Key gives Hauiti transparency the finger

National list MP Claudette Hauiti has withdrawn from standing in Kelston and from the election. Whether she walked or was pushed it doesn’t matter, she had to go.

She hasn’t been in Parliament long, replacing Aaron Gilmore off the list last year, but she has tripped up badly twice.

Earlier this year Hauiti employed her partner in her office which is against Parliamentary rules.

Last week Fairfax reported…

… former broadcaster Hauiti surrendered her charge card after using it for unauthorised spending.

At first she blamed her staff, before admitting she’d used it to pay for a Christmas trip across the Ditch.

Since then she announced she would be withdrawing from standing again, but it’s unlikely she would have got a winnable list position and she wasn’t expected to come close to winning Kelston.

While National have dealt with her exit quickly and efficiently (one the credit card spending went public) they have been far less willing to be transparent about the level of spending, as Andrea Vance reports in Hauiti protected to the bitter end.

What she hasn’t admitted to is how much personal spending went on that card.

Incredibly, National leader John Key and party Whip Louise Upston say they don’t know.

They knew enough to get rid of her.

Insiders say the party was worried more would leak out and Key took charge when he returned from his Hawaii holiday.

But the party is refusing to answer questions about further allegations of misspending and Hauiti has gone to ground.

The episode has made a mockery of Key’s boasts about being transparent on MPs’ spending.

Yes, it’s very poor from Key and National – first for allowing a new MP to make two such basic mistakes, and now for hiding the details.

Hauiti and the National Party are exploiting an obstinate interpretation of the Parliamentary Service rule which prevents the release of information about MPs.

This is reasonable when it applies to private details such as pension schemes, phone records or that would identify constituents. Where it should not be applicable is the use of taxpayer cash, particularly where there are irregularities.

It ignores the reality that we, the taxpayer, are MPs’ employers – not the back-office Parliamentary Service.

Both National and Hauiti have not responded to a request for a privacy waiver to allow the records to be released.

This creates the impression there is something more to hide.

Whether Key has something else to hide or not if he is not prepared to be open and transparent on this he leaves himself and National open to speculation – and most likely more media digging.

This sort of secrecy would be poor at any time but it is a bad look coming into an election campaign, particularly one where National are deliberately risk averse. If this blows up into a bigger issue Key can only blame himself.

Henry inquiry cluster muck

The Privileges Committee investigation on the David Henry inquiry into who leaked the Kitteridge report confirms what was already known – it was a cluster muck up.

The Henry inquiry and Parliamentary Services have been strongly criticised.

Inquiry methods heavily censured

An investigation by Parliament’s privileges committee slammed as “unacceptable” the inquiry being handed information including emails, phone records, and swipe card records when it had no formal powers to demand them.

Parliamentary Service was also heavily criticised.

The committee’s report centred on Parliamentary Service, and also the Henry inquiry for over reaching its powers.

“It is clear from the evidence we heard that the inquiry’s persistent pressure on the Parliamentary Service and approaches to third-tier and more junior staff had a part to play in the releases which resulted,” it said.

Privileges committee chairman Chris Finlayson said the way the information was handed over was “totally unacceptable”.

There had been no consideration given to the special status of both MPs and journalists.

Despite overreaching it’s powers the Henry Inquiry still failed to find any evidence of anyone leaking the Kitteridge Report.

Despite failing to find any evidence Henry made it clear in his report that he thought Peter Dunne was guilty in his report. His investigation was very narrow, severely flawed and failed.

If Henry’s inquiry had not overreached it’s powers Dunne would not have been put in a position where he felt compelled to resign as a minister.

Dunne yesterday claimed he had been vindicated by the report, which had upheld his belief that MPs should not be compelled to hand over their private communications.

He was forced to resign as a minister after refusing to hand over his emails to the inquiry to prove his innocence.

“In accessing my electronic records without my approval the Henry inquiry grossly exceeded its authority and acted quite improperly.”

Journalist Andrea Vance

Fairfax group editor John Crowley said the media group took some comfort from the committee’s finding.

