Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

GCSB's police work to be covered by complaints authority

The activities that the GCSB undertake in assisting the police will be subject to review by the Independent Police Complaints Authority under changes to the GCSB bill, which was reported back to Parliament this afternoon by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

It is one of the few changes to the bill in the committee's report that has not been previously announced. Labour and the Greens oppose the bill and issued minority reports.

The bill will also allow communication of incidentally received communications by New Zealanders to be shared for the purpose of avoiding the loss of life on the high seas.

The committee says the bill should allow for situations where the threat to life might not be associated with a serious crime and which could be relevant to search and rescue operations or natural disasters.

"While it is difficult to provide specific examples, we consider that saving the life of a person was sufficient justification for communicating relevant intelligence," the report says.

The report back also sets out for the first time a set of principles under which the Government Communications Security Bureau will operate, modelled on similar principles in legislation empowering the Security Intelligence Service.

The principles include requiring the bureau to act -

# in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights standards recognised by New Zealand law, except to the extent that they are, in relation to national security, modified by an enactment:

# independently and impartially:

# with integrity and professionalism:

# in a manner that facilitates effective democratic oversight

The principles also specify that the director of the bureau must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the bureau is kept free from any influence or consideration that is not relevant to its functions; that the bureau does not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party in New Zealand; and that the director must consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of keeping him or her informed about matters relating to the bureau's functions.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Bill expands the legal power of the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders.

The bureau's empowering legislation prohibits it from spying on New Zealanders but it has done so 88 times since 2003, mainly in helping other domestic agencies.

The amendment bill will explicitly allow it to do so now, and it will also allow it to intercept the communications of New Zealanders in its role as the national cyber security agency.

The committee's report passed with the support of National and Act, and does not contain the list of seven changes of United Future's Peter Dunne that will be introduced when the bill is debated by Parliament during its committee stages.

He gained support for a review of the GCSB and SIS in 2015 and one every five to seven years after that; annual reports on the number of times it helps which agencies; annual reports on the number of warrants and access authorisations approved; and the requirement for Parliament to approve any expansion in the number of agencies the GCSB helps.

- NZ Herald

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