Kitteridge report 'pretty damning' - Key

Prime Minister John Key has told political editor Corin Dann that the report into the Government Communications Security Bureau was ‘pretty damning’.

Speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A programme, the Prime Minister said that as the minister in charge of the GCSB, he was entitled to expect that the organisation operated within the law and there was no red flag until the Kim Dotcom case.

The critical report into the GCSB, by Secretary of the Cabinet Rebecca Kitteridge, was leaked last week while Key was in China and showed that at least 88 people may have been illegally spied on between April 2003 and September last year.

The problem stemmed from the interpretation of the rules governing the GCSB.

Rejects calls to ditch GCSB
Mr Key rejected calls from opposition parties to get rid of the GCSB.

"When the Greens start saying they don't need this and they don't need SIS, they are in la la land.

"We need to make sure that for national security reasons this organisation operates."

He said he is committed to restoring public confidence in the organisation, and there will be legislative changes made.

Had to scramble
"If I was to live in the perfect world - that report would have been released early next week, Mr Key said.

"In reality, it doesn't change much. It just meant I had to slightly change my schedule here, scramble a little bit and didn't necessarily have the report with me."

He had intended to brief opposition parties before the report was released, but was caught on the hop when the report was leaked to Fairfax Media.

At question time in Parliament, opposition parties claimed the government itself leaked the report to distract from controversy over GCSB director Ian Fletcher's appointment (see RAW DATA, below).

Mr Key flatly denied the allegation, saying he did not need another distraction while traveling in China.

The question of who leaked the report remains open.

Run at next election
The Prime Minister also dismissed speculation that he will not run for Prime Minister at the next election.

"I've read lots of stuff in the media that I'm not going to be there in 2014, I'm not going to run National into the next election.  It's not true. None of that is true. I'll be there as long as National wants me there. I'll be there in 2014. Why? Because I don't think we've actually finished the job yet."

Watch the full interview here.


RAW DATA: QUESTION TIME APRIL 10, 2013

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Who in his Government had access to the Rebecca Kitteridge report into the Government Communications Security Bureau before it was publicly released; and did the Prime Minister, or any of his Ministers, or their offices, leak the report?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, my office has been advised that the answer will be longer than normal to give the detail.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister) : The report by Rebecca Kitteridge was initially provided to the Prime Minister and his office on 22 March. The paper was circulated under strict Cabinet security procedures to members of the Cabinet committee on domestic and external security—and the membership of that is available on the Cabinet Office website—of senior Ministers. Copies of the report were received by the directors, secretaries, or chief executives of the following agencies or organisations: the Government Communications Security Bureau, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Crown Law, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, the intelligence coordination group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the State Services Commission. In addition, 11 other senior officials within these agencies were given the report. Two other Ministers received it: the Hon Peter Dunne, consistent with his membership of the coalition, and the Hon Maurice Williamson, in his capacity as Minister of Customs. The Prime Minister can give a categorical assurance that neither he nor his office leaked the report. He does not believe for a moment that his Ministers or their offices leaked the report either. Earlier today in China the Prime Minister informed the media that he had asked his chief executive at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to speak with the State Services Commissioner to provide some advice about a potential inquiry into the leak. That advice is likely to be received upon the Prime Minister's return to New Zealand.

Dr Russel Norman: Thank you for the answer. Was the timing of the leak part of a communication strategy to divert attention from his inappropriate involvement—[Interruption ]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I invite the member to start his question again.

Dr Russel Norman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Was the timing of the leak part of a communication strategy to divert attention from his inappropriate involvement in the appointment of Ian Fletcher, and to have other Ministers front questions in Parliament?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, the member's assertion is ridiculous. He should understand, if he regards himself as potentially a member of any Government in the future, that no Prime Minister would treat matters of national security in that fashion, and I would hope that as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee he will not treat matters of national security in that fashion.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the reason he is so confident the Kitteridge report appendices have not been leaked that he knows what was and was not leaked because he knows who leaked it?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I think I answered the question yesterday about the appendices. I simply said on behalf of the Prime Minister that they do not appear to have been leaked, because they have not appeared in the newspapers. They may be sitting in a shoebox under someone's bed, but we cannot know whether they have been leaked until they appear in public.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister too relaxed when it comes to protecting the fundamental freedoms and rights of citizens, and does he think they will be able to relax when the law is changed, as he is proposing, to allow the Government Communications Security Bureau to spy on every phone call, every email, every conversation, and every meeting that a New Zealander has?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. In fact, I think the extent to which the Prime Minister has gone to ensure that the law is complied with, despite the fact that everyone assumed it had been legal for the Government Communications Security Bureau to conduct these activities for decades, tells you how seriously he does take these issues. I might point out to the member, and for general interest, that, in fact, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, which to most New Zealanders will not be distinguishable from the Government Communications Security Bureau, has full legal rights to spy on all New Zealanders at any time, subject to warrants, etc. So if people think that New Zealanders cannot be put under surveillance by Government security agencies, they are wrong. The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service can do that.

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