In response to discussion in the news media about her Reference Group the Inspector-General released this statement yesterday:
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is a statutory officer and is independent from the intelligence and security agencies. The IGIS advised the Directors-General of the NZSIS and the GCSB and the Minister responsible for those agencies (Hon Andrew Little) some months ago about the intention to set up the Reference Group. At her invitation, the Directors-General made some suggestions as to who might be included in the Group. Some of those suggestions were taken up and are now reflected in the membership of the Group.
The purpose in establishing the Reference Group is to hear views from a broad range of individuals and groups on legal, social and security developments that might be relevant to the Inspector-General’s work. The Reference Group also give feedback, as members of the public, on how the Inspector-General’s office is performing its oversight role. Reference Group members are asked for their ideas and their critical comments.
The Reference Group is not intended as a substitute for the Inspector-General’s Advisory Panel. This Group is intended to supplement the more specific assistance the Advisors can provide, with the benefit of security clearances and access to classified information. In any event, regrettably, there have been no Advisory Panel members since October 2016.
The discussions with the Reference Group proceed on the basis of New Zealand’s existing framework. That is, we have two intelligence and security agencies, they are part of various international partnerships, they operate within a legislative framework (the Intelligence and Security Act 2017) which has very recently been publicly debated and settled.
The Reference Group meetings are to create a forum to hear others’ perspectives, not a forum for the Inspector-General to give out information, whether classified or otherwise. Because no classified or otherwise sensitive information is being divulged it is not necessary for members to have security clearances. The members of the Reference Group were advised from the outset that the flow of ideas and information would, in essence, be one way – from the Group members to the IGIS. It is not a forum for the IGIS to deliver a presentation or present her views on any particular matter.
The Inspector-General has a propriety jurisdiction, as well as checking the legality of agency activity. Propriety is not defined in the Intelligence and Security Act, but she has previously said it means asking whether reasonable, thoughtful and informed New Zealanders would think the conduct was “right”. In thinking about that propriety jurisdiction it is extremely valuable to have the perspectives of representatives of the community who have spent time considering these issues from a range of different viewpoints.
No payment is made to members of the Reference Group who are contributing their time for free. Sandwiches, tea, coffee and a plate of fruit were provided at the meeting