Dunne continues to deny leaking

On his return to Parliament Peter Dunne continues to deny being the Kitteridge report leaker. As reported on Newstalk ZB:

The United Future leader has given his first interview since his resignation press conference 11 days ago.

He maintains he never leaked the Kitteridge report but isn’t prepared to give any theories as to who the culprit may be.

“No I don’t, and I don’t really want to comment on this issue at all until the matter of the privileges hearing is resolved. It would be improper for me to comment while the Speaker’s still considering a privileges case.”

This is the first time he has publicly commented since his media conference on Friday 7 June where he announced his resignation as minister. In his statement then he said:

“I am extremely concerned and upset by the Henry Report’s findings regarding the unauthorised release of the Kitteridge Report in so far as they relate to me.

“While I did not leak the report, and challenge Fairfax to confirm that, some of my actions after I received an advance copy of the report were extremely unwise and lacked the judgement reasonably expected of a Minister in such circumstances.

“I accept full responsibility for that.”

Fairfax have refused to confirm that, but they have revealed they had several sources for GCSB related leaks.

It is widely thought that Dunne was the leaker but there is no evidence to prove that.

What is known from Dunne:

  • Dunne denied he leaked the Kitteridge report:
    – in a select committee hearing
    – to John Key
    – to David Henry during his investigation
    – in his media release on 7 June
    – yesterday to Felix Marwick.
  • Dunne revealed in released emails to Andrea Vance that he considered leaking the report.
  • Dunne revealed in released emails that he discussed the report with Vance.
  • Dunne refused to reveal some emails from him to Vance and all emails from Vance:
    “The sole reason why I did not disclose the full content of my emails was because of my strong belief that citizens, be they constituents, members of the public or journalists, ought to be able to communicate with their elected representatives in confidence if they wish, and we tamper with that right at our collective peril.”

What is known from David Henry’s report:

  • Henry has no proof that Dunne leaked:”82. I remain of the view that I need to have full access to all eighty-six emails. Without Mr Dunne’s permission I cannot take the matter further.”
  • Dunne had access to the report and had contact with Vance via parliamentary emails.
  • Dunne denied leaking:
    “85. Mr Dunne has advised me that he did not provide the reporter with access to the Kitteridge report.”
  • Regarding the two other people Henry investigated he is “satisfied that their contacts were entirely commensurate with their official duties”.
  • One of the other two people Henry investigated had the report at home on the weekend prior to the leak but Henry accepts that person’s word that “it remained in the officer’s possession at all times”.
  • Henry did not investigate anyone or anything who might have had private contact with Vance:
    “59, For completeness I record that I had no access, nor did I seek access, to private email providers or private telephones.”
  • Henry made no comment regarding the possibility of private meetings.

The neglect of Henry to consider contact with Vance other than through official parliamentary email and phone is remarkable, especially considering the main basis of his report implicating Peter Dunne is by a process of eliminating others who had had contact with Vance.

Henry emphasises the fact that Dunne had much more contact with Vance than the other two people he investigated – but it shouldn’t be unusual that an MP, party leader and Minister would have much more contact with journalists than public servants.

Journalist opinion

From when Winston Peters accused Dunne up to his media conference on Friday 7 June journalists said they thought that Dunne was a most unlikely suspect. I didn’t see any predictions of what was about to happen.

The day afterwards there was widespread acceptance that Dunne was the culprit. Colin Espiner blogged:

But as someone who worked as a political editor in the press gallery for eight years, I’m 99 per cent convinced Dunne was responsible, based on his behaviour since, his refusal to co-operate with the inquiry, and my knowledge of how these things work.

And how these things work is that almost everyone does it. The only difference is that Dunne got caught because he didn’t cover his tracks well enough.

From Dunne being rated a 1% chance of being a leaker to 99% convinced that he was the leaker based on a further Dunne denial, no new evidence and the fact that “almost everyone does it” is, ah, interesting. And Espiner was wrong, Dunne wasn’t caught. He has been accused and implicated but there’s no evidence and there are unexplored alternatives.

My opinion

I still have an open mind on this. I can’t be certain one way or another – and I believe the same applies to nearly everyone else.

I put a lot of weight on Dunne’s reputation (acknowledged by journalists) of not being a leaker, his reputation of honesty, and his continued denials – but I note he has not denied directly to me, he has not responded to me on this at all.

I think Henry’s investigation was seriously deficient and certainly doesn’t come close to proof. It is simply based on a process of elimination that fails to consider the likelihood that most leakers would not use parliamentary emails to leak.

Even things that could imply Dunne’s possible guilt are puzzling – his refusal to release emails is assumed by some to damn him, but why would he release emails showing he considered leaking? Surely if he was covering his tracks he would have withheld that information too, he would have known this information would increase suspicions.

It seems very likely to me that a journalist like Vance would be seeking information from as many people as possible. I hope that’s what journalists do.

It’s feasible that Vance would have tried to get more than one person to leak the Kitteridge report to her.

Dunne admits he considered leaking it, but it could have been a step too far for him and out of character.

It’s quite feasible another person leaked the report to Vance, and she then sought Dunne’s opinion on aspects of the report – and this is what Dunne has kept from Henry.

I won’t rule out anything without evidence or an admission.

But at this stage I think logic and evidence (and lack of evidence) is in Dunne’s favour. Accusations of Dunne’s guilt are on weak grounds.

Leave a comment

4 Comments

  1. Brown

     /  19th June 2013

    In respect of politicians all allegations of criminal behaviour against them when there is some reasonable evidence to support the allegation (as there is here) should be like a tax case – guilty until proven innocent. We should set a high bar indeed for our representatives and have them looking over their shoulder all the time.

    Reply
    • What evidence is there in this case? I’m not aware of any.

      And apart from Peters and Mallard no one thinks anything crimuinal was done.

      Reply
  2. robertguyton

     /  19th June 2013

    It’s awful, Pete, to watch you flogging a dead horse this way.
    Give it a rest.

    Reply
    • What dead horse Robert? Do you know something that no one else knows?

      Or are you happy to convict people based on politics and absent any evidence?

      Reply

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