The Dim-Post

August 21, 2014

The SIS OIA

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:23 am

Via Stuff:

Labour MP Phil Goff says he has evidence the prime minister was briefed about a decision to release Security Intelligence Service documents to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

John Key, who is also the minister responsible for the SIS, has denied his office had anything to do with the release in 2011 of the documents used to embarrass Goff, who was then Labour Party leader.

Goff had denied being briefed by then SIS director Warren Tucker on a security matter, but the documents showed he had been fully briefed.

Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, alleges Slater was tipped off by Key’s staff to ask for the papers.

Key has insisted that this absolutely did not happen, and that the SIS released the information themselves. Why did they do it so quickly? Because Phil Goff had questioned Tucker’s word, and so Tucker obviously had an incentive to get the information out as quickly as possible.

There are a few problems with that version of events. The biggest is that Fairfax had requested the same document a few days earlier and the SIS refused to release it to them. The second big problem is this dialog in the Slater/Bhatnager correspondence dumped by whaledump yesterday:

Cameron Slater, 8/2, 9:03am Should be a big day tomorrow if my PO Box has a nice brown envelope with OHMS on it
Aaron Bhatnagar, 8/2, 9:04am oh, whats that about?
Cameron Slater, 8/2, 9:05am I OIAd the briefing minutes and notes for Goff’s SIS briefing it has been expedited in the public interest
Aaron Bhatnagar, 8/2, 9:05am oh yes
Cameron Slater, 8/2, 9:06am it is devastating for Goff I am told

Surely if the SIS wanted this information to be published they’d have released it to Fairfax, who asked for it first? It is also hard to imagine the SIS Director’s office calling up Cameron Slater and crowing to him about the contents of his request that they’d just ‘expedited’. 

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98 Comments »

  1. Lots of argument on twitter about the PM vs the PM’s Office, the crux of the issue is why the request went out to Slater before the media, more particularly who told them to do that, because while you are quibble about who was listening when you spoke, surely the SIS doesn’t take instruction from just anyone in the office.

    Comment by Michael — August 21, 2014 @ 10:30 am

  2. There’s a fairly good case that the Prime Minister’s explicit denials to Colin Espiner this week are in direct contradiction to the statements made by Tucker. Either the PM is lying, or the correspondence never made it to the PM.

    Comment by George — August 21, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  3. The PM would have us believe that he was not informed about a devastating OIA going out about the biggest political news topic at the time about his direct competition. You know, the sort of thing that if your office didn’t inform you about would cause you to have serious words.

    Yup. Sounds perfectly plausible….

    Comment by Peter Tenby — August 21, 2014 @ 11:01 am

  4. I think Goff is being unwise in pressing this issue. It takes the heat off Collins and will just bring up his unfortunate behaviour at the time.

    He’s clearly very angry and feels hard done by but he did bring that on himself when he denied being briefed when in fact he had.

    As for whether Key was personally informed of the OIA release – what does he stand to gain from lying about whether he was informed personally or not?

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 11:02 am

  5. @George, Tucker has said he informed the PM’s Office, not the PM.

    One might think it odd that Key wasnt then informed by his staff but then he’s probably not shown every document that comes through. And presumably Key would find out pretty quickly anyway and also new the contents of the OAI already.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 11:07 am

  6. @ George – that letter pretty clearly shows that the PM (or his office, whatever) was informed after Goff was informed of the release happening. So the decision had been made before Key was informed, he did not “sign off” on it.

    Comment by James Stephenson — August 21, 2014 @ 11:07 am

  7. Could Ede have done this without Eagleson knowing?

    Comment by Sacha — August 21, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  8. There is no evidence that Goff was briefed just some notes made out but not whether they were ever delivered to Goff. If Key who is in charge of the Department can claim he was not told then it is quite possible that Goff can make the same statement. In fact it is possible that nobody was briefed. It seems SIS is a very oddly run department and there have been so many lapses from them that I am not sure I would want to believe anything they say.

    Comment by Ron — August 21, 2014 @ 11:13 am

  9. “…will just bring up his unfortunate behaviour at the time…”

    Goff could not to recall a verbal briefing. That resuled in a deliberate conspiracy by at least the highest political advisor in the PM’s office to release secret security documents to a right wing attack blogger in order to discredit him. What part of that don’t you seem to be able grasp?

    Now, let’s discuss exactly who is guilty of “unfortunate behaviour”, you dissembling half-wit.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 21, 2014 @ 11:16 am

  10. This is pretty damning.

    Comment by George — August 21, 2014 @ 11:18 am

  11. Given Goff was at the time stoking the flames an Israeli conspiracy theory it’s a pity he couldn’t recall details of a briefing that contradicted that theory.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 11:21 am

  12. In any event, the SIS stuff is easily the weakest of the allegations. OIAs can go out any time within the maximum period. It is also common to use various tactics to diminish the impact – by sending it to all journalists,for example, rather than just the ones or one who requests it. That’s just understanding the dynamics of the news industry and using them to your advantage.

