The New Zealand government on Wednesday strengthened oversight of its spy agencies with the appointment of the first-ever deputy Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security in the wake of revelations of illegal spying on New Zealanders.
Prime Minister John Key said in a statement that former government legal advisor Ben Keith had been appointed to the position for three years to help provide independent oversight to the Inspector-General of the intelligence community "at a time when it is subject to significant change and increased public scrutiny."
In August last year, the government passed a controversial law to extend the spying powers of the electronic intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), so it could spy on New Zealand citizens and residents.
The GCSB had been forbidden to spy on citizens and residents, but the government decided to overturn the ban after the agency was found to have illegally spied on more than 80 people.
The appointment followed a critical performance review published Tuesday by the State Services Commission into New Zealand Intelligence Community (NZIC), which included the GCSB and the Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), as well as the National Assessments Bureau and Intelligence Coordination Group under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The review said foreign partner agencies were determining how best to respond to public concerns in the light of the Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden revelations and New Zealand could " expect to be required to modify and upgrade its intelligence systems and processes as a consequence of the changes partners will require."
The partnerships included the "Five Eyes" intelligence network of New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
"International alliances are fundamental to New Zealand's national security and shape how NZIC functions. New Zealand could not deliver the current level of security and intelligence activity in a standalone self-reliant mode," said the report.
"Continued access to technology, support and intelligence material and analysis from partners will require continued investment in secure systems and processes. These investment requirements may be substantial and will need to be evaluated against other options for NZIC."
The report said the national security and intelligence priorities were "inadequately defined" and basic business systems within the NZIC were "weak and require attention."
Public knowledge and experience of the security and intelligence sector in New Zealand was very low.
"In recent times there has been unaccustomed, mostly negative media attention. Leaks from overseas security and intelligence agencies have led to further adverse commentary, which will not help public trust and confidence in the sector," said the report.
"It is hard to determine exactly how much trust the public has in the New Zealand intelligence agencies. What is clear, however, is the widespread lack of public awareness of the threats New Zealand actually faces and of the extent to which NZIC helps counter them. Suspicions and mistrust have more room to flourish in the absence of information."