“The committee found that the release of confidential information relating to the work and movement of one of our senior parliamentary journalists, simply going about her job, was unacceptable. We have known that from the outset.”

The rights of Vance and the role journalists played in a democracy had been trampled over as a result.

Andrea Vance was collateral damage with both her work as a journalist and her personal reputation being severely attacked.

And Winston Peters is still making insinuations he has never backed up with any evidence.

This has been a cluster fuck of muck and injustice.

Henry versus Dunne revisited

I was quizzed again yesterday on Kiwiblog on the David Henry investigation of and accusations against Peter Dunne on leaking the Kitteridge report.

While nothing can be ruled out completely I have seen no evidence that comes anywhere close to proving Dunne leaked the report, Dunne’s denials and explanations have been consistent and believable, and I have seen no reason to disbelieve Dunne’s claims of innocence.

Some points from the Henry report:

25.The news article was printed early on Tuesday 9 April and occupied the front page. Writing the article, and preparing the accompanying graphics, would have taken some hours and would have had to have been completed by the evening of 8 April. As a major scoop I think that both the writing and publication would have been given priority. On that basis I think that the reporter gained access to the report on Sunday 7 April or Monday 8 April, with the Monday being the most likely.

This is a narrow assumption by Henry. He doesn’t consider the possibility that Vance would have needed time to read the report, research it, contact people to verify and comment with various people (and Dunne has admitted discussing it by email), write it up, have editors check it etc etc. Henry has implied Dunne gave Vance a copy at midday on the Monday. That leaves a very short time-frame.

Dunne returned from holiday on the Sunday. Henry initially told Dunne that he thought Sunday was the most likely day it was leaked – until he was told that Vance was away in the South Island for the weekend.

26. It is not possible to be definitive but it is likely that the report was provided directly to the reporter by the leaker.

Some people have claimed Dunne could have drip fed bits of the report to Vance via email. There wasn’t time for him to do this, and Henry thinks Vance had a full copy.

41.l requested the return of all copies. All but two have been recovered. I was advised that the two missing copies had been shredded: One copy had been returned to the Cabinet Office by a DPMC officer and shredded. The other had been held by a cabinet minister whose staff tell me had not accessed the report prior to the leak

Henry simply accepts their word that the copies were shredded and appears to have not investigated further.

59.For completeness I record that I had no access, nor did I seek any access, to private email providers or private telephones.

Any smart leaker would not have communicated via logged parliamentary communications, but Henry does not consider this or private meeting at all except for one Dunne-Vance meeting that Dunne says didn’t happen.

68.As part of that preparation the officer had the report at home over the weekend of 6 and 7 April. The report was not kept in a safe or locked cabinet at the home but the officer states that it remained in the officer’s possession at all times.

Henry takes the officer’s word for it, apparently without further investigation.

82.l remain of the view that I need to have full access to all eighty-six emails.

Henry was focused on Dunne and after the phone logs proved nothing and the security data proved nothing and after the photocopy and printer logs proved nothing he saw the emails as the proof, and we know he tried to access the email contents.

Natural justice

86. Mr Dunne has been provided with relevant extracts from drafts of this report and his comments have been taken into account.

No, Dunne’s comments – including strong denials – have been ignored. It’s very likely a travesty of justice has occurred.

Without Mr Dunne’s permission I cannot take the matter any further.

No, he cannot take the matter further with Dunne, for whom he has no evidence and adamant denials. He could have investigated other possibilities but chose not to. He was under tight time pressure which may have contributed to him doing a very narrow investigation.

This doesn’t rule out Dunne, but after extensive investigation of him no evidence was found.

It also doesn’t rule out many other possibilities that were barely considered or ignored.

All the accusations against Dunne have been lacking in facts and absent any evidence (as mikenmild demonstrates in his comment) and seem to be mostly based on loose assumptions or through spite of Dunne and attempts to smear him.

There is body. There is no smoking gun. There isn’t even a gun. There is no evidence a gun was involved. Poison and knives appear to have no even been considered.

The investigation and deliberate accusation were nowhere near the standard of a police inquiry or standard of evidence in a legal case.

