Editorial: GCSB saga has a certain smell to it

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You may not be aware our spy agencies have the ability to record every electronic communication you make. Given the power these spooks potentially hold over us, the latest turn of events at the GCSB should be of immense interest to us all.

Prime Minister John Key has admitted hand-picking old family friend Ian Fletcher to head up the GCSB. State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says there's nothing wrong with that because, unlike core public service roles, the head of the GCSB can be shoulder-tapped by a minister.

But where there's smoke, there's fire, and nothing illustrates this more than the extraordinary public comments by former GCSB head Sir Bruce Ferguson who suggested the appointment should have been an apolitical process. He chipped in that morale at the GCSB was "as low as ever".

Mr Rennie said the shortlist of candidates was rejected in 2011 because they were not best placed to implement the changes needed at GCSB. This suggests something was up with the GCSB at least two years ago.

But after the GCSB was caught spying illegally on NZ resident Kim Dotcom, Mr Key seconded Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge to the GCSB to find out why the illegal spying happened.

She reported back on Tuesday.

Mr Key said he would describe the recommendations "as a major overhaul of the GCSB" which his man Mr Fletcher would personally implement. But something doesn't add up. The SSC has now acknowledged major changes were needed at the GCSB two years ago and Mr Fletcher was appointed to make those changes. Yet the report released on Tuesday makes it sound like the need for major change has only just been discovered.

So what has Mr Fletcher been doing? What happened at the GCSB even two years ago that warrants such drastic restructuring and have our private communications been compromised along the way?

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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