Ardern to party members: “do drop me a line”, but…

On Thursday Jacinda Ardern sent an email to Labour Party members.

Dear ……….

Firstly, my apologies that it’s taken a few days to get this message to you. I know many of you will have seen media coverage around serious allegations involving Labour Party members. You may have also seen that Nigel Haworth has resigned as President of the Party. I wanted to share his statement with you.

I also wanted to acknowledge that while the Party has sought to act with the best of intentions, we also need to be an organisation that admits when mistakes have been made. It disappoints me, and I know others, that we will not have met the expectations we have set ourselves. We know we must do better.

I will continue to provide updates on the steps we’re taking, but in the meantime, support is available. If you wish to talk to someone specifically about the allegations that have been raised in the media, please contact our General Secretary Andre Anderson at [email address].

Otherwise, if you have questions or want to share any feedback, do drop me a line at [email address].

Until then, we’ll keep working on being better.

Thank-you

Jacinda Ardern

This is  personalised email, and suggests that Ardern is available for direct contact. But Prime Ministers are sent a lot of letters and emails and she can’t be expected to deal with all of them personally and promptly.

As this shows from Tova O’Brien at Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was sent email by alleged sexual assault victim

The Prime Minister says she is not in direct contact with any of the complainants in the Labour sexual assault and bullying investigation.

But Newshub was copied into an email on Thursday night, which was – sent directly to Jacinda Ardern – from someone who says they told Labour they were assaulted by the staffer who resigned yesterday.

The Prime Minister was asked if on Friday afternoon if she’d had any feedback or any response from the complainants.

“Anything, any response – generally obviously I’m not direct contact,” she told reporters in Christchurch.

But on Thursday night – there was direct contact to the Prime Minister’s inbox.

Copied in were the deputy Labour leader, Paula Bennett, another journalist and Newshub.

The email began “Dear Jacinda, I am one of the women who was assaulted….”

But Ardern said she’s not expecting any contact from complainants yet.

Ardern told the media on Friday her view and focus was getting the process right for the complainants.

Part of that process was making herself available for what looked like direct contact.

That may be the case – but if you invite feedback from complainants, checking emails, responding to them and acknowledging that contact seems key to getting the process right.

Ardern has established reputation for being very good at empathetic communications.

But she has also been growing a record of not delivering on her promises.

I don’t expect the Prime Minister to be able to respond to all personal emails immediately. She will have staff checking her inboxes, and passing on to Ardern what is important.

Passing on emails from complainants should be at the top of the priority list right now.

Ardern needs to be seen to be delivering on her promise as being an empathetic and approachable PM.

 

Ministers using private email accounts

The issue of Ministers using private email accounts while doing their jobs was raised in Parliament yesterday, when Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran struggled answering questions from National’s Melissa Lee – see Curran struggling with confidence and memory.

Melissa Lee: Does she use a personal email account or accounts to conduct any official business?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: From time to time, I have used my Gmail account. When using it, I adhere to my obligations as a Minister.

Melissa Lee: What Government business has she conducted via her Gmail account?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: To the best of my recollection, I haven’t used my—I’ve answered Official Information Act (OIA) responses and personal and parliamentary questions correctly, and, to the best of my recollection, you know, that’s what I’ve done.

Without being prompted on the Official Information Act Curran must have recognised it could come up.

Avoiding having to provide communications through OIA requests has previously been said to be a reason why a Minister might use a private email account. It is a serious issue if Ministers use private emails to deliberately avoid their OIA obligations.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard then made this comment:

SPEAKER: And I’m going to rule that the member, between the primary and the supplementary answer, certainly answered that to my satisfaction. I mean, I think all of us know that there’s no restriction on members or Ministers using Gmail accounts. I think all of us know that a large amount of the foreign affairs business of the previous Government was carried out by Gmail.

That’s alarming. Is there really no restriction on Ministers using private email accounts when doing their jobs?

This came up as far back as 2012 when Activists hacked McCully’s emails

Labour says revelations Foreign Affairs Minister McCully’s email account was hacked into is a wake-up call and raises serious questions about what was sent to the private address.

The Telecom Xtra account was broken into by international hackers’ collective Anonymous, potentially revealing sensitive Cabinet information and cable traffic from foreign posts.

McCully had asked that official emails be forwarded to that account while he was overseas in April last year.

Prime Minister John Key said he was aware of the breach and warned other ministers to be more careful, particularly about passwords.