The investigation seems more along the lines of an IRD investigator who makes very narrow targeted investigations and who has the power to rake through any information they like when the target an individual. Except in this case an ex IRD officer didn’t have that power, but tried to use it anyway.

This remains at little more than:

Henry: I think you did it.

Dunne: I didn’t do it.

Keeping in mind that Henry’s inquiry was very narrow (targeted mostly based in assumptions of guilt targeting Dunne) and found no evidence, and Dunne’s denials and explanations have been consistent and backed by facts.

Kibblewhite apologises, Key’s image erodes

I’m not a fan of resignations every time a politician or public servant is accused of making a mistake. If all calls for resignations were heeded we would have a gutted and paralysed democracy.

There were predictable calls for the Prime Minister’s chief executive, Andrew Kibblewhite, to resign over failing to advise the Prime Minister or the public about the sending of the  contents of emails between Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance to the Henry inquiry without authorisation.

Kibblewhite has apologised and offered his resignation, but Key hasn’t accepted it. NZ Herald reports:

The Prime Minister’s chief public servant, Andrew Kibblewhite, offered his resignation to John Key for breaching the no-surprises rule in matters crucial to the David Henry inquiry, but it was rejected.

Mr Kibblewhite, however, has apologised to Mr Key for failing to tell him that the content of emails between United Future leader Peter Dunne and reporter Andrea Vance had been sent to the Henry inquiry into the leak of a report into the Government Communications Security Bureau spy agency.

“It was implicit in the conversation he was having with me that if I wanted his resignation it would have been there,” Mr Key said at his post-Cabinet press conference yesterday. “I certainly wouldn’t accept his resignation.”

An apology and acknowledgement of a serious mistake at least.

Mr Key found out last Friday that the inquiry had been sent email content; Mr Kibblewhite, chief executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, knew about it for about a month.

Mr Key said Mr Kibblewhite should have put what he knew in the public domain several weeks ago, when it became clear that the Speaker, David Carter, had to correct answers previously given to him from Parliamentary Service about Andrea Vance’s phone records not going to the inquiry when they had.

It seriously embarrassed David Carter, and was a major failure to disclose.

“In his defence, he was on bereavement leave,” said Mr Key.

“It was a very challenging set of circumstances for him but nevertheless that information should have been out in the public domain.”

Sympathies for the bereavement, that can be a difficult time, but that is a poor excuse from the Prime Minister. A highly paid ($600k apparently) high level public servant should be able to manage their responsibilities alongside personal issues.

The maximum bereavement leave I can get in my day job is 3 days. Kibblewhite tried to hide this information for about 30 days.

Mr Dunne was forced to resign as a minister because he refused permission to hand over the contents of his emails.

And Mr Dunne is understandable fuming over this.

David Henry sought permission from Mr Dunne for access to the email content but did not mention they had already been sent.

They were apparently not opened because the email system the inquiry used could not open the personal storage files sent from the Parliamentary Service Outlook system.

Mr Key said Mr Kibblewhite took the view that because Mr Dunne’s email content was never opened or seen, it did not form part of the inquiry. “I think that is a very narrow definition but it is looking at it from a bureaucracy perspective, not looking at it from a political perspective.”

A very narrow definition? Or a cover up? In any case it was a bureaucratic blunder. The emails were requested on a Monday and obtained on the Wednesday.

Henry email 22 MayOn Thursday morning the Henry inquiry said they couldn’t open the emails – they must have tried.

Henry email 23 May 1

There are claims that the email containing the emails was recalled within an hour.

Henry email 23 May 2

But an hour later discussing obtaining the required authorisation and still discussing how to access the emails.

And remarkably discussing getting the required permission.

If they weren’t so incompetent at opening the email file that was sent they would have accessed the emails, there was clear intent to do this –  and clearly they were seeking permission after the fact, unsure if they would get that authority.

Kibblewhite has apologised for not advising of the sending of the email contents, but there were also seriously lax procedural problems.

The Prime Minister should ensure (and be seen to be ensuring) that such proper procedures are followed in inquiries initiated by him.

