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.