InternetNZ calls for redefinition of national security

InternetNZ has released its submission to the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill saying a new definition of national security is needed.

InternetNZ has released its submission to the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill saying a new definition of national security is needed.

The bill implements the Government response to the Report of the First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand: Intelligence and Security in a Free Society, and, if passed, would replaces the four Acts that currently apply to the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), and their oversight bodies.It is presently being considered by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. Submissions to the Bill closed on 7 October but none had been posted on the bill’s web site at 11 October.

InternetNZ says the bill's definition of national security is a critical component of a number of aspects of the Bill, central to both the purpose of the bill and the objectives of the agencies. “More importantly, as the Intelligence and Security Act, the bill's definition of national security will bind our intelligence agencies and the activities they will be permitted to undertake in relation to New Zealanders,” it says.

“Any 'unlawful' activity they seek to do in relation to a New Zealander will require a tier 1 warrant, and thus will need to pertain to a national security matter. As the primary legislative definition that dictates the scope of GCSB and NZSIS action in relation to Internet surveillance or interception, we think this definition is critically important and needs to be tightly, and robustly defined with little room for confusion or misinterpretation.”

InternetNZ says the current definition is flawed in a number of other ways, which it lists as follows.

  • The bill includes ‘potential threats’, a very broad concept that potentially creates an exceptionally low bar for spying on New Zealanders.
  • The bill includes international security: InternetNZ fails to see how international security could be considered as a part of the definition of national security when international relations and wellbeing is separated from the concept of national security.
  • The section that relates to critical infrastructure is overly broad and unclear.
  • The bill includes threats to the life and safety of New Zealanders overseas: the health of individuals, not situated in the country cannot be credibly considered national security matters.
  • The bill includes economic security: the economic wellbeing of New Zealand is already a separate concept from national security. We do not see the need to include economic security in the concept of national security.

InternetNZ’s submission provides a definition of national security created by heavily editing the definition proposed in the bill.

Other areas of concern detailed in the submission include:

- the focus on only warranting 'unlawful' activity goes against the reviewers' recommendations and maintains the reliance on a flawed and self-defeating definition of private communications to protect New Zealanders communications from unwarranted interception;

- the rules and requirements around incidentally and collaterally obtained information should be amended to ensure that information obtained through protective security roles;

- the definition of serious crime has a threshold that is too low and out of step with New Zealand criminal law;

- the bill should be drafted to explicitly prohibit mass surveillance. The current government does not do it, nor has previous governments - any future government or agency staff should be legislatively barred from undertaking mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

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