Believing Winston Peters is like believing in Santa

The Privileges Committee report has slammed the David Henry inquiry into who leaked the Kitteridge Report – and despite overreaching and seeking and obtaining information in a “totally unacceptable” manner the henry Inquiry failed to find evidence on who leaked the report.

Winston Peters became involved when he accused Peter Dunne of leaking the report under protection of Parliament. After Dunne resigned Peters maintained his attacks, accusing Dunne publicly and making salacious insinuations about Andrea Vance.

Despite insisting he had evidence Peters eventually had to concede he had none.

Peters has resumed his accusations via Twitter and through a media release.

Privileges committee report ‘no comfort for Dunne’

Rt Hon Winston Peters says the Privileges Committee report on the Henry Inquiry again points the finger at Peter Dunne for leaking the Kitteridge report into the Government Communication Security Bureau.

Mr Peters says it is truly astonishing that Mr Dunne is deluded into thinking he has been absolved of any responsibility for leaking classified material.

“Two wrongs have never made a right. Of course Henry botched the inquiry and we said that the moment he was appointed.

It’s nonsensical claiming to have known the inquiry was botched before it had even started.

“The privileges committee inquiry into the Henry inquiry processes, or rather lack of them, in no way excuses Peter Dunne from his serious guilt as a serial leaker with a number of cases taken to the media from the security intelligence committee, which he was a member of.”

Serious allegations repeated by Peters. He has never produced any evidence to back up his claims.

Mr Peters says the whole affair has been a shambles and reflects poorly on both Peter Dunne and the Prime Minister who tried to organise a snow job.

Peters tried to organise a political hit job, and he is trying to resume his baseless attack. That reflects very poorly on him.

“The Henry inquiry was incompetent and the privileges committee inquiry terms of reference specifically ruled out getting to the truth of the matter.

“The Prime Minister is very foolish to even consider reinstating Peter Dunne as a minister in future.

“To do that without being certain no other information exists around Mr Dunne as the leaker shows a dangerous lack of judgement.

That’s highly hypocritical. Peters leaked information about the Henry Inquiry. Peters is a serial leaker. Does that mean any Prime Minister or prospective coalition partner would show a dangerous lack of judgement if they considered working with Peters?

“What will the Prime Minister say when more comes out?” asks Mr Peters.

The Prime Minister would probably faint with shock if Peters actually fronted up with evidence to support his accusations.

Peters is discredited as a leaker. He makes serious accusations, often under Parliamentary privilege, and fails to back up his bluster with evidence. Time and time again.

With a continued lack of evidence I think that Peters looks like he is making things up. That’s lying. Unless he really hopes that ‘more comes out’ of his Christmas stocking.

Believing Winston Peters is like believing in Santa, except that Santa is a jolly old fellow.

 

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.

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 timeline

Date Time of email Event
15 April David Henry Inquiry into the unauthorised disclosure of the Kitteridge report established and Terms of Reference publicly released.
30 April 5.07pm Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service requesting:• All printing, copy and scan records for all Ministers that had access to the Kitteridge report (10 National Ministers, John Banks and Peter Dunne).• All printing, copy and scan records for senior staff in each of the 12 Minister’s offices, including SPS’s and Press Secretaries.

• Printing, copy and scan records for three Prime Minister’s Office staff members

