The Dim-Post

April 7, 2013

Conspiracy theory of the day, GCSB timeline edition

Filed under: intelligence,Politics,Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:52 am

A timeline of GCSB/Kim Dotcom/Ian Fletcher/John Key related events, mostly just to try and understand in my own mind what’s going on:

  • Early 2011: New Zealand Police contacted by the FBI to assist into an investigation of Megaupload, a file sharing site founded by Kim Dotcom, on the grounds that the site was involved in copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property. The Prime Minister has assured us that he knew nothing of the investigation until the Solicitor-General briefed him in January 2012, and that the GCSB were not involved in the investigation until mid-December 2011.
  • Mid 2011: Prime Minister John Key rejects a short-list of applicants for the role of new GCSB Director and calls Ian Fletcher, who he knew slightly as a child, but has not seen for thirty years, asks him to apply for the job, and advises the selection panel that he did so. Fletcher’s has no experience in intelligence but his previous role was in the UK Civil Service where he was Chief Executive of the Intellectual Property Office.
  • 8 September 2011: Fletcher is appointed Director of the GCSB, scheduled to begin in early 2012.
  • December 16 2011 (a Friday): GCSB begins illegally spying on Kim Dotcom and his associates
  • December 19 2011 (the next Monday):  Acting GCSB Director Simon Murdoch retires.
  • January 19 2012: The Solicitor-General briefs the Prime Minister on Operation Debut, the raid on Dotcom and his operation that is scheduled to be carried out the next day. GCSB’s involvement in the operation is not mentioned.
  • January 20 2012: Dotcom is arrested in an armed raid and imprisoned in Mount Eden. Email correspondance within GCSB and between them and other involved agencies indicates GCSB consider the operation a great success.
  • January 29 2012: Ian Fletcher starts work as GCSB Director
  • February 16 2012: Detective Inspector Grant Wormald – head of the Police operation – attends a debrief of GCSB staff and is surprised when a GCSB staffer points out that that there may be ‘potential issues’ with the legality of GCSB’s involvement.
  • February 22 2012: The Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) contacted the GCSB to advise that there were ‘serious issues’ related to the residency status of Dotcom and his associates and the GCSB surveillance of them.
  • February 22 2012: GCSB replied that they had provided a summary document to their legal adviser ‘for future reference’ but there would not be an inquiry or ‘witch hunt’.
  • February 29 2012: Prime Minister John Key visits the GCSB offices to meet with staff and receive an overview of the bureau’s capabilities. He’s still not briefed on Kim Dotcom. Apparently Dotcom is briefly mentioned in a presentation, but neither John Key or Ian Fletcher remember this when questioned about it subsequently.
  • August 17 2012: Deputy Prime Minister Bill English signs a Ministerial Certificate suppressing details of the GCSB’s involvement. English is acting Prime Minister while John Key is out of the country. It appears to be the only such warrant signed in recent history, but English does not advise Key about it on his return. The GCSB does not advise English that they acted unlawfully, and English is not aware of this until Key tells him in mid-September.

Remember, the GCSB still hasn’t advised the Prime Minister that they were illegally involved in the Kim Dotcom operation, even though Dotcom is on the news almost every day, one of Key’s Ministers – John Banks – has been embarrassed over his links to Dotcom, and Dotcom’s legal team are requesting information regarding the GCSB’s involvement in the case – which is why GCSB has English sign the warrant suppressing that information.

  • September 17 2012: GCSB Director Ian Fletcher advises the Prime Minister that his department unlawfully spied on Kim Dotcom and his associates. 

Now that I’ve laid it all out like that I don’t really know what to make of it. This reminds me (a) of that season of Lost - I think it’s Season 4 – in which all the dramatic tension relies on the fact that none of the main characters ever stop and have a very brief conversation with each other about what they know and what they think is going on, and (b) one of those undergraduate statistics exercises where you multiply together a bunch of medium probability events to reach a very low probability outcome.

I could just be coincidence that Key decided the GCSB needed change management a year before the dotcom fiasco came to light and decided to hire his old acquaintance who was an expert in intellectual property just as New Zealand’s law enforcement agencies became involved in a huge, international copyright investigation – which Key knew nothing about, despite his dealings with the Hollywood Studios who lobbied for the investigation. It could also be coincidence that Fletcher is then the only guy interviewed and the independent selection committee also decides that he’s perfect for the role, and that he starts work one week after the Dotcom raids, which were seen as a huge success within the Bureau, then briefs Key a few weeks after that but forgets to mention the operation to him.

There’s no one thing here that’s impossible to believe, and some of the coincidences are probably just big ol’ coincidences. But aggregate it all together and it just feels like we’ve been lied to quite a bit and we’re still being lied to about something.