    Comment by Tinakori — August 21, 2014 @ 11:23 am

  13. “… OIAs can go out any time within the maximum period…”

    From NRT:

    “…Here’s some data:

    – Slater’s request (via Donotlink) was made on 26 July and responded to on 2 August – a turnaround time of 5 working days.
    – There are five successful requests to the SIS made via FYI. These were responded to in 8, 24, 12, 49, and 26 working days respectively, for an average of 23.8 working days…”

    Try not to insult the reader’s intelligence so obviously.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 21, 2014 @ 11:29 am

  14. Given Goff was at the time stoking the flames an Israeli conspiracy theory it’s a pity he couldn’t recall details of a briefing that contradicted that theory.

    You’re right! GOFF is the one we should be hammering for having a “brain fade”. Because that’s never happened to Key, right?

    … the SIS stuff is easily the weakest of the allegations. OIAs can go out any time within the maximum period.

    And yet, somehow, this OIA request to the SIS for information that embarrasses the Government’s opponent received the fastest treatment of any that this organisation has received*, with the information being passed on to the National Party’s favoured attack dog who knew it was coming even though a “MSM” journalist who asked for it at the same time didn’t get it. This from an organisation that is statutorally required to be “nuetral” in its operations. With the Minister in charge claiming not to know anything about what happened, even though the Director told the Ombudsman that he wouldn’t release information about his verbal discussions with that Minister because it would prejudice the confidentiality of public servant/Minister relations.

    If that’s the weakest of the allegations, which do you see as being the strongest?

    * http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2014/08/sis-oia-turnaround-times.html

    Comment by Flashing Light — August 21, 2014 @ 11:35 am

  15. Don’t be dopey, Sanctuary. They can go out whenever the agency or their Minister wants them to. If an opposition MP is making a simple factual claim – briefed or not briefed, for example – and the information is easily available I would expect it to be released as soon as. It wouldn’t matter if the release was at the Agency’s initiative or the Minister’s. Both are still perfectly kosher in this situation. Big departments often have quite rigid processes and only release stuff at the end of the max period as a matter of course unless the issue is important enough to vary the process. Other agencies are inherently more flexible because they get few requests. In either case the release dates can be varied within the max period as and when the agency or their Minister or Minister’s office wishes.

    Comment by Tinakori — August 21, 2014 @ 11:41 am

  16. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 21, 2014 @ 11:41 am

  17. That should be “more efficient” in that if it came out in the Herald or the tv news it would reach a greater audience more quickly than with Slater’s blog.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 11:49 am

  18. They can go out whenever the agency or their Minister wants them to. If an opposition MP is making a simple factual claim – briefed or not briefed, for example – and the information is easily available I would expect it to be released as soon as.

    No. That’s not true. The OIA, s.15(1) states that a decision to release/not release must be made “as soon as reasonably practicable”, not whenever the person with the info wants to give it. The 20 day limit is an absolute end point, not a window in which the organisation may decide the “best” time that the info should go out for its own purposes.

    Now, if you’re saying that in fact Ministers and ministries release according to their preferred timetables, then that is wrong (and unlawful). That’s especially so for the SIS, who (under s.4AA(1)(c)) are legally obligated “not take any action for the purpose of furthering or harming the interests of any political party.”

    There also is the small matter of (1) Slater’s claim that he knows what is on its way; and (2) Slater getting the info ahead of Andrea Vance.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 21, 2014 @ 11:54 am

  19. “Slater’s claim”, well he’s not given to telling the truth.

    He must have known he realise would been damaging to Goff – that’s why he big in the request.

    It was hard to guess that it wouldn’t help Goff and other journalists were after the this for the same reason. They didn’t have to be tipped off.

    Whether he was given special treatment with a quicker response does not explanation.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

  20. “It wasn’t hard”

    Maybe I’ll give up on the iphone for comments.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

  21. I think you should just give up commenting in general, Neil.

    Spin any faster and you’ll start to gain mass.

    Comment by Rob — August 21, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

  22. @NeilM,

    So … Slater just happened to guess that his OIA request would be handled more quickly than any other the SIS had received, and was lucky in his prediction that it would be “devastating” for Goff?

    Let’s see – on the one side, we are required to believe that two matters of chance just happened to fall exactly the way Slater predicted (without him actually knowing anything about the matter). On the other side, we have an explanation that Slater got it right, because he’s been told what to expect. Apply Occam’s razor.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 21, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

  23. Having turned off autocorrect I might be able to write something more coherent.

    Slater getting the release in such a timely manner does need explaining.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

  24. NeilM, if response time for an OIA request was determined by some sort of ineffable, Kafkaesque, bureaucratic lottery board, then sure, a particular response time wouldn’t need to be explained.

    Unfortunately, for you and Key, and as fun as that sounds, that isn’t what happens. And in this case, we have Slater and Fairfax applying for the same information, Slater somehow knowing (correctly) that his request has been expedited, and Fairfax having their request denied. That needs an explanation.

    Comment by RJL — August 21, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

  25. Having turned off autocorrect I might be able to write something more coherent.

    If it involves shilling for the Prime Minister, against all available evidence: probably not.

    Comment by George — August 21, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

  26. Having turned off autocorrect I might be able to write something more coherent.

    Neither autocorrect nor iphone. Just another fugue.

