Goff fibbed again?

In trying to diminish his responsibility for leaking the Gwyn SIS report Phil Goff has highlighted a discrepancy between his and Andrew Little’s claims.

Goff fibbed to Radio New Zealand about not lying or he has put his leader Andrew Little in an embarrassing position – actually this is awkward for Little regardless.

This what he said to Radio NZ yesterday:

“I didn’t lie about it, but I didn’t pretend that I didn’t make the comments and I apologised for being in breach of her embargo. I should have honoured it to the letter.”

Goff off the hook over leak

And this is what Andrew Little was reported as saying in defence of Goff last month:

“He’s given me those assurances, I’m satisfied with that,” he said on Firstline this morning.

“He hasn’t given the report to anybody, he declined media interviews until the report was released at 10am yesterday, so I don’t know where they came from and I’m satisfied they didn’t come from Phil Goff.”

Goff: SIS report leak ‘perfectly appropriate’

Someone has not been truthful.

Goff had presumably have talked to Little about whether he had leaked or not and will have known that Little defended him. Emphasising now that “I didn’t lie about it, but I didn’t pretend that I didn’t make the comments” highlights the discreoancy between Goff’s and Little’s claims.

Goff has put Andrew Little in a very difficult position here. The time of year might reduce the spotlight but it’s not a good look for a new era for Labour’s caucus under Little’s leadership.

It also makes Inspector General Cheryl Gwyn letting Goff off look weak when he then appears to mislead with impunity.

UPDATE: I posted on this at The Standard and a typical response – they have launched into attacks on me with little attempt to contest the facts.

One thing they’re expert at is drawing attention to things they don’t like.

After a pile of petty dirt it probably won’t be long before they accuse me of disrupting the thread.

UPDATE2: Tracey calls it as it is

When it was confirmed yesterday by goffs apology, i rolled my eyes. Just as I did when I saw he has a SST column. Little needs to do a Key and get Goff to state NOW that he is NOT standing at the next election.

IMO, Little saying nothing yesterday, to my knowledge, leaves open the strong suggestion that Little knew about the leak and it was part of a strategy.

So, PG, I deplore dishonesty in our leaders, and every elected MP imo is supposed to be a leader. It undermines our democracy and the trust people have in our systems.

If I were Little I would have announced yesterday that Mr Goff is gone.

And:

Unless Little intends carrying on the awful tradition of planned leaking that some of our pollies indulge in, this was a chance to put his foot down.

It is unfathomable that Goff didnt know exactly what the media would do, sack him, show you have a genuine standard.

Question Time: Key versus Little

3. Prime Minister—Communications with Blogger and Report on SIS Release of Information

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by any of his statements last week about the Gwyn report and about his relationship with Cameron Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Andrew Little : Does he stand by his statement that he “did not mislead people” when he said that Cameron Slater “ … sent me a text one time and I can’t remember when it was”, given they had exchanged texts the evening before?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes.

Andrew Little : Why has he maintained a political relationship with Cameron Slater since the release of Dirty Politics?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : For the most part I think I have made the point that I have not. I have not had a proactive relationship with him. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Leader of the Opposition wants to ask a further supplementary question.

Andrew Little : In light of Bill English’s statement that Dirty Politics “isn’t the style of politics I participate in”, why does he think Mr English is distancing himself from the Prime Minister’s style of politics?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think Mr English is quite correct. We do not undertake that on this side of the House, but if I could just take a moment to catalogue the long list from the left. Shall we start with the H-Fee, or shall we go to some of the other actions that we have seen, like Phil Goff leaking reports to try to get a better spin. Or should we go through to the person from the Labour Party—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not think that answer is actually going to help the order of the House.

Andrew Little : Why does he delete records of his text conversations with Cameron Slater? Is it standard practice to delete records of his smear machine, as revealed in both the Gwyn and Chisholm reports?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do, on an ongoing basis, delete all of my text messages. I do that for a very good reason because, amongst everything else, they would clog up my phone, but for security reasons, it is in case I lost my phone.

