Ques­tion over spy mon­i­tor group

The Dominion Post - - Politics - LAURA WALTERS

The intelligence and se­cu­rity watch­dog has es­tab­lished a group of jour­nal­ists, lawyers, aca­demics, and se­cu­rity ex­perts to help en­sure intelligence and se­cu­rity agen­cies act law­fully and prop­erly.

How­ever, National said sev­eral mem­bers of the group lacked ob­jec­tiv­ity.

In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Intelligence and Se­cu­rity Ch­eryl Gwyn said the ref­er­ence group brought to­gether peo­ple from out­side gov­ern­ment who could keep the agen­cies in touch with le­gal, so­cial and se­cu­rity de­vel­op­ments.

The group, which met for the first time in Wellington last week, was tasked with pro­vid­ing feed­back and in­form­ing the agen­cies – the NZSIS and the GCSB – on their work.

It has been de­scribed by the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the NZSIS and GCSB, An­drew Lit­tle, as a be­ing ‘‘sound­ing board’’.

The group would also look at how the Office of the In­spec­tor­Gen­eral of Intelligence and Se­cu­rity was act­ing in its over­sight role. Gwyn’s role is to scru­ti­nise whether intelligence and se­cu­rity agen­cies act law­fully and also whether rea­son­able New Zealan­ders would think their con­duct was ‘‘right’’ or ‘‘proper’’.

The group in­cludes peo­ple who have been crit­i­cal of the ac­tions taken by the intelligence and se­cu­rity agen­cies in the past, in­clud­ing in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists Nicky Hager and David Fisher.

National’s GSCB and NZSIS spokesman, Gerry Brown­lee, said the list of ap­point­ments raised ques­tions, with sev­eral of the mem­bers be­ing ‘‘far from ob­jec­tive in their view of our intelligence re­la­tion­ships’’.

Stuff po­lit­i­cal edi­tor Tracy Watkins was ap­proached to be a mem­ber of the group but de­clined.

Lit­tle said it was ‘‘healthy’’ to have ‘‘chal­leng­ing and skep­ti­cal’’ voices in­cluded in the group.

‘‘What’s im­por­tant is that we are old enough and brave enough to know that it is right to have crit­ics of or­gan­i­sa­tions, and of the gov­ern­ment, in­volved in this sort of ex­er­cise. It’s a healthy thing in our democ­racy.’’

The in­spec­tor-gen­eral saidthe mem­bers did not have se­cu­rity clear­ance and would not be privy to clas­si­fied ma­te­rial.

The mem­bers of the group were not be­ing paid.

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