    Comment by Joe W — August 21, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  27. That’s wrong, Andrew. Agencies receive requests for information every day and every request for information they receive is a request under the Act. If the information is on hand or easily retrievable it is usually simply supplied – when say a TV show has a particular deadline. Sometimes this is done without talking to a Minister’s office beforehand and sometimes not. It depends on the Minister and the agency and the information. Some ministers are notorious control freaks and others know that withholding usually causes more problems than it solves. Governments also differ. The last Labour government were notoriously tight with information as a general policy. With National it is far more of a Minister to Minister proposition. The SIS supplying that info in 5 days is I am sure reasonably practicable. In any event, if I was at the SIS I would be pissed off that Goff was trying to use their reluctance to comment or provide information against them and would, therefore, want it out as soon as.

    Comment by Tinakori — August 21, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

  28. @Tinakori,

    What have I said that is “wrong”? All I set out was what the Act says. If you’re saying that various Ministers and Governments are doing things other than what the Act says, then OK … the law gets abused. But my point is that the OIA doesn’t allow anyone to decide when it is best to release information (so long as its within 20 days). Which is what I took you to be saying. But if you weren’t, then I misunderstood.

    So maybe this OIA request was the simpilist, most straightforward, least contentious one that the SIS has ever got, so it could get the information declassified and out the door to Cameron Slater (but no-one else) within a for-them record 5 days (i.e. as “soon as reasonably practicable”). And maybe Cameron Slater just happened to be amazingly lucky in predicting that this would be the case. Maybe. Just maybe.

    Or, maybe not.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 21, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

  29. Andrew, do you think Tucker had much of an idea who Slater was?

    If Tucker really did want to get this out – and that is just speculation but one can see why he would, wouldn’t he have gone for a more obvious media outlet?

    With Goff having to now claim Tucker is being “convinient” with the truth it could all get even messier.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

  30. If Tucker really did want to get this out – and that is just speculation but one can see why he would, wouldn’t he have gone for a more obvious media outlet?

    I agree! So, why, when there WAS “a more obvious media outlet” asking for Goff’s briefing notes, did they not get given them? And, if Tucker did (for some reason) decide that Cameron Slater ought to get them first, why would he contact Slater to let him know that this was the case (as well as give some idea as to their content)? These questions, and many others, are … interesting.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 21, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

  31. When this all hit the fan originally, Slater’s comment was that his question was crafted in such a way that it could be easily and quickly answered, whereas reporters cast a wide net.

    So our question must be: what were the exact words of the Slater and Fairfax OIA requests, and how did they differ?

    Comment by SHG — August 21, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

  32. @Andrew. Yeah, it’s odd.

    Wasn’t there something about other requests not being worded right or something?

    Which would anyway still leave the question of how Slater got it right.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

  33. Do you even read any of the coverage before you come here and comment Neil?

    Comment by Rob — August 21, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

  34. Off memory (can’t be bothered looking for the link, so happy to be wrong) the explanation given was that Fairfax asked for the notes for both Goff and Key. However, apparently these contained exactly the same information.

    But, like I say, that’s entirely off memory.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 21, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

  35. I can see why Tucker would be extra cautious about on what basis he would respond to such requests. Any suggestion that he was being less than scrupulous would not have been a good look.

    Which leaves how Slater got the right wording.

    Does anyone know how long it was between when Tucker notified the PMs office and the actual OIA release?

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

  36. Another day, another blow landed…..

    Comment by k.jones — August 21, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  37. Im starting to wonder if we will see a prime minister forced to resign during a general election campaign.

    His chief of staff used to be one of the chiefs at DB breweries.

    So we have Alcohol industry ethics mixed with a Wall Street Banker type prime minister.

    Dirty politics indeed.

    Are they still playing the poor victim card ?.

    Comment by reason — August 21, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

  38. I am only an occasional lurker and commenter on Dim Post. My interest in politics is limited to issues that are relevant to my jobs as a Paediatrician and father of numerous pupils, students and a lawyer. I do not pretend to have the political knowledge (or passion) of other commenters here (although i know enough to be stunned that at #30 above, someone agreed with something NeilM wrote).

    My comment is that it is a shame that a few weeks out from a critical election there seems to be only “one show in town” for discussion. This whole election seems to be about the depths of immorality that people sink too in order to either gain or hang on to power. The selfishness, decietfulness, dishonesty, venality and just plain grubbiness on display from many of the main players is breathtaking but there is only so much more dissecting of it than I can take.

    On the other hand, the Greens announce policy to increase the top tax rate for individuals to 40%, and will use the income to boost actions against child poverty, and very little coverage appears. As a Kids doctor, Dad, and one of the rich bastards who will be affected by this I am totally in support. Compare that to the other crap and I know who gets my party vote.

    Comment by PPCM — August 21, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

  39. Sounds like Key wasn’t even in NZ at the time, so could not have been personally contacted by Tucker.

    BUT THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT US TO THINK

    Comment by SHG — August 21, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

  40. You all seem to have missed that arch right winger Selwyn Manning got the same info in similarly quick time. Scandalously he was even tipped off that he was likely to be successful. He’s in no doubt that tucker fast tracked it because his reputation was under attack. Even more scandalously, he’s talked to Slater about it behind the scenes .

    Wonder why this wasn’t in Nicky’s book?

