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Appointments to a new Intelligence and Security Reference Group raise a number of serious questions for Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn, National’s Spokesperson for GCSB and NZSIS Gerry Brownlee says.

“The Inspector-General has said this group has been brought together to help her stand ‘in the shoes of the public’.

“But several members of her group are far from objective in their view of our intelligence relationships, or in some cases the existence of intelligence services at all.

“Nicky Hager made his views about the Security Intelligence Service clear in a public talk in 2011, when he said the agencies should have been closed in the 1990s because their ‘main long-term anti-communist rationale [was] gone’.

“He then questioned the legitimacy of their role in identifying and monitoring terrorist threats.

“The Inspector-General needs to explain how this group was appointed. That they have been appointed and met with the Inspector-General before their appointment was made public is worrying given the values she is supposed to promote.

“Did the Inspector-General discuss the appointments of the group with the Prime Minister before the first meeting? And what statutory power can she cite for the appointments?

“Will this group have top secret clearance? If so, how can we be sure the information they will have access to will be secure?

“Will the Inspector-General be sharing intelligence with them? Where will the line be drawn?

“And what role will this group’s opinions have in the oversight of our intelligence operations?

“It is naïve to believe that New Zealand does not need intelligence and security services. Our intelligence and security agencies deal with very sensitive information and must be able to operate with discretion.

“The Inspector-General needs to clear these matters up urgently and answer the questions that the appointments of this group raises, so that our intelligence community can be confident in the progress of their work.”

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