We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Mahrukh Sarwar please sign in and let everyone know.

Information for the purpose of participating in the Royal Commission inquiry into the attack on Christchurch Mosques.

Mahrukh Sarwar made this Official Information request to Government Communications Security Bureau

This request has an unknown status. We're waiting for Mahrukh Sarwar to read recent responses and update the status.

From: Mahrukh Sarwar

Dear Government Communications Security Bureau,

GCSB

We request the following information for the purpose of participating in the Royal Commission inquiry into the attack on Christchurch Mosques.

Relevant mentions
1. Copies of GCSB documents, correspondences and addresses (including but not limited to emails, letters, presentations), for periods A, B, C and D, referring to any of the following terms:
a. Arab / Muslim / Islam / Islamist / Islamicist / Jihadist /
b. Terrorists / Extremists / Radical / Far-right / White supremacy

2. All interviews, speeches and lectures on the topic of the 'Role of the GCSB' from Period A, B, C and D.

Consultation with or regarding the Muslim community
3. The dates of all meetings with Muslim organisations in New Zealand and minutes of such meetings from periods A, B, C and D.

4. How many, and which organisation or individual(s), have provided any consultation or training or advice to the SIS on matters relating to:
a. Arab / Muslim / Islam / Islamist / Islamicist / Jihadist /
b. Terrorists / Extremists / Radical / Far-right / White supremacy

5. How many experts on the Muslim Community or faith have you engaged or consulted over the periods A, B, C and D?

6. On how many occasions were Parliamentarians directly involved in meetings with the GCSB for periods A, B, C and D? How many of these involved or pertained to a person(s) from the Muslim community?

Consultation regarding white extremism
7. How many experts on far-right extremism have you engaged or consulted over the periods A, B, C and D?

General Consultations
8. How many experts on other ethnic or religious nationalism or extremism have you engaged or consulted over the periods A, B, C and D?

9. Who is the NZ Police’s on-hand cultural advisor/negotiator/facilitator for:
a. On-going strategy
b. Emergency Situations

Training
10. Copies of staff training documentation and audio-visual programmes on Islam and Muslim from periods A, B, C and D.

11. What professional cultural advice or training or resources has the GCSB requested or received on Islam or Muslims for periods A, B, C and D?

Diversity
12. What is the list of ethnicities of the staff of the GCSB for the last financial year?

13. What are the number of people from the UK, US, Canada and Australia who have been appointed as staff or have been consulted for the periods A, B, C and D?

14. What is the ethnic cultural composition over the periods A, B, C and D of your
a. senior management
b. senior operational staff

15. What diverse perspectives have been embraced and resulted in reform of organisational culture that promotes diverse experiences and perspectives?

Prioritisation
16. What methods does the GCSB use to determine priorities regarding threats to national security?

17. How do security agencies identify threats as either “potential threats” or “possible threats” or “imminent threats”?

18. How can the GCSB expect to properly prioritise and curate their intelligence when they have not properly engaged with a key target community and there is no cultural contextual understanding of the community?

19. How can the GCSB expect to properly prioritise and curate their intelligence when their approach to a key target community is very one-dimensional and siloed?

20. How can the GCSB expect to properly prioritise and curate their intelligence when the government and the society in which it operates and informs their work have not undertaken any substantive engagement with the world’s second largest faith community?

Sorting/Identification Methods
21. How does the GCSB distinguish between white supremacists and far-right extremist groups?

22. How does the GCSB distinguish between white and non-white groups?

Actions and white supremacy threats
23. The annual reports list warrants that allow GCSB monitor people but do not specify why they have been issued. What were the warrants issued for between 2003 and 2018? Were any of these warrants for white supremacists?

24. Where warrants were issued for white supremacists, how were those warrants actioned?

25. How much resources, including financial resources, were devoted to monitoring white extremism during the periods A, B, C and D?

26. How many people have been suspected of supporting Serb-nationalism or the Bosnian Genocide since 1995?

Resource Allocation

24. How much resources, including financial resources, were devoted to monitoring non-white communities, including Muslim and Maori communities, during the periods A, B, C and D?