Andrew Little : In light of his statements this morning that he has nothing to fear from Cameron Slater releasing their communications, will he now request that Mr Slater release those records?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Now I have got trouble with noise from my right-hand side, as Mr Little attempts to ask his supplementary question.

Andrew Little : Why, a week on from the inspector-general’s report, has it taken this long for the Prime Minister to admit his true political relationship with Cameron Slater; and why will he not just front up and tell New Zealanders straight what he has been up to in his office?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have been clear. As I said last week, it is not a proactive relationship. The member obviously has real issues with it, so here is a little question for him: has he made it quite clear to some members of his caucus? Has he made it quite clear to his acting chief of staff? Has he made it quite clear to all members of the Labour Party that they should have no contact with Mr Slater? And can he answer this question: when was the last time that they did? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Only if I call the honourable member to do so.

[Sitting date: 02 December 2014. Volume:702;Page:3. Text is subject to correction.]

Do everyone a favour and prosecute Goff

Phil Goff has admitted to what appears to be an illegal act – he leaked parts of a report given to him confidentially in advance of it’s official release by the Inspector-General for Intelligence. His apparent motive was to put his selected bits of the story into a favourable light.
Goff has a history of being involved in significant leaks. He – like other politicians – leak because they can get away with it. In this case Goff seems to have blatantly ignored the law, assuming impunity.

For the good of our democracy the Police should prosecute Goff. It’s time a stand was made against MPs breaking the law when it suits them.

Prosecuting Goff would do our democracy a huge favour. It would make it clear that MPs are not above the law.

It would also do the National Government a favour, but that’s simple collateral benefit.

And it would do Labour a favour if it prompts Goff to either resign from Parliament or stand down at the last election. He seems to be well past his political used by date.

It would be a major snub for Goff and he would probably feel bitter about it but it would also probably do him a favour and get him out of politics. He seems jaded by accumulated bitterness, so a little more bitterness won’t hurt much.

MPs should set an example and abide by the law, and if not they should be made an example of. Goff is as deserving as any for making a stand against MPs who ignore the law.

It would do everyone a favour. Especially our democracy.

Summary of the Glyn report

I haven’t read the Gwyn report, I haven’t had the time. However ‘georgebolwing’ has read it and posted a summary at Kiwiblog.

Having read Cheryl Gwyn’s report, my take on what happened is as follows (sorry, this is very long, but complex issues will cause that):

a) On Monday 14 March 2011, the Director of the SIS met with Leader of the Opposition; the SIS’s Security Intelligence Report (SIR) on Israeli issue was included in Director’s agenda for that meeting (we’ll get to whether this constitutes a “briefing” later);

b) on 21 July 2011, in response to the question “If the SIS is still investigating this matter, would you as Leader of the Opposition and being on the committee that oversees the SIS expect to be told?”, Phil Goff said : “I would, actually. I get briefed, regularly, by the Security Intelligence Service and sit on the Committee that oversees the Security Intelligence Service. … This hasn’t come before the select committee. It’s not been part of any briefing to me.”. (Emphasis added).

c) knowing that he had received a briefing on the matter, and suspecting that the Leader of the Opposition had too, the PM had his office check with the NZSIS whether there had been a briefing. The Director of the SIS told the PM, over the phone, that Goff had “received the same briefing” as the PM.

d) Mr Phil de Joux, the PM’s deputy Chief of Staff, with the PM’s authority, also spoke to the NZSIS at this time to confirm that The Leader of the Opposition had received a briefing. He was given a description of the briefing documents and the date of those documents, by the the Deputy Director of the NZSIS on 22 July.

e) it transpires that the way the PM was routinely briefed by the Director and the way the Leader of the Opposition are briefed was materially different. With the PM, the Director ticks off each item on the agenda, and the PM, at the end of the meeting, signs the agenda, signifying that he has, indeed, been “briefed” on each item. With the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader never gets to see the agenda, doesn’t counter-signed it and the director makes a note, that he keeps on file and never gives to the Leader, of anything that needs to be recorded.

