1 Jul 2013

Watchdog to oversee spy agencies appointed

8:36 pm on 1 July 2013

Former High Court judge Andrew McGechan has been appointed as the new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security. He replaces Paul Neazor, who has held the position since 2004.

The Inspector General has oversight of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), specifically to ensure they comply with the law and that any complaints are investigated independently.

The Prime Minister said on Monday that Mr McGechan has had a distinguished legal career and has also held public sector, academic and electoral positions.

John Key said while the formal term is for three years, Mr McGechan has indicated he sees his appointment as an interim one, pending likely changes to the role in GSCB legislation before Parliament. He begins in the role on Monday.

Mr Key rejected suggestions there was pressure to move retired judge Paul Neazor on after questions had been raised about the legality of a number of operations conducted by the GCSB.

"I think in fairness to Mr Neazor, he was always going. That point was raised, he'd had two terms, he'd been there since 2004. In fact, he stayed a little longer because we've been finding a new person."

But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says changing the person will not improve oversight of intelligence agencies.

Mr McGechan's appointment comes amid moves to change the law so the GCSB can legally spy on New Zealanders when it is helping other law enforcement agencies.

Mr Peters wants the legislation changed to bring in stronger oversight of intelligence services.

"A lot of information is being denied to the public as to what's exactly going on. And the more information one gleans, the more one would have a cause for grave disquiet as to what has happened, what is happening and what may happen if this law is rammed through the way it is."