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.

Ominous for Dunne

The writing is on the wall for Peter Dunne. It’s on a number of walls, especially media walls.

Yesterday John Armstrong was clear in Gravity of situation seems to escape Mr Sensible’s notice:

Maybe the enormity of it all has yet to really sink in. Maybe Peter Dunne is in a state of complete and utter denial. Maybe in his mind he has convinced himself that he did not leak the Kitteridge report on the GCSB despite the evidence – although circumstantial – pointing unerringly in his direction.

With Vance and her employers adopting the standard response of never commenting on sources, it is a fair bet the answer as to who leaked the document lies somewhere in the pile of 86 emails Dunne exchanged with the journalist over a 14-day period.

The public may never know exactly what happened. But Henry’s short report is long enough for people to be able to draw their own conclusions.

And Colin Espiner has just blogged Captain Sensible got too near the flame at Stuff:

Former Revenue Minister/former UnitedFuture leader and possibly soon-to-be former MP Peter Dunne says he looked at but did not leak the GCSB report that found our security services had engaged in illegal spying on New Zealanders.

That wasn’t good enough for Prime Minister John Key who considered Dunne’s faint denials that he was responsible, together with his refusal to release all of the 80-plus emails exchanged with the Fairfax reporter who broke the story, was as close as anyone was going to get to an outright admission of guilt.

And fair enough, too. Even though I also work for Fairfax I have absolutely no idea who Andrea Vance’s sources for her story were – journalists protect sources absolutely, and wouldn’t tell their own mother or partner let alone their editor or a colleague.

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.

And also from Stuff with Is politician is done and dusted?:

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams said the situation is “end-of-career stuff”, and he expects Dunne to “lick his wounds, then go gracefully”.

It is going to be nigh on impossible for Dunne to argue against this weight of opinion.

About the only remaining question is how long it will take Dunne to come to terms with his situation. It’s a huge step for him to take after three decades in Parliament.

Ironically if he were to resign and champion GCSB and privacy issues that were likely to be involved in the decision to “consider leaking” the Kitteridge report he could end his career with a more enduring legacy than if he had just faded away. There is growing support for leaking the report.

Should Peter Dunne be New Zealand’s Bradley Manning?

Labour and the Greens should be thanking Dunne for having caused the report to be released.

Harping on about the leak of a taxpayer funded report on illegal spying, though, could have the potential to backfire, particularly on the Greens, who have long been ardent campaigners against this country’s entanglement in intelligence alliances. I suspect that Russel Norman will have to explain his position to some pretty angry Green activists in the near future.

And as for Peter Dunne being our Bradley Manning – probably to an extent, yes, as like that truly brave American soldier he risked everything and still got caught, albeit, in the service of a greater cause – freedom of information.

That might be taking it a bit far but Dunne could certainly exit his parliamentary career with higher honours than ex Minister of Revenue.

It would be ironic if Dunne exited parliament as a champion of the left.

And there seems little stigma in being a labelled leaker. Espiner says “almost everyone does it”, and details:

  • Peters is the king of leaks
  • Former Labour prime minister Helen Clark leaked like a sieve
  • There are very senior people sitting around Key’s Cabinet table who have leaked information to me in the past.

As usual there is much hypocrisy surrounding Winston Peters, in this case “the king of leaks” pursuing a leaker.

But the biggest  surprise seems to be that Dunne went so long without leaking. No wonder media didn’t pay him much attention.

The media rewards leaking by giving politicians the publicity they crave. Except Dunne, who doesn’t seem to have benefited in that way. And except when media discard them and throw them to the wolves – see Fairfax leaked or Peters is lying.

Fairfax leaked or Peters is lying

Someone leaked information about Peter Dunne to Winston Peters. That information was probably nowhere near as substantial as Peters is trying to portray – for example, in Parliament over the past two weeks Peters claimed the evidence was all in the phone records, but as soon as the Henry report came out he switched to intimating he had seen incriminating emails, because the report had details only on emails.

But obviously someone leaked to Peters. There are some very unlikely sources, like Peter Dunne, the GCSB, someone within parliamentary IT or a hacker. But there is as evidence much pointing to the source as there is linking Dunne to the Kitteridge leak.

Peters clearly indicates he got information from a journalist, as a Friday interview on Radio NZ shows:

Peters: I saw sufficient electronic records to know what I was talking about.

Watson: Where did you get them from?

Peters: Well that doesn’t matter really.

Watson: Well, it would be interesting to know though.

Peters: Ah, I’d never ask a journalist for their source because it’s a matter of professional integrity, you can’t disclose it otherwise you’ll never get any more information, and nor can I.

There is no proof Peters has seen emails, he won’t answer directly about that, he allows journalists to make statements for him and he answers vaguely – but doesn’t refute or deny. So he tacitly claims to have seen incriminating emails.

Whether Peters has seen emails or not, he has been fed sufficient certainty to launch a sustained attack on Dunne. A journalist from Fairfax would almost certainly be his source. This is despite continued Fairfax claims of secrecy. NZ Herald reports:

Asked if Dunne leaked stories to Vance, Fairfax executive editor Paul Thompson said: “We never talk about our confidential sources. I have no comment whatsoever to make, we won’t be going anywhere near that.”

But someone appears to have talked. Confidential sources may find it very hard to have any confidence in Fairfax.

In a column today Colin Espiner says:

Even though I also work for Fairfax I have absolutely no idea who Andrea Vance’s sources for her story were – journalists protect sources absolutely, and wouldn’t tell their own mother or partner let alone their editor or a colleague.

If Winston Peters isn’t lying then Espiner looks to be promoting a journalist lie – sources at Fairfax haven’t been protected. And it isn’t difficult to work out from this who must have some responsibility.

Someone has broken supposedly strict confidentiality knowing it is likely to end the career of New Zealand’s longest serving MP.

That can’t just be swept under the political/journalist rug.

Helen Kelly right and wrong on Gilmore

Helen Kelly has added to the growing criticisms of Aaron Gilmore – Unions call for Gilmore to resign

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said Gilmore’s behaviour toward the waiter demonstrated his ”completely unacceptable attitude”.

Gilmore had abused a position of power, she said, and shown an ”absolute disregard for the law, and the respect for working people”.

He had also not considered the impact the ordeal would have on the waiter and his livelihood, she said.

”You put yourself in this young person’s position and that’s a very very difficult position to be in.

”In a place like Hanmer where employment is not plentiful it’s a huge threat.”

Kelly believed Gilmore should face serious consequences for his actions.

So far Kelly is right.

”If he won’t resign I think they should kick him out,” she said.

No, Gilmore is a list MP and can’t be kicked out,. That’s why Brendon Horan remains an MP despite Winston’s disapproval of him.

”This issue raises questions on the nature of the National Party.”

Not really, no more than Kelly getting involved in petty political pointscoring would raise questions about the nature of the Council of Trade Unions.

This is clearly the actions of one MP who wouldn’t have been returned to Parliament if Kelly’s Labour Party hadn’t done so badly in the last election.

Whether Gilmore resigns or not his political future looks short. Colin Espiner explains:

There isn’t an awful lot Key can do to Gilmore in the short term, given he has no portfolios to be stripped of and no real responsibility for anything besides his account at Bellamy’s. The Heritage Hotel has said it is unlikely to file a complaint that could trigger disciplinary procedures against him.

But list MPs live or die by the party’s favour, and Gilmore shouldn’t expect a particularly high list ranking next year.

National are most likley going to have less MPs after the election next year anyway, and if Gilmore makes it onto the list it sounds like it will be too low to make the cut.

In 2011 Gilmore was the lowest ranked sitting MP on National’s list at 53.