6 May 8:45am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Ministerial Services to advise that Parliamentary Service requires authorisation from Ministerial Services to give printing, copy and scan records.
8 May 10:29am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service with revised request, which had previously been hand delivered to Ministerial Services, asking for email logs for external emails for the 12 Ministers and their staff for the date range 22 March to 9 April. It also advises that Ministerial Services has given authorisation for that request to be processed.
2:51pm Henry Inquiry Administrator requests from Ministerial Services cellphone billing records for 12 Ministers and their staff as well as staff from the Prime Minister’s office for 25 March to 9 April.
4:41pm Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service to request printing and copy records for 12 Ministers and their staff and staff from Prime Minister’s office.
4:45pm Parliamentary Service emails Ministerial Services and asks them for written confirmation from each Minister they are happy to make available information relating to staff as it believes Ministers are the employer.
5:15pm Ministerial Services emails Parliamentary Service to advise DIA are the employer of all Ministerial staff and all staff had signed a Code of Conduct so the Inquiry doesn’t need written authorisation. However, with respect to Ministers, Parliamentary Service has asked Ministerial Services to provide authorisation for each Minister individually and please hold cellphone records for each Minister in the meantime.
10 May 9:40am Ministerial Services to Henry Inquiry Administrator – now have the Ministers’ cellphone records ready.
2:17pm Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Andrea Vance’s landline and cellphone numbers to Parliamentary Service.
14 May 11:30am Henry Inquiry Administrator to Parliamentary Service – cellphone phone logs. This is in reference to logs of Ministers and staff. In terms of authorisation granted by Ministerial Services, Henry Inquiry Administrator states he believes all individual Ministers given written approval.
16 May 3:24pm Parliamentary Service emails Henry Inquiry Administrator with external Ministers’ email metadata, including Peter Dunne’s.
17 May 10:22am More attachments with Ministers’ metadata regarding scans from photocopiers to 12 Ministers’ email addresses.
10:37am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service to advise only missing is mobile phone call logs for people on the list.
3:39pm Parliamentary Service emails Henry Inquiry Administrator with cellphone call records files for Ministers and staff. Includes Ministerial car phones.
Monday 20 May 11:41am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service – were you able to locate remaining 10 or so phone records? On another matter, how long would it take for you to retrieve the content of emails if we requested them? If those emails were for Ministers, does that present any issues?
1:32pm Parliamentary Service replies to Henry Inquiry Administrator to say “it can be the same day if it is only a few or less. I believe we have the necessary approval for Ministers.”
2:25pm Henry Inquiry Administrator lodges formal request for all emails between Andrea Vance and Peter Dunne between 22 March and 9 April (dates provided in metadata rundown in email on 16 May at 3:24pm). Also emails between Andrea Vance and one staff member from each of Adams, Finlayson, Tolley, PM’s offices.
5:53pm Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service and requests phone records for Ministers and staff extensions for contact to and from two “numbers of interest” (Andrea Vance’s landline and mobile). Also states “Please note, we do not want the call logs of the two numbers of interest. That is outside the parameters of our Inquiry.”
21 May 9:55am Parliamentary Service forwards email record request to a contractor allocated to this. Parliamentary Service then emails contractor to get idea of effort and ETA.
10:50am Parliamentary Service contractor sends email with attachment of emails records for Dunne/Vance and email records between four Ministerial staff/Vance to Parliamentary Service at 10:50am.
4:25pm Parliamentary Service sends email records file for Dunne/Vance emails and emails between four staff and Andrea Vance to Inquiry at 4:25pm. At 5:12pm Parliamentary Services emails Henry Inquiry Administratorwith a message to call urgently re email sent today and then sends a recall notice for email at 5:18pm. Email titled “DPMC Info Request”.
5:16pm At 5:16pm Parliamentary Service sends revised file with only email records between four Ministerial staff/Vance to Inquiry. Email titled: “Last part of info”
Henry Inquiry Administrator deletes email titled “DPMC info requests” with Dunne/Vance email records from his email without opening file.
Thursday 23 May 8:34am Henry Inquiry Administrator to Parliamentary Service re email title “last part of info” to say “as discussed we can’t open .pst documents”
9:30am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service saying Mr Henry discussed an issue with Ministerial Services and Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff but not Acting Head of Parliamentary Service. The upshot is that Acting Head of Parliamentary Service will be talking with Dunne’s office with the aim of getting the Minister’s permission to view the emails.
Sunday 26 May 9:49pm Parliamentary Service emails Henry Inquiry Administrator – “if you have authorisation sorted, I can send you the files.”
27 May 8:18am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service and says “Just to confirm . . . we’ve only got authorisation to see non-minister email, not Dunne’s.”
10:45am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service asking who to contact to access swipe card records into the building.
2:47pm Henry Inquiry Administrator sends formal request to Parliamentary Service for building access logs for two people for 6-8 April. Asks is this data able to be retrieved and what authorisation do you need?
28 May (5:30pm) 5:30pm Parliamentary Service emails Henry Inquiry Administrator with two activity reports as requested for those dates. Authority to release obtained from Head of Parliamentary Service.
Wed 29 May 2013 12:35pm Parliamentary Service emails security policy for Parliamentary precinct to Inquiry.
30 May 8:37am Parliamentary Service to Henry Inquiry Administrator attachment “DPMC infor request extracted”. This is emails between four Ministerial staff and Andrea Vance in readable format.
5:27pm Parliamentary Service contractor sends Henry Inquiry Administrator email titled “Phone call information”. It says Parliamentary Service has confirmed happy for me to provide you with the information. Could you forward request to me via email.
5:37pm Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service asks for Minister’s landline call logs and Vance’s three numbers (extn, landline and cell) for 10 National Ministers.
31 May 9:02am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service “should note not yet sought permission of non-National Party Ministers for their phone logs. Expect to later today.”
9:44am Parliamentary Service contactor sends email to Henry Inquiry Administrator with two attachments – call logs for 10 National Ministers and call logs for Andrea Vance.
11:19am Henry Inquiry Administrator responds “Let’s be clear. We did not request the second report you’ve attached here i.e. the one showing all calls to and from the numbers of interest. We’re not interested in looking at that”.
4:00pm Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Mr Dunne’s Chief of Staff to say “David Henry tells me Mr Dunne has approved release of information so therefore this is the request we are going to send.”
3:53pm Senior Parliamentary Service staff member forwards email from Parliamentary Service contractor to Henry Inquiry Administrator again with two attachments of phone records.
4:28pm Henry Inquiry Administrator replies to Parliamentary Service to say he did get them.
4 June 8:59am Mr Dunne’s Chief of Staff confirms to Henry Inquiry Administrator that Mr Dunne agrees to request to access phone logs of his landline.
1:39pm Parliamentary Service emails Henry Inquiry Administrator requested report (Mr Dunne’s landline calls)
10:46am Parliamentary Service emails Henry Inquiry Administrator to say Ministers’ private lines potentially not logged, will confirm.
5 June 10:59am Henry Inquiry Administrator emails Parliamentary Service to say deadline tight – answer before 2pm today appreciated.
5 June Henry Inquiry report delivered to Prime Minister.
7 June Henry Inquiry report released by Prime Minister.

