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Security bill improves status quo: ISIG

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/11/2016

The Intelligence and Security Bill is a significant improvement on the status quo, but Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn has called for clarity and control in the bill's oversight provisions.

The legislation seeks to bring together New Zealand's intelligence agencies under one Act, create greater parliamentary oversight over the agencies and impose greater accountability and transparency on them.

Ms Gwyn told parliament's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee on Thursday that she wanted to see clarity of agency powers, controls and safeguards spelled out in the legislation, and for the oversight rules to be adequately explained.

She said a lack of clarity could result in agencies searching for a legal argument that a particular activity was legally available after the event.

"That should never be the right test when what we're talking about is the use of the most intrusive powers on a broad basis against private citizens," she said.

"The effect of this, we say, is there's a real imperative to state the agencies' powers and their limits in clear and comprehensive terms, and the bill is definitely a good start and what we say is there are some things that could be added to the bill that would enhance that."

Ms Gwyn also wants to see authorisation of warrants under the bill tightened to retain controls from current legislation, including requiring that the minister responsible maintain the power to oversee issuing of warrants rather than handing that power to the Attorney-General.

"The agencies should be required to spell out in advance of getting a warrant the particular intelligence or type of intelligence they expect to obtain under the warrant," she added.

"Without that information the minister and the Commissioner (of Intelligence Security) can't, as they're required under the bill, make a proper assessment of whether the warrant is necessary and proportionate."

But in all the bill represents a significant on the status quo, changing legislation that has never had an overarching overhaul, she said.

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