This follows the previous post On Slater and dirty politics and “Dirty Politics”
Was the hacking of Cameron Slater’s personal data a reactive attack on Slater by one individual that happened to uncover information that happened to make it’s way into Hager’s possession that was a useful coincidence as it supported an ongoing issue of interest to Hager?
Or was Hager a tool used by a black ops campaign by political operators to discredit Slater and bring down the Key Government?
How much was Nicky Hager a participant and how much was he a pawn?
It’s interesting to see a sequence of events as described by Hager in the preface to his book “Dirty Politics”.
- Dirty Politics follows my earlier book, The Hollow Men, which told the story of the National Party from 2003 to 2006 under the former leader Don Brash. This sequel describes the years of John Key’s leadership between 2008 and 2014.
The Hollow Men doesn’t tell “the story of the National Party”, it tells a small part of the story based, coincidentally, on leaked or hacked information from Don Brash’s office. Dirty Politics does not describe “the years of John Key’s leadership”, it tries to make a story out of hacked personal communications of a small group of people.
The Hollow Men played a part in ending Don Brash’s leadership. Fran O’Sullivan wrote about the police investigation of the source data for the book.
It now seems abundantly clear Quinn’s pursuit of Hager’s sources was little more than a polite run around the traps. But the police had no qualms about obtaining a search warrant for the Herald on Sunday offices to try to get hold of a tape recording of the exclusive interview celebrity sports journalist Tony Veitch gave to its star columnist shortly after his bashing scandal became public.
Or about trying to force TV3 news host John Campbell into revealing the identity of the exclusive source on the theft of Victoria Cross medals from the army museum.
Harry Quinn resorted to neither measure. Bizarre really – police use the full extent of the law to retrieve information from professional journalists. But a political activist is a no-go zone.
This is frankly unacceptable in a democratic system where authorities like the police should be expected to get to the bottom of what was obviously a politically motivated burglary.
While the way the Brash data became available has not been proven it’s of note that some claims are that it was a politically motivated burglary.
Dirty Politics being a sequel suggests that it wasn’t a one off reporting of hacked data, it was a continuation of an ongoing anti-National campaign.
- The origins of this book can be traced to a political event in October 2013, when extremely personal details of Auckland mayor Len Brown’s sexual affairs were published on the right wing blog site, Whale Oil.
The timing of those revelations seem to have been to try and overturn the result of the mayoral election.
Ironically Hager wrote “it became clear the exposé had been arranged by his political enemies to try and push him out of office and replace him with their own mayoral candidate”. Hager timed his book this year to try to push John Key out of Government.
- In January of the following year (2014) I travelled to Dunedin for a conference, where I met a series of people who raised their concern about Cameron Slater, the Whale Oil blogger and son of a former National party president.
Hager was a keynote speaker at Surveillance, Copyright, Privacy: The End of the Open Internet. Conference Jan 30 – Feb 1, 2014 at Otago University.
Across the Internet, immense changes are affecting ordinary users with urgent implications both worldwide and locally. New Zealand has been the test case for changing practices surrounding copyright, surveillance, sovereignty and privacy.
The conference is designed to create an engaged, cross-disciplinary and critical dialogue regarding the intensification of control and policing of internet usage, including both commercial activity and democratic participation in New Zealand.
Amongst other things it coincidentally looked at online privacy.
Another keynote speaker was Vikram Kumar, who had been CEO of Kim Dotcom’s Mega company but just prior to the conference became Chief Executive of Dotcom’s new Internet Party. Dotcom and Slater had had a long running feud.
- The third experience that led me to investigate Whale Oil and the growth of attack politics was an account I heard at a meeting in a major news organisation. The point of the meeting had been to discuss Slater and whether news resources should be allocated to scrutinising his activities. According to one of the people present, however, senior staff began expressing their fears about attracting attacks from Slater on themselves and their organisation. By the end of the meeting they had decided to do nothing.