25. How much resources, including financial resources, were devoted to monitoring other groups such as animal rights, environment and health activists, during the periods A, B, C and D? What are those groups?

Policy Reform
26. What cultural intelligence and cultural awareness and sensitivity training and reform arose out of the consequences of the Ahmed Zaoui Case? 

27. What cultural intelligence and cultural awareness and sensitivity training and reform arose out of the consequences of the Urewera Raids? 

28. On how many occasions has there been a review of policies regarding Muslims by any persons outside the GCSB for periods A, B, C and D?

Internal GCSB Considerations
29. What was the reason the SIS understands for the cause of
a. Missing the Christchurch attacker
b. Less attention paid to white extremism

We request information for the following time periods:
Period A: October 2017 – present
Period B: November 2008 – October 2017
Period C: December 1999 – November 2008
Period D: November 1990 – November 1999

For the requests that ask for information from Periods A, B, C and D please note we do not require that all the information come through at once.
We request in order of this priority: Period A, then B, then C and finally period D.

Word-specific requests: please include variant spellings for these. E.g. For a request pertaining to “Muslim”, please include variants such as “Moslem”.

We appreciate that our requests are extensive. However, they are not disproportionate to the significance of the matters we are engaging in with the Royal Commission.

Yours faithfully,

Mahrukh Sarwar

Link to this

From: Information
Government Communications Security Bureau

Dear Mahrukh Sarwar

We are writing to acknowledge receipt of your official information request dated the 13th of September 2019 as outlined below.
We will endeavour to respond to your request as soon as possible and, in any event, no later than the 11th of October 2019, being 20 working days after the day that your request was received. If we are unable to respond to your request by then, we will notify you of an extension of that timeframe.

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact [GCSB request email]. If any additional factors come to light which are relevant to your request, please do not hesitate to contact us so that these can be taken into account.

Kind regards

GCSB

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Information
Government Communications Security Bureau


Attachment 2019 09 19 Transfer letter.pdf
939K Download View as HTML


Good morning,

Please see the attached letter from the Director-General of the GCSB.

Kind regards,

GCSB

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Mahrukh Sarwar

Dear Mr Hampton,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my OIA requests.

Unfortunately, there were a few typos in my initial request. All questions should have been addressed to the GCSB.

For clarification this refers to the following questions:

4. How many, and which organisation or individual(s), have provided any consultation or training or advice to the SIS on matters relating to:
a. Arab / Muslim / Islam / Islamist / Islamicist / Jihadist /
b. Terrorists / Extremists / Radical / Far-right / White supremacy

29. What was the reason the SIS understands for the cause of
a. Missing the Christchurch attacker
b. Less attention paid to white extremism

9. Who is the NZ Police’s on-hand cultural advisor/negotiator/facilitator for:
a. On-going strategy
b. Emergency Situations

The above requests should have been addressed to the GCSB. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Yours sincerely,
Mahrukh Sarwar

Link to this

From: Information
Government Communications Security Bureau

Good afternoon Ms Sarwar,

Thank you for the clarification. While we have been working under the assumption that all your questions were about the GCSB, we appreciate you confirming this. We have transferred the questions referenced in the Director-General's earlier letter on the grounds that they fit more with those other agencies.

We are continuing to work on the remaining 25 questions.

Kind regards,

GCSB

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Information
Government Communications Security Bureau


Attachment 2019 10 11 Signed OIA Response.pdf
2.7M Download View as HTML

Attachment Ian Fletcher Speech to Rotary Club 2014 Copy.pdf
333K Download View as HTML


Good afternoon,

Please find attached a response to your OIA request. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email us directly at [email address].

Kind regards,

GCSB

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Mahrukh Sarwar

Dear Mr Andrew Hampton,

Thank you for your response to my OIA requests.

We note that these follow up requests are made several months after our original requests during which time you would have had the chance to consider many of the critical issues raised; these issues are raised for substantive reasons and regarding ongoing concerns of public safety and reliability of the assurances of safety.