f) thinking that when the Director said that Goff had “received the same briefing as the PM”, the Director meant “received the same type of briefing, with the ticking off the agenda items and counter-signing”, the Pm decided that he had a “gotcha” and went on the attack. In a television interview broadcast on 24 July 2011, the Prime Minister said that the Director had told him the Leader of the Opposition had received the same briefing that he, the Prime Minister, had received.

g) faced with this statement from the PM, Goff sought a meting with the Director, which took place on 25 July. At that meeting, the Leader and the Director discussed the briefing. Phil Goff made notes, which said “Mr T Recollected – flicked thru a number of issues which included looking at Israelis in Chch at time of EQ but not dwelt on it. Mr Tucker said he had a report on the Israelis but having now looked at it I am certain I had never read it. It was an initial report dated 8 March which was inconclusive about the activities at that stage of the investigation. I have not seen nor been offered the subsequent reports on the matter.” The director was given a copy and wrote on the top of it “Note made by Mr Goff during our meeting on 25 July 11. This is our agreed position. WT 25 July.( Emphasis added. “WT” means Warren Tucker. Ed.).”

h) On the same day, Phil de Joux, told Jason Eade of the PM’s office of the nature of the briefing given to Phil Goff and the dates. He suggested to Eade ion that it might prompt an OIA request for those documents. Mr Ede then provided that information to Mr Slater, discussed the terms of the OIA request with Mr Slater and provided Mr Slater with draft blog posts concerning the issue.

i) in subsequent press comments, Phil Goff started to used the “position” he thought he had agreed with the Director: that they had “flicked through” a number of issues, but Goff had never read the document.

j) Tucker thought that in doing so, Goff was attacking his integrity. He wanted to put the record straight.

k) the NZSIS received three requests for material about the briefing given to Goff, one from Cameron Slater (expressed as an OIA) and two from news media, in the form of requests for comment. All three requests went to the same general inquiries e-mail address.

l) the two requests from the news media were sent to NZSIS press officers, and were declined, as part of normal NZSIS practice not to comment on operational matters;

m) Slater’s request went to the NZSIS’s OIA officer, who assembled most of the relevant papers (not the hand written note from Phil Goff — this becomes key later) and recommended that they not be released on national security grounds.

n) the Director told his staff that he was inclined to release the documents, with significant withholding, and work was put in train by the NZSIS’s general counsel to redact the documents, to remove material not covered by the request and material covered that was to be released.

o) without going into detail, the documents released were inaccurate, incomplete and misleading (Gwyn’s words).

p) when informed by the Director of the impending released, Goff is angry and asks to see the material to be released. Tucker refuses, so Goff has to put in his own OIA to get copies.

q) Shit hits fan. Cameron Slater, armed with inaccurate, incomplete and misleading information, makes inaccurate, incomplete and misleading comments, which are picked up by others.

My conclusions are as follows:

a) Goff was caught out making a statement that was inaccurate;

b) the PM and his office thought they had a “gotcha” and facilitated released of documents to embarrass Goff;

c) the Director and Goff disagree on some aspects of what transpired and their is no way of reconciling that;

d) the Director released information that was inaccurate, incomplete and misleading, and in doing so was probably in breach of a very special statutory obligation that he (and few other public servants have), which is that he “must take all reasonable steps to ensure that … the Security Intelligence Service does not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party”.

From what I know about it that seems a reasonable summary. And ‘mikenmild’, who stands out from the right-leaners at Kiwiblog, says “I agree with george’s analysis”.

I remember that Goff publicly attacked Warren Tucker, presumably presuming that Tucker had no right of reply,

But Tucker gave himself a right of reply via the OIA request, providing Slater with “inaccurate, incomplete and misleading” information that was used to publicly attack Goff. Tucker claims he was “between a rock and a hard place”.

