A lot of the questions raised in the Campbell Live piece are ones we already knew. Why did Key shoulder-tap Ian Fletcher for the role of GCSB director? Why did he lie about it? Why did he pretend he barely knew Fletcher and had virtually no contact with him before the appointment when he met Fletcher for breakfast three weeks before Fletcher applied for the GCSB role?
The show revealed that Key had a secret meeting with Fletcher on the 12th of December 2011. This was after Fletcher had been appointed incoming head of GCSB but before he’d left his old job. The timing seems significant because a few days after that meeting the GCSB began its illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom. Key has insisted he’d never heard of Dotcom until the raid on his house on January 20th, 2012. If anyone can prove this wasn’t the case then Key will have intentionally mislead Parliament and the public many, many times.
Campbell Live also ties in meetings between Key and our intelligence chiefs with (a) a March 2011 meeting with James Clapper, head US Intelligence and (b) the improved ties between the US and New Zealand. The narrative is that Clapper’s visit and Fletcher’s appointment signalled a shift in the focus of our intelligence agency away from military and security issues and towards intellectual property and trade issues, and that the operation against Kim Dotcom was a key moment in that shift.
But Kim Dotcom is only one of 88 instances of illegal spying that we know about, and the GCSB were, presumably, also conducting some surveillance that wasn’t against the law. Kim Dotcom is their only operation we’re aware of so I think there’s a temptation to build narratives around him. If we didn’t know about Dotcom and instead knew, say, that the GCSB had illegally spied on New Zealand based friends and relatives of Daryl Jones, the dual New Zealand/Australian citizen assassinated in a drone strike in Yemen in November 2013 (there’s no evidence this happened but it’s not unlikely) then we’d be looking at it all very differently and try to find meaning in Fletcher’s appointment there.
Because Fletcher’s appointment is weird. Why did Key shoulder-tap this guy with no background in intelligence to be head of our signals intelligence agency and then repeatedly lie about it? Even if you don’t buy into the Campbell Live narrative and – like DPF – think its all an absurd conspiracy theory, that’s still a pretty relevant question.