As a general question, we ask how the GCSB distinguishes information they would rather not disclose for public relation reasons (both domestically and through foreign relations), and information that is genuinely going to prejudice defence and security of New Zealand. We have noted that in several instances, information has been withheld under section 6 of the Act without any compilation, disclosure or analysis of the information and without providing details for why information is theoretically prejudicial. Under section 19(a)(ii) of the Official Information Act, we are entitled to ask for the grounds in support of the reason for refusal. The High Court has stated that the test in section 6(a) requires evidence (Kelsey v Minister of Trade [2016] 2 NZLR).

Please find comments on your response to each question below. All of the specific responses we have provided below, while arising in the context of individual requests, apply to the requests as a whole.

Question 1
Premature refusal
This information has been withheld under section 18(f) of the OIA. Under sections 18A and 18B of the Official Information Act, you were required to consider whether the reason for your refusal can be removed either by consultation, fixing a charge or extending the time period for a response.Your response simply states that you think an extension of the timeframe would not enable the GCSB to provide a response. We note that failure to follow the steps in sections 18A and 18B of the Act was held by the High Court as unlawful (Kelsey v Minister of Trade).

You have not made any effort to make this information available through avenues set by Parliament. This clearly goes against Parliament’s intent in ensuring ensure agencies engage with the requests before they refuse them under section 18(f).

Context
We note both the historic significance of the Christchurch events and of the need for an initial comprehensive investigation which the Royal Commission and civil society organisations are currently undertaking. Your agency is a primary agency in this regard and we expected from public agencies with your status that the priority of this issue is self-evident, as it is to everyone at large. The question asked would be of interest to numerous legal and other processes in the coming period in response to the attacks. The context of this request would appear to outweigh even substantial inconvenience to your agency.

Period of Requests
We have divided up the requests into four periods for two reasons. Firstly, these periods are relevant as they correspond to significant domestic and international events. Secondly, these periods provided are consistent with the different governance terms in New Zealand. We believe the GCSB and other agencies ought to keep a record of information in accordance with governance terms. This is because these agencies are required to pass on information to incoming Ministers, evident in GCSB’s operational processes (1).

Timely Collation
We understand that our requests may take time to collate. We request that the information still be collated as soon as possible so as to inform the current surge of public resources already going into inquiring into these matters. Your agency’s cost will pale into insignificance in comparison.

We still request this information even if you gather this information very slowly for some extremely extenuating reason beyond the submission date for the Royal Commission Inquiry. This is because, as noted above, the information will also be helpful for researchers and academics.

Practical approaches to genuinely considering this request may include focusing on the order of priority that we have provided and providing us with staggered responses. If needed, your agency can prioritise certain searches as well. You can decide which searches you consider less inconvenient to take on first as per GCSB’s operation processors or resource use etc. We request that you keep us updated on your process.

Accordingly, we are disappointed with the lack of helpfulness of your responses to our requests and your dismissiveness without engaging in any of the clearly stipulated legal processes on such an important matter of public safety and significance.

Question 2

Premature refusal

We understand from your response some speeches have been withheld because they are not “unclassified.” It is difficult to gauge the extent of your refusal without a proper compilation and itemised disclosure and/or refusal. You have not provided any itemised lists of refusals, such as what the nature of the address generally was, who it was made to, what year and why it is prejudicial. We argue that this is analogous to the “blanket” approach taken by the Minister in the Kelsey case, which is unlawful.

Examples of information requested
You should have disclosed a number, type and expertise of organisations and individuals who have provided consultation/advice/training on the cited matters. Below, we have detailed basic information we expected.

Please note that these examples are only hypothetical, and we are not suggesting that the GCSB holds this exact information. Rather, the examples illustrate the level of information and the itemisation we would expect of the GCSBwhen it comes OIA disclosures for the sake of upholding the purposes of the Act in section 4. Training and advice would only reassure the public that the GCSB is properly equipped, rather than give intensive information about the particulars of intelligence. This therefore should and does not breach section 6 of the Act, contrary to your contention that lacks reason.