Key didn’t seem to have a problem with McCully using a private account, just that he may have had an insecure password.

Interestingly:

Labour’s information technology spokeswoman Clare Curran said she was “bemused” to learn the minister was having emails forwarded to a private accounts.

“There are questions to be answered.”

If it was easier for the minister to access a private account when he was overseas, that was an issue that needed to be addressed by Parliament’s information technology department.

But it was concerning if there was another reason, she said.

“What sort of correspondence would be going on between a minister and officials through a private account that wasn’t subject to the Official Information Act?”

From time to time the Parliamentary email system was unable to be accessed, Curran said.

“(But) given he holds a ministerial position, is it sensible to be using another email account which is so obviously that you’re a minister?”

She was aware six years ago of the potential to use “a private account that wasn’t subject to the Official Information Act”, but on other matters, like having private meetings, Curran’s memory has been a bit suspect so maybe she forgot this by the time she became Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Minister for Government Digital Services and Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government) – she lost the Digital Services and Open Government portfolios two weeks ago due to her indiscretions.

I’d be surprised if there are not clear guidelines if not rules by now on the use of email accounts by Ministers.

Security is an obvious issue, especially after McCully had his private email account hacked.

And security and transparency of email accounts has received international attention when Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked and leaked to (successfully) try to derail her presidential campaign.

It pales in comparison to the email controversy surrounding former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her 2016 presidential run against US President Donald Trump, but has raised similar questions over security and transparency of information.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/106851077/embattled-minister-clare-curran-struggles-to-explain-using-personal-email-for-government-business

After that major security breach surely the new Zealand Parliament has ensured the our Ministers have secure email accounts to conduct their business.

And our Official Information Act was obviously on Curran’s mind yesterday. She referred to it indirectly and directly four times:

Hon CLARE CURRAN: From time to time, I have used my Gmail account. When using it, I adhere to my obligations as a Minister.

Hon CLARE CURRAN: To the best of my recollection, I haven’t used my—I’ve answered Official Information Act (OIA) responses and personal and parliamentary questions correctly…

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I worked with my office to ensure that I am responding appropriately to OIA requests and parliamentary questions.

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I have reviewed my processes with my office. I reassure that member that I’ve released information in accordance with the OIA.

And her final answer:

Hon CLARE CURRAN: As I’ve said, I have reviewed processes in my office, including with the former Government digital services.

I’m not sure what she means by “the former Government digital services”, but whoever runs email and communications systems for Ministers (and MPs), and whoever sets rules for communications and information storage for Ministers, surely must have secure systems and clear rules on use of email accounts.

I don’t know what official systems Ministers and MPs use for emailing. This from 2016 in Parliamentary Service defends blocking email between MP and Fairfax journalist:

Parliamentary Service told Hipkins the email he tried to forward was picked up by the secure system because he “sent it to a domain that does not use SEEMail” – in this case, Fairfax.

SEEMail is the agency used by Parliamentary Service for MPs and staff emails.

“SEEMail is an all of government secure messaging system that we subscribe to. SEEMail classified messages can only be sent to-from approved government departments and agencies,” Parliamentary Service wrote.

Their public email addresses must be in a different system too this.

They can’t just leave it to Ministers to do as they see fit.

Dotcom’s email evidence was a forgery – SFO

Kim Dotcom’s extravagant town hall ‘Moment of Truth’ during the 2014 election campaign fell flat in part because an email that Dotcom planned to produce to prove John Key’s collusion with Hollywood fell through when it was claimed to be a forgery.

The Serious Fraud Office has now put out a statement saying that they are satisfied that the email was a forgery.

NZ Herald: SFO: Kim Dotcom’s smoking gun email evidence was a ‘forgery’

The Herald can today report for the first time that the SFO investigated the email, which emerged on the eve of the 2014 election claiming then-Prime Minister John Key was involved in a conspiracy to get Dotcom.

It is also a definite statement rejecting any possibility the email is genuine.

In a statement, the SFO said: “The SFO confirms that it carried out an investigation into this matter. As a result of that investigation, the SFO is satisfied that the email was a forgery.”

Dotcom said today that he still believed the email to be genuine and was surprised the SFO was able to be so definite.

“I believe the email to be real,” he said.

But he backed off revealing it at his ‘Moment of Truth’.

The purported email was from Warner Bros chief executive Kevin Tsujihara to the Motion Picture Association of America’s Asia-Pacific president Michael Ellis.