Phil Goff: “please explain” spleak

The media have now Phil Goff’s leaking of confidential information prior to the release of the Gwyn report, at the instigation of a “please explain” request to Goff after it was claimed and it was later admitted he gave information to journalists.

Stuff reports:

The inspector-general of intelligence and security yesterday issued a “please explain” request to Goff over why aspects of her report were given to journalists before it was released.

Gwyn said she was aware of Goff’s statements that he had disclosed some information concerning findings in her report.

She would be seeking further information from Goff and others. A conviction for a breach under the IGIS Act could trigger a fine of up to $50,000 against a company or corporation or a $10,000 fine and a year in jail, or both, for an individual.

Goff leaked selected parts of the report in an obvious attempt to pre-empt the publicity the report would receive. A classic spin leak (spleak).

Goff has a history of leaking – see “Goff is a serial leaker”. And that’s just significant ones that are known about.

Prosecutions for breaking the law involving politics are not common, hence the continuation of leaking with apparent impunity.

In this case it is very ironic as the Gwyn report looked in to the passing on of information for political purposes. It turns out that the report found nothing illegal about the information passed on to Slater, but Goff seems to have blatantly broken the law trying to set the narrative around the report.

Goff’s spleaking may have been counter productive anyway. Media and blogs got excited about the damage the report would deliver for Key and National and then the report delivered far less – and was called a whitewash by some.

Somewhere between Key and Goff/Norman/Hager

John Key hasn’t dealt with the fallout from “Dirty Politics” well. He has batted off many accusations, that’s normal for playing politics. But he should accept some responsibility for what has been played out of his office via Jason Ede.

Some of the claims against Key have been overplayed. Anthony Robins at The Standard in John Key vs the truth:

RNZ sums up:

Prime Minister John Key is refusing to accept there was a link between his office and right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, despite the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) watchdog finding his official passed on information.

Key thinks he can simple lie and refuse to accept facts. He can’t get away with it. Can he?

It depends on what “link” means.

Certainly Key’s office – and Key himself – have had contact with Slater and have used him for playing political games – and Slater has used Ede and Key for his own agendas.

But there is no proof yet that an out of the ordinary smear campaign was orchestrated by Key through his office.

Many of the mainstream media are not neutral bystanders here. They have been used far more than Slater has been used for a long time, by Prime Ministers, their offices and by other party leaders and their offices.

The question that none of them seem to be asking is was the collusion with Slater any different to what politicians have done with journalists for yonks? He may have received favourable feeding in the Goff/SIS case but one channel or newspaper often get political exclusives from informants. So was this much different to politics/media as usual?

And how different was it to Hager playing the media when he released his book? And since?

And how different is it to Goff leaking favourable (to him) parts of the Gwyn report a day before it was due to be released? Did he leak to all media equally? Or did he feed journalists who he thought would promote his spin best?

“Dirty Politics” is supposed to be “Key evil, the Left exemplary”, and mainstream media are aghast – to an extent at Whale Oil stealing their thunder and doing little different to what they have done with politicians for much longer.

I’d like to see Key and Goff and Norman to all own up to playing politics, and playing it dirty at times. Hager and Norman won’t think they are part of the dirty brigade but they involve themselves in gamesmanship, promoting selective facts and over the top attacks as the other lot.

I don’t expect Cameron Slater to change his spots, but they are polka dot in effectiveness now anyway.

Will anyone in the media take a step back and look at their complicity in all of this? That’s just about as unlikely as Whale Oil becoming modest and reasonable.

Somewhere between Key and Goff/Norman/Hager there is some decent, honest and balanced politics, but it’s not evident at the moment.

Most of the public are likely to see this as “a pox on all their parties, press officers, journalists and bloggers”.

Gwyn report waters down “Dirty Politics”

While some of the media keep promoting the Gwyn report as “Dirty Politics” it has watered down the levels of dirt claimed by Nicky Hager’s book and his associates who yet again raised hopes that they could bring John Key down.