Organisation: New Zealand University;
Year: 2002
Subject: Radical Islam;
Expertise: Security and Islamic Extremism

Organisation: Australian University
Year: 2005
Topic: White Supremacy in Australasia
Expertise: Neo-Nazism and Far-Right Extremism

Organisation/Provider: NZ based security consultancy
Year: 2006
Topic: Far-right extremism in the South Island
Expertise: White Supremacist Gangs around NZ

Organisation: UK Extremism Security Sector Agency
Year: 2008
Topic: Kinds of Online Extremism on the rise
Expertise: Online radicalisation

Question 3

Clarifications
We would like to clarify that the question regarding the Muslim community does not refer to every meeting with a Muslim, but rather where the purpose of the meeting concerns the Muslim community and/or Islam.

Conclusions about uncollated information
Your agency has not made reasonable efforts to provide even “low-risk” information that would help us get some insight into the general kind of information we are requesting without disclosing prejudicial information.

You have not provided, with sufficient particularity, the nature of the prejudice effect. You have not given any reason for your refusal to provide information beyond citing section 6(a). Under section 19(a)(ii) we are entitled to ask for grounds in support of your reason for refusal. We expect this to be done for each engagement or meeting, rather than relying on a “blanket” approach.

Context
We note that this request has been made in the context of the Christchurch terror attacks. We also note that the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, has made several anti-immigration and Islamophobic comments in the media (2). Hence, there are grave concerns regarding the oversight and accountability that Parliament provides to these intelligence organisations. Irrespective of claims that the NZIC is independent and politically neutral, we know that Cabinet is responsible for setting the National Intelligence Priorities (NIPs).

The public must understand how government or Parliament interacts with intelligence operations. This goes to the heart of how intelligence work functions in a democratic society where presumably the public is supposed to have some kind of input through the government. Section 4(a)(i) shows that this is reflected in the purposes of the OIA.

Questions 4 and 5
Clarifications
We would like to confirm whether the GCSB is saying that for the relevant time periods provided, the only training regarding Islam and Muslims are an externally supplied two-day course called “Introduction to Islam and the Muslim World,” and a half day workshop called “Islam and the Muslim World.”

We understand from the statement “L&D offered the staff the opportunity to attend” that this was an optional course. Please confirm how many staff members actually attended the courses (number and/or percentage; specific or general) and what their respective positions/roles are at the GCSB.

Premature refusal
You have not disclosed how many meetings have taken place or provided itemisation of the information. This is not in accordance with the text, scheme and purposes of the Act.

Please provide us with details regarding the trainers’ expertise/qualifications that deems them appropriate to carry out the workshops. We believe disclosing the expertise/qualifications is important to show that the GCSB are adequately trained to deal with the Muslim community.

Please provide us with further information about how releasing information of the identity of external suppliers would prejudice national security or defence of NZ? We are entitled to ask for this information under section 19(a)(ii).

Context
Section 9(1) states where section 9 applies the information must be balanced with other considerations. Where withholding of the information is outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable in the public interest to make that information available, information must be disclosed. The significance of the Christchurch terror attacks and the need to be able to engage in the Royal Commission of Inquiry and numerous other processes outweigh the concern in section 9(2)(b)(ii).

We are aware that the NZSIS and GCSB work closely together to exchange signal and human intelligence. Therefore, it is important to know how the GCSB has engaged with the Muslim Community. This is because of the information that can be found about intelligence gathering and the Muslim community. For example, in 2016 it was reported the NZSIS was giving money to young Muslims to spy on Mosques (3), and in 2014 John Key confirmed mosques around the country were being monitored following an attack in Yemen (4). The need for this information is further emphasised and demanded for by the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Conclusions about uncollated information
You have not provided, with sufficient particularity, the nature of the prejudice effect. You have not given any reason for your refusal to provide information beyond your recurring trend to quickly cite section 6(a). Under section 19(a)(ii) we are entitled to ask for grounds in support of your reason for refusal. We expect this to be done for all training or consultation, rather than relying on a “blanket” approach.