That a major news organisation would not investigate someone for a “fears about attracting attacks” seems bizarre, and if true it is somewhat eyebrow raising.
According the above conference bio of Hager is “a regular contributor to the New Zealand newspaper Sunday Star-Times”. Slater has had ongoing battles with media, especially with NZ Herald and senior journalist there David Fisher.
- Finally, in this same period, Slater hit the news after making yet another personal attack. A young West Coast man named Judd Hall had died when the car in which he was a passenger crashed off the road. Slater copied a newspaper article on his blog and casually headed it with “Feral died in Greymouth, did the world a favour”.
More than any single thing Slater had written, it provoked a furious public reaction.
The sequence in Hager’s preface implies this followed the latter two of the previous events. He doesn’t date his media meeting.
But Slater’s “feral” attack was on Saturday 25th January, the week before the Otago conference. Hager doesn’t say it but surely it was a part of his discussions there.
Hager then writes:
This time, apparently, as part of the angry backlash to his West Coast comments, hackers targeted him. A ‘denial of service’ attack was launched against his blog site, overloading his server and shutting down his website for three days. It appears that online hackers also gained access to his computer. Thus an insensitive comment about a car accident victim may have led to the long-held secrets being revealed about Slater and his political collaborators: right up to the level of senior government ministers.
It’s possible a nasty attack by Slater provoked a spontaneous denial of service attack to cover a hack of his data (apparently one commonly goes with the other). The attack began about two days after Slater initiated the outrage.
It seemed odd at the time that an obviously angry group of people on the West Coast would launch an unprecedented denial of service and hack attack on a blog site.
After getting Whale Oil back online on January 30 Slater wrote:
What was then unleashed was literally hundreds of death threats and a social media bullying campaign. Ironically their behaviour online proved conclusively that there is a serious problem on the West Coast with a feral underclass.
What I said may have been offensive, but that is not illegal. What is illegal is issuing death threats and threats to rape my daughter. Furthermore a DDoS attack was also set upon my site in an effort to silence me. Whether or not it was connected to feral outrage remains to be seen.
Yes, whether or not it was connected to the outrage remains to be seen.
It seems more credible to assume that it was a cover to launch a previously planned attack and hack by someone or some people.
- Some weeks later, out of the blue, I received a package: an 8 gigabyte USB digital storage device, the contents of which appeared to have originated from the attack on Slater’s website. On the USB were thousands of documents that revealed different parts of the National Party attack politics, a subject that until then had largely been a matter of speculation and denial.
This was very different from my usual sources – I have not used this type of source before – but I believe not a single major news organisation in the country would turn down such fascinating and important material. Supplemented by National Party sources, it has allowed stories to be told that the public has a right to know.
I had no part in obtaining the material and cannot say anything else about it’s origin.
The hacker Rawshark chose to release more hacked information after the book release, first via Twitter (@Whaledump) and then via major news organisations, including the Sunday Star Times and NZ Herald.
I have no reason to doubt Hager’s claim he played no direct part in hacking the data.
But some of Hager’s claims here are contradictory. In the preface ot his book he says “Some weeks later, out of the blue, I received a package: an 8 gigabyte USB digital storage device, the contents of which appeared to have originated from the attack on Slater’s website. “
But David Fisher at NZ Herald quoted Hager in August:
“I heard a rumour about someone who had some stuff,” says Hager, whose books on spies have generated contacts in IT circles. “He already had a plan in his mind to set up a Twitter account and splash it all out there.”
Hager says he spent weeks talking the person into letting him see the material and use it to build the narrative which became Dirty Politics. The hacker, says Hager, gave him everything. “I’ve seen everything. I’m 100 per cent sure.” The hacker then expressed a desire to keep back some material for himself. “We kind of negotiated how much,” he says. “I said ‘can I have all the political stuff’.” Hager got what he asked for and so, the book was written.
That doesn’t sound anything like “out of the blue”.