    Comment by insider — August 21, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  41. @SHG “Sounds like Key wasn’t even in NZ at the time, so could not have been personally contacted by Tucker.”

    The letter to Slater dated 2 days after he got back (2nd August). Apparently.

    Comment by prgcnt — August 21, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  42. Let’s cut to the chase – should Tucker be nervous about his career prospects with an incoming Labour-led government?

    Comment by Ross — August 21, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

  43. Sounds like Key wasn’t even in NZ at the time, so could not have been personally contacted by Tucker.

    I personally contact people in a remote location via telephone all the time.
    Amazing technology.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 21, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

  44. No, he shouldn’t as he’s retired! Possibly just as well…

    Comment by Ross — August 21, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

  45. I personally contact people in a remote location via telephone all the time. Amazing technology.

    Your name clearly isn’t Murray McCully.

    Comment by Ross — August 21, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

  46. Its bizarre that Key ‘ wasnt in the country at the time’, so we are supposed to believe he couldnt have discussed anything, which is what Waken was saying , but who wasnt around either so ‘didnt write the letter’

    Am I the only one thinking the whole country is run by a couple of people at computers who write to each other instead of their bosses.

    But of course that isnt allowed for Goff, he has to meet everyone, read everything, write everything ( Cunliffe was pinged for ‘writing letters he didnt write’)

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — August 21, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

  47. @ Ghost

    This was a departmental oia. Minister ‘s offices get informed but ministers usually don’t get involved.

    There’s a bit of a double standard going on that some people get very excited about wanting the sis minister so involved in departmental business that they know everything about absolutely everything. yet i suspect many of those same people would be shocked and outraged if that meant he was able to direct who gets monitored. The line is pretty thin and easily crossed, which is why all sorts of organisations have rules preventing governance position s involved in executive ones.

    The best examples of that were under labour when ministers were actively participating in employment decisions of mid level staffers and placing personal friends into roles. Are you sure you want to go there again?

    Comment by insider — August 21, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

  48. There’s plenty of form here. Not so long ago we had Immigration releasing the letter Cunliffe signed quite a few years back ‘advocating for’ (not really, but who cares) Donghua Liu’s residency. It was just conveniently timed to do maximum damage. After initial denials from Minister Woodhouse, it turns out there was communication with ‘the PM’s office’ on the matter.
    And oh how Key and Co crowed about it. What a jolly jape.
    So forgive us for not buying the coincidences and lacunae; the name-calling, accusation and ‘I can’t recall that, but what we DO KNOW is …” There’s lots of ammunition in ‘Dirty Politics’ and there are plenty of dots in full visibility to be joined. ‘The Media’ appear to have twigged, which is refreshing, to say the least.

    Comment by Robinson Stowell — August 21, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

  49. “This was a departmental oia. Minister ‘s offices get informed but ministers usually don’t get involved.”

    They do on ones like this as they’re inherently politically sensitive. They’re all over them like a rash. Anyone who says otherwise is being deliberately disingenuous or really isn’t an “insider”.

    Comment by Judge Holden — August 21, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

  50. Andrew, it has been native custom forever that agencies and Ministers can release at any time within the 20 day max. Reasonably practicable can cover an awful lot of things including a release minutes after the request and a release after multiple extensions of the 20 day limit. Some agencies are faster than others and often the big ones have so many requests that most significant written requests for information take the max time. For them that is the reasonably practicable period. For others, when the information is easily available or is simple – like did Goff get briefed or did he not – the time period can be anywhere from minutes to a couple of days. Also, Goff placed the SIS in the political crosshairs and relied on them covering up his untruth, a matter contradicted by the Agency’s records. The fastest way to get out of that situation was to release, not withhold. All the crap about what did Key know and when did he know is just utterly beside the point. It doesn’t matter if the Minister (of the SIS) wanted it out or the agency wanted it out. Both had the power to do so.I wouldn’t have given it to Whaleoil – it seemed a waste to me to do so. Far better to give it to all media, but there you go, people make different decisions.

    As to whether the Minister (Key) knew or not that is also besides the point. Agencies – even agency heads – don’t go straight to Ministers when dealing with this sort of thing. They discuss it with staff and the staff might then discuss it with their Minister. Some Ministers let their staff deal with most of it, others micromanage and some simply don’t have the time and ruthlessly prioritise what they see and don’t see. They might know only after the fact or as something occurs. Most PMs are in the latter category, though Helen Clark was an exception and was a famous micro-manager in media matters, as so many have testified in the last few days. Guess which category John Key might be in.

    The SIS stuff is all a wonderfully entertaining and successful political gotcha by Nicky Hager that relies on the public and media’s ignorance of how the world actually works and uses the aura of a secret intelligence agency to to create an atmosphere of intrigue and high stakes. It was just an attempt by an opposition politician to mislead or lie (or very charitably, forgot) and who had his bluff called. No more. Goff did it when Foreign Minister to Don Brash in a far more serious case. Hey, it ain’t the first time Nicky has relied on our collective gullibility to generate a moral panic. I remember laughing out loud when reading his first book on the GE scare when he recounted a dastardly plot to manipulate public opinion. The plot consisted of Marian Hobbs’ Ministry- environment, I think – preparing her for an announcement by anticipating some questions she might be asked and some key messages she might use. The Ministry would have failed in its duty if it hadn’t prepped its Minister in this manner.