The Prime Minister has refused to apologise “because it wasn’t his fault” (according to 3 News on Firstline as I type this). And he has refused the resignation of his chief executive who offered to accept responsibility.

John Key is reinforcing an impression that he can be authoritarian without caring about proper procedures – cowboy politics, where the power of his position rules.

And remember that Andrea Vance was not even considered in any discussions of permission or propriety. There is major angst over this amongst journalists about this, and Key has suffered much direct indignation. He is likely to also suffer from a less sympathetic media, and that could turn out to be costly.

Key’s arrogance, excuses and refusal to accept responsibility are eroding his credibility. He may not care as it will probably be just a little slip. But he will care when his accumulated slips reach a tipping point in voter tolerance. And when that hits him the media won’t help.

UPDATE: Key is just talking about this on Firstline, still playing down the severity of the problem, saying that while the emails were sent they were recalled within an hour. The above shows there was more going on after the hour (whenever that was).

He has repeated that while an apology is appropriate, not from him, from Parliamentary Services and the Speaker.

Key:

It’s not a lot more complex than “yeah, they made a mistake”.

It wasn’t just a mistake. It was blatant disregard for proper process.

And the repercussions could be far more complex for Key than he realises.

Stuff have been running an online poll – yes, online polls should be viewed with caution, but there must be some here who have indicated a genuine lack of confidence in Key:

How is the prime minister handling the Parliamentary phone records scandal?

  • Well – 368 votes, 8.7%
  • Badly – 3016 votes, 71.5%
  • It’s more a Parliamentary Service issue – 453 votes, 10.7%
  • Don’t really care – 384 votes, 9.1%

Peters says having phone records was 100% wrong

On Firstline on Friday Winston Peters talked about his sources for his accusations against Peter Dunne “from Fairfax, the institution itself” and “the second one was in, ah, the Beehive”.

There are some important issues raised here, along with some typically dubious claims by Peters.

You’ve been talking about these phone records for a while. Were you leaked those?

Peters (after a pause) : I know what’s in those records.

How do you know what’s in those records?

Peters: Well it’s my job to know.

And how, but, you know, it’s your job to know…

Peters: Well, you’re a journalist, you don’t tell sources and nor do I. You can’t surely be offended by the fact that sources are being attacked by means of improper acquisition of someone’s phone records like a journalist, and then demand an MP give you his.

No, but I’m just trying to…

Peters: This were it all started.

I’m trying to establish whether there has been a second leak of the GCSB report, and also the actions surrounding, whether there’s been any leak from the Parliamentary Service as to how that inquiry is conducted by David Henry.

Peters: Well first of all look, Peter Dunne was involved in five leaks, four to do with the GCSB, and one of those leaks shades quickly into whether or not there is an act of the criminal law or whether the criminal law is involved. It’s a very very serious issue and people are sort of sliding by that. But ah, I can’t tell you what other leaks were going on, but um,

Well, you can if they’re in relation to information that you’re getting about what’s going in terms of that hunt for the leak.

Peters: Let me tell you this. My first source of information was from Fairfax, the institution itself. And the second one was in, ah, the Beehive.

The Fairfax “source” is probably nothing more than going back through publications seeing what was written by Andrea Vance. Fairfax should not have known what was happening with the Henry inquiry, and could not have had access to the phone records.

A Fairfax journalist was being investigated so it is most unlikely they would be leaked to, on the contrary, Fairfax are complaining about not being informed about what was being investigated.

The claim there is a leak in the Beehive is more serious.

It was not Peters’ job to know what was in the records. It would be very alarming if he was given access to records of communications between a rival MP and a journalist, from a Prime Ministerial inquiry.

The Privileges Committee should be investigating this.

A side issue – Peters has not backed up his claim that “Peter Dunne was involved in five leaks” with any evidence. If there is no evidence it can be seen as a baseless attempt to smear, a Peters trademark. Dunne has totally rejected these accusations – see Peters accuses Dunne of five leaks.

There was also some rank hypocrisy from Peters.

