• We Are Asking the Wrong Question

    The charge sheet against John Key could hardly be more serious. If it could be shown that he had misused his position as the Minister for the security and intelligence services to discredit his political opponents and had then lied about doing so, it is hard to see that he could stay in office.

    The charges, however, have not yet been conclusively proved. The Prime Minister has so far managed, by the skin of his teeth, to avoid censure by claiming that he was not personally involved in the disreputable behaviour that has come to light. But he has been able to do so because we have been asking the wrong question.

    Over recent days, three successive disclosures have all pointed to his involvement in the release to the notorious right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, of an SIS document that was detrimental to the then Leader of the Opposition. First, a letter from the Director of the SIS, Warren Tucker, referred three times to the Prime Minister being informed of the release.

    Secondly, a letter from the Ombudsman made a similar reference to the SIS Director discussing the matter with the Prime Minister. And thirdly, a television interview with the Prime Minister just after the release has him acknowledging that he had been briefed on it by the SIS Director.

    The Prime Minister, however, asserts that none of this is conclusive. The three references to the fact that he was informed of the release mean simply that his office was informed; he himself, he says, was blissfully unaware that it had happened until much later.

    However incredible this may seem, it is an assertion that – without someone from the Prime Minister’s staff breaking ranks – is practically impossible to disprove. The result is stalemate; those who want to believe the Prime Minister will continue to do so.

    Let us, however, give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume that the SIS Director did not speak to him, either by phone or in person, but simply passed on the information that the release had been made to whoever was his point of contact in the Prime Minister’s office, and that that person then unaccountably thought that it was of so little consequence that the Prime Minister could be kept in the dark about it.

    If this was really what happened, the Prime Minister could then say, as he does, that he was not personally informed. He could then offer to repeat that assertion – not in good conscience but with technical accuracy – on oath. But is the question of whether or not he was informed in person after the release had been made actually relevant to the real issue – his involvement or otherwise in the planning and approval that preceded and made the release possible?

    In order to answer that question, let us review what we know. We know that the SIS had a confidential record of a briefing they had provided to the Leader of the Opposition. We know that all other media requests under the Official Information Act for the release of that record had been refused. We know that the Prime Minister treated Cameron Slater as a personal friend and political ally and that his office was in regular contact with Slater and briefed him on a range of issues – as did a number of other ministers including Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee.

    We know that Slater put in a request for the release of the SIS record and that it was immediately granted – with unusual alacrity. We know that Slater then used the release to discredit the Leader of the Opposition and that this was helpful to the National Party, as it was intended to be, with a general election in the offing.

    We know that the SIS would invariably be required to brief their Minister on such a sensitive matter; the whole government machine is constantly reminded of the “no surprises” policy. We know that it is unthinkable that such a highly political – not to say partisan – release of information would not be discussed by the SIS with their regular contact in the Prime Minister’s office, and that it is equally unthinkable that that contact, surely the Prime Minister’s most trusted adviser or advisers, would not have discussed the implications (and political advantages) of that action with him – as well as the means, possibly, by which his own fingerprints could be made to disappear from the scene of the crime.

    We also know that we are entitled to conflate what his office knew with what he himself knew; that is, after all, what both the SIS Director and the Ombudsman assumed, and what the Prime Minister himself accepted was the case in his television interview at the time.

    The whole question of whether the Prime Minister was subsequently informed as a formal matter of record of the release matters little and is, in other words, irrelevant. By focussing on the three references to the subsequent briefing, the Prime Minister’s inquisitors have allowed themselves to be distracted from asking the real question. Is it not incredible that the Prime Minister did not know in advance of Slater’s Official Information request and had not been consulted about it, either directly by the SIS or by his own office? Is that not the question that the Prime Minister must answer under oath?

    Bryan Gould

    23 August 2014






  1. Bob Scotties says: August 25, 2014 at 11:26 amReply

    You are right, but if you can’t distill it down to 3 lines of pithy observations in a matey kind of tone, no one in NZ who can vote, has any clue what you are saying.