Question 7
Premature Refusal
Would you please be able to clarify how disclosing information about how many people were appointed as staff or consulted would be prejudicial? You have not provided with sufficient particularity, the nature of the prejudice effect. There is no information about why you have refused to provide information beyond citing section 6(a). Under section 19(a)(ii) we are entitled to ask for grounds in support of your reason for refusal.

Furthermore, it is difficult to gauge the extent of your refusal without a proper compilation and itemised disclosure and/or refusal. You have not provided any itemised lists of refusals, such as the general nature of the consultation, who it was made to, what year and why it is prejudicial.

Question 8
Premature Refusal
This information has been withheld under section 18(f) of the OIA, this being that the information cannot be made available without substantial collation. The refusal on the basis of section 18(f) is vague as it does not include basic information like how many senior operational staff GCSB have, which would mean the information “cannot be made without substantial collation.”

Although the GCSB might not record the ethnic identity for senior operational staff separately from the whole organisation, we believe that the GCSB has the means to collate this data. For an agency of this size, this is a modest exercise to undertake.

Context
As noted above, we do not believe refusing under section 18(f) is appropriate in the circumstances given the significance of the events. The time and resources put towards collation can only be deemed appropriate in the context of what has happened.

Unlawfulness
In addition to this, the steps outlined in sections 18A and 18B of the Act were not followed and therefore, you have acted unlawfully. This shows us that you have not made any effort to try and make this information available, despite the avenues set by Parliament to ensure agencies engage with the requests before they refuse them under section 18(f).

Lack of insight into demographic composition
We would like to emphasise the alarming nature of your agency not having any insight into its demographic composition, particularly given the nature of its work. This underscores the lack of insight into the political and cultural factors that play a critical part in intelligence, analysis, prioritisation and decision-making.

Question 9
Clarifications
From your list provided so far, it is not apparent how such programmes provide the agency with a diversity of experiences and perspectives that directly touch upon the core business/work and the core purpose of the agency.

Furthermore, in the Briefing to the Incoming Minister Report in 2017, the GCSB clearly outlines how their attempts at addressing greater female representation in the GCSB (5). However, the same is not done for ensuring ethnic diversity. Rather, the report states “the NZIC recognises this is an issue and is actively seeking to mitigate any negative impacts on potential employees, staff and the NZIC.” No further detail is provided.

Similarly, in the GCSB and NZSIS’ shared Diversity and Inclusion Strategy it clearly states there is “an aspiration to increase our ethnic diversity within the NZIC by three percent inclusive of Māori, Pacific, and Asian peoples within three years.”(6) There is no detailed plan to do this as there is with women. Furthermore, the aspiration does not include increasing representation of Middle Eastern/Latin American/African peoples, who at June 2017 only made up 0.25% of the GCSB’s Ethnic Profile. Would you be able to clarify why this is the case?

Question 10
Can you please clarify how the GCSB remains impartial and politically neutral if the priorities are set by Cabinet?

Question 11
Clarifications
We would like to clarify that the purpose of the question was to understand what system the GSCB uses that enables it to distinguish between threats that are about to be carried out (such as Mr Tarrant with all his planning and sophistication) and general rhetorical threats made by extremists. We would also like to know what level of scrutiny is given to these threats.

We would also like to direct you to the NZSIS’ response to this question: https://fyi.org.nz/request/11213/respons...
Can you please clarify if and how GCSB’s approach differs from the NZSIS’?

Question 13
Would you be able to confirm that you are saying the GCSB does not distinguish between white supremacists and far-right extremists?

Question 15
We understand that the GCSB’s role in counter-terrorism is to provide assistance to the NZSIS and New Zealand Police, which is primarily technical capabilities and access to foreign intelligence (7).

The NZSIS has repeatedly disclosed its own priorities in annual reports and the media. This has been proven in several cases, such as the instances of Jihadi brides (8), disclosing details about as many as 40 people in NZ have links to Islamic State and are on the counter-terrorism risk register (9), and that young people are especially vulnerable to objectionable material online (10).

