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How New Zealand manages its security and intelligence agencies

An Overview of New Zealand's Security and Intelligence Arrangements

New Zealand's security and intelligence arrangements. [Click image for full view.]

New Zealand's security and intelligence arrangements.
[Click image for full view.]

It is difficult in a diagram to show clearly all the elements characterising New Zealand's security and intelligence arrangements. There are five main elements:

  • accountability
  • decision-making
  • strategic policy advice and support
  • operational agencies
  • monitoring and review.


Accountability

Parliament is supreme. In terms of security and intelligence matters, there are two bodies accountable to it.

The first is the Intelligence and Security Committee. It acts in a similar way to a Select Committee of Parliament, but its status and power is enhanced by its own Act of Parliament. It has a statutory role to examine a wide range of security and intelligence issues. It is chaired by the Prime Minister. Current committee members are: the Prime Minister; the Prime Minister's two nominees, Jim Anderton and Michael Cullen; the Leader of the Opposition; and the Leader of the Opposition's nominee, Winston Peters.

The second body is the Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister. The Cabinet Committee on Domestic and External Security Coordination reports to Cabinet on security and intelligence matters. The committee is chaired by the Prime Minister. Current committee members are: the Prime Minister; the Deputy Prime Minister; and Cabinet Ministers Jim Anderton, Margaret Wilson, Phil Goff, Mark Burton, George Hawkins and Paul Swain.

Traditionally, the Prime Minister is the Minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The directors of those agencies are accountable to the Minister in charge.

The Chief Executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is accountable to the Prime Minister. The External Assessments Bureau (EAB) is an operational unit of the department. The bureau's director is accountable to the department's chief executive for day-to-day activities, but reports directly to the Prime Minister on its assessments.

The Chief of Defence Force is accountable to the Minister of Defence. The Director of Defence Intelligence and Security (DDIS) reports to the Chief of Defence Force through the Assistant Chief of Defence Force (Operations).

The committee of government officials charged with giving the Prime Minister strategic policy advice on security and intelligence matters, the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination, reports to the Prime Minister. The committee is chaired by the Chief Executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Other members of the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination are: the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Secretary of Defence; the Chief of Defence Force; the Secretary to the Treasury; the Director of the Domestic and External Security Group; the directors of the SIS, GCSB and EAB; and the Commissioner of Police.


Decision Making

High-level policy decisions on security and intelligence matters are made by the Prime Minister, or the Cabinet Committee on Domestic and External Security Coordination. At officials' level, the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination exercises oversight and policy direction in respect of foreign intelligence matters. Operational decisions are made by the agencies themselves.


Strategic Policy Advice and Support

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet receive advice from the Cabinet Committee on Domestic and External Security Coordination and the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination.

The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination is supported by a number of subsidiary entities.

The Domestic and External Security Group provides secretarial support for the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination and chairs interdepartmental watch groups. It is a unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

On behalf of the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination, the Intelligence Coordinator carries out policies to assist in the efficient, effective and responsive performance of the government's security and intelligence resources. The Intelligence Coordinator is a staff member of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and is directly accountable to the department's chief executive.

The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination has five subordinate committees. They are:

  • The Foreign Intelligence Requirements Committee identifies, prioritises and authorises the collection of foreign intelligence needed to support national-security policy making. It does this with particular reference to defence and foreign policy needs, national economic well-being, and the prevention or detection of terrorism and serious crime involving a number of countries. The committee is chaired by the Intelligence Coordinator and is established by and responsible to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination.
  • The National Assessments Committee is responsible for approving and issuing assessments (largely provided by the EAB) on events, developments and trends overseas that may affect New Zealand's interests. The committee is chaired by the Director of the EAB and is established by and responsible to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination.
  • The Interdepartmental Committee on Security oversees and sets security standards for government departments.
  • The Government Communications Security Committee sets and reviews national communications security policy and standards.
  • The Departmental Committee on Computer Security which sets and reviews national computer security policies and standards to protect classified and sensitive government information.

From time to time, the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination establishes watch groups to monitor and advise the government on particular situations - for example, the possible arrival of illegal immigrants (boat people) or civil unrest in countries where New Zealand's citizens or interests may be at risk. Depending on the nature of the situation, watch group membership may include representation from departments that normally do not sit on the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination. Immigration, Police and Customs, for example, would be represented on the watch group concerned with illegal migration.


Operational Agencies

The remainder of this publication deals in more detail with each of the four security and intelligence operational units. In summary, they are:

  • The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. The service provides New Zealand governments with intelligence and advice on security issues, including espionage, sabotage, subversion and terrorism. It also provides foreign intelligence and advice to the Government and government agencies on security awareness, physical security and personnel security. It gathers its information from a wide range of human and technical sources.

  • The Government Communications Security Bureau. The bureau provides New Zealand government departments with advice on all matters relating to foreign intelligence derived from the interception and exploitation of foreign communications and other signals (such as radar). These include radio, satellite and other forms of telecommunications (including facsimiles and telephones). GCSB also provides advice and services to the Government on the security of their communications and information technology systems, and on the protection of premises and facilities from eavesdropping and other forms of technical attack.

  • The External Assessments Bureau. This bureau provides assessments for New Zealand government departments on overseas events and developments. It draws on a wide range of information, including secret intelligence gathered by the other security and intelligence agencies.

  • The Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security. This is the strategic arm of the New Zealand Defence Force's intelligence and security community. Its role is to provide intelligence and security support to the Chief of Defence Force and force development planners at the strategic level. It works closely with other government agencies and New Zealand's defence partners.


Monitoring and Review

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is charged by an Act of Parliament to assist the Minister responsible for a security and intelligence agency (traditionally the Prime Minister) in the oversight and review of that agency. In particular, the Inspector-General ensures that the activities of each agency comply with the law and that any complaints about an agency are independently investigated.

The Inspector-General is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The current Inspector-General is the Hon Paul Neazor.

The Commissioner of Security Warrants is a statutory officer under the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act 1969 as amended. The Commissioner's job is to advise, consider and deliberate with the Minister in charge of the SIS on applications for domestic interception warrants, and to issue those warrants jointly with the Minister in charge.

The Commissioner is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The current Commissioner is the Hon Sir John Jeffries.