Let’s go back to the Privileges Committee, and whether there should be more done about the leaking of Andrea Vance’s phone records. Do you believe that it requires, ah, a sort of a review of how these inquiries are done, and how, and and really, I mean, the so called snooping and spying on journalists around Parliament.

Peters: Well first of all, what happened to Andrea Vance is inexcusable. That cannot happen in a free society, and so it’s ah both, as to her movements and her phone records, that was one hundred percent wrong. But when it comes to  a Minister, which Mr Dunne was, and the Prime Minister has put a statement out that minister’s can be questioned, if they demurred they should have said so, but they didn’t.

What happened to Andrea Vance was inexcusable. Her communication and security records were inexcusably accessed. She was inexcusably implicated by the Henry inquiry.

And she was inexcusably accused and smeared by Peters, in association with Peter Dunne.

In a Q + A interview Peters said “ I’m not going to head down that salacious path” with a clear and deliberate salacious implication.

And saying “That cannot happen in a free society, and so it’s ah both, as to her movements and her phone records, that was one hundred percent wrong” is effectively saying he is one hundred percent wrong if “I know what’s in those records”. He said it’s his job to know what’s in the phone records.

Henry inquiry – emails on emails

The Henry inquiry requested email logs and contents relating to Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance. This information was sent to them. They claim to have been unable to open the email contents file.

But the email trail shows that these emails were requested and obtained before authorisation was even attempted – a week before non authorisation was acknowledged.

Henry email 20 May 1 Henry email 20 May 2

They claim to have the necessary approvals on 20th May.Henry email 20 May 3

Henry email 21 May 1 Henry email 22 May

The emails are sent the following day, 21 May.Henry email 23 May 1

Another two days later they say they can’t open the email file.Henry email 23 May 2

Still no permission, still requesting they work around the problem of email access.

Peter Dunne says “my approval was never sought – first I knew they had been accessed was when I met Henry for the first time on 23 May”.

The emails had already been requested and received.

Henry email 27 May 1A week after requesting the email contents, six days after sending the email contents, five days after first failing to open the email contents file, four days after continuing to work around the problem, an acknowledgement they don’t have authorisation.

This brings into question this claim:

About 40 minutes after the message was sent, officials tried to recall the email and asked the inquiry to call urgently.

The head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Andrew Kibblewhite said the file was deleted immediately and could not have been opened because the email system was incompatible with that used by .

Sent on Tuesday morning, advise they can’t open on Wednesday morning, asked to continue trying to work around the access issue on Thursday morning.

This likes more misinformation.

Henry inquiry e-mail disgrace upon disgraces

Yesterday it was confirmed that emails between Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance were extracted and sent to the Henry inquiry. Stuff reports:

The Government was yesterday forced to reveal explosive new privacy breaches in the widening media spying scandal that show the full contents of email exchanges between former minister Peter Dunne and Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance were sent to the Henry inquiry.

It had previously been suspected, now it has been admitted.

Emails show the service recalled the emails within an hour of them being sent and Mr Kibblewhite said they were not opened because the file format could not be opened by the DPMC server.

And they expect us to believe that? There is currently a total lack of trust in and claims on this.

In any case:

  • The emails were sought
  • The emails were obtained
  • They tried to open the emails (but say they  couldn’t).

Whether they were able to read them or not is just another part of a disgraceful shambles.

And it gets worse. It was also revealed…

Vance’s phone logs were twice sent to the inquiry – the second time by a senior Parliamentary Service staffer – leaving Speaker David Carter and Prime Minister John Key red-faced after earlier publicly blaming the leak on a lowly contractor to the service.

Another revelation that contradicts previous claims.

And it gets worse still.

But in a further development the chief executive of Mr Key’s own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) has been dragged into the affair after admitting he had known about the email privacy breach for almost a month, but sat on the information and did not disclose it to Mr Dunne, Vance or even Mr Key.

Mr Key found out about it only yesterday morning.

“I have checked my records and can confirm that I first became aware of this on July 5. In hindsight, and notwithstanding the inquiry never viewed the email files . . . I acknowledge we could have prompted Parliamentary Services to inform you of their error,” Andrew Kibblewhite said in a message to Vance yesterday.