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25 Comments »

  1. These revelations show how much the government and senior bureaucrats keep secrets in order to be only thought to be utterly incompetent frauds, rather than having them revealed and removing all doubt.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 7, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

  2. Every step of the timeline is evidence of deliberate application of the principle of ‘Plausible deniability’. In the rigidly hierarchical organisations involved such ‘loose’ chains of command are unthinkable and out of character. For several points of ‘Plausible deniability’ to occur in relation to a common subject shows deliberate obfuscation. In the same way that a black hole can be observed not by the light it emits but by the light it consumes.

    Comment by Max — April 7, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

  3. Perhaps the time-line should go back further, to include Key’s earlier decisions to replace Campbell with Simon Murdoch (long-term Muldoon / Bolger / Shipley staffer), and with Mateparae for a few months.

    Time was when the GCSB did not regard themselves as a subservient agency of the NZ Police (for instance, during the tenures of Ray Parker or Warren Tucker), and any police request to conduct internal surveillance would been have turned down with jeers and insulting gestures. What I’m saying is that it has already several years of “change management” to get them to the stage where they would take part in the Dotcom raids, and would accept the lie from the police that the surveillance was legitimate.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — April 7, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  4. I realise that your timeline is related to events in connection with GSCB, but I wonder if events around Kim being granted residency, and then subsequently being denied the right to purchase his house, are also related to the “spy” agencies.

    Comment by David Russell — April 7, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  5. first on the timeline should be “late 2010: Key holds meetings with Hollywood studio execs behind closed doors”

    Comment by mutyala — April 7, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

  6. The events of mid-2011 are also disputed – namely this bit: “who he knew slightly as a child, but has not seen for thirty years.” Key’s since admitted that he’d met the guy at least 3 times (although I’m inclined to doubt this number and I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if it was far more than that) and had apparently recommended the guy for another government job 2 years prior. The suggestion that Key would only vaguely know the guy, having not seen him in 30 years, but would have his phone number to personally call him is a bit suss as well. Remember, when asked how he knew Fletcher’s phone number, his response was a blase “Oh I had his phone number,” not something along the lines of “I looked up his phone number.”

    Comment by Vagabundo — April 7, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

  7. Rennie claims it was he, not Key, who rejected the short list – before Fletcher was in consideration:

    As was previously stated, a potential shortlist was prepared by a recruitment consultant but I advised the Prime Minister that, given the requirements of the job, that these candidates should not be considered further. Instead, further search should occur to identify a suitable candidate or candidates.

    You can’t have a conspiracy theory about the GCSB without mentioning Waihopai.

    Since Ferguson was appointed Chief of Defense by Clark and then director of the GCSB by her aswell and Ferguson has criticised the appointment by National of a non- military type and Waihopai was in action when Labour got involved in Bush’s intervention in Afganistan then there’s probably several books worth of material for Hager.

    Comment by NeilM — April 7, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

  8. This: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=54240 (which is also where the quote you’ve supplied has come from, I’ve just noticed) gives the impression that the ‘potential short-list’ prepared by the recruitment agency involved was taken to the minister responsible, who then vetoed the candidates after advice from Rennie. That’s not to mention this little passage:

    Mr Rennie was asked how confident he felt that the process was “all handled above board” given that the PM vetoed the shortlist before contacting Mr Fletcher directly regarding his appointment. He responded “absolutely” — he added that he was “aware of Mr Fletcher’s pedigree” and was “totally confident in the process”

    Comment by Vagabundo — April 7, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  9. There’s no particular reason why the GCSB should be headed by military types; it’s more an accident of history. For quite a few decades the Bureau served a dual role, of (a) intelligence collection and (b) providing a promotion pathway into which high-ranking airforce brass could be moved sideways when it was necessary to create vacancies in the force.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — April 7, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  10. No, I got the quote from the statement by Rennie on the state services site:

    https://www.ssc.govt.nz/statement-gcsb-appt-3apr13

    And in that article you link to Rennie explicitly states that he had rejected the short list prior to it going before Key:

    Mr Rennie was asked for clarity as to whether the ultimate decision was his own or the Prime Minister, and to clarify exactly what his advice to the Prime Minister had been about the suitability of candidates for the role. Mr Rennie said that he had provided advice to the Prime Minister that “because of the context [the] GCSB was entering” he did not believe that the skills of the other candidates on the potential shortlist were suitable to “take the organisation forward best”.

    Comment by NeilM — April 7, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

  11. Sort might have misunderstood:

    “…who then vetoed the candidates after advice from Rennie.”

    Key vetoed the short list but he didn’t make that decision on his own and it wasn’t done with the intention of getting Fletcher the job.

    I’m taking Rennie at his word, but I don’t see that he’s been dishonest at all.

    Comment by NeilM — April 7, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

  12. Detective Inspector Grant Wormald – head of the Police operation – attends a debrief of GCSB staff and is surprised when a GCSB staffer points out that that there may be ‘potential issues’

    Since Wormald has been caught lying repeatedly to the court about the Dotcom operation (or suffering memory fades of his own), it would be more accurate to say that he “later claimed to be surprised”.