NZ Herald reports Dirty Politics: John Key won’t apologise to Goff.

A report on Dirty Politics allegations released this morning found former SIS director Warren Tucker failed to take adequate steps to maintain the spy agency’s political neutrality.

Speaking soon after the report’s release this morning, Mr Key said the Inspector General’s report had cleared his office of any wrongdoing and no apology was necessary.

“The report makes it absolutely crystal clear that my office did nothing that was either unprofessional or breached any of the requirements on them.”

He also countered Labour’s accusations he was using SIS information for political purposes, accusing Labour of leaking selected parts of the Inspector General’s report to the media yesterday in advance of its release.

“Yesterday I strongly suspect that the Labour Party did exactly that by leaking this report. The only reason they would have breached the confidentiality agreement and leaked the report 24 hours prior to its release is they know that the very strong allegations they made about my personal involvement weren’t stacked up in the report and they were trying to get their own spin on it.”

The lack of evidence to implicate John Key leaves him very much on the periphery. So much so that there are claims from the left that the  report is a whitewash (I can’t link to that because all the spitting at their keyboards seems to have crashed The Standard).

The Herald link includes the whole report.

And they quote Hager:

But Mr Hager told the Herald Ms Gwyn’s report “thoroughly” backed up the allegations he made in Dirty Politics that information provided to Mr Key’s office by Dr Tucker was used by Mr Key’s senior staff in a political hit on Mr Goff.

Mr Key’s statements this morning were an attempt to persuade the public his staff had done nothing wrong, he said.

“In fact the entire political scandal was initiated and organised and conducted by the Prime Minister’s office. When the Prime Minister’s office heard there was some bad news about Goff on the basis of what they were told by the head of the SIS, they then went about all the steps of organising that hit against Goff using Slater.

“That’s what my book was all about. So actually John Key’s carefully worded statement is just slipping around the fact that this report confirms the central allegation in the book.”

I think the report substantially waters down Hager’s claims.

We have the SIS reprimanded, the Prime Minister’s office on notice that they should play decent politics, Cameron Slater is substantially neutered and Hager and his left wing associates and fan club groping for substance.

Prime Minister’s office under an awkward spotlight

It will be hard to judge until the report is released tomorrow but this is looking awkward for the Prime Minister’s office.

PM’s office pushed Slater to dig up dirt on Goff – report

A report by New Zealand’s intelligence watchdog Cheryl Gwyn has found attack blogger Cameron Slater requested and published politically damaging material about former Labour Leader Phil Goff from the SIS after being instructed to ask for the material by Prime Minister John Key’s staff.

Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) Ms Gwyn has been investigating events around the declassification and release of SIS documents Slater used to attack Mr Goff in a series of blog posts in mid 2011 and will release her report tomorrow.

It will inevitably lead to some awkward questions for John Key to try and uncover how involved he was, if that doesn’t come out in the report.

It will be far from the first time the PM’s office (or any political office) has been guilty of getting third parties to try and embarrass opponents, but the degree of being caught out may be unprecedented.

The differences are a blogger has been used instead of the traditional media, and the SIS has been involved which increases the awkwardness for Key substantially.

The Herald understands that after being briefed on the material by Dr Tucker, Mr Key’s then deputy chief of staff Phil de Joux suggested to Jason Ede, another staffer in Mr Key’s office, that he contact Slater suggesting he request information about the Goff briefing.

It is understood the report finds that Dr Tucker’s briefing to Mr de Joux presented material about what Mr Goff was told about the Israeli agents in a way that was incomplete, lacked professionalism and risked giving the impression of political bias.

The report finds information Dr Tucker gave to the Prime Minister’s office was edited in a way that highlighted content about the Israeli agents when that material was only part of what Mr Goff was briefed on.

That sounds like a lot of understanding of a report that isn’t released yet.

Where is this information coming from and who is responsible for giving it to the media? I guess it won’t be Slater.