O'Brien . . . My Long Road Back

       • Privacy Commissioner

“Whaika te Whakapono”

Seek for the Truth  –  Follow the Truth

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Following news the Government’s GCSB has been illegally spying on New Zealand citizens, I wrote to the Prime Minister’s office in April 2013 and asked — has the GCSB been spying on me? — to which I received a neither confirm nor deny response, so I’m taking this up with the Privacy Commissioner . . .

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Letter to the Privacy Commissioner:

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15 May 2013

Marie Shroff
Privacy Commissioner
PO Box 10-094
The Terrace
WELLINGTON

Dear Ms Shroff

INFORMATION REQUEST: GCSB

Will you please help me . . .

Following news the GCSB had been illegally spying on New Zealand citizens I wrote to the Prime Minister in April 2013 and asked — has the GCSB been spying on me?

The Prime Minister’s office acknowledged my request and advised it had been forwarded to the GCSB.

The GCSB’s director replied on 14 May 2013 with a neither confirm nor deny response.

My correspondence with the Prime Minister and GCSB is (here)

Will you please help me obtain an answer from the GCSB —  have they been spying on me.

Please communicate with me by email.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

Patrick O’Brien

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link: my original digitally signed letter with enclosures is here (PDF format – 1.0 MB)

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Acknowledgement from the Privacy Commissioner:

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16 May 2013

Patrick O’Brien
patrick_john_obrien@hotmail.com

Dear Mr O’Brien

We acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated 15 May 2013.

Your correspondence is being reviewed and you can expect to receive a reply from us within the next four weeks, though we will endeavour to get back to you sooner if we can.

Please find enclosed an information sheet detailing our complaints investigation process, which you may find useful.

Your complaint is being dealt with in our Wellington office. If you have any queries about the status of your complaint, please call (04) 474 759 and press 2. Please also have available the Reference Number C/25390.

Yours sincerely

Donna Hedges
Secretary (Investigations)

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link: original letter from Privacy Commissioner in PDF format

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Response from the Privacy Commissioner:

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7 June 2013

Patrick O’Brien
Email: patrick_john_obrien@hotmail.com

Dear Mr O’Brien

Privacy Act Complaint: Patrick O’Brien and Government Communications
Security Bureau (Our Ref: C/25390)

Thank you for your letter dated 15 May 2013 in which you make a Privacy Act complaint about the actions of the Government Communications Security Bureau (“GCSB”).

I understand that on 15 April 2013 you wrote to the Prime Minister’s office and made a request for information under the Privacy Act.

On 29 April 2013 you received a response from the Office of the Prime Minister who advised that your request had been transferred to the GCSB for a response. On 14 May 2013 Ian Fletcher, the Director of GCSB, responded to you advising that the GCSB could neither confirm nor deny the existence or non existence of the information requested. Mr Fletcher therefore relied on section 32 of the Privacy Act to refuse your request.

Your complaint raises issues under principle 6 of the Privacy Act. I enclose a copy of this principle for your information.

GCSB has been notified of your complaint and asked to provide comments to us as soon as possible. Once we receive a response, we will be in touch with you again.

Yours sincerely

Mike Flahive
Assistant Commissioner (Investigations)

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link: original letter with ENCLOSURE from Privacy Commissioner  (PDF format)

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Update from the Privacy Commissioner:

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30 July 2013

Patrick O’Brien
patrick_john_obrien@hotmail.com

Dear Mr O’Brien

Privacy Act Complaint: Patrick O’Brien and Government Communications
Security Bureau (Our Ref: C/25390)

We have received a significant number of complaints regarding access request responses made by the Government Communications Security Bureau in recent times. I am aware that you may be impatient to acquire an outcome to your complaint. Upon receiving a complaint about an access review our responsibility is to review the reasons that an agency gives for withholding information and either agree or disagree with the agency in its use of the withholding grounds. The intelligence community provides a significant challenge in terms of the way information is managed and held. Scrutiny of the reasons an intelligence agency withholds information and viewing of the information can only be handled by individuals with the appropriate levels of clearances. Our Office has an overall small resource and that resource is even smaller in terms of those who have sufficient security clearances to manage these complaints.

Our practice is to meet with the agency, understand their policies and reasons for making decisions under the Privacy Act and if appropriate review information withheld. These activities take a significant amount of time. Added to our current burden is the significant number of complaints that we have received.

Please rest assured that we are actively investigating your complaint and for all the reasons I have mentioned earlier in this letter the resolution of your complaint will take time. As soon as I have some issue to report to you, you will receive a telephone call or correspondence from me.

In the meantime I thank you in advance for your patience.

Yours sincerely

Mike Flahive
Assistant Commissioner, Investigations

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link: original letter from the privacy Commissioner  (PDF format)

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( . . . Ongoing . . . )

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