The ODT reports that Peter Dunne is seeking legal advice:

Mr Dunne said he would seek legal advice after discovering his emails were sent to the inquiry a day before he gave permission.

“I am extremely concerned and angry about this gross, unauthorised breach of personal privacy, especially since it was my refusal to authorise access to the content of those emails that brought about my resignation as a minister,” he said.

And Fairfax are already taking action.

Fairfax Media, publisher of Stuff, last night laid a formal complaint with Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff about the repeated breaches of Vance’s privacy.

“Fairfax has no confidence in the way this matter is being handled and we feel we have to take the matter further,” group executive editor Paul Thompson said.

“This will include requesting, under the Privacy Act, a full account of how Andrea’s private information has been handled.

“The release of information detailing Andrea’s swipe card usage, telephone calls and emails to the Henry inquiry was highly inappropriate and intrusive. There has also clearly been an attempted cover up. This has all put enormous pressure on Andrea who has been unfairly targeted for doing her job,” he said.

“We hope the privacy commissioner will cut through the Government spin and provide Andrea with some redress.”

John Key, who until now has tried to distance himself and his office from the ongoing train wreck, must step up and deal with this. He should be furious. And he should take urgent action.

It will be difficult to restore any degree of confidence in Key’s office, the Parliamentary Service and the Henry inquiry.

But Key must be seen to taking responsibility – and action. Decisive action. Urgently.

Does Peter Dunne’s story stack up now?

Yesterday the Government released an email trail that covers the accessing of MP and journalist data in the David Henry inquiry, and also covers the authorisation for accessing data.

I have followed the Henry inquiry and related issues closely.

For about a week after he resigned as Minister Peter Dunne told me nothing about it. Early on I seriously considered the possibility the Dunne had leaked the Kitteridge report. There was no evidence that he had leaked, despite Henry’s clear implication that he had. But there were some things that didn’t seem to make sense and that raised doubts.

In the days immediately following the resignation the weight of journalist opinion was overwhelming. Despite being shocked that Dunne would have leaked (he had a reputation of being a “goody two shoes”) the consensus seemed to be that he almost certainly had. I wondered if they were right.

But the journalist claims of guilt quite quickly quietened. Usually when the media senses lies and false claims in a potential scandal they relentlessly pursue their prey until they get some sort of result. But I noticed that the journalists seemed to back off instead.

And they all seem to have remained backed off – in fact there seems to be substantial sympathy for Dunne.

About a week after the resignation Dunne started to reveal to me what he knew and what he thought. I believe he has now told me most of what there is to know about it from his perspective.

Most of this has been by email. Twice he has gone over this with me present in person, once with his wife also present and supporting what he said.

Dunne has seemed to be open about what he knew and what he didn’t know.

For weeks I have known that it seemed likely the Henry inquiry had accessed Dunne’s security card data, deskphone logs, cellphone logs and email logs. Only the deskphone log access had seemed to be authorised. The only thing unknown was whether contents of emails had been accessed.

Last night I read through the email trail that had been released.

Everything I have seen in that document supports Dunne’s version of the story. It confirmed a number of things that Dunne had suspected, including access to cellphone data.

The only revelation was that email contents had been supplied. There were obvious suspicions that that may have happened but until yesterday there was nothing to prove it.

What Dunne has told me over the past month has been consistent, persistent and forthright. And it all stacks up with the emerging facts. It is quite likely that different interpretations of events will emerge, particularly between Henry and Dunne, but at this stage I have faith that what Dunne has said is genuine belief and accurate.

And the stories of others in this simply don’t stack up. There have been too many versions, false claims, doubt and lack of credibility. And accusations based on narrow assumptions remain baseless.

Dunne’s story stacks up. Everything else seems to be falling to pieces.

Henry inquiry – the custard has just curdled

The custard has just curdled.

Emails given to inquiry

Parliamentary Service gave a ministerial inquiry emails between UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne and Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance, it has emerged.

The revelation follows the resignation yesterday of Parliamentary Service head Geoff Thorn amid fallout from the Henry inquiry.

