Tuesday, April 17, 2018


That the COL would agree to establish a reference group to assist the Inspector-General of Intelligence & Security carry out her role without reference to Parliament simply beggars belief.    That some of those so appointed have earned themselves a certain notoriety compounds the issue.

And let's be very clear.   The appointments will have been made by way of Ministerial warrant.   This is a government initiative and, dollars to donuts, will have been made without reference to our Five Eyes partners.    Make no mistake ... there will be consequences ... perhaps not immediately ... just a slow turning off of the tap.

Appears to me the Greens are well on the way to achieving what for them has always been a cause célèbre ...  the editing of New Zealand out of Five Eyes.     But this can't be sheeted home just to the Greens.   Labour and Winston First along with the Greens are jointly and severally responsible. 


Noel said...

Not only turning off of the tap but good loyal New Zealanders leaving for countries where their work will be appreciated.

The Veteran said...

I see that Barry Soper claims those appointed are doing it for love not money. Give me a break ... are we to believe they paid their own airfares and accommodation expenses in meeting with the Gwyn in Wellington last week. Little said he was surprised by some of the appointments. Andrew ... you are the responsible Minister ... they are your appointees.

It appears to me now that the I-G went off the reservation in setting up this reference group. She must be held to account and so must the Minister. Our credibility as a responsible Five Eyes partner is at risk.

David said...

will have been made without reference to our Five Eyes partners

As an independent, sovereign nation, why do you think the NZ govt needs to ask foreign governments for permission to govern?

the editing of New Zealand out of Five Eyes.

And why would that be such a bad thing? 5 eyes is simply a way for domestic spies to get information they are unable to legally obtain in their own country, under their own laws. The UK can spy on NZ citizens, pass that information to NZ and then that is used as the basis for a warrant that otherwise would never have been granted.

Now, as an authoritarian I can see why you would like that idea, Veteran, but to a civil libertarian like myself it is abhorrent.

Veteran - "If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide".

David - "I have done nothing wrong and therefore have nothing to prove".


David said...

It would also be useful if the people knew of the success of the 5 eyes in preventing terrorist attacks in NZ. As far as I know, there has been one, and the 5 eyes either didn't know it was coming or kept stum about it due to their antipathy to the target. Either way, it points to a good reason to pluck out an eye.

The Veteran said...

David ... we know where you sit and your masters in Moscow thank you for your support.

David said...

Veteran, I have no "masters in Moscow", in fact, I despise Putin more than Trump.

What I do have is a very jaundiced eye for so called "security services" when most of their work is in opposition to the principles of free and open society, when they are used as tools of oppression, to preserve the corruption of democracy in the service of the monied.

Noted is your adherence to your US Masters and your inability to refute my comments.

Paul G. Buchanan said...


The group is unpaid and non-partisan (some travel expenses were covered for non WTG members to attend the first meeting but future meetings will involve video-conferencing. No accommodation allowances or stipends are included). The group does not handle classified material or discuss operational details. It's focus is on issues of oversight, accountability, transparency and the balance between civil liberties (such as the right to privacy) and the requirements of intelligence gathering in NZ. The IGIS's office is within its rights to appoint such a focus group on its own, which is seen as an external referent where "out of the box" or lateral ideas can be discussed without the strictures imposed by government service. Of the 11 members four are public interest lawyers, two are journalists, one is an economist, one is an IT specialist, one is the head of the Civil Liberties Union, one is a former diplomat turned academic and I represent private sector consulting.

Some will see the group as a form of insidious infiltration. Others will see it as a cooptative, window-dressing or whitewashing device. IMO it is neither.

There is a good range of opinions in the group but the bottom line is that we all signed up for this volunteer exercise out of an interest in intelligence matters as they relate to a democratic society and out of a sense of civic duty. That is a good thing.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

The group looks about as balanced as does Robert Mueller's team of presidential inquisitors.

It's difficult to see more than one name on the list which might not be 'of the left or hard left.'

James said...


