Time to merge agencies under one director

Dr James Veitch - former intelligence specialist at Victoria and Massey Universities - is one of the few people who publicly supports the GCSB bill. This is an extract from his submission to Parliament's intelligence and security committee considering the bill.

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Brett Phibbs

There are at present two standalone intelligence agencies - the Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

But the NZ Intelligence Community (NZIC) is defined as the NZSIS, the GCSB, together with the National Assessments Bureau (NAB) and the Intelligence Co-ordination Group (ICG).

The latter two are both part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In addition, there are nine intelligence entities within the police and the Organised and Financial Crime Agency (OFCA). There are also four other intelligence entities: the Domestic and External Security Group (DESG) within DPMC; the NZ Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security (DDIS) and the Joint Geospatial Support Facility (JGSF), both within Defence; and the National Maritime Co-ordination Centre (NMCC), within Customs.

All play major roles in intelligence-gathering and policy development. A major player in external intelligence gathering and policy is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

There are furthermore small security and intelligence units within a number of Government departments which also feed into the activities of the wider intelligence community when needed.

This is an extraordinarily large intelligence community to organise and co-ordinate.

With the current debates in the background generating public interest from a variety of perspectives in intelligence-gathering and surveillance and associated matters, the time is opportune for the Government to consider a restructuring that will bring at least the NZSIS, the GCSB, the NAB and the ICG together with the DESG and the NMCC into one organisation under a single director.

This is already present in the formation of the NZIC. The base for this is also already present in the co-locations into one building [in Pipitea St, Wellington] that have already taken place and in the various groupings that have been established to bring the specialist expertise, knowledge, skills and areas of interest together.

The current New Zealand structure of two standalone agencies is based on the British model, slightly modified to suit our circumstances, environment and geography, but since 9/11 the international security environment has changed dramatically and has called for fresh approaches to security, surveillance and intelligence.

The police and the DDIS would be represented in the single structure on a co-ordinating committee and in the strands of the new entity as appropriate (as is the case now).

The co-ordinating committee chaired by a director would oversee and monitor the work of what could be, for example, designated as a Government department, the Department of Security and Intelligence, with its own minister and channels into Parliament and Government.

A Government department would also mean that the minister's office would have advisers from the various sections of intelligence and security on hand to enable the minister to deal with issues that arise before a situation has the chance to unravel.

This restructuring would need to be undertaken in consultation where appropriate and where necessary with overseas partners whose sensitivities and expectations - governed by existing compliance requirements, agreements and treaties - would need to be respected and honoured.

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