It was dated the day Key met Tsujihara and was in the midst of Immigration NZ’s consideration of Dotcom’s residency.

dotcomemail8

A Warner Bros senior vice president told the Herald at the time: “Kevin Tsujihara did not write or send the alleged email, and he never had any such conversation with Prime Minister Key. The alleged email is a fabrication.”

A spokeswoman for the MPAA said: “Mike Ellis never received this alleged email or discussed this matter with Kevin Tsujihara.”

Dotcom said today that the email was “easy to discredit” because it did not have “headers” – detailed information which shows the internet protocol address from which it was sent or the relays and servers it passed through.

As a result, he “could not use it at the Moment of Truth” – the event he organised at the Auckland Town Hall the week before the 2014 election. There, whistleblower Edward Snowden, Julian Assange of Wikileaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald made claims of mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

“It was a huge disappointment and distracted from the bigger picture: The Government and its participation in mass surveillance,” Dotcom said.

That was all timed to try and swing the election against the National government. Dotcom was financing and promoting his own Internet Party, which not only failed itself it also dragged down the Mana Party.

The email is back in the spotlight thanks to a new taxpayer-funded documentary into the Dotcom case. Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web, which premiered at the SXSW film festival in the United States this week, includes the German-born entrepreneur talking about the origins of the email.

In the documentary, he says: “That email, I know it comes from hacker circles. You know about the famous Sony Hack. The same people who were responsible for that hack, were responsible for this hack.”

But it was text only, without the details necessary to prove authenticity.

Investigators familiar with SFO methods told the Herald the definite statement the email was a forgery revealed an deep and forensic-style investigation.

One investigator with SFO experience said the agency would have sought statements or interviews from the named executives and access to the servers. It would have studied the format and style of the email to see if it was consistent with where it was supposed to have come from.

Checking servers of the purported recipient and sender would be essential too. “If you did both parties and neither had it, that would be a strong basis to support the argument it was a forgery.”

He said the inquiry would also have involved each person believed or known to have contact being considered.

The SFO have gone further than saying that the email can’t be authenticated, they have stated that they think it was a forgery.

It’s hard to believe that Dotcom would fabricate a bogus email as he would known it would be denied.

Was Dotcom set up? If so, by whom, and why? Was it done to try to help Dotcom, or to try to trash his credibility?

Yahoo spied on emails

Note that until very recently Xtra emails went via Yahoo.

Reuters: Exclusive: Yahoo secretly scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence – sources

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

This raises some important issues, like who else does this spying for spy agencies.

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target. The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Reuters was unable to confirm whether the 2015 demand went to other companies, or if any complied.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, did not respond to requests for comment.

That’s also a concern, for US email users anyway. What about New Zealand email users?

But we all knew that our emails were at risk of being snooped on, didn’t we.

 

Hipkins overreacts to email blocking

What is it with Labour at the moment? Their current strategy seems to be to overreact to things.

Starting yesterday and doubling down Leader Andrew Little poured scorn on an unfavourable  Colmar Brunton poll, so the media pored attention on Labour’s continuing struggles to look credible in the polls.

And today Chris Hipkins went overboard in his criticism when he had an email to a Fairfax journalist blocked.

Stuff: Parliamentary Service defends blocking email between MP and Fairfax journalist

An urgent investigation has being called for by Labour’s Chris Hipkins after an email he was trying to send to a Fairfax journalist was blocked on Monday night.

In an email exchange between Hipkins and Parliamentary Service, which provides administrative and support services to MPs, Labour’s chief whip was told his email was blocked because it had “trigger” words in it.

That’s fairly standard in just about any email system. Some of the blocking can seem stupid but it is easily sorted out. Parliamentary services has a secure email system, as it should.

Parliamentary Service told Hipkins the email he tried to forward was picked up by the secure system because he “sent it to a domain that does not use SEEMail” – in this case, Fairfax.

SEEMail is the agency used by Parliamentary Service for MPs and staff emails.

“SEEMail is an all of government secure messaging system that we subscribe to. SEEMail classified messages can only be sent to-from approved government departments and agencies,” Parliamentary Service wrote.

Parliamentary Service went on to confirm they had blocked the email because the attachment he was trying to send contained the words “SEEMail” and “sensitive”.

Hipkins says this is a “clear breach of parliamentary privilege”.

“That’s outrageous, they have no right to be screening the emails being sent by Members of Parliament. It shouldn’t matter where I got the information from, they’ve got no right to monitor my emails in the first place.”

