Whistleblowing and protecting classified information
Protected disclosure (‘whistleblowing’) is when an employee of an organisation is able to disclose information about serious wrongdoing, wants the wrongdoing to be investigated and wishes the disclosure to be protected (kept confidential). For more information see section 6 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2000.
Employees (and former employees) of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) are prohibited from disclosing intelligence and security information in an unauthorised way. If an employee of NZSIS or GCSB encounters evidence of wrong-doing by their employer (that might include classified and/or security and intelligence information) they can make a protected disclosureto the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).
What the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill 2016 proposes
- Consolidating, simplifying, and strengthening the existing offences related to unauthorised disclosure.
- Clarifying that protected disclosures regarding classified information must only be made to the IGIS.
- Creating a new offence for people who hold a government security clearance, or people who have been given access to classified information on a confidential basis, who wrongfully communicate, retain or copy classified information.
- Extending the current offences of impersonating an employee of NZSIS, and publishing or broadcasting the identity of an NZSIS employee to cover employees of the GCSB.
Extending the protected disclosure regime
The Bill proposes extending the requirement for protected disclosure of classified and/or security and intelligence information to cover other government employees (such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade). Currently the Ombudsman is identified as the responsible authority for protected disclosure, not the IGIS.
The IGIS is the appropriate office to deal with such disclosures, as it is the only entity with wide enough powers of inquiry and all staff have appropriate security clearances.
Consolidating and strengthening unauthorised disclosure offences
The Bill also addresses the offences for unauthorised use and disclosure of classified and/or security and intelligence information.
Employees (and former employees) of NZSIS and GCSB are currently prohibited by law from disclosing intelligence and security information in an unauthorised way. People working with the IGIS, or the Intelligence and Security Committee, cannot use or disclose information related to the proceedings of those two bodies. Many of these offences have been consolidated in the Bill.
The Bill proposes a new offence for people who hold a security clearance, or people who have been given access to classified information on a confidential basis, who wrongfully communicate, retain or copy classified information.
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