The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.

A message for those who serve on the front lines in our defence forces.

Thank you. You girls and guys do something that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to, under conditions that I would run a mile from. I'm not just talking about the going to overseas places where there's an ever-present danger of having your head shot away or limbs blown off. It's also the preparedness to respond to civil defence emergencies, the search and rescue work, and the standing around for hours through a Christchurch winter's night to stop drunk people having a look around the ruined buildings in the red zone.

So, for all of that ... thanks. Now, if I may have a word with your superiors at Defence HQ?

What the fuck are you doing?

It was bad enough that you responded to John Stephenson's Metro story by publicly calling him a liar, then forced him to go to the High Court to clear his name, only to decide in the middle of that hearing that actually you accepted he wasn't a liar after all and that your response to his story was a mistake. That's some top-flight use of some hundreds-of-thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, that is. Cheers!

But now it emerges that you actually view John Stephenson and his fellow investigative journalists as being "subversives" who pose a threat due to their capacity to "weaken the military, economic or political strength of a nation by undermining the morale, loyalty or reliability of its citizens."

May I just say as a loyal and patriotic New Zealand citizen, whom it is your job to protect and in whose name you operate, that this is NOT AT ALL ACCEPTABLE.


If me, or people like me, finding out what it is you are doing in places like Afghanistan mean that the Defence Forces can't do its job, then you shouldn't be in those places in the first place. End of story. And if you can't accept that these are the conditions under which you operate, then you shouldn't be running the show. End of story.

And G_d help any politician of any stripe who knew that this was your official view of journalism (at least, journalism as practiced by people whom you haven't invited in and taken around on a friendly, embedded jaunt through a "war zone") and then countenanced it. I'm looking at you Phil Goff and Johnathan Coleman.

Here's how it works. We are a democracy. In a democracy, "undermining the morale, loyalty or reliability of the citizenry" is never - never - a reason for trying stop that citizenry from finding out what you are up to. If the Defence Force believes it can't stand naked in front of those citizens and justify its actions, then it those actions are by definition wrong. Because you only possess those guns, helicopters, ships and LAVs that we spend millions and millions of dollars on, let alone have the right to use them to kill people in far off lands, in our name. And if you can't convince me and the people like me that you are using them in ways that I and others are cool with, then you don't have a right to them at all.

End of story.

Comments (12)

by william blake on July 28, 2013
william blake

BIG ups to our brave investigative journalists. John Stevenson's job is hard enough without this kind of nonsense. It was good to hear the story unpacked on Media Watch last Sunday. And respect to Nicky Hager for kicking over the rocks and exposing the creepy crawlies in his piece in the Sunday Star Times.

Shame on M.O.D.P.R. 

by stuart munro on July 28, 2013
stuart munro

It's the old story - frontline folk are good enough, but the REMFs let everybody down. If the MOD can't do better than this it should be wound up. Disgraceful.

by Terry Baucher on July 28, 2013
Terry Baucher

By sheer coincidence I was in the RSA at Devonport when I read this.  Tucked away in a corner if the hall without fanfare is a photo I guess was taken in 1945.  It contains no fewer than six Victoria Cross holders in it: Les Andrews and Cyril Bassett from WW 1 plus Keith Elliott, Charles Upham, Jack Hinton and Clive Hulme from WW 2.  To echo Dame Anne Salmond at the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall last Thursday, the men who went off to fight in 1939 knew exactly what they were fighting against and now we find that our defence force treats its own citizens as subversives.  A clearer betrayal of those men's values would be hard to find.  A disgrace.

by Terry Baucher on July 28, 2013
Terry Baucher

Oops apologies for the double post not sure what happened there.

[Ed: that's OK - sorted now.]

by Chris Trotter on July 29, 2013
Chris Trotter

Bravo, Andrew!

In the spirit of Mario Savio


by Brent Jackson on July 29, 2013
Brent Jackson

Well put.

by Siena Denton on July 29, 2013
Siena Denton

Kiaora Andrew.

Whew! I only read up to "What the fuck are you doing?" last evening.

David Fisher had tweeted your posting, he said you were "enraged" So I tweeted back that I would read the rest of your article today...When the smoke had dissipated.

What a jolly maize to meander through.

Reminds me of the the last time John Key was overseas, his Kitteridge inquiry report was leaked prematurely by a week and...

Now we have a rude Chief of NZ Defence Force (whilst John Key is away overseas, again), espousing on TV 3 that NZ troops would go to war against North Korea if our troops were needed. I bet that has got John Key's blue boxer shorts in a twist, given that NZ's FTA partner CHINA is an allie of North Korea's...Idiot! Rhys Jones  should be the Head of the Dad's Army Brigade, disrespecting our K Force veterans who are in South Korea for the 60 years armistice and to pay homage to their 45 brothers-in-arms, who died for us, our whenua, supporting South Koreans and whom are interred in a foreign nation.

Rhys Jones Tour of Duty is well and truly over, that is my viewpoint and he took the shine off somewhat, for many with his comment of engagement in conflict if required.

My late granpa served in the K Force back in 1953. Trained at Waiouru and then was sent over on one of their drafts.

His eardrum was shattered by a grenade and he received war veteran's aid in that he had hearing aids fitted and annual checks...He never spoke about his tour of duty in South Korea.

For me, granpa came home and I am glad or else I wouldn't be here today, because he wouldn't have met granma and my papa wouldn't have been born.

Should be Peace not War...But that's what greed and power does.

"subversive" the NZ Defence Force manual states about investigative journalists.

Jounalists, have our proxy votes and they inform us of the important issues we need to know and as citizens we are also the employer of those that have been given the mandate to represent, not rule us in a given 3 year period.

I say, roll on 2014 general election.


by Matthew Percival on July 29, 2013
Matthew Percival

Nice rant Andrew

by Eric Dutton on July 29, 2013
Eric Dutton


I draw your attention to an article by Paul Marks in New Scientist magazine of 20 July 2013.  Paul points out that journalist Michael Hastings "Known for his revealing articles on the US militaryand its intelligence agencies" died in a car crash which may not have been accidental.  Richard Clark, "a former couterterrorism adviser to the US National Security Agency" says that intelligence agencies can remotely seize control of a car to make it accelerate wildly or brake suddenly.  Of course you have to be driving a car with cellular technology such as is needed for dashboard apps.

Be warned - they know what you drive - and if you ever emerge from academic poverty far enough to indulge in a (well known German luxury brand) then they can fix it so that it hits a tree fast enough to send the engine 50 metres up the road.

Drive carefully - we need subversives.








by Nick Gibbs on July 29, 2013
Nick Gibbs

Well put.



by Philip Grimmett on July 30, 2013
Philip Grimmett

Good soapbox Andrew. Great to see academic freedom is still allowed in this country. But, who, in positions of responsibility, are silent ?  I know Mai Chen and Professor Mathew Palmer have publicly expressed concerns about the state of the Nation's Demockary. 

At what point will you call the country not a Democracy? Has this point been reached? 

by Draco T Bastard on July 30, 2013
Draco T Bastard

If the Defence Force believes it can't stand naked in front of those citizens and justify its actions, then it those actions are by definition wrong.

Applies to government in general and not just the defense forces.

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