Barry Soper: The GCSB's right to spy

By Barry Soper

Andrew Hampton, Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). Photo / Mark Mitchell
Andrew Hampton, Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). Photo / Mark Mitchell

There was a time that our spy agencies were feared, mainly a fear of the unknown.

Little was known about them, such was a nature of politics. We knew about the existence of the Security Intelligence Service. It conjured up images of trench coats and trilbies, skulking around the back streets, drawing on a tailor made waiting for a suspect to show himself.

If you look at some of the better known cases over the years that description wasn't too far from the truth. It was the time when Rob Muldoon ruled the roost and on occasion used the spies as his own political tool, once fingering and publishing the names of a group of men who he wrongly claimed were communists, dancing Cossacks, suggesting they were reds under the bed working against the state.

It was during his tenure that the Government Communications Security Bureau, or the CGSB, was established, in secret of course. It had been operating covertly for several years before Muldoon, in the dying days of his reign, finally acknowledged its existence.

The spies have in recent years come in from the cold and their existence is no longer treated with suspicion, nor should they feared. With the growing threat of terrorism their job is seen as an essential arm of Government, as it should be.

In recent years we've known much more about their work, and how they've fallen down on the job as in the Kim Dotcom case, than we ever have before.

Up until now the GCSB has largely been responsible for external intelligence, spying on foreigners, while the SIS's job was to gather the good oil on subversives within our borders. Now the super spies at the bureau, along with the Security Intelligence Service, will be able to have a squiz at what's going down here.



And if someone's up to no good or are suspected of fraternising with terror groups, then the state must have the power to covertly have a look at what's going on. Despite what the naysayers are banging on about, there are enough checks and balances in the new law that'll ensure those who have nothing to worry about can sleep well at night, knowing their snoring won't be picked up by a listening device.

Hopefully those working to undermine the safety and security of this country, that we all treasure, will be ferreted out and brought to justice. Whether we like it or not, spies are now more than ever, an integral part of Government.

- NZ Herald

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