The GCSB did spy on trade minister Tim Groser's rivals for the top job at the World Trade Organisation, the spy watchdog has confirmed.
But she says that spying wasn't unlawful – and didn't breach political neutrality rules.
Source: 1 NEWS
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn has just published her long awaited report into allegations made by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
She confirmed the GCSB did snoop on the communications of candidates from Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya and South Korea who were vying with Mr Groser for the job between late 2012 and April 2013.
Former GCSB boss Ian Fletcher approached Mr Groser and his staff with the idea in November 2012 – Mr Groser "expressed his acceptance".
The GCSB went on to provide weekly updates of what they collected.
Source: 1 NEWS
Ms Gwyn does say the situation was "unusual" and "rare (although not unprecedented)".
But she says it was lawful because a minister's bid for leadership of an international organisation, such as the WTO, is "significant for New Zealand's international wellbeing or economic wellbeing" – as such it fell with the parameters of "national security".
She said officials from Foreign Affairs and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet judged the bid to be important and the economic benefit "significant" and the decision was endorsed by Cabinet, so the Bureau's offer of help did not breach neutrality rules.
Although there was "an element of personal professional benefit to Mr Groser" the GCSB "did not act with politically partisan purpose or intent".
Ms Gwyn made three recommendations – for better documentation and record keeping and a tightening up of policies around decision making for foreign intelligence requests.
Labour asked the watchdog to investigate after the leaked Snowden documents came to light in 2015. Her report was delayed by the Kaikoura earthquake last year.