    Comment by Tinakori — August 21, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

  51. Umm, point missed Tinakori. Try reading again from the top. What and when Key knew the are pretty much the whole story the rest of us are discussing….

    Comment by k.jones — August 21, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

  52. They do on ones like this as they’re inherently politically sensitive.

    Quite. Wasn’t it a significant ns issue at the time?

    What would be the point of the SiS contacting the PMs office about sensitive current issues on a “no surprises basis”, if the office don’t then pass it on to the PM?

    Comment by steve — August 21, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

  53. You’ve shifted the goal posts there, Tinakori. Now it’s just “native custom”. But at 15 you said that some organisations had rigid processes that sees them only releasing info at the end of the 20 days as a matter of course. They cannot have such a rigid process – that would be in breach of the OIA.

    Comment by steve — August 21, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

  54. What would be the point of the SiS contacting the PMs office about sensitive current issues on a “no surprises basis”, if the office don’t then pass it on to the PM?

    Because it’s a formal requirement and not something the PM needed to act on or could or should have acted on.

    Also, Key already new there were OIA requests in the pipeline and he already new what any releae was likely to contain.

    I can’t see what Key had to gain in denying seeing the Tucker notification of he had. And no one had come up with proof Key is lying about this.

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

  55. I don’t know whether or not he has lied on this point. I do know the larger connection amply holds, that he’s run a two track strategy and he isn’t nearly as pleasant and affable as he has sold himself to be. Now if he’d always presented himself as some sort of Muldoon, and we were all clear on that, and a majority of us had voted him in accordingly, well that’s different. We mightn’t like it but we couldn’t take him on over a carefully cultivated image that’s profoundly at odds with reality.

    So even if this resolves to an example that only implicates the higher functionaries in his office (and the curious matter requiring Slater’s clairvoyance surely confirms that at a minimum), it supports the wider story.

    Comment by Joe-90 — August 21, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

  56. “I wouldn’t have given it to Whaleoil – it seemed a waste to me to do so. Far better to give it to all media, but there you go, people make different decisions.”

    They do indeed, usually for reasons. The odder the decision, the more likely there is a reason for it.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — August 21, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

  57. Neil, it’s not about what he “needed to act on”, it’s about what would be useful for the PM to know. Isn’t that the very point of “no surprises” information from your officials? I can’t see why they wouldn’t have passed it on.

    Comment by steve — August 21, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

  58. Everyone who has experience in these matters is calling horse shit on Keys shifting side of this story.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/20146062

    Listen to Hooten from the 8 minute mark ( although the beginning is interesting too ).

    Comment by reason — August 21, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

  59. @steve, Key already knew Goff was briefed. He already knew the likely content of such an OIA release.

    He wasn’t expected to respond in any way to Tucker’s notification.

    What was he supposed to have gained by denying he was told by Tucker?

    Comment by NeilM — August 21, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

  60. “What was he supposed to have gained by denying he was told by Tucker?”

    It enables him to distance himself from the actions of Ede and Slater and float above it all like the greatest PM ever he is. If he knew what his office was doing he’s complicit in it, and he’s Mr Relaxed, Cool and Smiley, a poor victim of a left wing smear campaign, remember?

    Comment by Judge Holden — August 21, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

  61. Huh? Respond to Tucker? I’m not sure what you mean.

    — “He already knew the likely content…”

    But why wouldn’t his office brief him on the actual content, once confirmed?

    As for his denial, Key appears to be in superridiculous-denial mode at the moment. (Why else would he not have just conceded to Espiner that Collins’ actions weren’t okay?) at this stage I suspect it’s just an ill-thought out response that left him backed into a corner.

    Comment by steve — August 21, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  62. What was he supposed to have gained by denying he was told by Tucker?

    As Judge Holden points out, what he gains is distance. It’s obvious to pretty much everyone who looks at what happened that someone in the PM’s office expedited Slater’s request and told him what he’d receive and when (and quite likely, how to write the OIA request in the first place). In this case, Key needs to maintain a pretence that he has no idea what people in his office get up to, hence the implausible denials.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — August 22, 2014 @ 7:48 am

  63. So here’s the PM and electoral hopeful John Key on video saying Warren Tucker told him about the OIA release to WhaleOil…

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11312590

    Comment by Rinso — August 22, 2014 @ 8:10 am

  64. How does saying “I saw Tucker’s letter informing me of his decision” implicate Key in anything?

    I thought it would be the reverse.

    It’s seems more to be a quirk of how his office works and him bring overseas.

    If the accusation is rasht Key set this up then it’s not evidence for that. Of it was a plot he’d be more likely to say he had been personally briefed at the to time.

    I’d still like to know the time between when Tucker’s notification was and when the release to Slater was made.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 8:15 am

  65. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11312590

    Awww shit, another person has turned up saying that Key was informed by Warren Tucker, and this time it’s Key himself.

    How you gonna spin this latest development, Neil?