In documents set to be released this afternoon, it will be revealed that Parliamentary Service recalled the emails that it sent to inquiry head David Henry, who had been tasked with finding out who leaked a confidential report on the Government Communications Security Bureau to Vance.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) will issue a statement this afternoon saying the emails were never read and the attachments were destroyed.

It has emerged that the inquiry was also provided with Vance’s phone records and swipe-card records in an attempt to zero in on her confidential source.

Links to all the documents here: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1308/S00039/dpmc-releases-email-correspondence-relating-to-henry-inquiry.htm

Thorn’s resignation – more revelations to come?

The Kitteridge leak has it’s second casualty. Peter Dunne resigned as Minister when the Henry report painted him as the leaker.

And now, after it became apparent there were alarming releases of MP and journalist data that contributed to a witch-hunt, the head of the Parliament Service, Geoff Thorn, has resigned.

I think political and public servant resignations are demanded far too much. But people get into untenable situations and it happens. Much to the glee of some, who love seeing political blood being spilled.

To me there is always a tinge of sadness when they occur. It means a major change to someone’s career, and can also have a significant affect on family.

Thorn had overall responsibility for a number of things of concern. NZ Herald reports:

A Datacom contractor gave the records to David Henry’s inquiry into the leak of Rebecca Kitteridge’s GCSB compliance report.

The service also provided incorrect answers to written questions from Mr Carter over whether the records were sought.

Mr Carter said he had accepted Mr Thorn’s resignation after confidence in Parliamentary Service had been dented.

Confidence has certainly been severely dented. But is this all?

The Privileges Committee is having an inquiry into the release of journalist data and associated issues. In three weeks time all those relevant to the inquiry will have to front up to a public questioning. Even though Thorn finishes today the committee can still require him to take part. They must see Thorn as an important part of their inquiry.

Thorn’s three month severance deal seems like a quick, quiet and uncontested exit package. Is there anything else that prompted the resignation, something that is likely to be revealed by the inquiry?

Another aspect of this whole issue that is seen as serious by media is the involvement of Winston Peters in accusations and smearing, using leaked data as ammunition in his attempted hit job. See Winston Peters: “It’s my job to know”.

But it was Thorn’s responsibility for Peters – or any other MP or anyone else – not to know what was happening in a sensitive inquiry, and not to know any details of communications of rival MPs. This has very serious implications.

The leaks Peters occurred on Thorn’s watch.

And if we take any of Peters’ claims seriously there must have been multiple leaks to him. Peters initially claimed all the evidence was in the phone records – and this was before anything was publicly known about the nature of the Henry inquiry.

When the phone records didn’t figure in Henry’s Report Peters switched to implying and claiming he had seen and possibly had emails. If he has seen emails it is an extremely serious matter, an appalling breach of security and privacy.

Peters also claimed there were multiple communications. This would mean multiple leaks of information.

Of course Peters may simply be a lying opportunist who was fed a smidgen of information which he used to try and destroy the career of an elected MP.  That is serious on it’s own.

But if Peters had access to any data of Andrea Vance or Peter Dunne it would an even more alarming breech of security.

On Thorn’s watch. This may have added weight to the decision for Thorn to resign quickly and quietly.

Peters seems to not want Thorn to appear before the committee. Why? Stuff reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters said Thorn was a scapegoat and questioned if his resignation meant he would not give evidence to an inquiry launched by Parliament’s Privileges Committee into how Vance’s records came to be handed over.

But that might be wishful thinking.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, who heads the Privileges Committee, yesterday suggested Thorn’s departure would not stop them calling him to give evidence.

His evidence is crucial to finding out the extent to which discussions with Eagleson influenced the decision to hand over Vance’s phone and swipe-card records.

And it might shed some light on the dark arts of Winston Peters.

Interestingly Peters is on the Privileges Committee. I don’t know how that will affect any inquiry into his involvement in the access of data and information about the data.

The Privileges Committee should be examining this aspect of the Henry data debacle. It seems highly likely there will be more revelations to come.

Geoff Thorn may be simply unfortunate to have been the muggins in the middle of a complex game of political manoeuvring and muggings.

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