Groser and GCSB damage international reputation | The Jackal

22 Jun 2017

Groser and GCSB damage international reputation

We all know that Tim Groser is a complete tool and wasn’t suitable to head the World Trade Organisation. It was in fact his own bloated ego that promoted him for the job, a job that he thankfully failed to attain.

Groser’s futile attempt at the WTO position had little international support, support he tried and failed to attain by spending lots of taxpayer dollars. In three months Groser spent around $260,000 travelling the world trying to gain votes for his foolish bid.

Now we’ve learnt that Groser also used New Zealand’s intelligence services to spy on other candidates vying to lead the WTO. There was an investigation by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, which came to an obviously forgone conclusion.

On Tuesday, Radio New Zealand reported:

GCSB lawful in supporting Groser's WTO bid

Ms Gwyn would not comment on whether it was appropriate for the spy agency to be supporting the campaign, but said it was lawful.

She has made three recommendations, including creating a standard plan for receiving and assessing requests for foreign intelligence assistance.

Here’s the actual Report into Government Communications Security Bureau’s process for determining its foreign intelligence activity (PDF).

Today, The Dominion Post reported:

Editorial: Spies should not help a politician's bid for a job at the WTO 
Under traditional notions of "security", the spies could only be used if, say, rivals to Groser stood a strong chance of winning and then doing harm to New Zealand's economic well-being. This would be stretching a bow to breaking point. Groser's rivals were the usual run of respectable trade officials and politicians, and the eventual winner, Roberto Azevedo, was Brazil's ambassador to the WTO.

The "advancing economic security" clause is also loose enough to allow spies to snoop on opponents of the current free-trade orthodoxy, and perhaps has already done so. It extends the rights of spies at the expense of citizens' right to oppose.

What's more, the spies failed: Groser didn't get the job. Hardly a triumph for the security services and their obliging legislation.

But was the GCSB really allowed to spy on WTO candidates from other countries under New Zealand law?

The Intelligence and Security Act 2017 states:

9 Objectives of intelligence and security agencies

The principal objectives of the intelligence and security agencies are to contribute to—
(a) the protection of New Zealand’s national security; and
(b) the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and
(c) the economic well-being of New Zealand.

The Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 states the exact same thing.

Let’s assume that Cheryl Gwyn doesn’t understand how an Act of New Zealand works and her misquote in her report of the relevant sections of the GCSB and Intelligence and Security Act was a simple mistake.

Firstly, a single sentence shouldn’t be taken out of context. That means the spy agencies cannot act without considering New Zealand’s international relations. Secondly, items are listed in order of priority.

If Groser’s objectives were to humiliate New Zealand on the world stage and destroy some of our international relations by secretly spying on officials from other countries, then the GCSB has achieved them.

How exactly does that advance the economic well-being of New Zealand? Clearly it doesn’t, and therefore there’s no moral or legal justification for Groser’s terrible abuse of power.