    Comment by Rob — August 22, 2014 @ 8:45 am

  66. Key is referring to the no surprises briefing which was to someone in his office and not to him personally.

    It’s the same issue covered before. Tucker had confirmed this.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 9:09 am

  67. That press conference was on 8 Aug after the release and by then of course Key will have known of Tucker’s briefing.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 9:17 am

  68. NeilM, the quote from Key is:
    “… it was at that point he told me he’d release it because he has to tell me that under the no-surprises doctrine.” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11312590

    Note the tense and pronouns involved etc.

    Comment by RJL — August 22, 2014 @ 9:33 am

  69. I’m looking forward to Tucker now explaining that when he wrote “…I notified the Prime Minister” he meant that he notified the Prime Ministers Office, [and furthermore that the person in the PM's Office whom he notified was the PM].

    Comment by RJL — August 22, 2014 @ 9:42 am

  70. Key is making two points,

    1. he played no part in Tucker’s decision.

    2. He was not personally briefed by Tucker – Tucker briefed some in the PMs office while Key was away.

    He’s not claiming he wasn’t then informed by his office.

    There was that point in Clark’s term when “Liabour” was bandied about the blogosphere as some sort of smart intelligent analysis.

    Not everyone you disagree with is a liar.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 9:45 am

  71. Sure. It’s also possible that Key neither knows nor cares what the people in his office are up to, but we’re entitled to find it distinctly unlikely.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — August 22, 2014 @ 9:52 am

  72. I think there are two things here. The real story is, of course, how the material was organised for what appears to be preferential distribution to Slater, and whether the PM’s office (for which the PM should surely take responsibility) and/or the SIS were colluding in that. This is a big deal, because it’s about the abuse of independent process for political ends.

    The second thing is about whether he was briefed at the time of release. It seems to me that this matters less in itself (because it would be very odd if he weren’t briefed on something like that, whoever it was being released to). But the significance here is more that it looks as if Key lied, probably rather thoughtlessly and on the hoof, to distance himself from the whole mess. And that lie is now being exposed. It’s not the fact that he was briefed, it’s that he lied about it, even if that lie isn’t very significant. If he lied about something like that, then what else is he lying about? As is often the case, the deal here is not the activity itself, it’s the coverup, and the implication which even a minor coverup has for the integrity of the person involved.

    If I recall correctly, when Clinton was impeached, the issue was not so much what he’d done with Monica Lewinsky and a cigar, but that he’d lied about it. It’s always the coverup which gets you.

    Comment by Dr Foster — August 22, 2014 @ 10:03 am

  73. preferential distribution to Slater,

    The Scoop editor got the same information via OIA as Slater. I think Slater claims, in his usual self pitying fashion, that the media got the material at the same time as him.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 10:11 am

  74. @NeilM,

    The Scoop editor got the same information via OIA as Slater. I think Slater claims, in his usual self pitying fashion, that the media got the material at the same time as him.

    The Scoop editor (Selwyn Manning) only got that information on August 9, despite having asked for it on July 29. Cameron Slater got it on Aug. 3. So, the decision to release it had been taken when Manning asked for it … but he wasn’t given it. Links proving this below:

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1108/S00071/official-information-act-letter-1-to-sis-director.htm

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1108/S00112/oia-response-received-from-nzsis-on-pm-loto-briefing-notes.htm

    Note the Director of the SIS’s reason for why Manning was treated differently:

    “On 26 July 2011, I received a similar request from Cameron Slater of which you are no doubt aware. I am releasing to you the same documents that were released to Mr Slater. Your request differs from Mr Slater’s in that you have also requested reports prepared for the Prime Minister. My staff have checked our records and I can confirm that the report that was used for the briefing of the Prime Minister is identical to that used for briefing the leader of the Opposition. This document (heavily redacted) is among those released to Mr Slater and now provided to you.”

    So, because Manning (and Fairfax) asked for two exact same documents, they didn’t get them. But if they’d asked for one of those exact same documents, they would have … right?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 22, 2014 @ 10:47 am

  75. So Goff is squealing about being caught lying. Yawn.

    Comment by Kimshacker — August 22, 2014 @ 11:15 am

  76. I don’t know. But that goes back to why would Tucker give preferential treatment to Slater?

    It could be that Tucker was very cautious about the release. He got legal opinion and could not risk being seen to release this material unless he was required to by law under the OIA

    And perhaps he got that wrong and could have release to others whose wording was different.

    Tucker and Wakem have backed Key up. I find it unlikely they’re lying.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 11:26 am

  77. But Manning did get the documents. He just got them later because he asked later. Or did he have an earlier request?

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 11:32 am

  78. But Manning did get the documents. He just got them later because he asked later. Or did he have an earlier request?

    We know that Slater asked for them on the 26/7, when they were still classified documents. They were declassified on 27/7. Slater then was boasting that he’d get them on 28/7 (saying he’d “been sworn to secrecy” about the matter – whihc is odd, as you wouldn’t usually expect that the SIS will give you what you want). Manning then asked for them on 29/7 (after it had been declassified, but before any release) as well as the notes to the PM … which were, remember, the exact same document (as Tucker admits). On Aug. 3, only Slater is sent the briefing for Goff (i.e. the decision to release is made … five days after Manning had asked for the same info). Manning doesn’t get it for another 5 days after than (and then only after raising the matter at the PM’s post Cabinet news conference) – being told that the reason for the differential treatment is that he asked for two things rather than one (even though they were in effect the same thing).