  2. Inspector Brown says: August 28, 2014 at 8:10 pmReply

    The question Key’s “office” would have been asking itself, is this: “does John want to know that the power of the Secret Int Service is about to be illegally abused for personal political gain – the way they do things in Dictatorships and Banana Republics”? Of course, legally speaking, the answer should have been yes he would very much want to know so that he can put a stop to it. It would be standard procedure for his staff to bring something so volatile to the attention of their boss… unless his office staff were under instructions from ‘someone’ not to tell him. So the question he must be asked is “did you make arrangements so that you wouldn’t be told?”.

  3. Russell Malcolm says: September 3, 2014 at 7:22 amReply

    You entirely correct, Key is in past his eyeballs on this and many other matters, some criminal. The kitteridge report cited 88 New Zealanders as having been spied on illegally. Some during Keys time as its hand on head. ok thats well known, but then the report also cited GSCB using Police to obtain search warrants when it couldnt! Meaning the Police had to mislead the courts to obtain such warrants. Perverting the course of justice! With Key at the helm. How do we find those cases? Look for overreach in nonsense Police raids or searches, even better when teh Police say in their applications for search warrants, this matter is being monitored at the highest level after mentioning the prime minister. And then gross overkill by police in the process such as the raid on Dotcom mansion or the false arrest, gag order bail conditions, police raids and business closure upon myself , then homes being seized by armed Police without any warning and sold when I could pay the mortgages and pay the mortgage off. These things take place as the media are covering for Politician actions. I can back up all I say. in addition, when I told a judge a police sargent told me The gag order bail condition came personally from John Key as he didnt want me speaking out about corruption at AK council at election time, the prosecutor confirmed to the court the matter was being monitored closely at the highest level of Government.
    Gag order condition were then imposed by the court without a single thing being said about charge or background of charge, which was a freedom of speech issue and dismissed 3 yrs latter. This by itself can put Key in Jail and now is the time for it to come out.

  4. roscoe p coltrain says: September 4, 2014 at 2:17 amReply

    or this question
    did your office know about this and who is ultimately responsible for the goings on in your office?
    It doesn’t matter if one person in the organisation knew or not, the organisation knew, and it at fault, and thus Key is at fault as the head of that organisation.

  5. John Rothery says: September 4, 2014 at 7:42 amReply

    Unfortunately I agree with Bob Scotties comment at the top.
    The problem with this whole corruption saga is that there is just so much that has been going on, that most people can’t take it in. Bob, it may be just too complex to distill into 3 lines.

    If there was just one case of wrong doing then that could be understood. Instead we have clear evidence of a whole noxious and vicious culture operating with impunity inside and outside government.

    On August 12th 2014 we lived in the least corrupt nation on earth. Or so we thought.
    On August 13th. Nicky Hager released his book and said “You will not believe what you read?”

    Many people, encouraged by John Key still don’t believe it.


    1. They haven’t read it.
    2. The Prime Minister dismissed the book (without reading it)

    We, as a nation, are still in a state of denial. We still want to believe that we live in a free, fair, just and tolerant society. We can’t come to terms when faced with evidence that shows the opposite is the case. It is just too shocking. It is as if we have all been living a lie. How can this be happening in this wonderful country of ours?

    So, when our popular Prime Minister, dismisses everything as just a “left wing conspiracy” we can breath a sigh of relief. We can relax in the knowledge that we still live in the best country in the world. We can put this nonsense behind us and concentrate on the next All Blacks game.

    Unfortunately we can not put the genie back into the bottle. Life on this island of ours has changed. If we want our children to have any respect for us then we have to sort this mess out. If we want New Zealand to be respected as a nation then we have to do something about it.

    We have to:
    1. Find out exactly what has been going on
    2. Ensure justice is done, and
    3. Set up systems to try and prevent this happening again.

    The alternative – sweeping it under the carpet, doesn’t bear thinking about.

    It will not be an easy process and it probably won’t be quick. We will feel bruised. But at the end of it we will be wiser, more knowledgeable, and even a little less naive perhaps.

    As a nation we will be able to stand tall again – acknowledge that we have had problems, but that we sorted them out.