Thorn’s resignation – more revelations to come?

The Kitteridge leak has it’s second casualty. Peter Dunne resigned as Minister when the Henry report painted him as the leaker.

And now, after it became apparent there were alarming releases of MP and journalist data that contributed to a witch-hunt, the head of the Parliament Service, Geoff Thorn, has resigned.

I think political and public servant resignations are demanded far too much. But people get into untenable situations and it happens. Much to the glee of some, who love seeing political blood being spilled.

To me there is always a tinge of sadness when they occur. It means a major change to someone’s career, and can also have a significant affect on family.

Thorn had overall responsibility for a number of things of concern. NZ Herald reports:

A Datacom contractor gave the records to David Henry’s inquiry into the leak of Rebecca Kitteridge’s GCSB compliance report.

The service also provided incorrect answers to written questions from Mr Carter over whether the records were sought.

Mr Carter said he had accepted Mr Thorn’s resignation after confidence in Parliamentary Service had been dented.

Confidence has certainly been severely dented. But is this all?

The Privileges Committee is having an inquiry into the release of journalist data and associated issues. In three weeks time all those relevant to the inquiry will have to front up to a public questioning. Even though Thorn finishes today the committee can still require him to take part. They must see Thorn as an important part of their inquiry.

Thorn’s three month severance deal seems like a quick, quiet and uncontested exit package. Is there anything else that prompted the resignation, something that is likely to be revealed by the inquiry?

Another aspect of this whole issue that is seen as serious by media is the involvement of Winston Peters in accusations and smearing, using leaked data as ammunition in his attempted hit job. See Winston Peters: “It’s my job to know”.

But it was Thorn’s responsibility for Peters – or any other MP or anyone else – not to know what was happening in a sensitive inquiry, and not to know any details of communications of rival MPs. This has very serious implications.

The leaks Peters occurred on Thorn’s watch.

And if we take any of Peters’ claims seriously there must have been multiple leaks to him. Peters initially claimed all the evidence was in the phone records – and this was before anything was publicly known about the nature of the Henry inquiry.

When the phone records didn’t figure in Henry’s Report Peters switched to implying and claiming he had seen and possibly had emails. If he has seen emails it is an extremely serious matter, an appalling breach of security and privacy.

Peters also claimed there were multiple communications. This would mean multiple leaks of information.

Of course Peters may simply be a lying opportunist who was fed a smidgen of information which he used to try and destroy the career of an elected MP.  That is serious on it’s own.

But if Peters had access to any data of Andrea Vance or Peter Dunne it would an even more alarming breech of security.

On Thorn’s watch. This may have added weight to the decision for Thorn to resign quickly and quietly.

Peters seems to not want Thorn to appear before the committee. Why? Stuff reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters said Thorn was a scapegoat and questioned if his resignation meant he would not give evidence to an inquiry launched by Parliament’s Privileges Committee into how Vance’s records came to be handed over.

But that might be wishful thinking.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, who heads the Privileges Committee, yesterday suggested Thorn’s departure would not stop them calling him to give evidence.

His evidence is crucial to finding out the extent to which discussions with Eagleson influenced the decision to hand over Vance’s phone and swipe-card records.

And it might shed some light on the dark arts of Winston Peters.

Interestingly Peters is on the Privileges Committee. I don’t know how that will affect any inquiry into his involvement in the access of data and information about the data.

The Privileges Committee should be examining this aspect of the Henry data debacle. It seems highly likely there will be more revelations to come.

Geoff Thorn may be simply unfortunate to have been the muggins in the middle of a complex game of political manoeuvring and muggings.