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Monday, September 15, 2014

NZ PM releases cabinet papers-not end of the world so far.

NZ Prime Minister Key released four Cabinet papers today.

No kidding.

They relate to decisions concerning the Government Communications Security Bureau which provides "information assurance and cyber security to the New Zealand Government and critical infrastructure organisations, foreign intelligence to government decision-makers, and cooperation and assistance to other New Zealand government agencies."

The release came in response to claims by Edward Snowden of mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the GCBE.

And tomorrow the sun will rise over the land of the long white cloud and the earth will continue to turn on its axis.

Contrary to the deeply held view in Canberra that release of anything giving the slightest hint of what is submitted to cabinet, or records a cabinet decision must be protected at all costs from disclosure for 28 years or so.

Even that isn't always long enough particularly if the subject is anything even vaguely connected to intelligence.

The documents do not disclose deliberation in the cabinet room, which we can all agree I expect, sensibly underpins the principle of collective responsibility and cabinet solidarity.

The Kiwis publish (admittedly selectively) cabinet documents as a matter of routine. So too do Queensland and the ACT (ditto and in summary form).

But it's end of the world stuff as far as Prime Minister and Cabinet and other guardians of the cabinet process are concerned.

Prime Minister Key demonstrates that excessive secrecy that surrounds the cabinet process here should be seriously questioned.

The NZ documents and the timeline is explained in the Media release as follows:
3 April 2012 - Cabinet Minute (PDF3) shows Cabinet asks for business case on cyber security protection initiative.
September 2012 - It becomes clear there are issues with the GCSB’s surveillance of Mr Dotcom.
After this Rebecca Kitteridge is called in, problems with the legal framework and internal issues in the GCSB are identified through reviews.
March 2013 - PM tells GCSB not to bring business case forward. Informs GCSB it is too broad. Budget contingency funding will be rolled over and used for something else in cyber security.
September 2013 – Cabinet Minute (PDF2) shows formal rescinding of request for business case and notice of new, narrower project. The business case had been known only as initiative 7418 through the Budget process because of its classification.
July 2014 - Cabinet agrees to Cortex, a narrower cyber security programme. (Cab paper and minute PDF 1 and PDF4)

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