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Opinion: Five Eyes spies are swapping PR strategies

As well as swapping secrets, it seems Five Eyes spies are swapping PR strategies.

Over the weekend, British security services published a new list of what they consider the country's greatest security threats.

It came just a few days after the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) released their own 'big six' in a briefing to New Zealand ministers.

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand is considering sending troops to Iraq. Source: 1 NEWS

The Westminster government is pushing through new laws which propose sweeping new powers for the intelligence agencies.

The changes – known as the Snoopers Charter - have alarmed MPs and lawyers.

The release of the report (which ranks Russia, ebola and terrorism as most worrying) comes after a period of what the Guardian's Simon Jenkins called "extraordinary spinning."

As anticipation built towards the opening of a new James Bond film, some journalists were granted unprecedented access to GCHQ and usually shadowy figures from the intelligence world. The Times obligingly ran a three-day series with the headline "For your Eyes Only."

Back here, the threat list emerged just a day after New Zealand's intelligence watchdog Cheryl Gwyn produced a critical review of GCSB and SIS.

Initially, the agencies had refused to release the list – requiring an investigation by the Ombudsman.

Ms Gwyn's report brought more worrying revelations to light. As the Greens pointed out, it is the fourth in a row that has slammed the intelligence agencies.

A report has found the release of information suggesting former Labour leader Phil Goff was fully briefed on Israeli spies was flawed. Source: 1 NEWS

The SIS appears to have broken the law by failing to tell Ms Gwyn that it was undertaking visual surveillance.

There were complaints after individuals lost out on jobs because of botched security vetting. And Ms Gwyn has begun an inquiry into whether either agency was connected to the CIA's rendition and torture programme, between 2001 and 2009.

Within 24 hours, the headlines were replaced with stories about the risks posed by Islamic State and home-grown terrorists.

As in Britain, New Zealand's intelligence arm is undergoing a review.

Largely missed in Ms Gwyn's report was an illuminating nugget.

In a beautifully understated way, she offers her services up to the lead reviewers Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy.

The implications of this are clear. Months into the exercise – which will significantly re-shape spooks' powers – she is yet to be consulted.

Post-Snowden, bulk collection of data and illegal surveillance scandals, the spymasters say they will rebuild public trust by being more open.

The appointment of Ms Gwyn, and her rigorous report, was promising. Excluding her from the review is a backward step.

Genuine transparency is not a PR campaign, handling the media, or a strategic release of information to suit a political purpose. It's about independent oversight – and it needs to be on the public's terms.

Not those which suit the security services.