Thus the National Government had the political advantages both of the friendly face and the attack machine. Naturally this would not work if people could see both, so considerable effort went into hiding and denying these activities.
There seems to also be a lot of hiding and denying of things with Hager’s “Dirty Politics”.
But not everyone remains silent. Two days before the launch of Hager’s book left wing activist, blogger and big noter Martyn Bradbury posted:
Here are my 3 guesses on his book.
1 – Right wing spin doctors in Wellington will be crying harder than Matthew Hooton post the Hollow Men.
2 – We won’t hear from the Taxpayer Union for a while.
3 – This won’t be the only time Nicky makes an impact before the election.
When his “guesses” were queried he responded on Twitter:
pfft – Nicky contacted me months ago asking specific questions which helped my guesses – the lesson is read TDB
So Hager was researching amongst left wing activists, as Lyn Prentice has also admitted an involvement.
Perhaps if Hager had interviewed a few people, instead of just writing a book of one-sided allegations ABOUT them, based on STOLEN e mails, and published at a slightly less cynical time than a few weeks before the election, he might not be in this position today?
[lprent: Based on reading the blog posts of the various people that were referred to in the emails passed to him. You really can’t get much more independent that the actual actions of arseholes.
Plus doing a pretty widespread verification among many people who read those blogs and keep an eye on Slater, Odgen, Farrar, Ede, and others of that dirty brigade. Like me and the score of people that I pointed to and introduced to Hagers people.
Why would you ask Slater? He is currently saying that yes he made those statements in those emails, but that he was lying and bullshitting. What makes you think that he wouldn’t lie or bullshit to a journo or for that matter the police or a judge?]
“Like me and the score of people that I pointed to and introduced to Hagers people.”
Prentice has openly feuded with Slater. He is not an unbiased observer – in fact he seems to be claiming to be very involved in Hager’s book. Again here he admits being a party to the investigation:
There was extensive checking done before the publication of the book. I helped with putting people in contact with other people. We’d long known what kinds of things were going on. We had just never had any proof of how much of an arsehole that Cameron Slater and his friends were.
It just wasn’t done with the arsehole perpetrators. That was because they already had a port of redress if the material was wrong. The courts.
Is that what you are offended by. That the arseholes of the local blogs and their puppet masters in National and corporates weren’t warned?
Idiot. If Cameron Slater or Odger or Ede or anyone else wants to challenge the veracity of the emails and the conclusions of the book, then all they have to do is to use the courts. It is called a defamation suit.
You’d have to note that they don’t appear to be using it?
Of course they will then be up for cross examination and discovery motions. I can understand why that isn’t something that they want to face.
Obviously Hager wouldn’t work alone on this. He claims he discussed accessing the data for weeks with “the hacker”. Prentice claims to have played a significant part, along with others – “We’d long known what kinds of things were going on. We had just never had any proof .”
Who is “we”.
How much has Hager driven this? He has had an obvious interest in exposing National tactics for more than a decade.
Was the attack and hack a spontaneous reaction or a planned illegal action?
The identity of Rawshark is of obvious interest, but it’s reasonable to be suspicious of who else was involved.
Many people bore grudges against Slater – not surprising considering his mode of dirty politics – and there were obvious interests in defeating Key and National. There have been many comments online alluding to using any means that would be justified in achieving this.
Hager claimed that “a very high public interest” justified overriding “everyone has the right to keep their communications private”.
The election result suggests that Hager and others may have confused “very high left wing interest in defeating Key” with “very high public interest”.
Political activists often incorrectly presume their strong opinions and aims must be shared by most people so achieving those aims by any means is justified.
After the Left’s election disaster some activists bitterly criticised voters for getting things wrong and for being traitors.
There seems to be much more to this story than one civic minded journalist who chanced upon some evidence that happened to support a long running ant-National campaign.
It will be interesting to see what else is revealed over the next few months. Revelations are promised.
This leads into the next post, the third of three on this. Will “Dirty Politics be uncovered?