foreign intelligence activities.

“The inquiry found no evidence that GCSB acted outside the relevant authorisations and statutory prohibitions to any significant extent. The exceptions were two inadvertent breaches that were detected and remedied.

“There was no evidence that any complainants’ private communications were deliberately targeted. It is possible that some of their private communications were collected by the GCSB, either using collection methods that inherently involved collecting some non-targeted communications, or if a complainant was communicating with a person or organisation who was being targeted. If that occurred, there is no evidence that GCSB retained any such data relating to any complainant,” Ms Gwyn says.

The report notes that because GCSB shares intelligence with Five Eyes partner agencies (in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada) it is possible that a complainant’s communications were shared along with other collected information. The report finds it unlikely that this occurred, however, given the targeted nature of intelligence sharing and access arrangements, and the safeguards against unauthorised access to the communications of New Zealanders.

Ms Gwyn says, “I didn’t make any recommendations as a result of the inquiry, due to the lack of any adverse finding in relation to the complaints. Also the report concerned GCSB activity under the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, which has been superseded by the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 and a revised suite of Bureau policies.

“The inquiry has been a valuable one. It has given my office a broad insight into GCSB processes and resulted in a report that significantly expands the publicly available information on the Bureau’s activities. In that way it builds on my report last year on the GCSB’s process for determining its foreign intelligence activity. Ms Gwyn noted that as with most of her reports, her statutory obligations to protect sensitive information mean the full extent of the information gathered in the inquiry could not be disclosed.

“The public report does, however, set out my findings in full,” Ms Gwyn says.

The report is available at www.igis.govt.nz/Publications/IGIS Reports/

For media queries, please contact Antony Byers on 027 5438 735 or antony.byers@justice.govt.nz

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