Parliamentary Services spying on journalists

It looks like investigators in a GCSB spy report leak inquiry may have illegally obtained “spy” metadata that show the movement around Parliament of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance, and also Peter Dunne (after his pressured reluctant consent).

Peter Dunne resigned as Minister when he refused to reveal emails between himself and Vance.

The inquiry was demanding emails between Dunne and Vance were handed over, and as a result of Dunne’s refusal David Henry effectively accused Dunne of leaking the Kitteridge report – despite having no evidence (that he has revealed), and despite Henry’s investigation virtually ignoring many other leaking possibilities.

Stuff report Journalist’s movements tracked by leak inquiry

The journalist who was leaked a sensitive report on the nation’s foreign spy network had her movements tracked by a government inquiry.

Peter Dunne said inquiry head David Henry detailed to him the movements of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance in and out of the parliamentary precinct.

The conversation related to Vance’s movements the day before the leaked report was published and appeared to be based on Henry having access to records of when she entered and left the building using her security swipe card.

Henry last night repeatedly refused to answer questions about that claim and said he had no comment.

And Peter Dunne says he was pressured into allowing the release of meta data that tracked his movements.

It’s worth asking again here – were leaks to Winston Peters aimed at putting further pressure on Dunne to reveal information and admit guilt (Dunne still denies he leaked the report)?

Dunne confirmed last night he gave permission for his own records to be accessed but only after coming under significant pressure and because he did not have anything to hide.

And only the tracking of Dunne’s movements was disclosed.

Henry’s published report made no mention of Vance’s movements being tracked and referred only to  Dunne’s movements.

Conformation that metadata was released:

Parliamentary Service confirmed last night it released ”metadata” and other security records to Henry for his inquiry but said only after it was satisfied ”that ministers had agreed to cooperate with the investigation”.

It said it would be expected that all swipe cards were reviewed ”if there is a security incident”.

I don’t know that an inquiry into a historical leak could be classed as a “security incident”.

Fairfax can confirm that Vance did not give her permission to hand over her records to the inquiry.

David Farrar: “Parliamentary Service should not have released @avancenz swipe card details without a warrant. Journalists are not employees.

Constitutional expert Graeme Edgeler: “Parliamentary Service is subject to the Privacy Act so @avancenz can complain under that”.

Group executive editor Paul Thompson said last night it would be worrying if the movements of journalists and MPs were being tracked through a security system that was supposed to protect people working within the building, not be used to watch over them.

Fairfax would be raising the issue with Parliamentary Service.

I think they should raise the issue, it is potentially very serious – a very worrying precedent.

No Right Turn blogs on this in Spying on journalists.

The Prime Minister says it was nothing to do with him. So who authorised it? Because I can’t imagine Parliamentary Services handing out this information without someone telling them to.

Meanwhile, it raises a host of deeply unpleasant questions. Was the Speaker consulted? If not, it seems like a prima facie breach of Parliamentary privilege. Do they spy on other journalists? Their backbenchers? The opposition?

And most importantly, did they get GCSB to track Vance’s movements outside Parliament using her cellphone?

GCSB remember does not regard such spying using metadata as being outlawed by their legislation, and both Kitteridge and their “Inspector-General” basically gave a green light to doing so domesticly. And yet we’ve just had the perfect demonstration of how intrusive and powerful it is, and why it needs to be subject to judicial scrutiny and conduct only with a warrant: because otherwise, we’re letting those in power spy on everything we do.

By spying on a journalist in Parliament, the Key government has once again abused our democracy.

Journalists are not some interlopers in the parliamentary precinct, to be treated like burglars there to steal the family silver. They are a vital part of the democratic process, and their communications with politicians, whether government or opposition, ought to be given the highest degree of protection.

It looks like spying in this country is out of control.There are very important principles of democracy, free press and privacy involved.

The whole issue of spying and security of personal data deserves far more scrutiny than the fast tracked patch up GCSB Amendment Bill that is going through Parliament at the moment.

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1 Comment

  1. QUOTE: ” The whole issue of spying and security of personal data deserves far more scrutiny than the fast tracked patch up GCSB Amendment Bill that is going through Parliament at the moment. UNQUOTE

    This may actually be the real issue. Everything in this post points to dubious motives and actions. I would not be surprised if the situation was a trial run to see how this kind of spying works out. Think PRISM and you get my drift.


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