    Two points on this:

    (1) Why the expeditious approach to Slater’s request (in terms of both the decision to declassify and then release), while Manning (and Fairfax) were put on back-burner?

    (2) Is it remotely credible that no-one looked at Goff’s briefing notes, looked at Key’s notes, and saw that they were the same thing?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 22, 2014 @ 11:56 am

  79. But that goes back to why would Tucker give preferential treatment to Slater?

    Why? Why would information about confidential briefings involving the PM and the Leader of the Opposition, about which the Leader of the Opposition disputes, be given to a friend of the Prime Minister who is also an influential attack blogger, instead of to two members of the media?

    But Manning did get the documents. He just got them later because he asked later. Or did he have an earlier request?

    The timeline is in the post directly above yours, you illiterate.

    Comment by George — August 22, 2014 @ 11:57 am

  80. From today’s Herald: “He said Dr Tucker told him about Slater’s request for the documents on July 26, the day he received it. Mr Goff said Dr Tucker said he intended to release that day, “and I hit the roof”. He had told Dr Tucker it was “unbelievable that you would contemplate doing anything like that – that draws you right into the political arena”. He said Dr Tucker then agreed to delay the release for a week.”

    Is it just me or does it look like Phil Goff is the one in the wrong here? He successfully put pressure on a public servant to delay the release of material that proved he was “mistaken” about not being briefed?

    Comment by AndrewENZ — August 22, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

  81. @Andrew, I dong know the answers to those questions but Tucker being part of a plot to channel this material specifically to Slater is but one of many possible answers,

    If Slater was tipped off to make the OIA request then predumsbly so were Manming and Fairfax.

    According to Goff he was extremely irate when Tucker informed him a release would be made and had Tucker delay the release for 7 days.

    Some of the timing might be from factors wer’re not aware of.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

  82. NeilM…”If Slater was tipped off to make the OIA request then predumsbly so were Manming and Fairfax.”

    FFS, do you even know what this story is about?

    Comment by RJL — August 22, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

  83. I was trying to find out how long it was after Slater got the release that Fairfax did. I’ve seen conflicting accounts ranging from the same day to several days later.

    Oddly, no one has thought to ask Key a most obvious question: when did you find out about the release to Slater and from whom?

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

  84. NeilM @80:

    The question was asked in 2011. Watch the video of the 2011 Press Conference.

    Key says he knew about the existence of the document because he asked Tucker whether or not it existed. Key then told everyone that such a document existed, which to answer your earlier question is what prompted Manning and Fairfax and others to request the document under OIA.

    Key then says that he knew that a redacted version of the document was subsequently going to be released to Slater when Tucker told him it was going be released to Slater.

    Comment by RJL — August 22, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

  85. In the context of that video, ‘me’ meant my office,” Key said….trying not cry.

    Comment by k.jones — August 22, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

  86. Key ” it was at that point he told me he’d release it because he has to tell me that under the no-surprises doctrine.”

    [Emphasis added]

    So, who are we to believe? Key-now, with fading memories and every reason to lie, or Key-then, with an immediate grasp of events and none? I think that’s a no-brainer. Key is lying to us to minimise his role in National’s dirty politics. And the fact that he feels the need to lie tells us something important: his sticky fingers are all over it.

    From http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2014/08/key-fails-to-keep-his-lies-straight.html

    Comment by reason — August 22, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

  87. Surely the major thing here is Slater at 9:06am “it is devastating for Goff I am told”. Someone who knows the content of the documents has communicated directly with Slater, and done so before Slater has actually received the material. (and in all likelihood before he requested it). This is the really outrageous bit.

    Comment by Dr Foster — August 22, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

  88. Dr Foster @87:

    Certainly, Slater seems to have personally been told specific information about what is in the documents.

    Of course, Key had already made claims in the media, in general terms, what was in the document — that was why Fairfax et al, were trying to obtain them under OIA.

    Comment by RJL — August 22, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  89. We can all agree that John key is not telling the truth. This is no longer in doubt.

    We needn’t worry about being contradicted – or even sued for defamation – because we now know that “John Key” = “John Key’s office”. They are synonyms, apparently.

    So the Prime Minister was out taking photos of the Press gallery Xmas party, the Prime Minister has exchanged hundreds of e-mails with Cameron Slater, the Prime Minister has said some terrible things about a whole range of people, because the Prime Minister IS his office. He is the Right Honourable Jason Ede. They are one and the same. Because he said so. Er, they said so. The office.

    (written by my office).

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 22, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

  90. @ Andrew Geddis

    The material was declassified on the 26th not the 27th. It’s unclear when Fairfax made their request but they got the documents on the 4th.

    “Mr Slater was given the documents five working days after he made the request. Fairfax Media, who made a similar request, received the document last night [4 August] along with a letter from Dr Tucker which said: “Your request differs from Mr Slater’s in that you have also requested reports prepared for the prime minister”.

