And so the saga of the Brash email invesigations ends, not with a bang, but with continued denials by those exposed
When my book The Hollow Men was published over three years ago, the National Party-aligned PR man Matthew Hooton wrote a furious newspaper column saying that the source material for the book had obviously been illegally hacked and that he and others were going to investigate and bring me to justice. Time has proved him wrong on both points.
Egged on by Hooton, former National Party leader Don Brash complained to the police about my leaked materials, prompting a long police investigation. The police, predictably, found no evidence of hacking or crime. Instead of accepting these findings, Hooton accused the police of political bias and he, Brash and a small set of right-wing commentators demanded a new police inquiry. Under this angry criticism, the police launched a high-level second investigation. A total of three years of police investigation ended last week and, despite all those wasted police resources, the conclusion was once again that hacking was "highly unlikely".
As the newspapers reported, the police found no evidence of “hacking of any sort, no evidence of any interception or use of similar devices. No evidence of anything, really – in fact there was absolutely no trail to follow.” Adding in all the evidence, they wrote, "the chances of illegal electronic entry become more remote. The general consensus is that this was not the manner in which the emails were obtained." Elsewhere in the report they said they were "confident that the Parliamentary computer was not hacked" and that "there was no evidence to implicate Mr Hager as having committed a criminal offence in obtaining and publishing the emails and documents."
For everyone except the grumpy cabal who pushed for the police investigation, this was the end of the matter. But before forgetting about the whole thing, the release of the police report gives an interesting political snapshot.
You probably haven't seen the two police reports (they weren't released on the Internet) but they are pleasingly detailed and unambiguous. I don't think anyone who reads them will give any credibility to Hooton and cos original allegations of hacking and crime. This makes the responses from Brash, Hooton and other National Party figures (who would presumably have seen the reports) all the more interesting.
The first person to comment was Hooton, using his Monday morning commentator spot on Radio New Zealand. You would hope that a news organisation, where he had previously loudly aired his views about hacking and stolen e-mails, would have put it to Hooton that the police had found no evidence to support his allegations. Alas no. Instead Hooton, the PR man, simply scooted around the fact that he'd been proven wrong and came up with a new and even more far fetched allegation. "The only strange thing about it," he said, "was that there was some information in the book that only could have come from [National Party donor] Diane Foreman's home, and couldn't have come from Parliament and that's still unresolved." Sigh. It does not reflect well on Radio New Zealand that they continue to employ this shameless spin doctor as a commentator.
The next person to respond to the police finding was John Key, at his weekly Monday afternoon press conference. This was disturbing in a different way. Leaving aside that some press gallery journalists seemed primarily interested that the prime minister had said a rude word ("bollocks"), the remarkable thing was that a three year investigation by police professionals had made no impression on Key at all. The insight that this small event gives into the mind of the prime minister is that he didn't just dodge the unpalatable information like Hooton, he simply didn't believe information that didn't suit him. Thus his conclusion, at the end of a police inquiry that disproved the hacking theory as comprehensively as was possible, was to tell the reporters that he believed the parliamentary computers had been hacked "but I can't back that up". Maybe this is how things are in the world of currency trading that he comes from: there's no such thing as solid fact or principle; everything is fluid and adjustable.
A few other people made similar comments, repeating the now familiar claims about hacked parliamentary computers and theft. The joke is that this short list of people had something rather obvious in common. Pretty well all the people proclaiming that there had been wrong doing were people who had been exposed in my book doing what I described as dishonest, dodgy or manipulative things themselves. Don Brash, John Key, Matthew Hooton (PR adviser to Brash), Richard Long (chief spin doctor for Brash) and John Ansell (advertising consultant to Brash). They naturally felt hurt and angry about their secret actions and discussions being revealed to the public.
But for three years they have turned this on its head and painted themselves as the victims – avoiding responsibility for their own actions and attacking me for exposing them. For all but the utterly partisan and self interested, the police investigation should at last have put an end to that.
*For further insight into the emails debate and Nicky's discussion of how they were sourced, see here.