Ian Fletcher’s past

Amongst the political hubris surrounding the “shoulder tap” appointment of Ian Fletcher to the GCSB some research and analysis is starting to emerge. David Fisher at NZ Herald is claimed in some circles as a shrill for the left but he has written what seems to be a reasonably balanced report on Fletcher’s past.

He summarises Ian Fletcher’s past experience in Spy who came in from the heat:

Ian Fletcher

* Earned a history degree while studying Arabic, living in Syria briefly and London during his tertiary education.

* Started out as a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before returning to Britain in 1989 to work at the Monopolies & Mergers Commission.

* Investigated for contempt of Queensland Parliament at time hired for job as GCSB head.

* Investigation came after leaked emails contradicted his evidence to a parliamentary committee. The complaint went no further after Mr Fletcher made a correction to the parliamentary record.

* Mr Fletcher was privy to “extremely sensitive” documents forecasting march to Iraq War in his previous British role as principal private secretary to Sir Andrew Turnbull, the incoming Cabinet secretary and Britain’s most powerful civil servant.

* Saw military planning and advice stating “US military planning is in full swing” eight months before invasion.

He also addresses the debate over the need for a military background in the GCSB:

Mr Fletcher’s lack of military experience was highlighted by former NZ Defence Force boss and GCSB director Sir Bruce Ferguson.

Former Security Intelligence Service director Don McIvor said a lack of military experience was no bar to leading an intelligence agency. He said his eight-year tenure at the SIS was followed by the appointment of career diplomat Richard Woods.

Fletcher’s background indicates a reasonable breadth and depth of experience. The article also explores other issues:

States Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said Mr Fletcher was hired at a time when “we were beginning to get some insight into significant management issues which needed to be addressed within GCSB”.

And Mr Key said the review of the GCSB by Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge would show “major issues that need to be rectified. They were issues that were there under Mr Ferguson and others. That shows you that just having a military background hasn’t delivered the robustness of that organisation that New Zealanders would expect.”

There are suggestions that the Grant Robertson led Labour campaign on Fletcher’s appointment may be trying to pre-empt the Kitteridge report. The timing is certainly interesting, especially with David Shearer’s announcement on Q + A that Labour would have a spy inquiry:

There is a real problem in New Zealand now with the confidence that we have in our intelligence agencies, and if I was coming into office, I would have a full independent inquiry into our intelligence agencies to restore that confidence, because if we don’t do that we will not be able to hold ourselves up as the transparent nation that we are.

Labour followed up with a press release: Labour to Review Intelligence Agencies

It’s difficult to know how much of this is Labour genuinely trying to hold John Key, the Government and our spy agencies to account compared trying to score political hits, and whether Labour are trying to avoid scrutiny of their past GCSB appointment.

According to a report on comments from John Tamihere on Radio Live:

JT who was in cabinet says yes Ferguson was Helen Clark’s man and was shoulder tapped (which he says during the interview) then that’s pretty good evidence right there

This is backed by Clair Trevett at NZ Herald in John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’:

Mr Key accused Labour’s Grant Robertson of “low-rent politics” and claimed Helen Clark had also shoulder-tapped people to take on roles.

RadioLive host and former Labour MP John Tamihere agreed with him.

“Helen Clark went out there and shoulder-tapped people, said ‘you’re in the job’. I didn’t do that,” Mr Key said.

He did not provide examples, but senior sources have claimed Sir Bruce Ferguson was directly approached by Helen Clark to be Chief of Defence in 2001. Sir Bruce did not return calls yesterday, but the appointment had raised eyebrows because he was chosen over more senior personnel.

Now journalists are starting to look beyond the politically driven hubris we will get a better picture of what has been going on in GCSB, and how appropriate head of GCSB appointments have been (in particular of Ferguson and Fletcher).

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1 Comment

  1. Joe Bloggs

     /  8th April 2013

    One of the issues shown up by this is that journalists are generally content to run with the politically driven spoon-feeding handed out by the Left.

    It’s not until discontented bloggers start revealing the reality behind the political cant and clap-trap, that the journos look wider.

    Call it laziness, incompetence, a laissez-faire attitude on the journos’ behalfs, or whatever. But it’s clear that the ineptitude of the media and their failure to dig deeper before running the Labour Party lines they’re handed is going to continue to be a thorn in National’s side.

    Reply

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