So if you don't handle classified material or discuss operational details, what value do you actually add to the IGIS?

How can you effectively discuss issues of oversight, accountability, transparency and civil liberties to do with the intelligence services if you aren't actually told what they are doing or how they are doing it?

And why are so many marxists, leftists and conspiracy theorists appointed without any equivalents from the right or centre-right?

The Veteran said...

Paul ... thank you. I remain of the view this will raise eyebrows and more among our Five Eyes partners. James in his second para nails it. As it happens and this weekend I am hosting a reunion of my Portsea graduating class. Among those attending is a former one star general and senior ADF Intelligence Officer currently a consultant to ASIO. I will be fascinated to hear his perspective on this.

Word is the PM was not briefed on this rush of blood and is not amused.

David ... you are advocating that NZL withdraw from Five Eyes. You mirror the position of the Communist League and Socialist Aotearoa here in NZL in doing that (along with many other things). Your views and their views are indistinguishable. If it walks like a duck, has feathers and quacks it probably is a duck. Heh, don't hide your light under a bushell, be proud, stand tall, come out.

David said...

David ... you are advocating that NZL withdraw from Five Eyes.

As I am longer resident in NZ, that is a matter for the NZ government and electorate.

I have, and I will continue, to advocate that Australia withdraw as part of developing an independent foreign policy. Sadly, there has not been an Australian politician willing to stand up to the Security State apparatus since Don Dunstan.

Paul G. Buchanan said...

Discussing issues of accountability and the balance between intelligence operations and the democratic right to privacy do not need to be informed by knowledge of classified operational matters. After all, this involves legal and organisational issues rather than practical aspects of the business, and the Group is a "idea shop" that among other things may well use best practice examples drawn from elsewhere as points of reference/guidance.

Let us be clear about the IGIS: it does not have to ask politicians (ministers or otherwise) for permission to form such a focus group. It only oversees the NZSIS and GCSB, not the NZDF or the smaller intelligence shops in places like the DPMC, Customs, immigration, Police etc. It is not paying for the services of the Group other than token reimbursements and it does not intend for it to serve as a substitute for its existing Advisory Panel. The Group is constituted by people with a recognized interest in and/or experience with intelligence oversight matters. The idea that they are all Marxists and commies is ludicrous and I am sure some of those who have agreed to participate would be offended by the suggestion.

I remain of the opinion that including critics of the "system" in the Group is a good idea given the circumstances that I have described above. It gives more breadth to the discussions and can allow people to moderate via reply any extreme views voiced therein.

The latest IGIS annual reports are worth reading as backdrop: http://www.igis.govt.nz/publications/annual-reports/

Max Ritchie said...

We'll, Paul, you've identified yourself as progressive ie left, in other forums. Hager and others certainly are. Are there any members of this group that you'd describe as right wing, even slightly?

Max Ritchie said...

For we'll please read well. Sorry.

The Veteran said...

Paul ... I'm not sure that Parliament would share your view that I-GIS can act independently of them in seeking to establish a reference panel given the very real possibility of collateral damage to our standing as a member of the Five Eyes community.
You would know as well as I do that perception can quickly translate into reality.

I don't think for a moment that the members are all 'commies and Marxists' and indeed I have great respect for Treasa Dunsworth among others. She and I work together in another jurisdiction. Some other names are more controversial and the I-GIS was making a rod for her own back in selecting them as part of the reference group.

You can argue the concept ... at the very least the execution has been clumsy in the extreme. There will be a reckoning.

Noel said...

I thought we had already been there.

The Veteran said...

To Max Richie ... welcome to my blog. Long long time, no see. Was in Akl recently and had a delightful dinner with Mike and Margaret D. Belated congrats on your well deserved award.

The Veteran said...

Paul ... sorry, left off from my previous post. Question ... if the I-GIS has an Advisory Panel as mandated in the Act with appointments to it managed through the Cabinet Honours & Appointments Cttee what justification is there for her to establish an unofficial reference panel and arrogate to herself the appointments process thus by-passing Parliamentary scrutiny? The clusterf**k deepens.

gravedodger said...

Old mother Locke will be less than pleased that neither of her spawn Keith and Marie made the illustrious list.

To those celebrating our sovereignty in this rubbish, can you identify one of the ordinary NZ citizenry who is described by Ms Gwyn as assisting her "to stand in the shoes of the public" in their midst?
I do not see anyone of that magnificent eleven as standing in for moi.

Oh I do understand Elsie is still dead just now.

Paul G. Buchanan said...


I am a bit surprised by your visceral reaction to the formation of the Group (not so surprised by that of your commentators). The Group is not a statutory body. It has no formal authority over anything. Its formation does not bypass anyone. It will not affect anything that 5 Eyes does even if some eyebrows are raised in some quarters (heck, even the IGIS does not get to see operational details unless making a specific request). The IGIS is legally independent and can solicit participation in such groups at her pleasure. So there is nothing ethically dubious about the formation of the Group.

The best way to think of it is as a sounding board for people selected from the community because of their interests to voice informed opinions about intelligence oversight matters to the IGIS. It is a broad canvas, outside the tent approach to generating some fresh ideas, much in the way constituent meetings provide politicians with a sense of community concerns. The Group talks and the IG listens--that is all that happens.

And since communities are made up of all sorts of people, the negative focus here on a few individuals in the group and the disparaging of the group as a whole because of some presumed and imputed ideological group orientation is akin to complaining about the bristles on the paintbrush that is being used on that broad canvas. I reckon 'tis best to focus on the larger picture.

The Veteran said...

Paul ... thank you for your input ... appreciated. You may be right but the I-GIS's management of the process shows a suprising political naivety. When your Minister goes public expressing surprise at the appointment of one named member and describes the appointment of others as 'interesting' I think I know enough about the workings of the Beehive to conclude that he was less than impressed with Gwyn's handling of the matter.

Governments of all persuasions do not take kindly to the Opposition being handed a bat to bash them over the head with.

The issue is compounded by the fact there is no broad consensus of support for the SIS/GCSB inside the government.

I do think Gwyn has compromised herself in the eyes of many politicians and that is 'unfortunate'.

Max Ritchie said...

I think one of the problems here is too much red in the paint tin and no dark blue, so the paint brush's bristles aren't the problem. Of course it might well be a cunning IG disarming Hager; if so, I suspect she'll be disappointed. I recall him being mentioned in Stout Street along with Owen Wilkes when I were but a youngster. Actually might have been Featherston Street!

RSM Many thanks for your kind words, greeting reciprocated!

Paul G. Buchanan said...


Good point about not handing the Opposition a bat. The IG did inform the govt and agency bosses about her plans several weeks in advance, so they were warned. not that they could stop her but they knew what was coming. I understand that several invitees declined to participate, so the Group was not a cherry-picking exercise. I continue to wonder at those who see the participants as all Left when there are public law experts, IT experts, the head of Massey's strategic studies shop and a well-known Wellington insider among them. Being an advocate for refugees or a critic of how intelligence agencies operate is not synonymous with being a Marxist in any event, so even the gripes marshaled along those lines are specious.

The irony is that from a Left perspective this exercise looks more like a maneuver to coopt and thereby bureaucratically "capture" people who otherwise would view the SIS and GCSB with jaundiced eyes. I do not share that opinion but think that rather than the concerns voiced in Right forums, it is more plausible than the "infiltration" thesis.

As always, good to discuss issues with you.

Noel said...

The IG was given an advisory panel in 2013 . Is this an extension of that or some new group of advisors?

Paul G. Buchanan said...


The Advisory Panel still exists. This is an external reference group (focus group, if you will) and is not designed to compete with or replace the Advisory Panel. I explain its thrust in a comment above.

Noel said...

Sorry. Should have picked it up myself. The official Advisory Panel participants are vetted.

I thought that implementation of Cullen/Reedy report recommendations would have been all that was needed for transparency to exist.