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.

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