Government appoints new security chief

The government has appointed a new director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). Dr Warren Tucker, presently intelligence co-ordinator in the Prime Minister's department, has also headed the National Cryptography Policy committee.

The government has appointed a new director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Dr Warren Tucker, presently intelligence co-ordinator in the Prime Minister’s department, takes over from current director Ray Parker at the beginning of next year.

Commenting on his new position, Tucker says he has a “number of plans” which he cannot expand on yet.

Tucker has been intelligence co-ordinator for three years, during which time he has overseen the establishment of a new position, the inspector general of intelligence and security (held by former High Court judge Sir Laurie Gregg), and a parliament intelligence and security committee.

He has also headed the National Cryptography Policy committee, which looks at government policy on encryption, including the effects on electronic commerce applications, and has run pilots to identify the best forms of public key architecture for government communications.

New Zealanders should be able to communicate electronically with government departments without losing security standards, and “while we want to avoid picking winners or favouring a particular technology, it should be co-ordinated between departments,” he says.

Tucker’s career has been predominantly in the intelligence industry, including two previous, senior positions with the GCSB.

After finishing school he worked at the Post Office, which awarded him a bursary to study for a PhD in Electrical Engineering at Canterbury University. “They did that in those days and quite a lot of people went to University sponsored by their employers.”

On his return to the Post Office, he was “poached” by the Defence Department where he worked for three years on defence communications systems. “That brought me into contact with the GCSB and so I eventually went to work for them.”

Not, of course, that he’ll say much about what he did there.

“I started on the communications front, as the bureau’s comsec (communications security) engineer in charge of protecting our own classified information and then moved, as director of operations, to the intelligence gathering front.”

So he was a spy? What did the job involve? “I can tell you very little ... except that the whole process was done according to well established requirements,” he says.

The GCSB was established in 1977. It analyses foreign radio, radar and other electronic emissions, from bases at Waipohai near Blenheim and Tangimoana near Bulls (creating inevitable concerns about the government “spying” on private communications), and provides advice on the security of government telecommunications.

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