Furthermore, the NZSIS has repeatedly mentioned that between 30 and 40 people have been listed on NZSIS’s counter-terrorism risk register. The 2017 briefing mentioned above states “all but one of NZSIS’s current counter-terrorism investigations concern ISIL-linked extremism” but there are no further details about the one person who is not linked to ISIL. This suggests that NZSIS is more willing to share information regarding some areas of focus, like Islamist extremism, than other areas.

It is within this context we ask for the information. Although, we understand that releasing information for all warrants could prejudice security under section 6(a), we believe it is important for the sake of providing the reassurance and transparency that the OIA process is intended to provide. This is particularly important because the NZIC continues to showcase a one dimensional narrative of terrorism in New Zealand.

Question 16
Premature refusal
Again, you have refused to disclose this information under section 6(a) because the information could be used by adversaries to undermine the effectiveness of GCSB’s capabilities. Can you please provide us with further information to support this refusal. We are entitled to ask for this information under section 19(a)(ii).

Context
TheGCSB is a public service agency and is funded by New Zealand taxpayers. The NZIC has received $153m dollars this year (11). Therefore, for transparency and accountability (as recognised in the purposes of the Act), theGCSB should release general information about the utilisation of their resources.

This is especially so, because you have made it clear in your response to Question 21, “the GCSB had not collected, or received from partners, any relevant intelligence about the attacker ahead of his attacks on March 15.” This raises questions about the GCSB’s efficiency in monitoring right wing extremism. Therefore, the GCSB should be answerable to where their resources are being allocated, as they were clearly unable to counter an imminent threat to New Zealand.

Question 18
Would you be able to clarify how the GCSB determines what information about their focus they are allowed to share that is not prejudicial and what information they are not able to share?
Again, you have not provided with sufficient particularity, the nature of the prejudice effect. There is no information about why you have refused to provide information beyond citing section 6(a). Under section 19(a)(ii) we are entitled to ask for grounds in support of your reason for refusal.

Question 19
We would like to confirm that despite the national and international significance of these cases, no policy changes were made as a result of these cases?

Question 20
Clarifications
We would like to clarify that our request is not asking about policies specifically for Muslims. Rather, we were inquiring into the policies used when monitoring or engaging with Muslims and the Muslim Community. We would like to direct you to question 4 and 5 where we have provided further contextual details. It is within this context we have made this request.

Question 21:
Clarifications
We understand that the GCSB does not have the legal authority, technical means or resources to monitor actively all online activity that occurs in New Zealand. Would you please confirm, however, that the GCSB was indeed monitoring online activity regarding right-wing extremism and/or white supremacy before March 15th?

You have stated that some information created for the Royal Commission falls within the scope of the request but cannot be made public. Can you please clarify whether this statement has been made in regard to the whole OIA request or specifically in regard to question 21.

Thank you once again for taking the time out to review and respond to these OIA requests. I hope these further clarifications and concerns can be addressed in a timely and thorough manner.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Kind regards,
Mahrukh Sarwar

Footnotes:
1. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/defaul...
2. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/...
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/1113616...
3. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/3206...
4. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/2466...
5. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/defaul...
6.https://www.gcsb.govt.nz/assets/GCSB-Doc...
7. https://www.gcsb.govt.nz/assets/GCSB-Doc...
8.https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7488112...
9. Briefing to the Incoming Minister 2017
10. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politic...
11. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/3861...

Link to this

From: Information
Government Communications Security Bureau

Good afternoon Ms Sarwar,

We are writing to confirm that the GCSB has received your follow up comments and additional questions of 17 February 2020. We are preparing a response and you will hear from us within 20 working days. Should we need longer to write a response, we will notify you of the extended timeframe.

Kind regards,

GCSB

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Information
Government Communications Security Bureau


Attachment 2020 03 16 Signed MS OIA response.pdf
1.3M Download View as HTML


Good afternoon,

Please find a response attached.

Kind regards,

GCSB

show quoted sections

Link to this

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Mahrukh Sarwar please sign in and let everyone know.

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Government Communications Security Bureau only: