Cabinet mulls creation of mega spy agency as FIANZ seeks ‘serious rethink’

A super security and intelligence agency recommended four years ago and said to be “not too far away” last August, is under “active consideration” by Cabinet.

The Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ) is calling for the government to do a White Paper by March 2025, on setting it up.

The number two recommendation of the 2020 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 mosque attacks was to set up a national intelligence and security agency, or NISA, as a way to cut through the confusion and inaction exhibited between the layers of government agencies prior to the terror attacks.

Muslim groups say they would have more trust in the system and everyone would be safer, if such an independent, overarching body existed.

However, in a new report submitted to the government, FIANZ, far from being impatient, has called for caution.

“Given the complexity and the changing global politics and eco-climate context, there needs to be a serious rethink on the form and function of the proposed but absolutely necessary NISA,” it said in the 40-page report.

Read the full report (PDF 4.2MB)

NISA is integral to six of the Royal Commission’s first 10 recommendations, as a pivot around which the “threat horizon” would be scanned, obligations forced home on other agencies, and research done, such as into white supremacists’ groups largely ignored by the country’s spy and law enforcement agencies prior to the March 15 2019 attacks.

It would be over and above the SIS and GCSB, taking a higher-level view.

“We recommend that the Government: Establish a new national intelligence and security agency that is well-resourced and legislatively mandated to be responsible for strategic intelligence and security leadership functions,” the commission said.

National MP Judith Collins

The Minister responsible for the Royal Commission, the GCSB and SIS, Judith Collins told RNZ on Tuesday: “This recommendation is currently under active consideration and is going through the Cabinet process. Any decisions will be announced in due course.”

The previous government, in laying out a new national security strategy last August, said setting NISA up was a priority and “not too far away”.

The web of national security agencies at present revolves around the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In December, it reformed the National Security Group (NSG), splitting it in two, with one part focusing on policy, assessments and coordination, and a second on the national risk framework, strategic crisis management and governance.

“It is early days yet” on this change, FIANZ said.

“Whilst the DPMC considers that the NSG meets ‘the intent of the NISA’, we consider there are some significant areas of clarification required,” its report said.

There was still no unified lead group responsible for preventing, detecting and responding to threats, and NSG had not clarified how the new set-up would be different to what existed before the mosque attacks, it said.

NISA was meant to provide a second opinion on threats to the government, and independent assessments, and NSG could not do that since it was embedded in the DPMC, it added.

FIANZ suggested a White Paper would cost $210,000 to prepare. It was one of three of the “most important decisions” in front of Collins, it said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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