“I know that National is now cosying up to (Fiji Prime Minister) Frank Bainimarama, but that doesn’t mean they can adopt his dictatorial, anti-democratic methods here in New Zealand,” he said.

That’s outrageous from Hipkins. He probably won’t be welcome in Fiji from now on, but he is blasting the wrong targets.

On further investigation, Labour staff found various other examples in the last few weeks where emails had been blocked – previously they’ve not had any issues.

It should be easily sorted out – if Hipkins goes through the appropriate process instead of grandstanding, offensively.

Parliamentary Services must allow reasonably unrestricted communications between MPs and journalists, and between MPs and constituents.

But the must also provide a secure email system that protects MPs

Perhaps some better communications are in order from Parliamentary Services, and from Hipkins.

The sooner Labour gets a competent chief of staff and some press officers that know what they are doing the better.

How Northland is Actively Neglected in Mike Sabins electorate – Andrew Blake email #2

There’s been some controversy in Northland with people from a ‘dusty roads’ group (Pipiwai Titoki Advocacy for Community Health & Safety Group) and National MPs involving emails and a recorded phone call between Alex Wright and Whangarei MP Shane Reti.

Andrew Blake wrote the emails, and has provided copies and comments.

No 2 was the second one that Shane objected to and rants on about neglect in Northland and how it is “”organised neglect.”” .ie the Nat Govt trying to save money by ”shortchanging ” us on or roading needs. It is again not addressed to Shane specifically……. but to all Parliament etc

Email #2

Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2015 16:36:46 +1300

Subject: How Northland is Actively Neglected in Mike Sabins electorate.

Northlands MPs might seem to be  helping the  Goverment in Wellington shortchange Northland Electorates .?
Despite a vigorous  two year campaign,…….it has proved impossible to pin down either of
Northlands National MPs to commit to helping with   Roading, Health and Safety matters.?.

When asked to intercede with Councils for some  compliance with national directives on Health and Safety for instance, our Northland MPs insist they cannot ”interfere” with ”the working of Local Council”

By insisting that  they owe more loyalty to their Party than to the people who elected them…..(and despite being asked to do so several times)…….our Northland MPs choose NOT to question…. or protest in Parliament about:

1)How inadequate the Road Funding is that allocated to Northland by NZTA;

2)How Road User Charges are diverted to other regions such as Waikato by both Government and Business;

3) How our Councils WDC and NRC are in blatant breach of Environment Law and the Resource Consent Act in terms of the Air Pollution on our Unsealed Roads.

Requests to help with any of these matters gets some very devious answers. Both Northland MPs have used  ……the word ”secrecy” …ie they insist they can only help their voters ”in secret”..

Our MPs  also  seem loath to venture opinions on Northland in Wellington  ….except where it interacts with  ”Roads of National Importance”

Which is fine if you live near SH1 between Warkworth as far as the Bay of Islands but rather sad if you live on Dirt Roads, Narrow Rds, Unmaintained Rds …and until last week…..those places needing Wider Bridges

Despite being not allowed to interact with local Councils. Our MPs  DO turn up  in public alongside Government Ministers when our Council launches “Glamour projects” in Whangarei eg  such as the new and misfunctioning  swing bridge.

And  our MPs do meet informally with Council at  e.g the Mayoral Forum and elsewhere.
Is it in such ways that the Northland Councils get the message of what is expected of them by Govt.?
It seems to Northlanders that sometimes our  MPs behave more like Political Commissars than Representatives of the People?

And Now….
With one MP out of action…  the National Govt has  an even  better way of controlling democracy in our local Councils in Northland.

All you  need is for one of the Commissioners for the Kaipara to sit on Northland Regional Council meetings.

With a decision on the Northland Unitary Authority  looming …..it might seem that such a representative of the Commissioners for Kaipara is referred to (and deferred to?) in all matters ……and that such a person often has strong views on what is ALLOWED by Govt; eg on Roads and Air Pollution matters

“Dust and Unsealed Rds in Northland are a NO-GO as far as funding is concerned.”
(We get this information before the submissions process is complete)

Anyone who knows Northland does not need to be told how passionately most of our local Council members  and Whangarei businessmen get in behind our National MPS  and support  Central Goverment in any way that will save expense on infrastructure on RURAL NORTHLAND.

A perfect example is the way logging interests drive rough shod over all humanitarian concerns and seem to control the  vote in all Roading matters.

In  Northland it seems that up until now our Electoral Process has been just a plaything for the National Party.
Can we hope that a new MP will change things?