Question over spy monitor group
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.