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — April 7, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

  13. Since Wormald has been caught lying repeatedly to the court about the Dotcom operation (or suffering memory fades of his own), it would be more accurate to say that he “later claimed to be surprised”.

    Just what I was thinking. Is there even one person involved in this who isn’t a lying weasel? Hilarious if it turned out that the fat Jerry “ha ha I’m tearing up this golf course in a Mercedes” type was the only one not spouting bullshit – how very not Hollywood…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — April 7, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

  14. “because of the context [the] GCSB was entering”

    But that’s the rub, innit.

    Fine candidates, but for the special circumstances about which we don’t know shit.

    Was Meteparae up to these special circumstances? Guess not seeing they moved him on and had trouble finding a ‘suitable’ replacement. So why was he put there in the first place? What was the problem with the GCSB that was identified in between Mateperae being appointed to GCSB and his being moved to Government House? A problem so specific that it’s context rendered the whole short list ‘unsuitable’.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — April 7, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

  15. Fine candidates, but for the special circumstances about which we don’t know shit.

    Was Mateparae up to these special circumstances? Guess not seeing they moved him on and had trouble finding a ‘suitable’ replacement. So why was he put there in the first place? What was the problem with the GCSB that was identified in between Mateperae being appointed to GCSB and his being moved to Government House? A problem so specific that it’s context rendered the whole short list ‘unsuitable’.

    I think that if there does turn out to be a significant story in the appointment — as opposed to the story of Key’s bizarre dissembling — it may involve this. John Campbell, who has done as much detailed work as anyone on the Dotcom story, raised it in his interview with Rennie. Fletcher has a grounding in intellectual property. If “the context [the] GCSB was entering” was a renewed focus on the rights of US IP owners, as opposed to its traditional turf,we really ought to know about it.

    Comment by Russell Brown — April 7, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  16. this from the gcsb website

    “Current Vacancies

    Manager Support Services
    Chief Financial Officer
    Team Leader, Security and Emergency Planning
    Manager, Organisation Development and Performance”

    what can they possibly be doing without any of the above

    Comment by bitcoin mega — April 7, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

  17. Short version: it seems there’s a lot more likely to shake out from the Dotcom case before it’s done. A lot.

    Comment by Russell Brown — April 7, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

  18. The voting public’s three minute memory is what these people rely on, upsetting that with posts like this will only bring more arrogantly dismissive”I don’t recall”, “I dispute that” statements of *fact*.

    Comment by humph — April 7, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

  19. oh yes it sounds like a good old fashioned dead wood shake out doesn’t it.

    Comment by Tim — April 7, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  20. @ Russell Brown: Short version: it seems there’s a lot more likely to shake out from the Dotcom case before it’s done. A lot.

    Most of which probably wouldn’t have come to light, or even caught the public interest had it not been for Key’s unbelievably poor handling of it.

    Comment by Vagabundo — April 7, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

  21. Not even conspiracy theories can gain credibility from events that haven’t yet occurred.

    Comment by NeilM — April 7, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

  22. There is an idea mooted around in the papers that the GCSB needed a new director to address its internal disarray, but it doesn’t really hold together. I mean, Warren Tucker was in charge from 1999 to 2006, and things were fine then. We know that because in 2006 Dr Tucker was poached to head the SIS and make them get their act together. He would not have been poached if the GCSB itself had been in a mess at the time, nor would he have been re-appointed at the SIS in 2010 if concealed GCSB problems had subsequently come to light.

    Now it is *conceivable* that systemic problems suddenly arose during the tenure of Bruce Ferguson, Tucker’s successor, but this doesn’t really seem likely.

    Then came Simon Murdoch, the first of the political appointees. It would be interesting to read the 2010 report he wrote on the NZ intelligence agencies, prior to being given the job. An earlier round of Change Management?

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — April 8, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  23. ^ Which is where you look at the fact that among Fletcher’s previous job experience, there is some work around copyright ownership and then Key’s curious statement about the new context in which the GCSB would operate in, and then wonder.

    We don’t know what it was about the shortlisted applicants that didn’t meet the criteria set by Key and Rennie, let alone who applied but if there is truth to what Bruce Ferguson said, at least one applicant had the relevant experience and expertise to lead the GCSB, up to and including the time when Mataparae was running the show.

    Comment by Vagabundo — April 8, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  24. I don’t suppose somebody can tell me why we need two spy agencies in the first place?

    Comment by Chris N — April 8, 2013 @ 10:09 am

  25. I don’t suppose somebody can tell me why we need two spy agencies in the first place?

    Separation of duties under legislature – one to counter external threats, one for domestic. It’s pretty normal throughout the world.
    BTW, there are about half a dozen distinct agencies if you count the Customs intelligence group and all the little military departments.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 8, 2013 @ 12:12 pm


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