Throughout the history of the Foreign Intelligence capability in New Zealand there has been a comprehensive system of control and oversight by the Government.
Prior to 1967, the work of the New Zealand Combined Signals Organisation (NZCSO, the GCSB's precursor) was overseen and directed by the Defence Signals Committee, which reported to the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff Committee. From 1967, when the Ministry of Defence was formed, the NZCSO was nominally responsible to the Chief of Defence Staff and the Secretary of Defence as joint heads of the Ministry.
When the GCSB was established in 1977, oversight in the sense of both operational supervision and policy guidance, in addition to a general overview of the Bureau's management was provided by a Committee of Controlling Officials (CCO) chaired by the Head of the Prime Minister's Department. In December 1983 the existence of this Committee was published in the Directory of Official Information. In 1989 the CCO was disestablished and the responsibility for oversight and policy guidance of the Bureau was assumed by the new Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC).
Intelligence and Security Committee
The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is a statutory (as distinct from a select) committee of Parliamentarians which has been created to discharge those functions currently carried out in relation to other Government departments by Select Committees.
The ISC is chaired by the Prime Minister; other members are the Leader of the Opposition and three MPs, two nominated by the Prime Minister and one by the Leader of the Opposition, with the agreement of the Prime Minister and the endorsement of the House.
The Committee's functions are as follows:
- to consider any bill, petition or other matter in relation to an intelligence and security agency referred to the Committee by the House of Representatives;
- to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of each intelligence and security agency and in particular:
- to examine the annual Estimates;
- to examine any Supplementary Estimates;
- to conduct the annual financial review of the performance of each agency;
- to receive and consider the annual financial statements of each agency;
- to receive and consider the annual report of each agency; and
- to report to the House of Representatives on the activities of the Committee.
Proceedings of the committee are generally not open to the public, in view of the sensitivity of its functions.
More detail concerning the ISC may be found in the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996.
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
Since 1996 the GCSB (in common with the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service) has been subject to further oversight by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (I-G).
The principal role of the I-G is to assist the Minister in the oversight and review of New Zealand's intelligence and security agencies, and in particular:
- to assist the Minister in ensuring that the activities of those agencies comply with the law;
- to inquire into any complaint by-
- a New Zealand person; or
- an employee or former employee of the Agencies,
- to inquire into any matter where it appears that a New Zealand person has or may have been adversely affected by any act, omission, practice, policy or procedure of the Agencies; and
- to inquire into the propriety of particular activities of the Agencies.
The I-G may inquire into any matter, no matter how operationally sensitive (including any matter that relates to intelligence collection and production methods or sources of information) to the extent strictly necessary for the performance of his or her functions.
The I-G reports annually and has conducted a number of investigations at the request of the Prime Minister. These reports are available through the National Library of New Zealand, Wellington.
More detail concerning the I-G may be found in the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996.