    The speed of response is clearly because Tucker was really annoyed and was preparing the material ready to release. This is from the sludge report at the time. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1108/S00058/tucker-vs-goff-and-the-politicisation-of-the-sis.htm

    10. The PM claims Goff was briefed, and calls him a liar;
    11. Goff denies this in a TV interview;
    12. SIS Director Tucker is furious and sends out messages that he is about to make a public statement on the matter;
    13. Tucker then backtracks and instead his staff tell journalists to make an OIA request, indicating that a response is likely to be forthcoming;
    14. July 26th – Cameron Slater puts in an OIA request to the SIS;
    15. August 2nd – Seemingly breaking from a practice of a couple of decades of not commenting on anything overtly political the SIS director complies remarkably quickly to the request and provides three pages of blanked out information to Cameron Slater which is immediately published. The document includes a hand-written note which appears to contradict Phil Goff.

    Note that Manning’s response possibly appears ‘slower’ because he put in the response on a Friday and two weekends intervened whereas Slater only had one. Manning is in Auckland while FFx is in Wellington.

    Comment by insider — August 22, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

  91. — “He already knew the likely content…”

    But why wouldn’t his office brief him on the actual content, once confirmed?

    Still waiting on an answer to that.

    Anyway, the argument that officials like Tucker could consistently refer to the PM as if they were referring to the person, but actually be referring to the office, is one thing. But that the same would apply to the man himself, speaking in the first person at a press conference is ridiculous. I agree with Dr Foster at 72, a thoughtless off the cuff lie that’s now left him having to continue to lie about something that otherwise wouldn’t have been a big deal.

    Comment by steve — August 22, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

  92. This Warren Tucker character was either an excellent spy or just a really boring guy because nobody ever remembers seeing him or talking to him. He could be in your house right now stealing your telly and you wouldn’t even know.

    Comment by darryl — August 22, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

  93. I did some projects with staff in the Ministry of Tourism (a.k.a MED) coincidentally around this time. They saw Key (who every reader on of this blog knows is Minister of Tourism but stated for completeness) on a regular basis (normally weekly, sometimes less, sometimes more e.g. after a particularly gruesome adventure tourism death getting big news). No doubt the trolls will say it’s a different context but I can say I never, never heard them refer to meeting or briefing the Prime Minister meaning they were meeting or briefing folk in his office (who they did also deal with quite widely).

    Sure, if you were meeting the PM there were always others from his office present, but if Min Tourism staff said they had a “meeting with the PM”, or “they’d briefed the PM” (or “Prime Minister”), then they had had a meeting with John Key, they had briefed John Key. So while linguistically it’s possible for him to argue his new line, in other contexts at least, and around this time, there was no such impression or institutional understanding among at least one area that worked with him closely.

    Comment by Joe-90 — August 22, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

  94. So while linguistically it’s possible for him to argue his new line, in other contexts at least, and around this time, there was no such impression or institutional understanding among at least one area that worked with him closely.

    Waken and Tucker disagree. Maybe they’re liars as well but that would mean others working with them who would know otherwise are keeping quite and so the circle of conspiracy expands,

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

  95. Just because I said Min Tourism staff met Key with his staff, it doesn’t follow that the head of the SIS always did or that he doesn’t phone him, so it doesn’t necessarily follow that if Tucker had spoken to Key others absolutely have to know that this (or what, precisely) occurred, and if staff were present, or aware, e.g. Jason Ede, well some of those folk are being very silent about this and a range of matters in the book that impugn them more directly than Tucker, so I think bandying about the conspiracy word to kill a line of thinking is lazy. We can all just throw that word at each other and get nowhere.

    As Waken wasn’t present and doesn’t claim to be, I take her at her word that she is faithfully reflecting her own direct knowledge of what Tucker shared with her, but whether that knowledge is of what truly passed (or didn’t pass) between Tucker and Key, is the question. But as said earlier, if Key really didn’t “know” (and without getting into the epistemology of that, which others have covered above, eg. ranging from genuinely not knowing, to contriving it so he does not know), none of it is particularly good for him just the same. All that talk about higher standards etc. Funny what a few years of power does.

    Comment by Joe-90 — August 22, 2014 @ 10:21 pm

  96. No matter what everyone else says it’s fucking odd, linguistically, for John Key to refer to his office as himself.

    That’s nek level odd.

    People that next level odd in their linguistics might accidentally start a war. Simply to damn dangerous to have PM for another three years.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — August 22, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

  97. if Key really didn’t “know”

    Presumably there was a period of time after Tucker briefed some in Keys office and when Key was informed.

    How long and by whom no one, surprisingly, has asked.

    It might have been a few hours . Or a few days.

    Comment by NeilM — August 22, 2014 @ 11:04 pm

  98. “What happened is Warren Tucker didn’t come to me, he went to his legal adviser and his legal advisers told him this is the process they have to follow and when he was going through that process it was at that point he told me he’d release it because he has to tell me that under the no-surprises doctrine,”

    Listen here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11312590

    Listen how he says it. There’s no way he’s saying “me” but means “my office”. Those are very natural, unconsidered uses of the pronoun ‘me’. He’s saying ‘me’ three times for the obvious reason that that is what he means.

    But he’s now stuck in a ridiculous lie over what would otherwise have been a trivial aspect of the wider issues.

    Comment by steve — August 23, 2014 @ 12:29 am


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