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.

Dunne Speaks: the GCSB, journalists and data

As posted on Peter Dunne’s blog.

The New Zealand Herald’s Claire Trevett puts the current controversy  regarding the GCSB Bill and access to journalists’ phone records into its proper perspective: “The bill is completely unrelated to the issue of … phone records. In fact, … the GCSB itself could not have obtained the information the Parliamentary Service released so blithely …”

So the real question becomes why were metadata, swipe access and phone records released so freely? Was it because they were formally requested (if so, by whom)? Was it inadvertent (a mighty big piece of inadvertence if it was)? Or was Parliamentary Service just trying to be helpful (if so, to whom)?

In my case, my metadata and mobile phone records were accessed without my approval. I declined access to the content of my emails, and assume that was honoured. I agreed to my landline and extension phone data, and swipe card records being released for a specified period of time but it is seems likely they were provided for a longer period.

Andrea Vance’s “Mad as Hell” column makes the passing observation that “you can glean a lot from matching numbers, time and date of published stories.”

This is the real nub of the issue, insofar as the Henry inquiry, the DPMC, and the Parliamentary Service were concerned. But what is intriguing is how that links into Peters’ comments in the House on 30 May (not 5 June) about the phone records providing all the answers. Was that just inspired guess-work, or had  there already been a tip-off, and if so, by whom, for what purpose?

The Privileges Committee will probably never get to the bottom of these machinations, but its investigation will be critical in establishing the rules of engagement to apply from here on.

For what it is worth, here is what I think. Members of Parliament and journalists should not be tracked around the Parliamentary complex, nor should their metadata, phone or photocopying logs be accessed without their prior approval.

Even then, it should be for only the most specific of purposes and periods of time, relating to physical security or criminal investigations. And any such authority should approved by the Speaker before any data is released. Using such data for joining the dots inquiries that may or may not lead anywhere should not be permitted.

While all this has nothing to do with the GCSB Bill, the attention it is attracting might just be the thing to jolt the Parliament into becoming far more circumspect about the need to protecting the legitimate privacy of MPs and journalists.

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