New Zealand Law Society - Security service needs to respond quicker says watchdog

Security service needs to respond quicker says watchdog

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) says reducing response times to oversight requests needs to be addressed.

In her annual report Cheryl Gwyn says the introduction of the Intelligence and Security Bill 2017 slowed down the work of the two security agencies, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and limited the latter’s abilities to respond to the requests.

“In last year’s Annual Report I expressed the hope that the increased funding available to the agencies in the next reporting year would enable the NZSIS to better manage the demands inevitably placed on the organisation by systematic Inspector-General oversight and review, in a timely and efficient way, without compromising operational activity. However, for both the NZSIS and the GCSB, the development of the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill 2017 and significant work required in anticipation of the IS Act coming into effect, created a great deal of work and pressure, on top of operational demands, which had the effect of reducing response times.”

Ms Gwyn says this is one area the NZSIS, in particular, must address.

“Now that the IS Act is in place it should be able to respond more quickly to oversight requests (whether in response to requests for further information, or for a reasoned and supported response to a proposition or draft document put forward by this office).”

Ms Gwyn notes that the development of the SIS’s compliance structures and practice has allowed for more ready engagement with her office in relation to review of operational activities.

She says further lessons are to be learned from the past year including:

  • Ensuring a legal basis for operational activity,
  • Promptly obtaining legal advice if there is any doubt, dispute or ambiguity,
  • Keeping the IGIS closely informed of progress on such issues and on the Service’s analysis and proposals for handling the situation, and
  • Consistently taking an open and informative approach to engagement with the IGIS.

The Inspector-General says she is satisfied with the work of the two security bodies over the past 12 months.

“Overall, I certify that the GCSB and NZSIS have sound compliance procedures and systems in place.

“To the extent that particular NZSIS measures or practices are under further development or review, I consider that those do not call into question the overall efficacy of Service procedures or systems.”

The Inspector-General is independent from the intelligence and security agencies.