A brief cut-and-paste revisit of what I said at the time about the Dirty Politics allegations about the SIS, OIA and certain bloggers whom we don't name.

I'm presently acting as a "parent helper" at school camp in the backblocks outside of Cromwell, so my capacity to comment on recent events is limited (to put it mildly). So I'll simply reproduce this part of this post from August and say ... nailed it!

The third issue is the SIS and other OIA requests being released for political ends. I'll leave aside the "other OIA requests" point, because this post is getting long enough. But I will say that there is a real problem with how official information gets treated in New Zealand, which (ironically) feeds into the particular issue of the SIS information release. Put simply, journalists and others are so used to being screwed around when they ask for information that when this actually gets provided in a timely fashion, the immediate suspicion is that there's a partisan political motive for doing so.

Starting at the top, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe John Key when he says he personally didn't know that the Phil Goff briefing paper was going to be released to the blogger whom we don't name. I know there's lots of tape of him saying "I was informed", but I actually accept that in Wellington a Minister's office is interchangable with a Minister as an individual. And I simply do not believe that Key would paint himself into a corner where if it can ever be shown that he was personally informed of the release before it went out, he would have no option but to resign as PM. Because that's the place that his denials have put him in now.

That doesn't mean Key is completely off the hook. The fact that something as important as this briefing note went out without him being told speaks volumes about the hands-off way he seemed to run his department at that time. Remember back to the whole GCSB spying on New Zealanders issue and the Kitteridge Report on what went wrong? Well, back then criticisms were levelled at Key along the lines of:

it is not just the GCSB that has exhausted the public’s confidence over its illegal operations but also his irresponsible style of ministerial oversight. As such, the Prime Minister is part of the GCSB’s problem and not part of the solution.

So if Key didn't know about the release of the briefing notes, then this seems to be consistent with just those sorts of accusations. He didn't know - because he was so slack in how he oversaw what the SIS/GCSB were doing that he let important things happen without his involvement. Which gets him out of one hole by putting him into another.

Furthermore, even if Key didn't know what was happening with the OIA for Goff's briefing notes, someone (or some people) in his office did. And the evidence seems pretty incontrovertable to me that someone from that office was telling a certain blogger whom we don't name all about it.

Let's accept that this certain blogger we don't name somehow was smart enough to swiftly leap in with an OIA request to the SIS that just happened to ask for exactly the information most damaging to Goff. We'll give him that credit as an act of charity. [Edit: OK - got this bit wrong .... that act of charity was completely misplaced and he got told what he should ask for.] We're then expected to believe that this person (based on his correspondence with others as the OIA was being processed):

  • Accurately predicted that the SIS would declassify the briefing notes, so as to make them available publicly;
  • Accurately predicted that the SIS was expediting his OIA request on a "public interest" basis;
  • Accurately predicted that the information that was coming would be "explosive" and extremely damaging to Goff;
  • Accurately predicted the day that the OIA information would arrive, despite this release occuring far more quickly than other OIA releases from the SIS.

Or, alternatively, we may believe that he was being informed all the way along as to what was happening with his request and what he'd be getting back from the SIS. And given the choice between a conspiracy and five random acts of luck, I'm going to go with the conspiracy in this particular case, thanks very much.

Now, whether we find out exactly what happened here depends on what the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security uncovers in her investigation into the matter. I have absolute faith and confidence in that person, Cheryl Gwyn, to act in an honourable and proper fashion.

 

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